Men In Pews: A New Form of "Affirmative Action"?

Rebekah Montgomery | Contributing Writer | Friday, August 12, 2005

Men In Pews: A New Form of "Affirmative Action"?

You know him. He's home reading the paper while his wife and children fill a church pew. When the pastor asks for prayer requests, his wife raises her hand and murmurs, "Unspoken." But everyone knows. She's been praying their entire marriage for her husband to come to church.


But he won't come. He may not even be able to articulate why. Something about church that drives him away, makes him feel like less of a man. He doesn't find God there.


Author and television producer David Murrow says that 90 percent of American men believe in God and five out of six call themselves Christian, only two out of six attend church. They accept the reality of Jesus but see no value for themselves in attending church. Church is for women and children.


But Murrow has finally given the absent, alienated man a voice. His book Why Men Hate Going to Church will not simply cause a flutter in program committees: it will ultimately change the way we do church.


"I'm not calling men back to church," said Murrow. "I'm calling the church back to men.


"It's nor about male dominance: it's about male resurgence. If we don't turn things around, we're going to lose a generation of boys. This is going to be a disaster for society and eventually result in the death of the church," said Murrow.


"There are churches targeted at every conceivable minority-seekers, young couples, older people-yet men are the largest unreached people group. They are the largest minority in Christendom today yet we do absolutely nothing to make church attractive to them. I'm simply trying to do what the church has always done and reach out to unchurched people."


Although many may argue that the church is already male dominated, Murrow sees it differently. Quoting Dr. Leon Podles, "Modern churches are women's clubs with a few male officers," Murrow observed that while the church looks patriarchal on the surface, it is actually feminine. "This whole idea of a male-oriented patriarchal religion is a myth. If you're talking about the senior pastorate in Protestant churches, then yes, you've got 'way more men than women. If you're talking about the spirituality, participation, lay leadership of the church, it is feminine in every way.


"Every church needs both the feminine and masculine spirit. You see this balance in growing churches: a masculine concern for quality, effectiveness, and achievement yet a feminine supportiveness, nurturing, and tenderness. It's not about roles. It is about restoring a healthy, life-giving masculine spirit to the church."


Murrow believes that one reason the church marginalizes men is because of a more passive faith focused on a relationship instead of a mission. "We've moved away from the concept that Christianity is something we do to something we become," said Murrow.


"Few churches model men's values-risk, reward, accomplishment, heroic sacrifice, action, and adventure. Men find church boring because their values are not modeled and no one reflects their masculine heart. They has no desire to fall in love with a wonderful man, even one named Jesus."


Murrow also challenges commonly accepted church terminology as "man-repellent." "In addition to stripping masculine pronouns out of hymns and even Scripture, terms like "saved" are objectionable to men. Men hate to be lost. If you tell a man he is lost, he will instinctively resist you. Although Jesus used the term saved, He called many to follow Him. Hear the difference? Follow gives a man something to do. It suggests activity instead of passivity. But being saved is something that happens to damsels in distress."


Worse yet, Murrow says he has been exhorted to have a love affair with Jesus. "Conservative churches oppose homosexuality, but their imagery sends an entirely different message. The more we describe Christianity in bedroom vocabulary, the more nervous men become."


Murrow counsels ministers and teachers to use terms that sound right on a construction site. "Having an 'intimate relationship with Jesus' appeals to a woman's deepest desire. For men, having an intimate relationship with another man is just plain gross. When a man loves another man, he uses terms like admire or respect."


Murrow's vision of men filling the pews is catching on. A church for men summit is in the planning (date to be announced) and several congregations has notified Murrow that they are reconfiguring their programs to be more man-friendly. While Murrow readily admits that he doesn't know exactly how a church for men would be structured, he believes churches that reach men will cause a boom in church attendance. "When a father comes to faith in Christ, his family follows 393 percent of the time. Fathers lead their children to God, not the other way around," said Murrow.


Rebekah Montgomery is the editor of Right to the Heart of Women e-zine, a publisher at Jubilant Press, and the author of numerous books on spiritual growth. She can be contacted for comments and speaking engagements at