Why Men Hate Going to Church

 

I’ve been loosely following Therese’s discussion of emasculation and I thought the discussion might come ’round to where I’m at here today.  But it hasn’t.  Yet.  The title of this post matches a title of a book that is currently gathering no small amount of buzz around the Christian community.  We were actually thinking of giving it a read for the Methodist Men’s group, but someone said the book was more for women!

 

I’ve looked around the Church for Men website, and it’s an interesting read with some rather startling statistics.  Such as 25% of married women attend church without their husbands.  Or that while 90% of men in the U.S. say they believe in God and 4 in 5 identify themselves as Christian, less than 2 in 6 are in church on a given Sunday.  Or that by the age of 20, 90% of young men have dropped out of church, and many will not ever return.

 

The latest article there points out that men flock to the religion of Islam while they tend to avoid Christianity.  Instead, church is identified as for “women and little old ladies of both sexes.”  Indeed, we don’t have to look too far to see this phenomenon in action. 

 

Square1 used to identify very strongly with the Christian faith, even having a blog dedicated to Christian discipleship.  However, her husband had a blog dedicated to….um….civil unrest?  He shared some very deep dissatisfaction with the way this country is going and how it is led.  And he was definitely NOT interested in any wimpy, namby pamby religion for women and old ladies.  So he joined the ranks of the fastest growing religion in the world; Islam.  and today his blog is about his new journey.

 

Jesus started His ministry with 12 other guys and dealt primarily with men.  He seemed to have little problem getting men to identify with Him.  So what happened?  Somewhere along the line, Christianity became a religion that appealed more to women and totally NOT to men.  The author of the book/blog has some interesting ideas of what the problem is, and what to do about it.  But I’m going go my own way for a bit.

 

First off, the institution of the church has very little to offer men of today.  Last Sunday, most services extolled on the values of motherhood and how wonderful mothers are.  Interestingly enough, Mother’s Day is one service that has more men in it than any other as the guys do it to make their wives/mothers happy.  But what about Father’s Day?  First off, the guys will take the day off…from church.  While the women get roses and flowers on their day, men will get books or reminders of how they need to be more accountable and how they need to devote more time for family.  For women, it’s about honor.  For men, it’s about obligation.  While the preacher exhorts men to seek first the kingdom on their day, women are held up as the pillars of the family and faith that they are on Mother’s day.  No minister ever enjoins women to be better mothers on Mother’s Day and yet this happens all the time to men!  A bit of a double standard, don’t you think?

 

Every so often, in a blue moon, in exceedingly rare occasions, you might hear a sermon about sex.  You might hear all about the harm of pornography, and consorting with prostitutes and the sin of adultery.  You might hear about how sex is God’s gift to us, and of course is reserved for those that are married.  Men are exhorted to love their wives, and wives should respect their husbands. 

 

But 1 Corinthians 7 is never taught.  Ever.  Probably because the preacher’s wife will never have sex with him again if he does.  And yet look around.  This is a HUGE problem!  Thanks to the institutional religious programming, women think sex is dirty, disgusting and certainly unholy and impure.   And men are made to feel guilty for being men who might actually enjoy getting busy once in a while.

 

Meanwhile, the Muslims are promising 70 virgins for their self-sacrifice!  Muslim women literally wear their submission wherever they go, which seems to inspire their men to greater faithfulness and devotion.  Although the 70 virgin promise doesn’t hurt, I’m sure.

 

Now that I think about it, I remember a time in my fundie days when we had prayer meetings.  The women there did cover their heads with bandana head scarves as a sign of submission to God and it was inspiring to see that sort of devotion. 

 

Am I the only one who felt like Huck Finn having to attend the widow’s church?  Obviously not, since most guys dump church as soon as they leave home and get out on their own.  This makes church a good place to pick up chicks, except you’ll be expected to continue that behavior indefinitely.

 

Men like more participation than a typical worship service allows.  Most congregations don’t take kindly to a guy in the stands second guessing the preacher’s choice of scripture.  Or bringing hot dogs and peanuts to a mass.  Or making any changes that rock the boat.

 

Jesus and His posse were ways on the move and they were definitely rocking the boat.  Their fellowship was dynamic and organic and always they had no idea what would happen next.  This was an adventure of a lifetime involving danger and risk which required real strength and fortitude.  Tell me what in a modern church service requires real strength and fortitude?  Compliance, docility, passivity, submissiveness, being quiet, being safe, keeping busy; these are all things the modern church values.  They are also the values of women and old ladies of both sexes. 

 

Men need space to argue, debate, challenge, compete, strive, and basically sharpen each other to a keener edge.  Instead, modern church services tend to dull and lull men until they literally can not keep their eyes open.

 

So to address the question Therese posed, a good way to emasculate a man is by wearing down his edge and turning him into a compliant dullard.  Nagging tends to have a wearing effect.  An institutional sermon sometimes has a tendency to sound like just another nag session.

 

I’m all about relationships, but it has to be real.  I need to be able to sharpen another person by calling them on mistakes, and they should do the same for me without worrying about whether it’ll jeopardize the relationship.  Men can do this while women seem to struggle that way, often taking criticisms more personally and getting all hurt and wounded.  Men can struggle, disagree, compete, debate and fight and still have a beer together at the end of the day.  Not that any of those things are encouraged or even allowed in church.

