There is an overlooked issue in the Christian church causing massive, wide-spread problems.
And it’s simple, really.
Men don’t belong in church.
As I sit staring ahead, listening to the sermon, pondering the back of the person’s head in front of me, while he is pondering the back of the person’s head in front of him, I wonder how we got here. I mean, I got here by way of the parking lot. A smiling man in an orange vest, no doubt cautious of the dangers of reckless, late church-goers competing with time on natural grass turf, waved me in.
And I slid into my spot.
So now I’m here.
But, I have to admit, not much more thought was put into it. Not much has been asked of me, and if I stick around, I have a feeling probably not much more will be.
You see, I’m in church. And, like I said, men don’t belong in church.
Now, let me explain. Guys throughout time have longed to fight, to strategize, to lead. To accept a top secret mission. We dream about jumping in front of bullets or kicking through walls and shooting bad guys who threaten lives of damsels in distress, who in turn fall madly in love with us as we gingerly sweep them off their feet. Without breaking a sweat (or an appendage). And without a post-rampage chiropractic appointment. We want something real. Like that. Something with action and feet sweeping.
Really, we want an exciting mission that’s romantic. Life or death. The stakes raised. The future resting on us.
Is serving God an exciting mission drawing you in?
Give us that kind of call, and we’re all in. Set us along the wall with a stack of service bulletins and a hello name tag and we’re… unimpressed. Is it any wonder men check out of church? They see no significant role there.
It’s as though a whole generation of men walked into church, saw no place for themselves, and quietly walked out.
They did not belong, and they knew it.
This is a problem that’s widely recognized. But then it takes a turn. The solution is always wrong.
Every attempt at resolving men’s absence from church addresses the superficial elements of attracting guys within its doors — the decor, male machismo from the pulpit, less investment in female-oriented improvements like nurseries and coffee bars — and not a single one reaches to the heart level of the issue.
The reality is this:
The men — those with a God-given nature to lead (why they lead their families) — have walked into a place where there are no opportunities to use their masculine heart, formed for the unique purpose to lead, and quite naturally left. They may not have known why. Perhaps there was no desire to return. And many never did.
Yet we wonder where the men have gone.
Is it possible guys aren’t so shallow, after all?
What may be worse are those who never left. Perhaps through a sense of duty, an unfulfilled desire to grow, or what we term “maturity,” they’ve remained. Most likely, they’ve become accustomed to this new pattern of Christianity and have forgotten their nature altogether.
Yet we wonder why these men won’t lead their families.
Is there a way to redesign church to empower men’s nature? Do you think that would increase their involvement there?
The problem, simply put, is they’ve been asked to be assistant managers instead of home run hitters and team captains. They’ve been relegated to couriers when they dreamed of being generals. They’ve been offered the front office as receptionists when they were born to run the company.
In church, men have been made submitters, adapters, and followers when all they wanted was to lead, take risks, and be in charge of something exciting that matters.
And the few who are asked to do more head a committee or sit on a board.
Something inside them hasn’t been content to sit in pews and pass the tithe plate. They wanted to be leaders, and didn’t care for participation ribbons and tri-fold service pamphlets, whether they knew it or not.
They were designed with that nature. Really, all they wanted was to be men.
But in most churches, one man leads. One gives the sermons. One calls the shots. The rest have no place, to live and hone their design as leaders. Is it any wonder so many stop coming?
But here’s a shocker — the system may be even more brutal to pastors.
Men suffer from not having an outlet in church for their God-given design. Pastors, on the other hand, suffer from carrying the burden of leadership themselves.
I call this the pastor gap. It’s the deep gulf between a pastor and his congregation. This separation, a form of institutional elitism, inevitably alienates him.
Few pastors experience open, honest fellowship. It is perhaps ironic. The same church that personifies love to the world is devoid of true friendship for many of its leaders.
The reason is simple. When such a huge burden of leadership is placed on a few men, a divide is created between them and the congregation — the pastor gap. They are placed above it.
I’m sure you know: the pastor of the modern-day church must be perfect. Since he is not, he must remain far enough out of touch from the congregants’ lives for them to see it. Imagine the isolation living in the community Jesus prayed would be one as God is One, yet finding yourself alone.
What can you do to encourage your pastor in a personal way that supports him and allows him to be imperfect?
The current structure of the church has done this, alienating pastors (who burn out at record speed) and invalidating every other man God intends to lead alongside them in the process.
It’s a church-wide mess of epic proportions.
You see, hidden in men’s design is a secret. Every man is meant to be empowered, to lead, to live out his nature as God intended from the beginning. It is a nature — if we understand it — that will change the church.
Which is exactly what we need — systemic, sweeping, church-wide change.
Oh, there are steps to help each man become a leader in Christ. But make no mistake, it is the destiny of every man to become one. God has written it on his heart.
And that should be the goal of every pastor. To help him read it there. Until then, perhaps we do belong on an island somewhere, or tramping some mountainside filled with deep, densely-wooded, ancient pines.
(For more on this plan for the church, read Breathing In and Breathing Out. Angela and I have decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from this new release book to orphans.)