Encouraging Men to Act Like Men
About the Guest
What would be the ideal church for a man? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with David Murrow, author of the book Why Men Hate Going to Church, to find out why so many men are reluctant to attend church and to learn some ways that churches can encourage men to become leaders in their congregations.
David MurrowDavid Murrow founded Church for Men in 2005. Murrow is not a pastor, professor or theologian. He’s just a guy in the pews who noticed a disturbing trend: churches are losing their men and boys. So he wrote a book titled Why Men Hate Going to Church, which became an instant Christian bestseller, with more than 100,000 copies in print. His efforts have spawned articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. You may have seen him on PBS, the NBC Nightl...more
David Murrow talks about ways churches can encourage men to become leaders in their congregations.
Encouraging Men to Act Like Men
David: A lot of men experience God more in their small group of men, and what do you know? I mean, that's how the disciples life, was in a small group of men with Jesus. I think that's what men are looking for. Men are not necessarily looking for weekly singing, sermon, and ceremony type environment. They're looking for a small group of men where they can be real; where they have a leader that they look up to; where they can do a combination of study, service, and hanging out and having fun.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Jesus' first followers included a lot of men, so why have things changed today?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. So – what kind of church? I mean, if you could design the ideal church for you, as a man, it would, what, it would meet out at the hunting club, right? Is that how it would work?
Dennis: It had to have wallpaper in camo – a real tree.
Bob: I'm trying to imagine, seriously, if you were going to get together – church – and it was just going to be guys, 100 guys coming together Sunday morning for church, what would you want it to look like and feel – what would you do?
Dennis: I'd probably have the podium somewhere near a fire – some kind of bonfire, and I'd have …
Bob: … you'd have it outdoors, you're saying?
Dennis: Well, it kind of feels better outdoors to me, you know, if you could have a bonfire indoors, I guess you could do that.
Bob: A big firepit, fireplace, okay?
Dennis: That would make it work. I don't really know, Bob, I've never really thought about that before. But it would have everybody on the same level, and it would be earthy. I guess that's why I wanted to go with the firepit outside. You know, want them to be on the ground where they could relate to each other and see God in creation while hearing God's Word.
Bob: Well, you've actually led some men's small group studies where you've gotten away for a weekend, kind of a men's retreat, and …
Dennis: We've done some hunting retreats with men, and I'm going to tell you something, I just got an e-mail back from one of them who was really challenged by the retreat, because he was around the table at a hunting club with a bunch of men talking about manly issues.
Bob: He may be thinking to himself – "Gee, I wish I could do this more often. I wish I didn't have to go to church all the time," you know?
Bob: I mean, I remember thinking about how spiritual conversations tended to happen at the softball games more than they tended to happen in Sunday school when I was hanging around with the guys playing softball, you know what I mean?
Dennis: I do, and part of that, Bob, is why you and I – well, we ought to have a guest on FamilyLife Today who could speak to men about what they're feeling about going to church but not just leave them there. Guide them from some of those – well, maybe misconceptions and maybe some ways where the church has missed them but begin to talk about how we need to make church better for men. And that's why we asked David Murrow to join us on FamilyLife Today. David, welcome back.
David: Good to be here.
Dennis: David has written a book called "Why Men Hate Going to Church." Now, David, that's an awfully strong verb.
David: Well, let me clarify that. Men don't hate God, they don't hate Jesus Christ. If you ask men, you know, they respect Christ, they want to know more about God, five out of six call them Christians in America, but it's the whole mechanics of getting up on a Sunday morning, going to listen to a sermon, singing some songs, socializing, ceremony, all the things that we do to men on Sunday morning, it just bores them to death. And even the men who do go to church – Promise Keepers did a survey of men in the early '90s who came to their rallies. Many of them are very committed Christian men, active in their churches, and they asked them, "Does church really do it for you? Is that where you feel closest to God?" Ninety-five percent of them said no.
So even the men who are going to church, we're not really reaching them at a heart level like we should be.
Bob: So let me turn things around. I asked Dennis how he'd make his own masculine church. What would you do?
David: Well, the book's only been out seven months, but I've already got guys calling me and asking me, "What do I do to make my church more masculine?" There is a fellow in Peoria, Illinois, who started a church called The Grove, and he has built – they've sold the church out on men. It is completely about masculine images, he doesn't call himself "Pastor" he calls himself "Coach." He preaches in a sports jersey – a different sports jersey each week. He wears a whistle, they meet in the gym. The services are short, they are less than an hour long. He only preached for 10 minutes, but his sermon is always built around an object, a metaphor. Like, he preached from inside of a boat, and he preached from inside of a box, and he preached with a golf club in his hand. All the symbols are designed to show men that, "Hey, you're home. You can relate to this."