 

The modern institutional church has as much to do with the emasculation of men as any of the other forces that were brought up in Therese’s discussion such as the feminization of the larger culture (which has taken over the church as an institution), the absence of male role models in society and culture, the increase in single mother-led households and the urbanization of our society.  Men are not attracted to institutional church because they find it instinctively in opposition to the way God created them.  We’re designed to have a very active, engaged and dynamic relationship with our Creator, and yet the modern institution fosters and cultivates passivity paired with institutional busy-ness.  This may be why some men have gotten attached to the CGM congregations because the goal-centered, mission-oriented, market and purpose driven paradigm is something with which they can somehow identify. It has little to do with relationship to their Creator, however, and more to do with being part of something that has worldy significance.

So basically, when looking at masculinity and spirituality, men have 3 choices:

– Modern institutional churchinity in the liberal, feminized flavor

– Modern churchianity in the CGM flavor

– A more fundamental form of religion, such as Islam

Which is why the relational flavor has more appeal to me.  There is room for guys to get together and relate as guys. There is room for being part of something significant but one does not have to digress 800 years into the past to do it, or chop off people’s heads.

For a good podcast discussion, click here and listen to these guys discuss the disconnest between men and organized Christianity.

 

D.

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29 Responses to Why Men Hate Going to Church

  1. FTN says:

    I agree with a whole lot of what you are saying here, although I still think you are grouping a lot of churches together. There are still many differences between individual churches. But as a whole, I agree.

    Men can struggle, disagree, compete, debate and fight and still have a beer together at the end of the day.

    With this, I couldn’t agree more. And this is exactly why I get together with a group of guys at a coffeehouse or elsewhere on a weekly basis… We fight, we argue, we debate, and we laugh.

    The problem, again, is that our churches have become too Sunday morning-centric. Too much is geared towards getting people in the pew at that time, and seldom mentioning the REAL important part of church. Long meals in each other’s homes. Getting together for discussions over coffee. Serving together at a homeless shelter. That kind of thing. THAT is the church.

  2. Desmond Jones says:

    Men want to be challenged, and they want to be part of something that transcends themselves. Too much of the ‘churchianity’ that you describe fails on one or the other (or both) of these counts. If Christianity is just sitting still for an hour on Sunday, listening to a lecture, uh, sermon, where’s the challenge in that? And where’s the sense of belonging to something significant? But if Christianity means something like overcoming sin, and training for the Ultimate Prize, it takes on a more masculine flavor. When I was in college, the guys in our community used to say to each other, “Gimme pain,” on the order of athletes saying, ‘no pain, no gain’. There is something very masculine about taking on suffering for the sake of a higher goal.

    What you say about manly relationships also rings very true. The ‘feminization’ of Christianity has been in process for something like two centuries, in one form or another. We don’t need to sit primly, sipping tea; we need something like Amish barn-raisings. We need a sense of our lives thrown in together.

    And, much as it rubs against the PC grain, men don’t want to be led by women; that’s on the order of a law of nature. And, as you say, the ‘feminization’ of Christianity has made an awful lot of it look like just that – if I go here, women will be telling me what to do; thank you, no. And that’s where Islam appeals to men – however primitive and violent and inhuman it may be, the women are emphatically NOT dictating terms to the men. And, they get to blow shit up and go to heaven for it. So you see what we’re up against.

  3. Xian Husband says:

    Digger: You have a very, um, interesting set of ideas about what early Christianity was like. You might want to study more.

    Also, to say that, in Christianity, men only have two choices: modern liberal feminist church or modern CGM church is fallacious. What about churches that still try to do what came before? They still exist. They still exist, and they get pounded on all the time by the PC crowd for being so patriarchical.

  4. xi summit says:

    “Men can struggle, disagree, compete, debate and fight and still have a beer together at the end of the day.”

    Unity unity unity!! How can we possibly have unity with alla that contention going on? To a masculine mentality it’s automatic, much like on the playing field we learn and grow by testing each other. I couldn’t agree more that the Church has lost that ability in order to cater to its biggest customer, women. There’s a success story (women, their primary customers) they have to buck in order to ‘fix’ the problem of men not attending. That’s part of the reason why Promise Keepers once swept the country before it got lost on the touchy-feely road after a few years.

    For many years I tried to sell Church leadership on the idea of having separate services on the 5th Sunday in any month with 5 that could be tailored, one for men and the other for women, but they felt separation of the sexes was a bad thing. Interestingly enough, at least a couple times a year they WILL allow a separate women’s Sunday School class for women who don’t feel comfortable with men in class. I wish I was free to do the same for the men but have obligations that preclude that …. but then, it’s the Service, not Sunday School, where visitors come so it would only help those already attending as opposed to attracting newbies.

  5. diggerjones says:

    That didn’t take long.

    FTN, you’re totally getting it. Well, almost totally. You and your friends meet in a small group, based on the relationship you already have, and you do it *outside* of the church and NOT on Sunday. And you don’t have a special program, and it’s not a special ministry set up by your church board. It is *real*. Some other group will see this, and just watch out for it: “Men’s Starbucks Ministry every other Friday and 7:00 p.m.!” That would be the quickest way to kill a good thing: institutionalize it.

    So, Desmond, you get where the Islamists are gaining ground with men. They get to blow shit up, chop off heads, go to heaven AND get 70 virgins! The thing about the pain is, is that Sunday morning IS often a pain and a sacrifice! So does that make it a good thing? Is it even productive?

