How can we get single men and husbands to be interested in church and ministry?

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church is ineffective and impractical, and that’s why men are bored there

Consider this passage from William Lane Craig’s April 2013 newsletter, which made me very excited and happy. (H/T Triablogue)

Here it is:

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ. By presenting rational arguments and historical evidences for the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to the mind as well as the heart, we can bring a great influx of men into the Kingdom. I’m so pleased that the church in Canada seems to be awakening to this challenge! I’m convinced that we have the opportunity to revolutionize Western Christianity by reclaiming our intellectual heritage.

Now, I hear a lot of complaints from women in the church and pastors in the church about men not being interested in going to church. I think that the problem is that church is hostile to men’s natures. Men thrive on conflict and competition. Men prefer strict rules and moral judgments. Men prefer to shame people who underperform, rather than coddle them. Men are practical and results focused. So how should the church accommodate the different nature that men have? Apologetics is one way to appeal to the male nature.

Let’s take a look at it.

Pastors: church as it is now is abrasive to men’s male nature

In a recent William Lane Craig podcast, at time 8:47, the WLC tells Kevin Harris about how he and his wife Jan asked about six of the young men who attend his “Defenders” apologetics class which morning service they attended: traditional or contemporary. ALL of the young men said that they attended neither service, because they go to church to learn something and the service has no educational value to them. The only attend the Defenders class. The apologetics class taught them things they could actually use – things they could actually use to think better, and fight better. This is my experience as well, although I am looking for a better church that does have some appeal to men. I might even have to move to find a decent church that has apologetics.

There is absolutely nothing going on in most churches that is valuable to a man. Men, by and large, only pray as a last resort, after we have done everything we can to solve the problem ourselves. We pay the most attention to the parts of the Bible that help us debate with non-Christians, or that give us things to do. We like to find evidence in the real world that connects with what the Bible is saying. We are interested in planning, execution and results. We are not very interested in feelings, singing, devotions, or bending the rules to make people doing bad things feel good. Now that’s not necessarily true for all men, but it is true for the majority of men.

And lest some people worry that fighting makes enemies, it doesn’t. Fighting with non-Christians has two effects: 1) they respect Christianity more, and 2) they want to be your friends and talk to you about spiritual things. Atheists see your standing up for what you believe in and living consistently with it indicative of authenticity. That is not the exception, Christian women and pastors – that is the rule. Atheists don’t think that standing up for what you believe in makes Christianity look fake, they think it makes Christianity look authentic. Well, at least the ones who are worth talking to think that.

Wives: don’t choose men who had no interest in advocating for Christianity before you married them

A related problem I see is the problem of wives marrying the wrong men then complaining that the men they freely chose to marry are not interested in church. This is actually the woman’s fault. Most women don’t think about what is best for God when they think about who to marry and have children with, they think about what makes them feel good. They don’t have any kind of plan where they match the man’s ability to the roles he will play as husband and father – they just pick who makes them feel good. This works about as well as buying and selling stocks based on which make you feel good, or choosing electronics and computers based on the color, or choosing a job or a church based on what the building looks like. The Bible lays out a few minimal requirements for a man: chastity, self-sacrificial love, providing for family, leading on moral and spiritual issues. Most young, unmarried women don’t value those things. If a woman picks a man who doesn’t make any demands on them, and who doesn’t judge them, then she cannot depend on him to show spiritual and moral leadership later on in the marriage. So don’t pick a man like that.

Wives: men respond to attention, recognition and approval from women

The reason that most husbands don’t engage in Christianity is because most wives (not my married friends of course) haven’t approached Christianity as something that is objectively true. Men don’t create illusions for themselves in order to feel better – they are more practical than that. Men only invest in things that they think are true, and where they can see that their practical efforts will make a difference. Men are turned off by the view that Christianity is just something that helps families and communities bond, and makes people feel comfort. We think that’s weakness, and we abhor weakness. Once men get the idea that a woman thinks of Christianity as feelings-fulfillment, we stop trying to achieve anything for the Kingdom of God. Men don’t want to be roped into Christianity if all it means is helping people get along and feel good. But they very much want to be roped into a demanding relationship with God where their efforts to achieve results count with God and gets them recognition and approval from their wives.