And so he has lots of men coming in and checking out his church, and for the first time a lot of these guys are saying, "Hey, maybe church is for me. Maybe it's not just for my Grandma."
Dennis: Is this a men's only church?
David: Here's the thing – you would think that it would attract more men than women. It's getting just as many women as men. The women are excited because they have finally found a church where their men have an equal shot, and they're looking ahead, and they're thinking, you know, "If my boys grow up in this church, and they see dad all excited about following Jesus, then they're going to want to follow Jesus."
Women are heartbroken over what is happening to their boys. Ninety percent of the boys who are raised in our churches abandon the faith by the time they're 20 years old, and women are sick of that. They're sick of taking their boys to BBS and Sunday school and taking them through the youth group only to see their boys go hog wild when they go off to college.
Bob: So if you've got a church that feels feminine, guys aren't going to come. But if you've got a church that feels masculine, the women will show up.
David: Let me tell you a little story about that. We have one of those home improvement mega stores in my hometown, and they have – on Wednesday night they have what are called "Do It Herself" workshops. They turn the gals loose with circular saws and band saws, and they go to it. Well, the next day the women are just all abuzz about it. "Sheila, guess what I did last night. I went to Home Depot and learned to work a band saw."
Now, right next door to Home Depot is Michael's craft store. They do no have "Do It Himself" workshops. You don't ever hear guys talking about at lunch, "Guess what I did, guys. I learned how to make decorative pillow shams last night."
David: The thing is, women are fascinated by the things of men. Men are utterly uninterested in the things of women. So that if we turn the culture of the church slightly toward – balance it more toward the needs and expectations of men, you're going to get both genders.
Dennis: You mentioned that when you were talking to the guys at PK, that 95 percent of the men said the place they go to experience God was not church. Where do they experience God?
David: A lot of them experience God out in the woods, out in nature, out in God's creation, as you were saying in the introduction. A lot of men experience God more in their small group of men and, what do you know? I mean, that's how the disciples experienced life – in a small group of men with Jesus. I think that's what men are looking for. Men are not necessarily looking for a weekly singing, sermon, and ceremony type environment. They're looking for a small group of men where they can be real, where they have a leader that they look up to, where they can do a combination of study, service, and hanging out and having fun.
You know, George Barna just wrote this book, "Revolution." It's talking about large numbers of men are leaving the church in order to pursue a closer walk with God. They realize that church is not meeting their needs, it's not bringing them closer to God, and so they're just bypassing it and going into these small groups.
Bob: Okay, I've got to stop you here, because we've got to talk about whether we build the church to be attractive to the whims of men – I mean – you talk about singing, sermon, and ceremony, and I'm thinking, "Well, isn't the church supposed to be about the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the sacraments?" I mean, these are pretty fundamental, so putting a sports jersey on a guy and have him do a 10-minute sermon, I look at that and go, "That doesn't seem exactly like it gets it for me." You know, it seems a little gimmicky – talk about that.
David: Well, but, I mean, most of the symbols we have in the church now are feminine. You know, the pastor gets up there in a robe and a stole, and as I've already mentioned, all the decorations in the church tend to be more feminine. The way we talk about Jesus, we talk about His gentleness, His meekness. So we've already kind of defaulted toward a feminine culture, but we don't realize it. I mean, if you're on a boat, and you're tilted toward starboard, after a while you don't notice the tilt. I'm just saying that what we need to do is balance the tilt. Why can't a man walk in and see symbols he recognizes, hear a message that he recognizes.
And then you're talking about a 10-minute sermon – well, boy, you know, most men wouldn't be satisfied with a 10-minute sermon, but if you look at Jesus, his longest parable preaches in about two-and-a-half minutes. So it's not the length of the message, but the impact that it has.
One other thing that this guy in Illinois is doing interesting is that at the end of the message he brings all the men forward for the huddle, and in the huddle he gives each man a pep talk. He gives them an object that reminds them of the object lesson of the message, every man walks away with that object, and then they put their hands together in a circle, and they break, football style.
And I'm getting e-mails back from that church. The guys love that time, and not only that, what it does is, it gives them something to talk about to their wives in the car on the way home. The wife will say, "Well, honey, what did the pastor talk to you about up there?" "Oh, well, there was this cool illustration, and here is this little object, I walked away, and it represents our sin before God or whatever the topic is." Guess what? For the first time in his life, he has something to share spiritually with his wife that she doesn't know. Once again, he's the priest in his home. He has something to offer.
Right now in our churches men have nothing to offer because everything is given to all. So they've really thought this through, and they've really created an environment where men can win on Sunday morning.