    Yeah, XH, my ideas are a bit…er…different. Here’s one for you: Did Christ come to earth with the intention of setting up Christianity as an institution and/or a religion? “Christian” was actually a derrogatory term that the believers sort of adopted in much the same way I’ve adopted the title of “condescending prick.” Okay, maybe not QUITE that extreme, but it would be interesting to see a condescending prick movement evolve.

    Islam and Christianity both have their more fundamental sects which do cater more towards male interests and preferences. And yes, the Christian variety are all too often blasted by the PC crowd. The one I was associated with in Ames was definitely one of those, and I sort of bundled it w/Islam which is probably most unfair.

    Xi, you bring up a good and interesting point re: unity. So much of what men like seems to fly in the face of a more feminiine view of untiy and harmony. But we somehow pull it off every weekend when we watch our favorite professional or college team play. Or when WE play. We cheer and jeer each other without getting into a snit about someone who told us our pants made us look fat. Being ignorant has its own reward.

    On my other WP blog I expand on the Guy Sunday concept. In a word, it’s ridiculous. We need to free ourselves of the effing concept of developing some sort of *program* or *ministry* for every little thing! Part of the problem is that we are all overly programmed and scheduled to death!

    Let Spirit have a little operating room and see what HE can do without programming, mission planning and purpose driving. I think we could all be surprised.

    D.

  6. Xian Husband says:

    Didn’t I post another comment on here just an hour or so ago? Did it get eaten by the net?

  7. diggerjones says:

    Must have, XH, because it isn’t in the moderation que which wordpress sometimes does if there are too many links embedded in a comment. *I* didn’t eat it!
    D.

  8. Xian Husband says:

    OK, let me try this again for the third time. I’m wondering if it might have had something to do with the length, so I’ll break it up into two parts, and also take out all the html and stuff. See if it will take this time.

    First of all, taking all the non-liberal, non-CGM Christian groups and grouping them with Islam is even more fallacious. And kind of insulting. There are still more choices out there than feminized liberal Christianity, mega-church evangelical Christianity, and fundamentalism. Take, for instance, the largest Christian group on earth: the Catholic church. It doesn’t fit in any of those three. Neither do most of the Orthodox groups (although some of them have been drifting towards liberalism lately). Also some of the high-church Anglican groups (at least those that oppose Williams’s policies). Look at some of the more traditional Lutheran churches, like the LCMS. And there are others.

    Second, Christ certainly came to establish an institution! Probably not an institution like much of anything you’ve ever experienced, but still an institution. That’s a big part of the connotation of the word “ekklesia”. That’s why He took special care in establishing leadership. That’s why respecting the leadership was so important (Acts 5). God is not the author of confusion and chaos. In a godly institution, order is necessary (I Cor 14). Part of order is organization (Acts 6). The Christian church was always established with organization (Acts 14:23), and for a particular purpose.

    And that is, as Paul told Titus:

    The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

    He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

    For there are many rebellious people…
    They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, DISOBEDIENT for doing anything good.

    And the disciplinary aspect being readily apparent in Matthew 18:15-18. That’s also why He and His Apostles built the entire thing on the structure of the synagogue and the Jewish tribal elder system of governance. Which was VERY authoritative.

    What you are advocating is schism and rebellion as a virtue. Godliness is about unity and submission.

  9. Xian Husband says:

    OK, it finally took that. Now let me put up the other half and see if it goes up as well.

    The “emasculating” part of the “instutitional church” that you’re talking about comes from two sources.

    1) The liberalizing influence of the Enlightenment, as I discussed at length on my blog, and how it’s major focus was to tear down the old social structures in favor of the new, secular values. A big part of that was a rejection of any ideas of God-given gender roles. As Paul taught in I Tim 2:14, we have a very early example of what happens when women take over the role of religious headship and it wasn’t pretty.

    2) A misunderstanding of what it means to be “masculine” anyway. It’s like the old controversy about how boys are treated in schools, with books like “The War on Boys” and stuff. BS. Being a boy doesn’t mean not being able to sit still or behave or focus. It’s not about fighting and arguing and being rowdy. That’s masculine strength and other virtues unharnessed from any self-control. Men don’t like going to church because, in large part, men have lost what it means to be men. They’d rather be out fishing or hunting or playing golf or feeding whatever other urge they happen to have at the moment. The idea of taking what God’s given you and using it for a purpose higher than yourself in submission to a Leader who deserves all this and more is foreign to the very idea.

    If that is your sense of “masculinity” then Christianity IS “emasculating” because it is about following Christ and His example — which was all about submission and obedience to the point of death.

    As for “Christian” being an insult, I have no idea where you got that. The early church was PROUND to be following Christ to the point of being identified with His name.

  10. diggerjones says:

    Re: “Christian”
    http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=Christian

    […]
    Beginning as a struggle to shape and define their identity and faith the first Christians were a diverse group of early followers. First called Christian in Antioch the word appears in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:14-16

    The origin of the word remains obscure and is composed of the word Christ, meaning annointed one in Greek and the ending designating partisans of or followers of. Jews initially referred to the earliest followers as the sect of the Nazarenes and seemingly thought of Christians as a Jewish group outside of those who didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah.

    It is implausible that the followers of Jesus originated the term among the first Christians because most referred to themselves as saints, the Way, brothers, and frequently throughout the Gospels as well as the New Testament as disciples.

