For the last couple of weeks during our series on discipleship we’ve been tackling some subject matter with some biblical truths and principles that have cut against the grain of some of the current practices and beliefs of our time.
We’ve looked at today's practice of dating and learned how it can open the floodgate to fleshly habits that do not please God. We were taught how dating makes it difficult for people to abstain from fornication. Because of the tendency to breakup after the hookup, relationships are destroyed. Dating then becomes a breeding ground for mistrust that weakens the marriage bond and gives way to divorce.
We then looked at courtship which was once embraced by a large segment of society. Most of our young people and their parents have never heard of it. If they are familiar with the term, they consider it a relic of past generations; definitely not for the 21st century.
We have gotten to the point in our day where “wrong is considered right and what was once considered right is now deemed as wrong.” In Isaiah 5:20 we find a warning to this generation: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
In the book of Romans we find a sobering remark concerning the times in which we live: “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.”
Today we are going to learn about another transition that has taken place in society in the home and the church. We are going to look at the treatment of men.
In 2 Timothy chapter two, the Apostle Paul encourages Timothy towards the ministry of discipling men in the church:
2 Tim 2:1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Tim 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
In Titus chapter two Paul commands the older men to teach the younger men and in 2 Timothy he tells Timothy to pass along the legacy of the Scripture to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
However, it is difficult to fulfill the commands from both the letters to Titus and Timothy when there are scarcely any older men in the church to teach the younger men and there aren’t many younger men in the church to be taught.
According to the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, a 2001 study of 300,000 worshipers in more than 2,000 congregations, 61 percent of worshipers are women.
Data from a National Opinion Research Center poll find that the
percentage of men who say they attend church every week fell
from 43.2 percent in 1972 to 35.1 percent in 2002.
One year a survey was taken that reported 40% of men nationwide
compared with 50% of women say they have attended a church
service in the past seven days that wasn’t a wedding or a funeral.
I would like to first answer the question, “Why are all the men
leaving?” and then conclude by attempting to provide an answer to
the question, “How can we bring them back?”
Why are all the men leaving?
1. The natural “pull away.” Experts say that many men pull away from church attendance in a pattern that is typical for both men and women—they grow up in the church and leave in their late teens when they are on their own. If they return, it's because they want their children to have a moral upbringing. But many end up leaving the regular church attendance to the women.
2. The feminization of the church. Men sometimes feel Christianity is about being weak, meek and mild. Many men believe that Christianity has evolved into a female-centered world.
This view coincides with author Leon J. Podles, who asserts in his book, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, that during the first thousand years of the church, men were drawn to the church because they could express their masculinity in the service of Christ. However, by the 11th century, a change began to take place within the Catholic Church, whereby this was no longer the case.
What Podles calls, “a spiritual eroticism” began to commandeer the place of manly obedience to Christ. The concepts of holiness and faithfulness became more and more associated with "romantic affection." Because of this shift, the church became less and less attractive to men.
In conjunction with this shift in understanding faith, Christ was beginning to be portrayed in an increasingly feminine fashion. The Jesus of the Bible, known for his clear judgment and dogmatic teaching, was now being depicted in churches as soft, compassionate and accepting of all, without any manly conviction. This new nurturing image of Christ overshadowed His more masculine traits of strength and courage. His iron-clad will to fight evil and His rigorous self-discipline to the point of dying on a cross for the love of others were no longer extolled from the pulpit.
Podles believes that over time, this shift in Christ's image from masculine to feminine has pushed rugged men away from religion and attracted more effeminate men to the church. An increasingly feminized clergy is the result, creating a vicious cycle where masculine men are withdrawing from their faith.1
Over the years, even the centuries, there has been a feminization of the church and many men just can’t get into it.
A business guru once said, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” When it comes to the local church, it is perfectly designed to reach women and older folks. Perhaps this is why our pews are filled with them. This new church system fails to stir men’s hearts, so men (especially masculine ones) stay away.
In other words, most churches offer a safe, nurturing community, an oasis of stability and predictability. Studies show that women and seniors are the groups most likely to seek these things. Our comforting congregations provide women with what they long for (relationships, family, security), so naturally they show up in larger numbers.
Many guys feel church is a “women’s thing.” Most men are introduced to Christianity by women – Sunday school teachers, and mom. Boys meet a feminized Jesus – a tender, sweet man in a shining white dress. Most volunteer opportunities in church involve traditionally female roles: singing, cooking, caring for children, teaching, planning social gatherings, etc.
