I was in line at Chickfila the other morning, and the perky cashier asked for my name, and I mumbled “Brandon.” There was an older man standing a few feet away from me waiting for his food, and he took the opportunity to say, “What kind of name is Brandon?”
Well hello, morning whiplash.
“Um…I don’t know. My parents gave it to me?” Give me a break, it was early.
The man proceeded to pull out a business card and explain that he was a genealogist. We made small talk for a bit and then he asked me what I did, so I told him I was a pastor at a church plant.
“Oh,” he said. “I go to _________ church down the road. I’m the organist there. I gotta do something on Sundays, you know?”
To be honest, this took me aback, because I felt like I was looking into the past at a bygone relic. “I gotta do something on Sundays” is a telltale sign of church as hobby. I’m bored, so might as well get dressed up and go to church.
The reason this is surprising is because I don’t know many non-Jesus following men who make it a habit to be involved in a church regularly. There are some to be sure in circles I don’t run in, but I tend to forget that, so for me this was like a dinosaur sighting.
Because most men have figured out that church is a terrible hobby.
Try this–approach any emotionally healthy non-Christian man (or nominal/cultural Christian) and say the following: “How would you like to get up early on Sunday morning, put on clothes that you’d probably wear to work, drive across town to a church service with me where we’ll sing some songs together and listen to a man talk for a bit and you’ll likely be guilted into giving some of your money away and OH depending on what church you go to be sure not to mention that you enjoy a beer now and then, okay?”
Um…no thank you.
Because sleep. And sports. And weekend. And NFL. And hungover a bit. And just no thank you. Why are you going, again?
Boredom in the Church
I just finished watching Lone Survivor, and OHMYGAH was it good–but that’s besides the point. As I watched this incredible, heroic story unfold–I kept thinking about that man from Chickfila and his quickly petrifying church hobby, but more so I thought about the hordes and hordes of men who lined up in droves to see this movie but who wouldn’t be caught dead in a church service on Sunday.
They are legion, and they are growing by the day.
Watching this movie, even for me, awakened so many innate desires. Brotherhood. A difficult mission. A united front against evil. A willingness to fight to the death for those around me. I was ready to pick up a gun and run up a mountain.
But that man from Chickfila–he haunts me. “I gotta do something on Sundays.” I’m just bored enough that this looks like an appealing option.
Meaningless hobby? Yes.
I have a feeling that even as a pastor, if this man tried to convince me to go to church with him, I’d say “Sorry…I’m busy.”
Man Cards & Soldiers
Satan has done a marvelous job of convincing men that church is a meaningless and boring hobby. That it’s a woman’s world and you essentially have to hand over your man card to join the club.
I mean, have you listened to Christian radio?
And for a long time, it seems that the response from many churches was “Let’s make church cooler!” We’ll get the pastor to grow a goatee and we’ll do a manly-feeling men’s event and maybe we’ll get a guy on a dirt bike to jump over the pastor’s head while he’s preaching (that’s a real thing I hate to inform you).
And still, those men? They’re like “Nah.”
I, for one, do not think trying to make church cooler is the answer. To arrive at the answer, I think you have to go back to the question: what is the church?
If church is religious entertainment or a cultural hobby, then I’m out. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But the good news is, when I read the New Testament, that’s not at all the picture I see.
I see an army. I see a group of people who have been rescued from certain and self-chosen spiritual death, raised to new life and given a lifelong mission to be a part of the redemption of all things (2 Cor 5:17-21). I see people who are not looking to be entertained, but to give their lives to something that matters for eternity. People that want to be a part of what God is doing to put everything that’s broken on the Earth back together.
And I see men leading the way. Manly, bold, confident, “I’ll fight for you come hell or high water–even if I get locked up” men who are stepping out and telling others to follow their lead. They had seen the resolute and counter-cultural manhood lived out in the life of Jesus, and the very same rose up in them in response.
Brothers they were. Fighters they were. Present in their family they were. Their mission was not overshadowed by lesser pursuits, and their enemy had way more weapons than guns and bombs.
This is the church, and when the church is more than religious entertainment, men are much more attracted to it.
When church services are more like war-time trainings that equip people for mission the rest of the week, men tend to be more willing to get out of bed.
When church does community–not just country club-like socials–but real community where guys are elbow deep in each others’ lives fighting for one another, those same guys’ ears start to perk up.
Of course, the blame for this is certainly not all on wayward churches. No matter how faithfully a church executes the mission of the church, some men won’t care in the least.
But I’d very much so rather them say no to the the real mccoy than snuff their nose at a counterfeit, wouldn’t you?
They can be uninterested. They can say no.
But not because we don’t have a meaningful mission. That we most certainly do.
And not because we don’t have an epic story to tell. Our story out-sweeps any other.
And not because we don’t have an aggressive and counter-cultural brotherhood. Ask any man around who is pot-committed–he’ll tell you that.
The church in her purest form doesn’t produce lazy, detached men–she produces men who engage and speak life. She produces a man who fights for his family, for his community, and for his brothers.
And (here’s the best news)–when he doesn’t, she produces other men who will go to war for him.
Because that’s how soldiers work.
For more thoughts on this subject, see this new post: 5 Things that Make Men Love the Church.
For a related look at the type of community we are inviting men into at our church, check out this post: How to Prevent an Affair from Your Living Room.