    The term was used as a mocking remark by Agrippa in Acts 26:28; as an admonishment in 1 Peter 4:14-16 and apparently in disparagement of the small sect of first followers. The ancient historians of Rome also used the term this way. In Annals 15:6 Tacitus refers to the Christians as people despised for their evil deeds and in Lives of the Caesars Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus calls them a new and evil supersition.

    If it was used as a term of ridicule and scorn for the first followers of Jesus in Antioch, most likely Roman officials coined the word to differentiate the Christian group from Judaism. It has also been conjectured by biblical scholars that Christian was used to designate the Christian movement hostile toward Agrippa. Regardless as to where the term began it is agreed upon by most scholars that it was first use was as a pejorative. However, by the end of the first century of the common era the expressed acceptance of the word among Christians is seen as a comforting sign of God’s glory.

    End of quote

    Where we go as far as authority and leadership; we will go ’round and round you and I because while you wish to embrace the concept of the absolute divine right of rule, you do not wish to deal with the very real consequences which is pretty much absolute and constant tyranny. History, both Biblical and and secular, is rife with it. I’ve seen so much of it with my own eyes.

    As far as serving a higher authority to greater purpose, there are men who fit this. But that does not at all fit the mold of many who are finding the church empty of higher purpose rather than perpetuating itself. Less than 10% of most resources collected by an institutional church goes towards missions of any sort. The budget is dominated by salaries, maintaining the building and maintaining the the administraqtive machine if there is any sort of central heirarchy. Most have the assorted children’s and adult programs, all designed to get butts in pews and generate more revenue.

    Men will step up to a worthy cause. I’ve been there and seen that, too. After 9/11, the military recruitment offices were over run. Suddenly the defense of our country was relevant again.

    The modern institutional church has been weighed and found wanting.

    Jesus came to establish a relationship between Him and me. Him and you. He and the guy on the cross next to Him. He and the sick, the hungry, the poor and the rejected.

    They went to synogogues and the temple to call people OUT. These places were mission fields, for which they were repaid by being thrown out! Early believers met in homes, not giant buildings. They were able to give to other poorer believers because they didn’t have a payroll and a facility to support.

    Reference:
    http://www.hisholychurch.net/ekklesia.html

    Ekkesia:
    The word ‘church’ in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ which comes from two words ‘ek’ meaning ‘out’ and ‘kaleo’ meaning to ‘call.’ An ekklesia or ‘calling out’ was not just an assembly. The words agora and paneguris as well as heorte, koinon, thiasos, sunagoge and sunago can all mean an assembly. The word ekklesia was a political term, not a religious term. Jesus was the King and the Bible used the term ekklesia for a good reason. In classical Greek “ekklesia” meant “an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly.”

    Check the link to read more. If there are errors there (or in any of the sources I’m reading and citing), I’d would be keen to learn.

    D.

  11. Xian Husband says:

    Well, in that sense it was only an insult in the mouths of those who opposed Christ and what He taught. And that is what we expect. The name was not seen as insulting to the Christians themselves. Read the reference your quote made in I Peter where he says, “… but in that name let him glorify God.”

    Second, have you not considered that your “modern institutional church” has been found wanting because you’re looking at the wrong churches? You seem to be taking faults in churches with one pretty much uniform set of doctrines and culture and extrapolating ALL churches from that. What we teach matters. What we do matters. And not all things are acceptable to God. How many “churches” you are looking for are really part of Christ’s ekklesia?

    Does the issue of Truth not come into play at all?

    And, it is simply incorrect that all Christ came to establish was a relationship with individuals. You will not find that in the scriptures, nor the words “personal savior.” What you WILL find is statments about how Christ loves “the church” how He came to save “the church” how “the church” is His body. We are saved when we are a part of His Church because salvation is a corporate thing, not an individual thing. While you are in His Church you are guaranteed salvation. While you are outside His chuch you are outside salvation.

    Yes, being in His Church implies relationship. And He does want relationship. But whenever our relationship to Him is mentioned it is also mentioned in the context of community. So, John 17, he wants us to be one with Him as He is one with the Father — and as we are one with each other. I John: how do we know we are in Him? Because we love each other. I Cor 1: unity. Christianity is about community, and salvation is a corporate blessing. That was the point about “ekklesia.” It doesn’t mean individuals called out, but a body taken as a whole.

    Lastly, the Apostles taught in the synagogues to convert people, certainly, but they adopted the entire synagogue structure whole-cloth. On a fundamental, philosophical level. From what it means to be “church” to organization and worship, early Christianity was directly an expression of the synagogue.

    And they certainly DID have payroll. I Tim 5.

  12. diggerjones says:

    From John 18:33-38

    So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

    end of quote

    The issue of Truth comes mightily into it, which is why we contend so, you and I. We both wish to contend for Truth. Too bad Pilate’s final question was rhetorical. He might have learned Who the Truth really is. But Pilate had his part to play, however reluctant he was to play it.

    Jesus clearly and absolutely says right here, that His kingdom is not from this world. The first church member was a guy who was a criminal who committed a capital crime under Roman law, hung there by Roman authorites. And yet, Jesus took him in.

    The relationship is direct when we are enjoined to love one another. You can not do things to “one another” without it being one-on-one.

    I’m not against believers coming together and cooperating. But eventually, the institution will seek to enslave people the same way the old guard tried to enslave the Galations.

    Now you do too well in tasking me to find these fellowships who are part of Christ’s “ekklesia.” Type “Community Church” into Google and see the number of hits. How many variations of “Community Church” are in your own city?

