The Problem of Men

Father's Day is approaching, and with it come the inevitable discussions within the community of believers as to how it should be "handled in churches." There are those who feel that fathers get the short end of the stick, and that our churches should help to remedy that. There are those who feel disconnected, perhaps because they have lost a child, or their own father did not do honor to the job. There are those who really don't care either way (though I suspect most of us, when pressed, do indeed have strong deep feelings about this).

Of course, we don't even have to look specifically to Father's Day to encounter some of the problems that arise for men in the church. At the last General Conference the UMC finally woke up to the absence of men in the pews. Other mainline denominations are noticing the same thing. To this I say, "It's about darned time!"
Way back in 1990 (which may not seem too far until you consider that kids born in 1990 can drive this year)Bill McCartney and Dave Wardell recognised the need for discipleship, the need to grow men spiritually. After months of prayer and fasting, Promise Keepers was born. Every year since, PK has held annual conferences, adding venues. In 2006, there are 19 in the US alone!

But why have men left churches? David Murrow has some ideas. His book Why Men Hate Going to Church explores the empty pews, the reasons behind them, and how to fill them. His reasons are more about structure, but they are worth a second look, all the same:

Men are dying for a leader, but we’ve turned Christ into a lover. Today’s Jesus is sensitive, caring and beautiful. Our praise music has the same breathless feel and romantic lyrics as top-40 love songs. Jesus barked, “Follow Me!” but we’ve softened that; it’s now, “Have a personal relationship with Me.”

You may think that the church is too male-dominated, harsh and legalistic. Some churches are this way – but far more common are comforting churches where the real agenda is making everyone feel loved, accepted, and busy. While there’s nothing wrong with this lineup, it’s not going to get many men out of bed on a Sunday morning.

Men are absenting themselves from church because they cannot function in a feminine environment. We might as well invite men to a baby shower. Men know that church is not for them; that’s why it’s earned a reputation as a place for little old ladies of both genders.

Women, the modern church system is not designed with him in mind. Your church is designed to keep you happy and volunteering. That’s why you love church and he hates it. No amount of praying, prodding or preaching is going to get your man interested in church, because it’s not meant to interest him. It’s meant to interest you.

Ok, so that is part of it, but what about the monster that we have created in our society? In our efforts to achieve "equality" for women, we have forgotten that "equal" does not mean "the same." Feminism has turned into an ugly beast. Male bashing jokes are ok, even expected. Look at male authority figures on television, how are they portrayed? As bufoons, idiots, the butt of most jokes. My Father-In-Law said that is why it is called to "boob tube"-- beause all the men are boobs. My Dad used to heavily regulate our tv viewing when we were kids. I used to think he was soooo overreacting, but evn now, J and I will talk about our mutual irritation with shows like "Raymond."

And don't even get me started on the difficulties of being a Christian wife in this climate.

Churches are made up first and foremost of broken people. We each bring our baggage with us. Hopefully, we are able to give it up, but that takes time. Unfortunately, in our efforts to be sensitive and compassionate, we are not encouraging each other to put down those bags of hurt and seek what is beyond the pain. Were you abandoned and abused? Bring it here, we have something better!!!!!! Put down the anger and resentement. Forgive and grow!

If your father is or was a jerk, or if he is or was absent, your foundation can be unstable. That's a fact. What we as a church need to offer is a good solid foundation. As insenstive as this sounds, even as I write it, "Your father was rotten, and that sucks. But we've got a better Dad for you, and He will change your life."

It seems as though most of our churches have yet to find the balance. There are those which make too big of a deal out of Mother's Day and Father's Day-- to the exclusion of the REAL REASON we gather. And there are those which, in the interest of sensitivity, completely ignore the holidays. Of course my personal favorite (RHOS) is the church which makes a huge deal out of Mother's Day and completely ignores Father's Day. Can we strike a balance? Can we acknowledge the failings of some parents without forgetting to honor them?

Here's the thing. My Dad is far from perfect. So is my Mum. So am I (though don't tell J). We all have our failings, it is part of our brokenness. If we waited until we were perfected, we would be waiting a looong time. We won't see perfection in this life. What we can see, is a glimpse, just a tiny sliver. Does that mean we shouldn't lift each other up? I don't think so.

What will you be doing this Father's Day? Has your church found balance between dads and Christ?


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