David Murrow is the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church This book is a helpful analysis of why so many men hate going to church in its present form.
I found the book to be fascinating. In the organic missional churches that I work with, the numbers look very different from what they do in the typical institutional church. Men on average make up 60-65%; women 35-40%. In the typical institutional church, the women outweigh the men by far.
Interestingly, I’ve seen women visit these organic missional churches and weep because there are so many men who are excited about Jesus Christ and functioning together. They testify that they rarely see this in the traditional churches they have been part of. (Note: When I say “organic church,” I’m not talking about the typical house church.)
One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that in organic church life, everyone participates in the ministry and the decision-making. Everyone functions. So men have a strong place in finding the Lord’s mind and executing it. And the women have an equally strong place in both direction and ministry. (If you’re new to this blog and you’re new to my work, I outline the biblical principles for this in my book, Reimagining Church. The book also answers every conceivable objection to what the New Testament teaches on the subject, which is often missed or ignored.)
All told: Body life is exciting. And sometimes it’s high drama. Thus women and men love it once they’ve tasted the real thing.
I had the opportunity to interview David about his book. Here it is.
What motivated you to write this book?
My background is advertising, so my world is all about “target audiences.” I can tell instantly when an ad is targeted at men or women.
So one day I was sitting in church and a question popped into my head: What’s the target audience of my church? I looked around and saw that almost 2/3 of the adults were female; primarily middle-aged, married women. The sanctuary was decorated with quilts, banners, flowers and ribbons. The pastor was wearing a robe and stole. The words coming out of his mouth were “relationship, healing, community, harmony, etc.” He described the gospel as “a personal relationship with a man who loves you.” Women led almost every ministry program, most of which were oriented toward women and children. The songs had a soft, breathy feel to them, and could, with a few words changed, be top-40 love songs.
So in a moment of clarity, I realized that almost everything about my church was female-oriented. The décor, the music, the language, the behaviors, the ministries, etc. In short, women were the target audience of my church.
I expected to find a book on the subject but none had been written. So I heard a voice in my head saying, “You write it.” The rest is history.
What are the top 5 reasons why many men hate going to church as we know it?
- Men believe that church-going is not acceptable manly behavior. It’s for women, weirdoes and wimps. This is why even church-going men hide their faith from their friends and associates. They are not ashamed of Christ; they are ashamed of being perceived as unmanly.
- Men feel like church is a waste of their time. The ROI just isn’t there.
- Christian culture has slowly feminized over time, driving masculine men out.
- In the church power flows to men who are verbal, sensitive, musical or studious (i.e. pastors and music leaders). If a man lacks these gifts, he may feel like he has nothing to offer.
- There are more women than men who are verbal, sensitive, musical or studious. Therefore, we find more women in church. It’s a simple numbers game.
I thought your chapter called “Every man needs a band of brothers” to be one of the best. In fact, some of the men in one of the organic missional churches I work with wrote a song called “Band of Brothers” that the men like to sing together sometimes. I’ll post the lyrics at the end of this interview.
If you look at the films men love, they’re often about a band of brothers who come together to do something courageous and dangerous. This is every man’s fantasy. Jesus modeled this with the twelve. Yet in today’s church it’s very hard for men to find true brotherhood because our small groups are mainly Bible studies. They are utterly predictable and unadventurous.
What has the reaction been from male readers since you wrote the book?
I have some very vocal fans. I get e-mail all the time from men thanking me for identifying this problem. A common refrain: “You hit the nail on the head. I love the Lord but don’t really like church. I’ve felt this way for a long time but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong.”
On the other hand, Christian men are so polite they rarely oppose me directly. So imagine my surprise when I was the target of a scathing article in Christianity Today. They accused me of theological error and of trying to make Jesus “macho,” which of course I’m not trying to do. The Christ of Scripture is plenty manly; I’m simply trying to remove the feminine cloth we’ve wrapped him in over the past 150 years.
I believe there are a lot of men heavily invested in the status quo. They like the feminine church and any attempt to bring men back threatens to upset their apple cart. I’d say there are a few pastors who simply have no interest in ministering to men; they mistrust men and prefer the company of women. That may even be why they chose the pastorate: they knew they would rarely have to deal with men.
