The masculinity myth: the real reason why men don’t go to church

A reader writes in asking about this article: the masculinity myth: the real reason why men don’t go to Church. Aside from the fact that this pastor hails from the liberal bastion of Washington State, let’s go through it anyway. It’s pretty long, so I’m just going to excerpt certain sections.

Today during worship, we were singing a song about God being our loving Father. As we sang, I realized it was the kind of song manly-men Christian pastors hate. It’s the sort of song they rail against while crusading for the resurgence of “real men” Christian masculinity. As we sang tender words about a tender, loving, heavenly Father, I immediately realized why some men are so angry at spiritually wimpy men and bold Christian women. The thought just popped into my head: It’s Cain and Abel all over again.

Although it’s probably one of the most profitable growth areas in Christian publishing, I’m not a big fan of the “what’s wrong with the church” book genre. In the past four plus years as a Christian talk radio host, I’ve received a large steady flow of books attempting to address the “what’s wrong with the church” writing prompt. Invariably, these books blame the lack of church growth on fatal flaws within church leadership, structure and theology. They assume that healthy churches grow and unhealthy churches decline. Consequently, if the church is to be healthy again, it needs to find a way to reach the people who no longer call the church their home.

“Why don’t men go to church” is a subset of the blame the church publishing niche. These books seem particularly popular as they make great reads for frustrated wives tired of attending church without their husbands. They’re also great reads for bitter men determined to justify and fortify their reasons for abandoning the body of Christ. Let’s face it, as the church declines in size and membership, the demand for church criticizing material will continue to increase.

There’s nothing wrong with singing about a loving Father. After all, that’s how God is primarily portrayed in the NT. The main issue is with the “feely” songs that romanticize Jesus. Jesus ain’t your boyfriend or lover.

He is right that it’s not always true that healthy Churches grow and unhealthy Churches decline. Churches can be in times of pruning such as the vine and branches. Yet, all of the other points lack context. For example, why do so many wives have to try to drag their husbands to Church? Missionary dating and marriage is a huge problem just like single motherhood. Yet, we almost never hear sermons against that.

The church isn’t masculine enough?

Almost every book, post or tweet concerning the plight of Christian men eventually blames the church for not being masculine enough. The theory is men don’t go to church because church is geared to the needs of women. There’s too much sharing of emotions, too much hugging, too much singing, with too many effeminate leaders giving the ladies what they want: a church with no testosterone. This theory suggests that men don’t go to church because churches don’t meet the masculine needs of men. Many widely respected preachers seem to adhere to this concept that the church has been weakened by an overabundance of femininity.

The first time I heard an author accuse the church of being too feminine, I was annoyed by the accusation. Over time, my annoyance hasn’t waned. Since I am a pastor, those who advocate for a more masculine church expression will likely label me as one of those effeminate, emotional male leaders who is ruining the witness of Christ to real men. Don’t worry, while making my argument, I’ll make sure I don’t cry in front of you and endanger your ability abide in the room with me.

It’s not wrong to have a Church that is like that, but men and women are different. Men tend to like concrete theology, apologetics, and rational discussion about how to know our faith is true and how to share our faith.

The Church is tasked to make disciples of all nations. Well, if you’re not doing a good job making disciples of men, then you’re going to have an issue keeping men in your Church.

Churches that focus mostly on emotions and faith as “just believing” tend to end up having terrible progressive theology. In fact, studies have begun to show that declining Church attendance is linked to progressive theology.

Calling the church too feminine is sexist

Most arguments that blame the church for the absence of men are rooted in sexist assumptions. If you believe men don’t go to church because the church doesn’t meet their needs, then you are implying that women go because more of their needs are being met. What if more women go to church because their faith has a greater integrity? What if more women go to church because they have chosen to persevere and demonstrate a moral fortitude that contrasts the weaknesses of men? What if women are more willing to work in community, more willing to repent, apologize and forgive? Maybe men are so emotional they are unwilling to learn how to abide in complex community. Maybe instead of following the moral lead of women, men have isolated themselves from the church to keep from having to mature and grow up.

There is another twisted, sexist logic to blaming the church for the refusal of men to participate. Instead of correcting those in rebellion, we attack those who are sincerely trying to be faithful. We tell the regular church attender that they are the problem, not the ones who abandoned the body of Christ. We tell the male leader who has remained, even in the face of tremendous cultural rejection, that He is the problem for the church’s inability to reach more men. Blaming the actions of the most dishonorable on those who are most faithful is an affront to the integrity of those who are actively supporting the church. To blame faithful women for the unfaithfulness of men is once again blaming the victim for being abandoned.