    So I am beyond curious as to what you would suggest! My spiritual pedigree is right out there, but you have been a bit evasive, offering up “Pre-enlightenment” as if that were some meaningful guide!

    I’ll keep my eyes peeled for The Holy Ekklesia of Pre-Enlightenment.

    D.

  13. FTN says:

    Why Digger, from reading some of your comments, I might think you are going to join my whole Emerging Church / Missional Living crowd. 🙂

  14. Xian Husband says:

    The point about Truth. Let me quote a bit from Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua that I was reading just this morning. He had been accused of destroying any confidence in absolute truth in that what he once defended as truth he was now condemning. In response he says:

    “So far from my change of opinion having any fair tendency to unsettle persons as to truth and falsehood viewed as objective realities, it should be considered whether such change is not necessary, if truth be a real objective thing, and be made to confront a person who has been brought up in a system short of truth. Surely the continuance of a person, who wishes to be right, in a wrong system, and not his giving it up, would be that which militated against the objectiveness of Truth, leading, as it would, to the suspicion, that one thing and another were equally pleasing to our Maker, where men were sincere.”

    Where you go should be dependent on what you believe is truth. And not truth about such minor details as whether or not there are greeters at the door, or how big the building is, but the deep truths: person of Christ, doctrine of justification, doctrine of the sacraments, etc. Because not all are correct, and to be pleasing to God you must worship Him in Truth, not just spirit, and not just with sincerity. It is not enough to be sincere in your belief, you must believe what is True — external to yourself.

    That being the case, changing churches should not be a lightly taken thing, as it must be coupled with deep thought as well as deep repentance. Repentance as changing churches involves acknowledging that what one once believed and did and taught was in error. There is no place for just lightly and casually switching churches as if what they teach and believe about these deep things makes no difference. Not if one actually believes in absolute and objective Truth.

    What do I suggest? Figure out what you believe — and not just about how many greeters there are or the color of the carpets, but about the things that actually matter. This should hopefully involve deep study and prayer — and as objective a look at the scriptures as you can, untied from as much a priori belief as you can manage. Then look at who teaches it. Then go there, and submit yourself to the leaders who are brave enough to still teach the truth.

    Or you can stay where you are but try and change your church for the better from the inside. Which is what I do.

    This also is related to the reason I don’t label myself. I myself am a member of the Church of Christ, but in stating that understand I differ quite a bit from the standard theology of this movement. But I feel compelled to stay where I was called and do His work here, instead of fleeing to some other church.

    In that, I’m sort of like Newman in the 1830s. He only left his church when forced to as its leadership would no longer even allow his beliefs to co-exist with their own. I have never experienced such a thing, nor do I expect to as I also try and be a bit more cautious than Newman, and when I do speak it is generally well received.

  15. Digger Jones says:

    Ummm, no FTN. After reading a bit about that, I won’t be going quite that far. I do however recognize their objections, which make it easy for them to pick up members.

    I’m at a point where I’m working out what I believe in a much more independent fashion than previously. However, I do have a lot of my own past from which to draw from, for good or ill.

    Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Confucious, John Henry Newman, Rick Warren, Moses: All of these wrote books to further their views and testify to a truth.

    But Jesus never wrote a book. He never even wrote a letter, as far as any of us know. So how did this one man, a carpenter’s son from a small town, gain so much influence? And WHY did He do it?

    It was the power of the relationship. He spoke to large crowds, but all of them would eventually fall away. It was those whose feet He washed: THAT is what it is about. Without that intimacy and that Truth, there is nothing. Certainly nothing worth dying for.

    The unity of believers comes from washing one anothers feet, NOT from lording authority over each other.

    I’m glad you at least made it more clear as to who you are, because you (and your wife!) do spend a considerable amount of time and effort salting up this congregation you belong to. I remember thinking something similar, and still sort of cling to that ideal. The congregation becomes a mission field!

    But God has shown me. He welcomes my efforts and indulges my zeal, but it as a Father who knows His child is engaged in something a bit foolish that has no real point. The Methodists continue to hurdle on the downgrade full-force, despite the efforts of the denomination’s best and most faithful. But that’s not the most tragic thing.

    The most tragic thing is that I am not truly known there. It’s mostly my fault for not coming right out and being myself, but it is not the sort of place where I could say to anyone: “Hey, my wife won’t have sex with me! BTW, I’m wearing a cock cage.” The institution *cultivates* such hypocrisy.

    God is a God of Truth. But He doesn’t need us human beings for that. God could be Truth without having ever created anyone. Whether we believe and acknowledge Truth is not material to its existence. God only really wants one thing: a relationship with His people. A *right* relationship, to be sure, but a relationship nonetheless. Sin is anything that stands between a relationship between God and us, and between you and I. Jesus died in order to bridge the chasm sin has caused between Father and us. And between each other.

    Perhaps I should wait until I’m thrown out to come out from such a system, and it may yet happen. We’ll see.

    D.

  16. Xian Husband says:

    Let me sum up my feelings on church conversion with a bit more Newman. Because, well, he kind of was an expert on that issue.

    “This I am sure of, that nothing but a simple, direct call of duty is a warrant for any one leaving our Church; no preference for another Church, no delight in its services, no hope of greater religious advancement in it, no indignation, no disgust, at the persons and things, among which we may find ourselves in the Church of England. The simple question is, Can I (it is personal, not whether another, but can I) be saved in the English Church? am I in safety, were I to die to-night? Is it a mortal sin in me, not joining another communion?”

