One night last week I watched Lone Survivor, got a little hyped up, stayed up late writing a post called Why Men Hate Going to Church, then hit “publish” without thinking much more about it.
Over the next week, that post blew up beyond any expectation. I don’t usually keep up with stats, but as the week unfolded I honestly couldn’t believe how many people were sharing and finding their way to that post. Seems like it hit a nerve (or three) within the Christian community.
Because it was a spur of the moment thing that I didn’t foresee going that far, I thought this week I’d contribute a few more thoughts on the opposite side of the coin: what makes men love being a part of a church.
Notice I said being a part of a church, not going to church. That difference might sound like semantics, but it is oh so much more than that. We have been trained as good, cultural American Christians to think that we go to church.
It’s simply something you attend if you want, and if it stops suiting your needs or desires, don’t. Church becomes a consumeristic buffet. See something you don’t like? Something frustrate you? Move on, or out. See the inherent and unavoidable distance in the “I go to such-and-such church” approach?
But if you are a flesh-and-blood part of the church? If you see yourself as an integral member of a local body? If you have some skin in the game and realize that that group of people is less without you? That’s a whole ‘nother ballgame, as they say.
So without further adieu, here are 5 things that tend to make men love being a part of a local church.
1) Gospel Over Religion
Aren’t those two things one in the same, you ask? Far from it. Here is how Tim Keller, one of my favorite preachers, puts it:
“Religion says, ‘I obey, therefore I am accepted.’ The gospel says, ‘I am accepted, therefore I obey.'”
Religion is about spiritual performance. You have to hit the ball right to get God to be okay with you. Which is the ultimate tyranny, because who EVER hits the ball right?
The gospel is about grace. God is (much more than) completely okay with you through Christ and His performance, so swing away. The score is fixed. The pressure is off.
Do you know what men hate feeling more than anything else in the world? LIKE A FAILURE. Do you know what religious, gospel-absent, performance-based teaching makes men feel like? LIKE A FAILURE.
So if men are walking away from your church in droves, you may want to look into what type of gospel you are preaching.
2) Clear (& Compelling) Marching Orders
What’s the point of all this? What are we trying to accomplish? When do I know when to pop the champagne and celebrate a win?
I’m not talking about what your “mission statement” is. I’m talking about what you consistently cast vision for. What you talk about and push people towards from stage. What you celebrate and raise up as the win.
If the vision of the church seems vague, hazy, or insular and entertainment-driven, it’s hard to keep men engaged. But if the wins are biblically taught, defined clearly and celebrated often–men will be much more likely to stick around.
How are you trying to push back darkness in your community? How are you pressing the mission forward? What risks are you taking?
Men crave significance, and there is plenty to be had in God’s mission to redeem everything that’s broken under the sun. If the practical mission men hear from a church essentially boils down to “don’t drink and listen to Christian radio” that church has failed its men (not to mention its purpose as the church).
3) Telling It Like It Is
Please don’t hear this wrongly. I am not advocating for a machismo, bridge-burning kind of slapping people in the face with cold hard truth. We are most certainly called to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
But what I see in a lot of churches is an unhelpful aversion to hurting anyone’s feelings. “We can’t say that bluntly, because that might risk so-and-so getting upset, and they do give a lot of money…” BLAH BLAH BLAH. Tiptoeing around every possible little misunderstanding is ineffective leadership and repulsive to many men.
Say what needs to be said (with grace). But SAY IT. Help create a culture where people say what they mean, mean what they say, and have grace for one another when feelings inevitably get hurt.
And again, I am certainly not advocating for guilt-driven, finger-pointing angry preaching. But I am advocating for bold and confident, grace-soaked preaching that teaches the Bible graciously and firmly. Spineless preaching and leadership does no one any good.
4) Transparent Leadership
It seems that ministers have gotten really good at pretending to be perfect. And this is, in some ways, not their own fault. Many churches have demanded that their ministers essentially be perfect, and those leaders know that their humanity peeking through may cost them their job–so best keep it covered up under a high-dollar padlock…
This is a tragedy in my opinion. Churches who expect for their pastors to be flawless (with proverbial knife at throat) are providing an incredible handicap to their ministry–especially to men.
A lot of secular men laugh at the idea of relating to a preacher. What’s there to relate to? It’s why when I meet new guys, I delay telling them I’m a pastor for as long as I can. I’ve seen the mental shutters go up too many times.
But when a pastor is ruggedly transparent about his own shortcomings and need for grace? That will turn some heads. Early on in our church, our pastors decided that we would openly confess our sin struggles to our church family from stage when appropriate and helpful for teaching purposes. Do you know what a pastor sharing his struggle with porn does for a lot of men in the room? It breaks down an innumerable amount of walls.
Also, all of our pastors are in LifeGroups as full participants. We are expected to lead through vulnerability and transparency. It is crazy how many times a guy has said some version of the following to one of us: “You are just…so normal. I had no idea pastors could be normal guys.” This relatability goes SO FAR with men.
A pastor is not designed to be an untouchable spiritual professional–he is designed to be the lead repenter.
5) Aggressively Honest Community
Men are enigmas. We crave being fully known, but are so afraid of failure and disapproval that we resist it with everything in us.
A guy usually has a very small number of people that he will really let his guard down with (those are almost always other guys). But everyone else? Guard’s standing at attention, and he’s STRONG.
At our church, we fight with everything we have to cultivate aggressively honest communities for our guys. We ask our leaders to go first and give others “the gift of going second” (because so often when we do they take it). We’ve found time and time again that when a new guy comes around and sees other men talking about heavy, soul-level stuff–at first he may be a little taken aback, then he’s curious, then he’s interested…then he’s hooked. It’s always a process, but after weeks, or months (or years) he finally lets his guard down, and at that point, HE’S IN. That group is now his group, and he’s modeling transparency for other new guys.
Guys have very strong BS meters, so something compelling happens when a guy sees other men taking off the masks and doing away with the endless posturing and feather-rearing that men are so good at.
I actually have five more things, but this post is getting long and you people have places to be AMIRIGHT? Come back next week or subscribe via email below for 5 (More) Things that Make Men Love the Church.
Also, if you have thoughts on what makes men love being a part of your church, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Who knows, it may make it into the next post…