Men and Church

“Why are all the baptisms for women?”

“Where are the good Christian men for my single friends to date?”

“How come none of our volunteers are men?”

If you spend any time in church at all you might notice that there’s an imbalance between men and women. According to David Murrow at Church for Men, the split for an average church is about 60% women 40% men. This is for the average, stable church.

On its face, that doesn’t seem like a problem. In fact, it feels kind of normal. However, that figure is not representative of the actual population of men and women in America. Based on the latest census data, the American gender distribution is roughly 50/50 with a very slight favor going to the women. Since the church has no stated bias towards women and Christianity is in favor of both genders, it makes sense that the church gender distribution should reflect the national population more closely.

Some would argue that religion in general is more of a feminine construct and that men simply don’t feel the need for it. However, looking way back into history, especially at religions born out of the middle east, men are the dominant figures. The arguers and perpetuators of  the major three (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) have nearly always been men, and often the manliest of men. Even today, a vast majority of clergy are men.

So, what’s the deal? Why don’t men just go to church?

1. Church is too girly:

In his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow makes the claim that men don’t go to church because it isn’t really built for them. If churches would “man up” their services by getting rid of all the doilies and stop singing “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs, then men would go to church. This is an interesting point, but I don’t think that it really strikes at the heart of why men don’t go to church.

2. Church is boring:

Murrow moves on to make a much stronger claim that cuts even more closely to the core of the issue. Men don’t go to church because there simply isn’t anything for them to do there. Since I am a man, I can bear witness to this. In my early days as a Christian, I wanted to help out in any way that I could. Unfortunately, the only places for me to volunteer were the kitchen, the nursery, or as an usher. I very quickly realized the kitchen was too small for me to be of use and the nursery was a place where men simply were not welcome. That left ushering. In a church of 150 people, you don’t need very many ushers so if you wanted to get one of the available slots you had to be one of the first 4 people to volunteer that week. Fortunately for me, I got to learn how to play drums and promptly monopolized that position on the newly formed worship team.

3. Men are disobedient:

Murrow doesn’t make this claim but I think it applies. There is a really small piece of scripture in the New Testament that seems to indicate that there might have been a similar attendance problem in the earliest days of the Christian church.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) say: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The Bible is not short on commands, but this is one is especially relevant. The author of Hebrews intended his letter as an exhortation (corrective encouragement) for the church. The letter encourages believers persevere in their faith and provides many lessons and proofs for that encouragement.

Church might sometimes be boring and it can be girly, but God told you to be there for regular encouragement and to prepare yourself for the day of His return.

Going to church is better than it sounds:

Church is good for men. You might think of it like eating vegetables at dinner. Men, when you were boys, you didn’t want to do it but your mom made you anyway. Why? Because it’s good for you. When you grew up, you decided you were old enough to choose your own path and eat as little vegetables as possible. Then you got married and what did your wife do? She made you eat your vegetables… because it’s good for you.

According to David Murrow’s research the benefits are as follows:

  • Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher level of satisfaction with life. Church involvement is one of the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
  • Church involvement helps move people out of poverty. Its also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem and greater family and marital happiness.
  • Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
  • Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.

Church for Men cites several sources for this information here.

Men are good for church too. Any church that finds itself with a willing male volunteer has found a treasure. If the church has the capacity to employ men in current volunteer positions, they of course fill a felt need. However, if a church has the creativity to empower men to activity when no open volunteer positions exist, the church grows. Men are makers and doers. Men like to carry heavy things, repair homes, plant gardens, and interact with people outside of sitting in the pew. The church needs to be a strong operations center with its hands out in he community seeking and serving the lost, sick, and broken.

David Murrow’s research indicates that the felt absence of men leads to the actual decline in church growth over all. Churches that are able to reduce the gender gap and encourage male participation actually grow. If the Great Commission is to be realized, then church must be for men.

What Religion Are You: Baptist or Methodist?

If you throw a rock in the South you’ll probably hit a church or two. The “Bible Belt” is an amazing place when you consider that there is almost literally a church on every corner. Sometimes two, or three, depending on where you look.

On one hand, it’s good that there are so many churches. It makes access to the gospel incredibly easy since you can get it anywhere. On the other hand, it presents an interesting problem for Christianity. That enormous number of churches makes it easier for wolves to dress themselves up as sheep.

This is where Christian’s have to practice discernment. Among all these churches, you’ll find various practices and beliefs that may or may not be biblical. This is a problem that Christian’s have wrestled with for two thousand years. Throughout those years whole factions of Christian practice have come and gone, each leaving their mark on the religion. Some of these marks are more profound than others, particularly when it comes to the division of the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism. The debate between the Reformers (Protestants) and the prominent Catholic clergy still remains in our atmosphere and there are still divisions between the two.