Since women and children are the predominant attendees and participants in the local church, and because they have taken leadership positions in the church, ministries have been designed to meet the needs of this feminine paradigm.
Even many of our contemporary praise songs are an expression of this shift.
Listen to the words of the song, The Solid Rock by Edward Mote who lived from 1797- 1874:
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame But wholly lean on Jesus' name
When darkness veils his lovely face I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev'ry high and stormy gale My anchor holds within the veil
His oath, his covenant, his blood Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way He then is all my hope and stay
When he shall come with trumpet sound Oh, may I then in Him be found Dressed in his righteousness alone Faultless to stand before the throne
On Christ the solid rock I stand All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand
Now compare that with a more contemporary song called Draw Me Close written by Kelly Carpenter:
Draw me close to You; Never let me go
I lay it all down again, To hear You say
That I'm Your friend
You are my desire, No one else will do
'Cause nothing else could take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace
Help me find the way bring me back to You
You're all I want, You're all I've ever needed
You're all I want, Help me know You are near
Now just imagine someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger as Terminator singing it? Or Stallone, or The Duke, or Clint Eastwood, or Vin Diesal, or Dwayne Johnson?
The men are leaving the church because there is a natural pull away and secondly, because of the feminization of the church—Church, many believe, is for “wusses, wimps, women and children.”
3. There is nothing for men to do.
Statistics show that there is a higher percentage of low achievers and school dropouts among males than females but what do we do when it comes to teaching the Word of God at church? We duplicate the classroom setting of the school system.
Men didn’t like to go to school when their attendance was mandatory. Do you think they will come when attendance is voluntary?
How did Jesus teach the Word of God to His disciples? He used life situations to impart the Word and many times “threw” His disciples into situations where they would learn “On The Job.”
Mark 6:7 And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.
Mark 6:8 He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts;
Mark 6:9 but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
Mark 6:10 Also He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place.
Mark 6:11 "And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"
Mark 6:12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. Mark 6:13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.
What does this sound like? It sounds like a challenge to a man—an adventure! But unlike the environment Jesus created for His disciples, many of today’s churches offer nothing challenging for a guy to do. He comes to church fearful that someone may find out he is bored and he stays uninterested unless he has a passion for cleaning the church or folding tables and chairs.
If he loves his job it is because he is challenged—projects have deadlines that he must work hard to meet—there are quotas that he must fulfill; a tally that he must compute— budgets that he must keep—customers he must please. His home life is an adventure—he lives to care for his children and please his wife—he wants his home to look as good or even better than his neighbors. But at church, where is the adventure? Where is the challenge?
How do we bring men back to the church?
1. Recognize and accept that there has been a paradigm shift and make the necessary changes to bring the church back to being the kind that honors God and His love for men.
The lack of men in the church has led to a lack of qualified teachers. The Bible teaches that God does not call a woman to pastor a church (1 Timothy 3) but since there are a lack of qualified men, many have taken this to mean that God will accept a woman as a “substitute of grace.” They say, “While this may not be God’s perfect will, it is His permissive will.”
More and more churches are calling women to pastor; more and more churches are being founded by women and more and more men are no longer attending.
Satan loves it when women usurp the headship of a man. He got Eve to usurp not only God’s Word but her husband, Adam’s authority, it humanity was plunged headlong into sin.
God looks down on this kind of behavior. In Numbers 12, when Miriam, the sister of Moses spoke against him, the Lord’s anger was aroused and told her that she should have been afraid to speak against the Lord’s servant and she was given leprosy by the Lord.
And then there was that wicked woman Jezebel who in the Old Testament dominated her husband King Ahab and ran his kingdom (1 Kings 21:23-26).
1Ki 21:25 (There was no one else who had devoted himself so completely to doing wrong in the LORD's sight as Ahab---all at the urging of his wife Jezebel. 1Ki 21:26 He committed the most shameful sins by worshiping idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD had driven out of the land as the people of Israel advanced.)
Could it be that many men no longer have anything to do with today’s church because there is a “Jezebelian spirit” pervading the church today?
In the book of Revelation God criticizes the church of Thyatira for their indulgence in a female-led church. In fact, God calls the woman who took over this church, “Jezebel.”
