5 Things that Make Men Love the Church

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…


Add yours →

  1. Hi Brandon…I just commented on the original post. Here’s my thoughts on this one:

    I think all your points are good, with special recognition to #3, #4 and #5.

    Transparency is so important. If you want to lead guys, they need to know you…the ‘real’ you…not the image that many leaders try to portray. I attended a Bible study this evening led by a guy who struggles with pornography and committed adultery a few years ago. God changed his heart, and restored his marriage. When he speaks, men listen. On the other hand, I know a pastor who too often says, “my father was a pastor and my grandfather was a pastor”…as if there is family pride…but many men tune out at that point, thinking “does this guy know anything about real life?” Peter, John and Paul all had embarrassing moments recorded in Scripture, but they learned and led.

    Transparency is also important at the church-administration level. If you want men to be vested in the church, you need to give them an opportunity to voice an opinion or have a role. Otherwise, leadership is in effect saying, ‘your thoughts don’t matter’. Most guys don’t mind being in the minority, but being ignored is something else.

    What you call ‘aggressive honesty’ is also vital. Not just for men, but for all believers. If we really love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be aggressively honest. To stand back and not address sin…letting it build up and create more problems…is NOT loving. When I read the Epistles, or even the Gospels, I don’t see where the church should ignore ‘some sin’, allowing it to fester and multiply. We need to get past the idea of being ‘nice’ to the point of ignoring the responsibility of speaking the truth in love. I have found that ‘speaking truth’ attracts people…some might not like what they hear, but it is so different from some church experiences that many return to hear more truth.

    I once had a pastor who was determined to teach ‘God’s truth’ about divorce and remarriage. It was a heavily attended sermon. But the poor man just danced around the subject, mostly confusing people, and finally ended his sermon with the thought of “divorce and remarriage” is not unforgivable. True enough, but does that really help people who are struggling in their marriage? Is that the thrust of the scriptural teaching? Some people went away ‘happy’, but did they know the will of God for their lives?

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  2. If I lived in Columbia I would want to be A part of your church. I am 62 years old, and have long been unhappy with the church in the Bible Belt. I have pretty much been in full agreement with all of your posts since one of my pastors introduced me to your blog.

    In 60 years of being in either a legalistic or an impotent church, I was never discipled, never held accountable for my life, never prayed over by a brother who understood my troubles. Until my church merged with Renewal Church in Greenville, SC and formed The Church at Cherrydale. Now, I am actively being discipled, am actively discipling, am invested in a small group. It is in this church culture tha I have finally learned and begun to experience what being a disciple of Jesus is all about.

    And one exciting benefit of being an older man in a church full of college students and millennials is being able to mentor young men; to share God’s faithfulness with them. Of course, I benefit from this at least as much as they do. Iron sharpening iron.

    This is why I love being part of a church.

    • Tom, I love your response so much! I know Matt Rogers well and I’m so glad you are a part of The Church at Cherrydale. Your history is heartbreakingly familiar and I’m afraid it’s true of many men in the Bible Belt. But the fact that Jesus is alive means there is always hope for the church, and I see so many beautiful rediscoveries of what church was intended to be.

      Thanks so much for chiming in. Your story is needed. Again, I’m so glad that you are a part of a healthy local church and I think very highly of your pastor.

  3. I never understood why it was “wrong” to keep your inner circle tight. I can think of at least one example of a biblical inner circle (within another inner circle)

    “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.”

    • I don’t think that that is necessarily wrong, just that guys tend to close up more than is healthy. And oftentimes that inner circle consists of guys that don’t live in the same town anymore, so it invariably grows apart. I just want men to walk in healthy Christian community with one another and fight the trend of isolation.

  4. Good for the pastor or other leaders to ask for “men” (as opposed to “someone”) to be responsible for, or volunteer for something in the church.

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