The root of this division had to do with the authority of the Bible usurping the authority of the Pope, church staff, and traditions. The Protestant movement began with scholars reading scripture, looking at the actions of the Pope and the Church and seeing a disconnect between what Jesus and the Apostles said and did and the way the modern clergy was acting and teaching. The Reformers may not have intended to cause division but rather correction in the thinking of the Church. The resulting Protestant movement led to the empowerment of believers in asking (and answering) the question of how to practice and interpret Christianity and biblical principles. This question and the various answers have led to tremendous growth and challenge for Christians and helped to push forward the creation of denominations. (For a quick survey of church history, click here.)

The creation and proliferation of Protestant denominations has made it difficult for both Christians and non-Christians to understand whether what it is we say we believe is our actual belief or an allusion to another belief. Today, a safe estimate for the number of ways Protestant Christians apply the same gospel message is somewhere between 200 and 300 distinct doctrinal sets according to the National Catholic Register.

Lumping in Catholics and Protestants together, you end up with what is essentially “Three Hundered and One Ways to be a Christian”. This is alarming to think about when every single one of these ways claims that they are following Jesus in the “most correct” fashion. For a new or practicing Christian, this must be addressed in a discerning and humble fashion if you are going to make it through this gauntlet of competing beliefs and understandings.

To help test whether your church or the church you are attending is going to be the best church for you (i.e. one that is going to help lead you through the narrow gate) I have put together a short set of questions for you to ask:

  1. Do they believe in an actual, human Jesus that is both fully God and fully man who existed as a real figure in human history?
  2. Do they believe that faith in this Jesus is the only means of salvation for the sinner?
  3. Do they believe that we are all sinners in need of that salvation?
  4. Do they believe that salvation is a gift from God and that no work of man is sufficient to mend the brokenness of man or the separation between man and God?
  5. Do they believe in limited atonement (not everyone is going to make it to heaven)?
  6. Do they believe in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God to the exclusion of other religion’s texts?

A “no” to any of these questions should disqualify a church from being called a Christian Church because Jesus (who was the Christ) teaches these things himself.

There are many many other issues that exist when considering doctrines and how they apply to your faith. Many denominations fall to one side or another when it comes to answering these issues or fail to address them at all. Even churches within the same denomination may differ when it comes to how they practice and interpret the Christian faith. The questions listed above are certainly not the only ones that are important when deciding where to attend and discerning whether a church is leading its congregation well. There are more issues than doctrine at play when it comes to the health of a church and its message.

At the end of the day, it falls to the individual believer for how they respond to the Gospel. The church is meant to be a place where believers can gather, worship God, and do their best to grow the kingdom of God. So, when it comes to denomination, do some research. Find out what the church says it believes and test that against scripture.

In closing, I leave you with this longtime church maxim: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Scripture and Overcoming a Crisis of Faith

Around the age of 16, I went through something that I believe every Christian and probably anyone from any religion goes though: a crisis of faith.

Until that time I had mostly grown up in the church with only a few significant breaks in attendance. I came to saving faith in Christ at the age of 9 and was baptized in one my deacon’s pool. After that, as much as any child can, I lived as a full believer, insisting on going to Sunday school and church on a regular basis and generally acting well behaved.

This was all fine and good until one day I realized that I didn’t actually know what it was I believed. I had strong feelings about Christianity but little assurance that the things I said I believed were actually Christian. Not only that, I didn’t really know what all I claimed belief in. Looking around my hometown at other Christians didn’t really do much for confirming or explaining the belief system.

I remember the day I told my parents about my doubts. I remember it being momentous, yet strangely undramatic. I declared to my parents that I really didn’t know what Christianity was and that I was going to go about figuring it out. I told them that I was not going to give up my beliefs but rather discover what they really are. They looked at me and then at each other and said, “Ok”. There might have been some offer of help or other such thing but as a willful 16 year old, I wasn’t listening and I certainly wasn’t asking for help. I needed to do this on my own.

Nearly 15 years later I have a much better idea of the things I believe in and agree with and things that I don’t. Not only that, I understand that there’s a difference between belief and agreement. I have little doubt when it comes to the truthfulness or dependability of the Gospel and I have become strong in my faith in Jesus as the means to salvation from sin.