Dennis: I'm thinking back to some of my messages I had given at Promise Keepers, and maybe the message that I have the most number of men come up to me and mention was a message I gave at Mile High Stadium, which is no more, but I spoke to about 51,000 men there, and I used an illustration of traps and how there are traps in life that we are training our teenage sons to avoid while they are teenagers and then as they become adults. And I actually had physical traps. I had a muskrat trap and a bear trap and a mouse trap and a rat trap and all these traps actually loaded and open on the stage and I actually had a father and a son join me on the stage to illustrate what it was like to call a young man through adolescence while he was barefoot and blindfolded all the way to adulthood to his father on the other side of the stage. And, of course, the father walked over to the son and then guided him through the traps.
And that stadium full of men rose to their feet in a standing ovation. And I've often thought about that time at Mile High Stadium. There was something very profoundly mysterious that took place at that moment. Why did 50,000 men feel the need to stand at a very simple illustration of a father who took his son's hands, his teenage boy's hands, and put them on his back, and they just kind of slid their way around and through all those traps. They were expressing something that I think they wish they had experienced, spiritually speaking. They applauded that because there was a symbolism there that they could identify with, and that's what you're saying.
If we're going to make the message of Jesus Christ relevant to men today, we have to give them some symbols, some visual hands-on traps, batons, golf clubs, baseball bat that men could put their hands on and grab hold of and handle and use to explain what they've learned.
David: Yeah, if you teach men, you should never come into the pulpit or teach without some sort of an object lesson, because that's what Jesus did. It says in the Book of Matthew, He never taught the crowds without using parables, and so you used a parable, a very strong, masculine parable, and for a lot of those men in that stadium that may have been the first time they were ever talked to, man to man.
But men are symbolic learners. The good thing is women are, too. Women can understand parables just as well, but we tend to default toward a more verbal regimen, and the studies show that women's brains are more verbal, and they can receive information from words better than we can.
Bob: We happen to know the two guys who give leadership at the church you attend in Anchorage, Alaska, and I'm thinking about Dan Jarrell and Karl Clauson. They speak at our Weekend to Remember conferences as some of the guys who speak at these conferences, and I've seen both of them speak.
Dennis: Mm-hm – talk about men's men.
Bob: They connect with the guys – Anchorage, Alaska, is a town where you better know how to connect with guys, or they won't give you five minutes, right?
David: That's right, they'll go fly their plane or go wrestle a bear.
Bob: And yet guys are coming in off the street to hear Karl and Dan. What are they doing that's attractive to men?
David: Well, first of all, it's Karl and Dan's personalities. We have two very masculine filling the pulpit. So when the men walk in, they see a man that they want to follow. That's the key to men. Men don't follow ideas, philosophies, or religions. Men follow men. So you want to put as many masculine men as possible in front of your congregation, because that's where men are going to go.
Secondly, Dan and Karl use a lot of object lessons. I was speaking to a woman in our church whose husband hated to go to church, and she finally got him to go one Sunday, and Karl was preaching. At the end of the service, he said, "I'd like to come back again." And she goes, "Well, what made the change?" He says, "Well, I thought the pastor was really cool because he preached with a golf club in his hand." For 20 years this guy has resisted church, and he sees a pastor with a golf club in his hand and, all of a sudden, he wants to become a follower of Jesus. We don't have to have hand-to-hand combat during the worship service to get men. We just have to meet them halfway – make them feel welcome, make them feel valued, give them ministries that they can relate to, relate to them as men on Sunday morning, and they will come to Jesus just as they did in the New Testament.
Dennis: And what I'm hearing you say is when men act like men, which is what Paul commanded the church at Corinth to do in 1 Corinthians 16:13, he said, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, let all that you do be done in love," and what I hear you saying pastors like Karl Clauson and Dan Jarrell are doing, is they're giving men permission to be men.
David: That's exactly right. Men need to sense the masculine spirit, but we tend to equate the masculine spirit with sin. We think that boldness, aggression, we kind of have painted those parts out of the Gospels, and Jesus was a very bold, very aggressive man. We need to let our men in the pews be the same way, and we need to be modeling that to them from the pulpit.
Bob: Well, and you stop and think of the other examples of men throughout the Scriptures, whether it's Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Samson and Joshua, the Bible knows a lot about men who understood manhood in masculine terms, right?
David: Right, but today we tend to evaluate believers on their verbal skill, how well they know a book. We're always putting books in Christians' laps, and that's a good thing, but a lot of guys, they don't read as well as the women do. We just put these unnecessary hurdles between God and men, and we don't even realize it. It's just our culture.
Bob: I think you made a good point there. You're not saying don't give men books or don't emphasize memorizing Scripture or a prayer time or relationships, you're saying the boat's leaning, let's get it righted so that both sides are being represented.