Such things are easily debunked by “fruit.” For example, we know that 70% of divorces are by women, and that frivorces happen fairly regularly in the Church — Jenny Erickson being a foremost example not to mention many of the readers around these parts.

Of course, you don’t have to believe me, but the Scripture also has words to say on this:

Ecclesiastes 7:28 which I am still seeking but have not found. I have found one man among a thousand, but I have not found a woman among all these.

The Church environment is blamed, yet the author makes it seem like the regular Church attender is the one to be blamed. Again, as mentioned, men and women are different. It’s not that hard to actually cater to both men and women and have different environments for each of them. Creating a false dichotomy and playing the blame game is exactly what feminists are always apt to do.

Contrasting worship

The story of Cain and Abel is the story of conflicting and contrasting worship expressions. Scripture states that “in the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:3-4). At first glance to the modern reader, there doesn’t seem to be much contrast between these two offerings. Cain worked the soil, so he brought a product of the soil, Abel kept flocks so he brought a product of the herd. God’s response to Cain and Abel demonstrates that their offerings were very different. […]

This pattern of tearing down the righteous expression of others to defend an unrighteous expression seems to be the underlying force behind churches that tear down a strong feminine expression of worship to make room for a more masculine expression. To put it plainly, men refusing to give God their best have fallen into the rebellion of Cain. God does not accept leftover offerings and leftover worship. The absence of men in the church is ultimately the result of men rebelling against God, of men feeding themselves the best and choice fruit, while giving God little or nothing in return. In contrast to the Cain offering of men, we have the Abel offering of women. Despite the rebellion of their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, women are still faithfully giving their best to God. They are giving their first and best fruit to God.

False. A more accurate analogy of what happens in a feminine environment where both girls and boys are forced to attend is education. Both girls and boys are forced to attend education from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Boys consistently underachieve in almost all areas because of the feminine environment. It has been noted several times that boys consistently score well on tests, but homework and other busy work boys tend to lag behind. Boys also suffer from sitting for long periods of time as they tend to have a lot more energy and the elimination of recess and physical activity leads to them being them dinged for behavior, diagnosed with ADHD, and even being drugged.

Girls learn well in certain environments while boys learn well in different ones. None of these are more “righteous” or “worse” than the other. This is the problem with the author’s take on Cain and Abel because “Church attendance” is not necessarily a marker of “righteousness” — especially given the terrible theology of most Churches nowadays.

They yell at the men and tell them to be more manly

At some level, these churches and leaders recognize that men have not given God their best. In response to this problem, they often try to rally men like an angry coach or drill sergeant. The assumption is to make men more manly, we need to treat them like our culture’s best examples of manly men. Without having healthy family examples of their own, these “masculinity” leaders often go to Hollywood to find their examples of real men. Sadly, these cartoonish portrayals of masculinity often contrast the way Jesus lived and the words he spoke.

One thing I agree with. AMOGing and the only “real man in the room” is destructive to both men and women.

They blame women for the faults of men

Leaders who champion a resurgence of Christian masculinity often also decry the presence of strong femininity or strong female leaders. They frequently speak of feminism as harming the ability of the church to reach men. They view women in leadership as a threat to men being able to follow God’s lead. They portray powerful women as a hinderance to men being able to participate fully in the advancement of God’s kingdom. In other words, they blame the weakness of men on the strengths of women. In my opinion, this is simply Cain resenting Abel. If Abel wasn’t such a show off, Cain wouldn’t look that bad. If women weren’t so strong, men wouldn’t look so weak.

Well, given that women are not permitted in leadership position in the Church according to the Bible, unfortunately for the author this is a huge issue. Liberal theology trying to worm its way into the Church.

Men as leaders in the Church and families need to be taught and discipled. If women are taking those opportunities, is it any wonder that you’re going to get Churches full of men who are apathetic.

Anyway, the author’s critique is mainly a bunch of false dichotomies, mixed with destructive liberal theology, and one good point about “the only real man.” It falls very close to the category of blame men for womens’ rebellion. So much for helping out men.