What has the reaction been from female readers?
Other than a few knee-jerk feminists, women are very supportive. Every Christian woman is praying for at least one man to come to Christ. Women are sick of going to church alone. Women are distraught when their sons drop out of church during their teens and twenties. These women are tough enough to hear the truth.
I love the front cover picture where you have a man sleeping in a pew. As I travel and speak in conferences, as well as read my mail, many men are bored with church as we know it. (This is is also true for many women by the way.) Why do you think that so many contemporary pastors still aren’t getting this point? (Many of the 1700 pastors who leave the pastorate per month in the U.S. get it. But many still do not.)
It’s fear, pure and simple.
Think of the local church as a ship. The captain is likely to be male, but his officers and crew will be primarily female. The composition of the crew has a profound effect on the captain. If he wants the ship to run smoothly, he must be able to please and motivate women. Clergymen learn early in their careers: if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Should the skipper run afoul of certain powerful women, he’ll have a mutiny on his hands. The ministry engines will sputter and die.
Every little change in a church causes at least a few crew members to become angry. Some even jump ship. So the pastor must calculate the number of crew members he’s willing to lose. Changing a thoroughly feminized institution into one that attracts men would require many changes.
In the end, it’s often simpler for pastors to endure the status quo than to start a mutiny.
One of the premier quotes in my book Pagan Christianity is by Upton Sinclair. He wrote: ”It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” I’ve had many pastors admit this very thing to me.
As one who has written controversial books which challenge the status quo and seek to bring us back to New Testament teaching, I’m curious to know what the worst letter or email was that you received in response to the book.
I’ve been accused by many of being sexist. These letters usually come from women who have been hurt by men. They see male oppression everywhere. And they have bought into the line, “The church is a male-dominated, patriarchal institution.” This is their worldview, and any thinking that contradicts that view is a threat.
So when I suggest that we need more men in church, they blow up in anger. I get long, single-spaced e-mails, detailing all the sins of men. How they have led the church into the crusades, the witch trials, etc. They think I’m advocating an abusive, “submit to me woman” style of Christianity where men are kings and women are crushed underfoot. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The section, “The Straws that Break Men’s Hearts” was very intriguing. Can you sum up your main points in it?
Like a glove that slowly conforms to the hand of its wearer, church culture has slowly conformed to the needs and expectations of its most important demographic group – married, middle-aged women. They do most of the giving, volunteering and product buying, so we do subtle things to keep them involved.
As a result, churches, Christian businesses and institutions all conform to the sensibilities of this important woman. That’s why many churches are decorated like ladies’ parlors; why we use feminine language in church; why we sing “love songs to Jesus,” why we’re always expected to be calm and polite. Men feel like Tom Sawyer in Aunt Polly’s parlor. They can’t be men because the culture is built around the middle-age married woman.
The back cover picture is priceless. Please describe it to our readers and let them know that you’re wanting to convey through it.
It’s a shot of a man in church. He’s nervously looking at the woman next to him who’s lost in a “worship coma,” hands outstretched, singing with all her heart. His look either says, “Get me out of here,” or maybe it says, “Why don’t I feel the way she does? Is there something wrong with me?”
Click Why Men Hate Going to Church to order the book at a discount.
Band of Brothers (lyrics)
We are a band of brothers
His holy ones are we
Pursuing our Lord Jesus Christ
With purchased liberty
And Oh for what grand purpose
And Oh for what great call
Have we the saints come gathered here?
To love the All in All!
Hurrah! Hurrah! We love you Lord, Hurrah!
Hurrah for our Lord Jesus Christ who is the All in All! (2x)
His call came Oh so sweetly
His voice so deep within
For we the saints to gather here
His romance to begin
Living stones together
A spiritual house to be
Offering up, exchanging love
To Christ the King of Kings
Hurrah! Hurrah! We love you Lord, Hurrah!
Hurrah for our Lord Jesus Christ who is the All in All! (2x)
The Living Stone we’ve come to
So precious Oh is He
Declaring all His praises
His people called to be
And when our lives are questioned
Our answer they shall see
Displaying our Lord Jesus Christ
For them to find as we