    Which is what it comes down to: if you believe the church you are in now is coming between you and your God to the point that you believe your salvation to be in jeapordy, then by all means leave as part of duty to God. If not, then it is you duty to God to stay, in submission to your leaders. Not that they are always great people, but because submission is godly.

    As for saying any and all authority makes people “slaves” that’s hyperbole. But even if it were not, the Bible has a lot to say about Christian slaves and it is never “rebel and be free.” It is “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for me.” (Col 3:23). It is “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them.” (I Tim 6:1,2).

    It is the same attitude Paul had when he was writing to the Ephesians from his Roman imprisonment and called himself a “prisoner of Christ.” Who held him captive? To Paul, it was not Rome, it was Christ.

    We are all, as Christians, already slaves. Slaves to God and slaves to Christ. To say, “This man wants to make me his slave” is then nonsense as you are already a slave. To rebel against an authoritative master to “be free” may be very American, but it isn’t very Christian.

  17. Digger Jones says:

    Just because we are slaves to Christ; are you then saying that we should all be in support of an *institution* of slavery? On what basis is one man to be a master over another? Who chooses, XH? You?

    We are to *serve* one another, not lord ourselves over one another. Anyone claiming lordship over another person pretty much proves themselves outright unworthy of it. You’re playing the part of the folks Paul was tirading against in his letter to the Galations. Because you’re circumcized, you want everyone else to be cut, too.

    But here’s the deal: you do have issues with your particular sect of Christianity, but are playing the role of positive influence and role model. Well and good as I still sort of do that. But how on earth do you invite anyone to your church, knowing that there are these flaws that need fixing?

    I’ve never invited anyone to my church. Either one. Saddleback East offers pretty decent entertainment and some decent food in their cafe. The Methodist church knows how to throw a good potluck. But a regular Sunday service? Not terribly filling. Do I invite my black friends to either of these two all-white churches? I don’t think so. It would be interesting inviting them to yours, to listen to your views on slavery, though.;-)

    You’ve been pretty thoroughly institutionalized, XH and you know your way around it a lot better than I do. If you’d come out from behind the wall once in awhile, you might see the hurt, pain and devastation surrounding the institution. It’s a place that consumes and eats its own. ALL church institutions? I don’t know. I’m looking, but I keep running into people who have been hurt and wounded. I realize that I’m really getting off light as I simply saw the light and didn’t have to get thrown out, kicked out and beat down. So many, many people have. I’m not bitter as much as very saddened and concerned.

    It *is* all about the relationship with Christ and with each other. That’s what the great commandment and golden rule are all about. Our relationship with God and with each other. I’m discovering that as I come out of the institution, I’m rediscovering both. It is NOT about my relationship with a particular affiliation, denomination, team, institution or flavor. Jesus wants us to know Him and love Him. Our relationships must run deeper than a bunch of meetings. It’s about doing life together.

    D.

  18. Xian Husband says:

    First of all, the Bible NEVER condemns the institution of slavery in any terms. It DOES undermine it by teaching that masters should not be cruel, but treat their slaves as befits one created in the Image of God, but it never condemns it.

    Second, who chooses? That was the whole point of the stuff from Romans 13. Who chooses? God does. As far as saying, “Anyone claiming lordship over another person pretty much proves themselves outright unworthy of it,” you might read through the book of Philemon.

    This has nothing to do with being “institutionalized.” This has to do with teaching what God said. Not what we wish He had said. Not what we would have said if it had been us. What HE actually said.

    Rebel against it if you want, but remember the words of our Lord, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he would does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

  19. therese says:

    I know I am really late to this discussion, so I’ll add just a couple things:

    When churches decided that women could be in leadership, that made men not want to be involved in it as much. Sometimes I think that women do much more than is necessary because they worry if they don’t, nothing will get done.

    I met my husband at a Latin Mass parish. They were very traditional, even down to only having altar boys instead of servers of both genders. The church council was entirely male, and obviously, all our clergy is male.

    Interestingly enough, I have never seen a church with more male involvement. So many boys wanted to be servers. There was never a shortage of men eager to build kneelers, usher, help with “set up” and “take down” every Sunday as we didn’t have our own building for several years. Oh, and the women did cover their heads, but they were more like lace doilies than bandanas. 🙂

    Point being, your description doesn’t sound terribly much like my Church, although I know in places it can certainly be that way, particularly in parishes where they are trying to “protestantize” themselves in order to be more appealing and have removed pastors for (often female) parish administrators.

    Digger, you obviously have been seriously burned by some groups you’ve been with, because I have never heard words like “religion” and “institution” sound so dirty.

    To echo XH’s sentiment, since every church is made up of sinners which means you won’t get along with everybody all the time, and things like extra-curricular Bible studies, music, greeters, and the many ministries different groups offer can and do change, you have to choose a church based on where you believe Truth lies. Its the only thing that can remain a constant. Even when there are those who abuse authority or misuse their leadership (and I have personally experienced how painful that can be) that shouldn’t mean that you jump ship if you believe you have found Truth.

    And Truth should be the absolute most important factor for anyone when choosing a church. Not population size, not special programs, not the greeters or lack thereof when you enter.