How did I get here? Through the reading of scripture, specifically the Bible. It is one thing to listen to and read what others say about the Bible and still another to read it yourself and find out what it says. There is an overwhelming number of beliefs, traditions, and sayings that Christians have taken up that simply are not contained in their holy book or are taken so far out of context that they are no longer true (at least not in application). I don’t mean to put down Christians–I am one of them; yet I have to point out that many of us in the American church do not know whether what we say is true to what God actually says or rhetoric picked up from cultural or nominal Christians.

Since the day when I declared that I would discover what it was that I believed, I have taken two complete laps through the Bible and innumerable excursions through portions of it. This is not nearly enough for me to declare myself educated or authoritative. I am a layperson through and through. Yet I can say with certainty that the Bible fulfills it’s own claims. It is useful for teaching and for rebuke. It is sharper than any two edged sword and it does divide flesh and spirit. I have been unmade and reworked on many occasions.

Scripture alone is the foundation from which the Church is built. This might sound counter to the claims of Jesus being the foundation or cornerstone but through the reading of the Bible you can discover that they are one and the same.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

To the believer, wisdom is freely given to those who chase after it. To seek to spend time in the Word is to seek to spend time in His presence. The reading of the Bible is the first and primary method for spending time in His courts. By consuming its message and washing yourself in its waters, you can test any other message for its truth and origin.

I have not come to the end of the journey begun so long ago. In truth, I am closer to beginning than I’d like to admit. However, I hope that you will be able begin your own journey into discovering what you believe. I hope that you decide to spend a day in the Courts of YHWH.

The Tetragrammaton

In Christianity, believers share in the concept that there is but one true God. This belief, known as monotheism, states that not only is the God the only God, all others claiming deity are false. Either they are simply made up or they are some lesser being claiming worship that is not due them. Christians, and Jews, have identified this true God, the one above all others, as YHWH.

This unpronounceable word, often rendered Yahweh or Jehovah, helps us identify who we claim as the only true God: “He Who Is” or “He Who Brings Being into Being”. The name YHWH helps us connect the God of Moses to Jesus, both having claimed the title, “I Am”. Further, the Name begins to introduce believers to the theology of a triune god (One being with three persons) since one of its claimants (Jesus) indicates the presence of the other two when he commands his disciples to pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The identity of our Lord is important for every Christian to be familiar with. By using the name, YHWH, we recognize not only the deity we worship but also declare that no other is sufficient for worship. We observe that others have come and gone, having challenged the Lord with their own lordships, and still the Name Above All Names persists, lending even further credit to the identity, I Am that I Am. Finally, we establish that our God is not the creation of a first century cult but actually the God of the Jews having come to fulfill the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as to David, Solomon, and the Prophets.

This is worthy of praise, that our Lord should see fit to honor us with His name, providing clarity for his identity and establishing his eternal presence. In the name of YHWH, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, give thanks that you know who your God is, worshiping with glad spirit. For today is a good day to be in the Courts of YHWH.

In The Courts of YHWH

When I was a younger man, I used to imagine what it would have been like to be in King David’s royal court. Actually, my imaginings more often put me in David’s place, King of Jerusalem, leader of Israel, God’s Holy People. The significance of position was lost on me, but one thing was clear, David spent a lot of time before his God.

Around the time I was thinking up the name for this blog, there was a band, Kutless, who covered a song called Better is One Day. They may have put their own spin on it, but this song is ancient. Kutless was singing directly from an old Hebrew text known as the Psalms. Specifically, Psalm 84:10

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.

Often, I find that spending even a single moment is His presence is difficult. Yet, David and the son’s of rebellious Korah seemed to think it a wondrous place, one they would refuse to leave should they be given the chance. How can they, sinners all, be so enthralled with God that they should want to stay there forever in humility while all their friends partied and had a good time in the city? Scripture tells us that the Word of the Lord is sharper than any two edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, bone and marrow. Elsewhere, it tells us it is a light in the darkness, revealing things done in darkness intended to be hidden from the light.

If the word of the All Righteous Judge is humbling enough, surely his presence should be too much to bear? Isaiah said, “Woe is me for I am unmade!” when he encountered the Lord face to face. The soldiers sent to take Jesus captive fell as if knocked down when he said, “I Am he”. Moses shown with divine glory after having only seen the Lords passing, and yet, Better. Is. One. Day.

There is no shortage of men in the Bible, or throughout history, who have wished to spend just one more day in those courts. If these men, having wept at seeing that their own tainted goodness being revealed as nothing short of garbage, can still find His presence wonderful, surely they have seen more than just their demise. Surely, God is more than the All Righteous Judge. Maybe, if I just spend one more day in His courts…