Rev 2:18 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: Rev 2:19 'I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.
Rev 2:20 'But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. Rev 2:21 'And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
How do we bring men back into the church? We must examine ourselves to see if we have shifted from the Scriptures and make the necessary changes to bring the church back to where men can fulfill their calling from God.
But don’t read me wrong. I am not talking about a male-centered or dictatorship—this is not the answer either. We will look at this more towards the end of this message.
2. We must realize that returning to a church where men can fulfill their calling must not only be proclaimed from the pulpit but embraced by those sitting in the pews.
The pastor must not only teach the biblical calling for men in the church, but there must be change in the mindset of the members of the church.
A return to the biblical calling of men must begin in the home. Our sons must be taught how to be godly men. An environment must be created “on purpose” that fosters the development of boys into men who are secure in their own skin (in being the man that God has made them), responsible and fear the Lord.
My mom, though a single mom much of my life as a boy, created an environment for me and my brothers.
We were given work to do around the house that young men were to do. Though we grew up with sisters, they had their work and we had ours.
The garage, basement and yard were cleaned by the boys. The kitchen was kept clean by my sisters. There were areas in the home that anyone could clean-like the bathroom. There were those Saturdays when we all had to clean what my mother called, “the woodwork.”
Occasionally our chores overlapped (I might even have to bake some chicken and clean the kitchen) but there were regular “boy chores” and “girl chores.”
There has been this movement in the world that wants us to believe that there are absolutely no differences between men and women. Today there is so much confusion as a result of this “gender equality” movement.
Returning to a church where men can fulfill their calling has to begin in the home. Being a single mother doesn’t exempt or excuse you from doing your best to raise your sons as men.
I don’t think the school is going to teach your son how to become a man; this is going to have to take place in the home.
Not only does growing our boys into men begin in the home, the nurturing of our young men has to be encouraged in the church.
When it comes to the church, we need to ask ourselves, “What needs can the particular, unique, God-given skills, talents, strengths and capabilities of men” meet? Men must feel like they are really needed and it is the sense of fulfillment that comes from meeting these unique needs that will draw them and keep them.
Our churches must be willing to create and support the kind of ministries where men feel they can make a contribution with the gifts and abilities God has given them. As you know us men are “wired” to be "fixers". Let us fix something and we feel significant.
I remember some years ago being a member of a church that engaged their men in this manner. I had a tree in my backyard that had a heavy limb dangerously overhanging my roof and I didn’t have the money to get it removed.
One of the pastors at this church organized the men around the ministry of cutting down this tree limb. It was an amazing thing as these guys came out full force and worked together.
When our church was being renovated, we had men come and work together to tear down the walls so we would have space to worship. One guy who helped was named Wayne.
Wayne didn’t even belong to our church but was a friend of one of the men in our church. I used to run into Wayne every now and then and Each time I saw him, he brought up the time he helped us on this project.
Most of us were not here when our church property was first purchased and we had to renovate the house into a church building.
A group of men from Jerusalem Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, VA, arrived by the truckloads and worked to put a new fire resistant ceiling in the basement. As we worked, we were fellowshipping in the Lord. Men will always remember these kinds of things.
If you would permit me to continue to go down “Memory Lane”, I remember working with one of our deacons, who has since gone to be with the Lord, to install our church sign and another brother as we worked to put together the children’s playground.
More recently was the summer that some brothers came up from North Carolina to construct our basketball court—I still connect with a few of these men through Facebook.
My point is not to say that all men’s fellowship revolves around manual labor. These are the kinds of things that men can do and enjoy doing as men. So we must intentionally create ministry that is suited to the way that God has wired us.
We find this kind of thing in the book of Nehemiah. As the book begins we find Nehemiah upset about a report he heard concerning the walls of Jerusalem being burned down.
Nehemiah senses God calling him to rebuild the walls. Throughout the book there is prayer concerning the work. There is recruitment of men and collection of building materials.
The men get together to rebuild the walls but Satan raises up and moves people against the rebuilding project so Nehemiah and brethren must not only work on the walls but be on guard for their enemies.
What an adventure! What excitement! This is the kind of thing that men are drawn to.
As you read further in the book of Nehemiah, you will find that as they completed the project of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, they worshipped God and publicly read the Scriptures. There was work and then there was worship!