  20. diggerjones says:

    Listen to yourself, XH. It’s as if Isaiah was writing to you:

    And the Lord said:
    “Because this people draw near with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    while their hearts are far from me,
    and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
    therefore, behold, I will again
    do wonderful things with this people,
    with wonder upon wonder;
    and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
    and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

    The bible DOES condemn slavery, when Jesus said that we should love others as ourselves. When we are to love one another we are not enslaving each other! We are not lording authority over each other! We are all heirs to the throne. Or are some heirs more equal than others?

    Therese, it is almost universal that 90% of all clergy and leadership roles are filled by men across all denominations. However, look at the folks sitting in the pews or kneeling at kneelers. 60% of them will be women. Women make up the greatest number of attenders and I’m not inclined to see the Catholic church as different in this regard. The Catholics do perform better when it comes to male involvement and this is probably because they do more sharply differentiate roles.

    I wouldn’t say I’ve been burned as much as awakened. And every week, I stumble upon more and more folks who HAVE been seriously burned. It’s not the fault of the people so much as a system that fosters and cultivates hypocrisy. People live a church life, and then go home and live “real” life. They shouldn’t be so different!

    It’s as Paul said to the Corinthians:

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

    end of quote

    That’s what I’m talking about. That’s Truth.

    D.

  21. Xian Husband says:

    Dude…wait, what?

    I’m actually at a loss as to how someone could read the New Testament and see either Christ or His Apostles condemning the institution of slavery. This isn’t some hard to interpret issue. Slavery is mentioned over and over and over, and always with the exact same message.

    A message that is absolutely in agreement with everything else in scripture about power and authority and submission.

    We are created to fullfill certain roles — given to us by God. Following Christ, obeying the Father, having faith, all these things have to do with accepting and embracing and living in the role we are given. We are, as Christians, to be a reflection of our Lord, who was defined by obedience and submission.

    our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    but made himself nothing,
    taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
    – Phil 2:5-11

    Jesus the Son is equal in divinity with the Father, but submissive to Him in His role as the Son.

    We are to reflect this: understanding that in this paradigm role does not equal value. That is why we can talk about the scriptural role of woman as being submissive to her husband, and not allowed to hold positions of teaching or leadership, and yet be absolutely of equal value so that in Christ there is neither male nor female.

    As God the Son’s very nature is defined by His submission and obedience (to the Father), and we are to take on His nature as best we can as part of our Christian walk, then one can say that rebellion is absolutely the highest form of sin. It goes against our Lord’s most fundamental nature.

    So, with that in mind, Christ says of the religious leaders of the day “to obey everything they tell you.” Paul can say the same thing about civil authorities. To women he says to be submissive to their husbands. To children, to be submissive to their parents. To slaves, to be submissive to their masters. To all of us, to be submissive to our Christian leaders.

    All of these relationships are defined by God-given and God-ordained roles. There is no place here, anywhere, for rebellion of any sort.

    What IS here is the promise of the power of God to allow you to withstand situtions that no one without the Spirit could. God’s power is shown through our weakness. Not through allowing us to fight and dominate and be free, but to joyfully and faithfully exist and thrive under ANY authority.

    The issue here is simple and it comes down to this: pride vs humility. Arrogance vs submission. Self-centeredness vs God-centeredness.

    The key part of remember about ANYTHING dealing with Christianity is that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! At all! It is about Him, Him, and only Him.

  22. diggerjones says:

    God is able to take even the most sinful of things and use it for His good. Capturing people and turning them into livestock is hardly a virtuous occupation. I do think the stories of Joseph and Daniel illustrate how people caught in such circumstances can be used for good. But that doesn’t mean Joseph’s brothers were acting virtuously by selling him off.

    I do agree with you on that last statement, or at least I hope we’re there: that it is all about putting Jesus at the center. He alone sits on the throne, and no one else should be crawling up there to take His place.

    Living the life, not the religion. I’m not exactly in rebellion as much as simply coming out from under all the planks. Since that time, I’m not having to objectify Father in order serve some ulterior motive. I’m not trying to get people to join a team, or to beat and guilt them into submission. Father’s the subject and *I* am the object.

    And amazing things are about to happen.

    D.

  23. FTN says:

    XH, you just seem to keep going on and on with the same material without ever TRULY hitting on what Digger is saying. For instance,

    The bible DOES condemn slavery, when Jesus said that we should love others as ourselves.

    I’m actually at a loss as to how someone could read the New Testament and see either Christ or His Apostles condemning the institution of slavery.

    Uh, what part of “love others as ourselves” don’t you understand, exactly?

    The problem, again, is when you say that we all need to be submissive to anyone in a position of leadership, yet “leadership” is so random and indefinable. I say Digger is a Christian leader. I appoint him such, so God has appointed him such. Congratulations, Digger.

    So, XH, why do you continue to defy him? Where is the submissiveness? 🙂

    Silly, I know, but I hope you get the point.

  24. Xian Husband says:

    I very much understand “love one another” and I also understand that the Apostles defined “loving one another” within the context of slavery not as “free all your slaves” but as: “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” – Col 4:1

    And, again, there is the whole book of Philemon, which deals with a master and his slave.

    Far from interpreting “love one another” as compelling masters to free their slaves, the Apostles mainly interpretted it in terms of the slaves’ duty to their masters:

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. – Eph 6:5-8

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Col 3:22-24

    All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. – I Tim 6:1

    Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. – Titus 2:9,10

    These last two tie these teachings in with a result: rebellion makes useless the gospel of Christ as it is totally incompatible with it.

