With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, I’m thinking about dads and men and their roles within the local church. Let’s face it: there are a lot of guys out there who think that the whole ‘church’ thing is just not for them. Most of them believe in God, and many of them understand what Jesus did to bring us back into relationship with God. But expressing that through engagement in the local church just isn’t part of the equation for large numbers of men. Why is that?
Well, just as every guy is different and every church is different, there will be a myriad of reasons why men aren’t engaging with God through the church.
For some, the alternative of a morning to laze around, tinker with stuff, or have breakfast with a buddy seems more interesting.
For others, the idea of going to church doesn’t bug them too much. They’re not crazy about getting dressed up (as some church cultures still require), and some of them are really not crazy about singing out loud, especially about, or to, a Saviour who seems, well, a little bit girly.
Does this mean that churches needs to start offering different worship opportunities for men and women? Definitely not. What it may mean, however, is that churches need to step back and examine their overall ministry to see if they strike a balance, in the light of Scripture, in (a) how they portray God, and (b) how they equip their people and serve the community. That is, the social nature of much of the church’s ministry doesn’t always appeal to men: guys aren’t into tea parties, but they do like to get stuff done! So if the church isn’t making a measure of its ministry practical, and hands-on in nature, then it isn’t striking a balance to help appeal to men (not to mention that it’s missing the Bible’s call to put faith into action). And, as long as the church continues to feed its people a steady diet of worship songs that sound like they belong on a CD of Air Supply’s greatest hits, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the guys would rather stay home and mow the lawn.
Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating that the church be turned upside down. I think, though, that a more balanced approach to ministry will reach the community in a more holistic manner. It may not seem politically correct, but the reality is that when husbands and fathers sign up to follow Jesus, there is a much greater likelihood that the rest of the family will follow suit.
The writer to the Hebrews, in encouraging people not to forsake the discipline of corporate worship, uses some strong practical verbs (action words!) to describe what the church should be doing. For example: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10.24-25, NIV; emphasis mine).
If you know anything about cowboys and horses, you know the word “spur” as a noun. As a verb, it makes me jump as much as the noun’s implementation does for a horse. Spurring each other on is a great ministry! And so is encouraging. We tend to think of it as a term of comfort, which it is, but literally, to encourage is to offer words that give another person greater courage!
This Sunday at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, I’ll be exploring the myth that church really isn’t for guys. May that truly be a myth in your church and in mine, that God may use us to reach men, women and children, for his glory.