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18 Responses to The masculinity myth: the real reason why men don’t go to church

  1. Matt Lawrence says:

    There is actually an excellent podcast by “The Art of Manliness” about why men don’t go to church. I strongly recommend it.

  2. Pastor Burch does not realize that modern worship forces many men to offer their leftovers. The melody of worship songs is set for tenors and and sopranos. Basses and baritones are up a creek. We can either sing up high with the tenor, which sounds awful, or we can drop the melody an octave, and not be heard at all. (I suppose a true bass could sing the melody an octave lower and be heard) Recently I have tried singing along with the bass guitar. But that often just rides on one note. It is possible to arrange modern worship tunes for SATB harmony, as Praise and Harmony has proved. It is also possible to key songs in something that sounds good for all voices, see “Jesus Loves Me.” But, in many churches, a man who is a tenor or bass simply can’t offer his best at church.

  3. My thoughts above are really just Joffre the Giant’s thoughts reheated. The original has examples.

  4. Lost Patrol says:

    The author of that 2014 article is Douglas Bursch. This is from a bio Doug published about himself in 2009.

    The quote that explains everything about Doug’s 2014 article to a denizen of the men’s sphere.

    “I’m married to my extremely lovely and tolerant wife Jennifer. She’s my better two-thirds!”

    Doug – I know exactly why you described men not going to church in the way that you did.

  5. RICanuck says:

    What if women are … more willing to repent, apologize and forgive?
    Is Pastor Bursch married? How long? In the Catholic milieu I don’t see the devout women willing to repent, apologize and forgive. Maybe it’s different amongst Protestants? If so I would like to hear it.
    Men are not just walking away from church, they are walking away from family formation, and wider participation in society. How many ‘peter pan, man boy’ articles have we seen recently?
    An anecdote in my next comment.

  6. RICanuck says:

    About a year ago, I was in a mixed group of of Mass going Catholics. Conversation turned to the millenial men who just play video games and watch porn and are not preparing themselves professionally and personally for marriage. One of the devout women went into a rant against them.

    I asked her to say something good or admirable about men, just as men. She could not.

    I pointed out that just about everywhere on TV, popular culture, education that men, especially husbands and fathers are universally portray as dolts, idiots, and incompetents. So, even though there is nothing good or admirable about men, they are still expected to give up the pleasures (such as they are), of video games and porn, come out into the world, and be used, and disrespected.

    I can’t figure out why so many men are going MGTOW, minimalist, and even checking out of church.

  7. RICanuck says:

    Another anecdote:

    A son of a coworker of my wife’s asked me to help her recent tech graduate son find his first job.

    I met him. I stuck out my hand, he took it with a limp grip, head downcast, shoulder hunched, and no eye contact.

    Almost 16 years of school (I didn’t ask if his dad lived with him and his mother), and he is just whipped. No amount of man-up! is going to turn him around.

    I didn’t rant at him. I did make him approach me five more times to shake hands, with head up, shoulders back, and eye contact.

    Ranting and shaming won’t work, but face to face mentoring might. He hasn’t come back though.

  8. donalgraeme says:

    Doug – I know exactly why you described men not going to church in the way that you did.

    Does she weight twice as much as him?

  9. I make this point a bit, and I’ll be making this point the rest of my life, but the current “Church” structure doesn’t work. At all. That’s why Men left the Church starting in the 1800s.

    None of them are capable of seeing it because they’ll never get over their instincts to protect their own paycheck.

  10. purge187 says:

    “Boys also suffer from sitting for long periods of time as they tend to have a lot more energy and the elimination of recess and physical activity leads to them being them dinged for behavior, diagnosed with ADHD, and even being drugged.”

    The bruised, maggotty fruit of Feminism. The natural rough-and-tumble that God endowed our gender with that Feminists envy and hate us for is being quashed early on, leaving us with the kind of young men RIC speaks of.

  11. PokeSalad says:

    Pastor Burch does not realize that modern worship forces many men to offer their leftovers. The melody of worship songs is set for tenors and and sopranos. Basses and baritones are up a creek. We can either sing up high with the tenor, which sounds awful, or we can drop the melody an octave, and not be heard at all.

    Really? The core reason men don’t go to church is that the worship songs are in the wrong key?