    As for appointing Digger a leader, it’s not just silly but totally missing the real point — it is God who establishes all authority, not you. If Digger was to found a church and get himself a congregation, he could say that God established him as an authority for someone. We see whom GOD has selected through the working out of His Providence.

    And I didn’t necessarily say we should be submissive to “anyone” in a position of leadership, just those in a position of leadership over us. The pastor of the Methodist church down the block from me has no claim to my obediance. The elders of my church do.

  25. Digger Jones says:

    From Luke 4:

    And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

    18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

    end of quote

    Paul merely recognized a cultural reality and taught accordingly. To see that as an endorsement is being foolish. He more or less looked at Onesimous as a family member, not a slave.

    Which brings us back to relationship. Paul’s interaction with even the slaves and servants was not as a master or as one who would have authority and lord it over ignorant and worthless underlings. His relationships were as family and this is how he enjoined all of his congregatons to behave. There is only one head of the church and that is Jesus. There is only one Master. There is only one High Priest.

    The leaders and elders are simply those who are further ahead in the walk. Period. They help and assist in equipping others, as we all should do.

    To create a system of merits, demerits, succession, promotion, demotion and a hierarchy of leadership creates a work-based system that totally defies the Person and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It interferes with the relationship we should have with Him and each other by creating and cultivating and environment of covetousness, selfishness, ambition, self-glorification and idolatry. As if God were impressed by the size of some minister’s flock!

    Is the sacrifice of Jesus not sufficient? Is the Holy Spirit insufficient to guide and direct you? You can do it: Regain your sight, regain your liberty, pick up your mat and walk.

    D.

  26. Deanie says:

    I was looking for a discussion on why the book “Why Men Hate to go to Church” book was written? I would like to discuss, just the facts…Men, is this true or is this just another gimmick to try and get men to come to church? I know the majority aren’t there, but is Christ something you have to cater to people to get them to come together in His Name???? I haven’t read the book, just saw the author on a TBN program and VERY curious, went to the site…Why do so many need coddled in order to read the word and do what it says??? I know the author used the example of a group of non-american people coming into town and you must learn “their” language and understand their culture and offer what “they” want…I just cannot agree with this example!!
    I do admit that men do not line themselves up with the word of God and do not attend church, but are you saying you should buy their beer at the end of a day of competition and games and make sure the worship and sermon are less than 10 minutes so the men don’t mind coming?
    I really would like to know how men feel about this? Are we as the family of God really missing it? Or do the men just not get it? Do you think men would really come into taking their roles if we cater to them with games and short church services?
    Or am I missing it somewhere? Please be short and to the point and give me your opinions….Thanks

  27. diggerjones says:

    Short and to the point: Deanie I think you have an ax to grind against men.

    Jesus had no problems attracting other men to Him. Neither did His disciples. Why? It’s not about aligning with the Word or doing what it says. It does have a lot to do with the way church is being done. You may feel very good after walking out of a church on Sunday morning. But spiritually speaking, it is an *impoverishing* experience! The flock is treated like sheep so they act like sheep and no one grows and no one is ever released. It’s like choosing to live your life in an orphanage. A fine place for those who may need it, but there’s a real family experience out there waiting.

    D.

  28. Pastor G says:

    Hi there,
    Men are supposed to be men. Before I became a Christian, I was in hardcore biking life. You know the sex, drugs, alcohol & fast mean machines. Men were men, doing the fun, adrenalin things that unchurched men do. When I became a Christian, I was told that I should leave that life alone & become ‘civilized’ as good Christians should be. No responsibility, no accountability, where women were running the roost.
    I thank God that I soon discovered that you can be a man and do the ‘adrenalin’ things without sin. Man, it was not long after that, that I was back in the ‘saddle’ ministering to the robust bikers. Preaching and teaching that real men can do real exploits for a real God. I formed a ministery for men that needed to be men and not some ‘hen-pecked’ excuse of a man, without abusing or ill-treating your wife. History Makers was birthed!
    Jesus Christ, in the New Covenant, revealed God as the Father. He never revealed God in any other character or aspect of His nature, but as the Father.
    this Father is a Father of extremes! He created the universe! He spoke things into being! Talk about exploits! Look at Abraham, slaughtering 5 kings with only 318 men! Joseph – from prison to president, conquering all the surrounding nations. Moses parted the Red Sea! What about Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David, the list goes on all the way to the Son of Man.
    He started a revolution that is still lasting over 2000 years! Guess who is my hero! Turning water into wine, walking on the sea, causing the blind to see, deaf to hear, healing the holt, lame & all the sick. WOW! My super hero!
    I think it is about time that we turn the world the right side up! God is seeking real men that will know the times & know what they ought to do.
    It is time for men to take the gospel of the Kingdom into all the world & preach & teach it un-adulterated, un-polluted & un-dilluted!
    May this be an encouragement to all men that read this.
    May we, as men, be mobilized into action.
    Yours in Christ Jesus,
    Ps G

  29. Kathleen Trigiani says:

    “Compliance, docility, passivity, submissiveness, being quiet, being safe, keeping busy; these are all things the modern church values. They are also the values of women and old ladies of both sexes.”

    They may be the values of patriarchy’s good girls, but they are NOT the values of mature, intelligent, dynamic feminist women.

    I found your post quite misogynistic. One of these days, you’re going to start asking why fewer women are going to church. But it won’t be a mystery because the church still believes that men are superior to women.

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