So how do wives learn to recognize and approve of what men do as Christians? Well, women need to learn apologetics and they need to practice debating with non-Christians. That will teach them to value conflict and competition, and to see how engagement and authenticity drives relationships with non-Christians forward. If women show an interest in objective truth, moral goodness and theological correctness, then men will become interested in these things, too. They will do it because men are addicted to pleasing women, and they want to help women more than anything in the world, second only to pleasing God. Men will enthusiastically engage in whatever will get them praise and recognition from women, and that means that women have to care about Christianity beyond their personal emotional experience of it and beyond their social cohesion experience of it. Initially, wives must be ready to praise and encourage their husbands, and then once the husbands get it, then they will be self-motivated and move out on their own. It will be self-sustaining.

13 thoughts on “How can we get single men and husbands to be interested in church and ministry?”

  1. “Men will enthusiastically engage in whatever will get them praise and recognition from women………. wives must be ready to praise and encourage their husbands, and then once the husbands get it, then they will be self-motivated and move out on their own. It will be self-sustaining.”
    This is very true of the God given nature of men. So politically incorrect in our mixed-up culture. Glad you are saying the obvious.

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  2. I think what you’re really saying is that men are looking for a CAUSE. They are looking for a banner under which to battle, and the church of “be a good person” doesn’t give them that, although morality is certainly a worthwhile pursuit. It’s our God-given nature as men to seek a fight, and God provides one, both against our flesh and against the darkness of the world.

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    1. TOO MANY of today’s churches value “being a good person”, where “good” is measured as “not being offensive” and “not being unattractive”. From my reading of the Bible, I don’t think that Jesus (especially with his actions in the Temple where he upset the tables of the moneychangers) was at all concerned with being non-offensive or being attractive.
      We all know how too many churches have turned into feminism’s ‘Holy Cheering Squads”, but that dead horse has been beaten enough.

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  3. I would suggest a replacement of effeminate pastors, and priests to start. Sermons on Christian marriage and relationships, as far as family headship is concerned. Programs, fellowship and projects that favor the masculine participation as well.
    My experience with some of these churches is that there is a segment of women there who make “secular feminists” look appealing!!!
    I for one, do not see men getting involved in any degree of church attendance, unless the gynocentric curriculum changes!
    The churches bent on egalitarianism are not going to go anywhere.

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  4. Churches would also do well to have more stability in supporting a good pastor. I would likely have entered the ministry had it not been for congregational mentality that causes a church dump a preacher on a whim because someone doesn’t like the service style or what they felt a sermon said didn’t agree with them. And it is most dangerous when woman disagrees. Because few will back standing up to a woman in error in any church I have been in. Preferring to try and keep the peace at all costs

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  5. Overall in a church God cares about correct teaching and not much else. The physical building, style of music, kids and family programs are to make people happy. Yet many today pick churches based on those factors and churches often try to fit in as the flavour of the day

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    1. ” The physical building, style of music, kids and family programs are to make people happy.”

      Some of this is true, to a degree. I think the happiness and comfort of church attendees factors in to decisions far too often (I think this is why music in church always changes to match what is currently on Christian radio stations).

      But I think as Christians who believe that beauty is objective and the creative act is sacred obedience to God when performed with the right motivations, it’s a shame these things are just designed to make people happy.

      Breathtaking architecture, objectively beautiful music, and “programs” that include training in church doctrine, history, philosophy, and apologetics are things virtually every American church could improve on significantly. We have ugly and utilitarian buildings, boring and repetitive pop music, and programs designed to entertain or speak to superficial issues. I’ve never understood why, when the better things are so attractive.

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      1. Amen, I agree with all this. Such a wealth of beauty and truly inspired music, and we have almost none of it in out churchesy
        You ask:”…I’ve never understood why, when the better things are so attractive…”
        I think it has it has to be ignorance. Our church leaders are largely historically illiterate. Seminary programs are woefully deficient in many areas. It seems that a few denominations have some historical understanding and feature beautiful music, architecture, liturgy, etc: Anglicans, some Orthodox, a few very conservative Catholics.

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  6. I don’t think I have ever heard a Biblical sermon on the roles of men and women with the preacher saying to the women if you are not submissive, respectful, and available to your husbands, you are in sin, but that is what the Bible teaches. Hypocritical pretend Christanity does not attract men.

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