I don’t need to tell you that there are plenty of work projects in and around our church to give our men more than enough time to work and worship together as they encourage one another and reach out to our community.
* Computer Tutoring
* Disaster Relief
* Sports Ministries
* Home Repair for Those in Need
* Home Repair for the Elderly
* Father-Son Outings
* Father-Daughter Outings
* Military Outreach and Assistance
* Automotive Repairs for Those in Need
* Prisoner Outreach
* Homeless Shelters
* Open Air Preaching & Witnessing
* Drug Addiction & Recovery Counseling
We must realize that returning to a church where men can fulfill their calling must not only be proclaimed from the pulpit but embraced by those sitting in the pews.
3. Our churches must let boys be boys and men be men.
Today there is a tendency to discourage our boys from being boys. We do not let them play with toy guns; we do not let them play “war.” Some are taught to be soft and tender and not allowed to roughhouse every now and then.
A few years ago there was the sad case of parents who had a baby boy that had a genital defect so they “decided” to raise the baby as a girl. They found out that even when they gave him a female name, despite his mother and everyone else telling him constantly that he was a girl and despite being treated with female hormones, he knew he was a male.
In our society there is an effort underway to suppress the male image. I believe that many of the traits and characteristics of boys that are being diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder are really normal traits of boys being boys (Characteristics are observed two to four more time in boys than girls).
But because the outworking of this behavior upsets the school teacher and interferes with learning in the classroom; because the rambunctious little boy in the home is oftentimes harder to rear than the little girl, our young men are being legally drugged and sedated.
Let boys be boys! Dr. James Dobson of the Focus On the Family ministry has concerns that society is trying to obliterate the God-given distinctions of the sexes. He has put together Seven Principles for Bringing Up Boy.
Let me briefly share with you five of them.
Principle 1: Don’t try to eliminate a boy’s naturally aggressive and excitable behavior; celebrate and shape and civilize it
Principle 4: To help a boy develop a healthy gender identity, make sure he receives appropriate affection, attention and approval from his father (or, in the father’s absence, a trustworthy male role model).
Principle 5: Spend both quantity and quality time with your boy, even if it means changing your lifestyle to make that time available.
Principle 6: Counteract the effects of male-bashing in our culture by affirming a boy’s masculinity and his value as a person.
Principle 7: Make your boy’s relationship with God the first priority as you raise him. Let me elaborate for a moment on Dr. Dobson’s seventh principle.
As you raise your boy to know God read to him the Bible. Read to him the stories of David and Goliath and the conquests of Canaan. Introduce him to the battles (both the victories and defeats) of Israel.
The Bible teaches that God is King. It teaches that He is a Warrior. Exodus 15:3 says "The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name.” Your boy needs to be encouraged to follow his Commander in Chief as a “good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3)
He needs to see the righteous indignation of God in Christ who cleansed the temple with a whip saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a robber’s den.”
But then let him learn of the love and compassion of God demonstrated in Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" "No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."”
He needs to know that while God is holy and hates sin, He is not willing that any perish but all would turn away from their sins and place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died and was raised from the dead for them.
How do we bring men back into the church? Let boys be boys. But we must also let men be men.
In the church today, men are oftentimes encouraged to be good husbands—to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5). Men are also taught to be good fathers— Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers not to “provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Most churches, however, do not go much further than this in their instruction to men. But there is more to the Christian life for a man than to be good husbands and fathers— although this is enough to keep them occupied for life.
When Jesus called the disciples, He persuaded them to leave all and follow Him. Peter was a big burly fisherman. When Jesus called Peter, He didn’t leave him without something to do; He called Peter to become a “fisher of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
When Peter fished for fish, he had to endure hours of hard work, sometimes in dangerous waters. He had to be patient and wait for the fish. He had to know something about fishing and what bait to use in what water at what time.
When Jesus called His disciples, He didn’t call them to an easy work. He called them to a work that would challenge them. He called them to a work that would test them. He called them to a work where they needed to be patient and long-suffering. This would not bring immediate returns.
In calling them, Jesus told them that if they followed Him, their families and friends might turn against them. If they followed Him, they might face expulsion from the synagogue, which was the center of their livelihood. If they followed Him, they might face death as He faced it.
I found it interesting that the Scriptures let us know that while Jesus was in His earthly ministry He never called a woman to follow Him—women just followed Him and were used mightily by Him—throughout the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. But it is interesting that Jesus only called men into the ministry of following Him.