  12. First Pastor Burch criticized men who refused to go to church because it is too womanly. Then he criticized men who do go to church; he says they are not womanly enough. I am objecting to his second point. God made male and female, and He expects worship from both. Womanly songs are just one example of how modern churches keep men from worshipping God as men. How quickly are men booted out when they bring up red pill truths in Sunday schools?

    1 Cor 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

    Not allowed, if you are a misogynist. Or look at the way abolitionists are booted out of churches for simply saying, “Abortion is murder.” Modern churches are not interested in prophetic denunciations of sin. So, no, the keys of a song is not what drives men away. But the effeminacy required of men does. And womanly songs are a symptom of effeminacy.

  13. Jonadab-the-Rechabite says:

    It is counterproductive to market a church toward men or to be less feminine. Stop trying to outsmart God. Neither feminine or masculine biased, Biblically balanced is the aim.

    Here is my prescription and it starts with the worship:

    1) Sing more psalms. Not just repeat a line but the whole psalm. They guide the emotions weith Biblical balance. They exemplify the worship of Yahweh with the cares of human existence. Wrath, sorrow, humility and exaltation are all included. The law and the gospel are simultaneously affirmed.

    2) Require women cover their heads as a sign of submission to male authority.

    3) Less entertainment in sermons and more exposition of the Word. Expository preaching forces balance and doesn’t allow skipping over the uncomfortable passages.

    4) Fervent prayers for marriages that model the church and Christ.

    5) Teach the holiness of God and to fear it.

    6) At gatherings teach church history, let the men of the past provide a template to Christian masculinity.

    7) In marriage counseling the counselor must affirm that he is not a referee or an arbitrator, but a support to help the wife submit to her husband. Only without the wife’s presence may he make suggestions to the husband, and those are only suggestion s with no authority. It is his household, His responsibility not the counselors.

    8) Have annual checkups for members by way of elder visitations. The expectation is that husband/fathers are bringing the Word to their household several times every week, that the wife is managing the labors of the home, meal preperation and that sex is frequent and passionate. Additionally that prayers are offered up throughout the day and that men are reading material to mature them and conform them to Christ. (No doubt most will not meet these expectations, but with the expectations and the discipline to followup in due time men and their homes will transform).

    9) Preach against the sins of the day, including: divorce, feminism, fornication, gluttony, withholding, liberalism, emotionalism, et al.

    10) eliminate all age segregated teaching, the burden lies on fathers.

    11) Ensure that all women’s ministries spend 80-90 percent of their time on learning how to love their children, the husbands and how to keep the home.

  14. feeriker says:

    Jonadab-the-Rechabite on December 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Solid suggestions all. And of course they would be violently resisted by both women and their pastorbator enablers. An open demonstration of how the church despises and rejects God’s commandments that conflict with the World that is their true god.

  15. Joe the Rock says:

    Jonadab-the-Rechabite is SO RIGHT. I once went to a counselor who told me I was to submit to my wife. When I told him that there was a hierarchy in Ephesians, He utterly denied the God-Husband-Wife hierarchy. What utter feminist garbage. Wife and I fixed out own issues. Our marriage is better than it ever has been, nearly perfect in fact. And it was because I finally started leading instead of trying to appease her. She now respects me in a way that pleases God and me. Not only that, she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her.
    Womens Groups/studies are a huge problem. NONE of them teach how to submit to the husbands leadership. Nearly all of them teach to pray by trying to “listen to God”. This translates to “do what you feel is right and then tell your husband that God told you to do it”. That’s extra Biblical revelation and has no place in a Christians life, besides leaving the husband out of the equation in direct disobedience to the Bible. Wanna hear God? Read the Bible. Wanna hear God talk out loud? Read the Bible out loud.
    Our Church has a pastoral advisory board. They just stated that women were welcome to be a part of that. When I questioned it, I was told that since the women were not in authority over the pastor, that it was OK. Baloney. They’re not being put there to not influence the pastor. I predict more Beth Moore and all the other female false teachers at our church.

  16. Wow, intersting discussion. I left the church long ago (when I stopped believing), but I was Orthodox so all of this genderized discussion is very baffling to me. I think men are opting out from western churches because there is no frank discussion about anything — I loved theology when I was a believer. There is little in the way of this in the west (I studied in England and had some contact with Christian friends, etc). It’s interesting.

    Good post btw. I recently wrote about masculinity too, albeit from a secular perspective. I would love some feedback! Keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

  17. Pingback: The Church Masculine | American Dad

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