Mat 4:18 And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
Mat 4:19 And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Mat 4:20 And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him.
Mat 4:21 And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.
Mat 4:22 And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
If Jesus were to minister on earth again calling only men to Himself in this way there be a rebellion? How many women would label Him as “chauvinistic?”
If men are to be men, there are going to be times when they should be allowed to gather with other men to do men things. If we are going to bring men back into the church then exclusive men’s events must not be protested.
I know that there are many things that women like to do along with men and I hope that those in our church who want those kinds of things will be willing to step up to the plate and plan them.
But there are going to be times that we must purposely segregate ourselves by gender. There must be times when we can plan things that will purposely exclude women— LightHouse, our women’s ministry, does it all the time because they need those times to discuss “women’s concerns” among themselves without men being around.
Men need the freedom to hang out with other men.
There is this perception among some Christian sisters that when men get married they can no longer run the streets, even if it is with his brothers in Christ? I agree that when a man gets married he must “settle down,” but do not deny him the opportunity every so often to run the streets. Men must run!
Song 2:8-9a - The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag…
Even in the church men need to be allowed to do things that are reserved for men. Chivalry is not dead in the church! I know that some of our sisters can carry two tables under one arm and five chairs with the other—but you need our boys to be boys and men be men.
In view of all that has been said, let me close with some principles to help us implement what we’ve learned. This list comes from a ministry called Church for Men.
Principle one: Let’s cultivate a healthy masculine spirit in our church. A man must sense, from the moment he walks in, that church is not just for his wife or her grandmother; it’s something for him too. It can’t feel like a ladies’ club.
Perhaps we need to examine the environment or maybe even the décor of our church. Does our church speak mostly to women? Do we need to rethink some of our practices such as “holding hands with your neighbor” when we pray?
Has the church been disingenuous in how it often categorizes the highly emotional displays during the worship service as “spiritual.” Is our goal to get men to “cry” or to “shout?” Or, is it our goal to get them to worship God and walk with Him, however that may look?
Principle two: Make men feel needed and wanted. Encourage men to use their gifts, even if they don’t fit traditional models of Christian service. Encourage them to serve the poor by working on cars or fixing up houses. Let men plan “adventures” and do “guy things” together.
Principle three: Present Christ in a biblically balanced way. Don’t merely focus on Jesus’ tenderness and empathy. While this is certainly biblical, presenting “soft Jesus” without biblically balancing this with “tough Jesus” runs the risk of turning men off.
Even more confusing are today’s praise songs – many of which feature lovey-dovey lyrics set to a romantic tune. Guys may feel unnatural singing romantic words to another man
Many congregations today sing songs that could become a top-40-love song if the word “Jesus” were changed to “baby.”
Men who are willing to “fight the good fight of faith” want a leader, not a love object. The Greek word for love in the Scriptures is either agapao (sacrificial) or phileo (friendship/brotherly) not eros, a romantic or sensual kind of love.
Principle four: Watch the use of feminine terminology. It seems as though it is only Christian men who use terms such as precious, share, and relationship -- words you’d never hear on the lips of a typical man.
And here’s a term that may puzzle a lot of guys: a personal relationship with Jesus. Christ’s bold, biblical, masculine command, “Follow Me!” has now been changed to, “Have a relationship with Me.” What the church has done is changed the form of Jesus’ command to feminine terms.
Principle five: Change the method of teaching for men. Thanks to TV, today’s men have an attention span of six to eight minutes (the length between commercials). Remember, Jesus’ most beloved lessons were his parables, none of which takes more than two minutes to teach. And men remembered His parables.
Men can effectively teach other men by taking advantage of “teachable moments” like Jesus did. This of course means you have to spend time with them (John 4:35), which exactly is what Jesus did.
Principle six: Become students of men. Women keep the ministry machine going, so pastors in many churches focus on keeping females happy and serving. Pastors and church leaders should become students of men.
Principle seven: Create a culture of person-to-person challenge. In many a church, the pastor challenges from the pulpit, but the people don’t challenge each other. Person-to person discipleship, in small groups, is one of the best ways to bring men to maturity in Christ.
Jesus chose a handful of men and personally discipled them. These men eventually become disciples of others. Thus Paul writes to Timothy: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2:1-2).