David: We spoke of Robert Lewis, the pastor at Fellowship here in Little Rock. One of the things he says – he says one of the reasons most men's ministry fails is because they're Bible studies. What he does is he always starts off with practical life issues, and then he brings the Bible in the back end to surprise them, and that's how you've got to approach men. Men don't necessarily want to study the book of Ecclesiastes because they don't know what an Ecclesiastes is nor do they care.
Dennis: You know, it's interesting, because I just was at a men's retreat with 11 men this past weekend, and I taught Ecclesiastes.
David: And how did they like it?
Dennis: And what I did was, I'd speak for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then I'd give the men some time to interact then and then again in the evening for about an hour. And what I've found is, if you ask a couple of key questions that help men begin to grapple around some of the themes of the book you're teaching, for instance, Ecclesiastes talks about living a life of meaning, dealing with adversity and prosperity and knowing how to grow old – some of those are interesting themes that men have to deal with. If you give a group of men a chance to interact around the table with about six to eight other men, you can't get them to quit talking. You just begin to ask a few questions, and those men begin to talk so much so that at one of those studies, the men were sharing what their most courageous thing they'd ever done was, and they were going around the table, and one man shared how the most courageous thing he had done was admit to an affair and clean up his act with his wife and beg for her forgiveness and put his marriage back together and love her well from that day forward and become a real man.
Another man shared about handling a failure at work and came to this one gentleman, I'll call him "Ben." It came to Ben, and Ben said, "Well, I was going to share about climbing a mountain" but he said, "You know, I have yet to do the most courageous thing I need to do." And he said, "That's surrender to Jesus Christ. My marriage is a mess, my family is not what it needs to be, and I'm an arrogant man who has been a taker and not a giver."
And this man began to confess and pour out his heart before those men, and it was powerful. The guys around that table who affirmed him and told him it was safe to be a real man and to have flaws and to have made errors and to admit it but want to come clean; that this was a safe group of guys.
And so after they exhorted him for about, oh, I don't know, 15, 20 minutes out of their own failures and out of their own stuff that they'd had to confess, we then began to pray for him. And it was fascinating, David, the men started praying for him about his marriage and about his relationship with God, and I personally – I don't do this that often – I interrupted the prayer meeting, and I just turned to Ben, and I said, "Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to surrender to Jesus Christ right now?" He looked up from having been bowing in prayer with a big grin on his face, and said, "No, I'd love to."
So he stopped, and he prayed one of those great prayers, because they don't come out of a textbook, they're not steeped in religiosity, they're just from the heart, and that man gave his life to Christ, he gave his marriage to Christ, his family to Christ, and we continued to pray for a while, and then we gathered back around. Those guys rallied around him, they share e-mail addresses, and they said, "After we leave this hunting lodge, we're going to rally around you as you put your marriage back together."
And it's been fascinating how we've only been back for a few days and how the e-mails are just flying, and I've got to tell you, I just received an e-mail from his wife. He had read her a seven-page letter confessing his arrogance and pride, asking for her forgiveness in great detail, and then pledging to her seven commitments spiritually, which included praying together every day, having time to talk about her needs and her issues, and going on a year-long quest to meet her most fundamental needs as a woman and becoming God's man for their family.
I'll tell you, I read that letter, and I said, "This is real men's ministry." Guys getting honest, guys coming clean, and guys holding one another accountable to keep that pledge and that promise that they've made. The cool thing is, he knows there are seven other guys who are tracking with him, and he knows there will be some guys get in cars and drive across the country to call him to account if he doesn't fulfill what he has promised and pledged this day. And, in my opinion, when men start behaving like that, that's when we're going to see the church explode because I think, as you've said, David, in your book, men are hungry to know God. They're hungry for real relationships with other men; they just need a safe place to experience it. And if there is a safe place on the planet, it ought to be at church.
Bob: Mm-hm, talk about relationships with other men makes me think of Stu Weber's book, "All the King's Men," because, as you know, Stu is an advocate for guys locking arms with other guys and doing life together, and I think that's something that is a hunger in the heart of a guy, and if churches can find ways to facilitate that, guys are going to be drawn to that, and our listeners may want to get a copy not only of David's book "Why Men Hate Going to Church," but Stu's book, "All the King's Men," which offers some suggestions on how men can lock arms together with other men and build a spiritual band of brothers.
We've got both of those resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center – David Murrow's book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church," Stu Weber's book, "All the King's Men." You can contact us online at FamilyLife.com to request either or both of those books, and if you do get both of them, we'll send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation on this subject with David Murrow.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. When you get there, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," right in the middle of the screen, and that will take you to the page where there's more information about resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife or give us a call – 1-800-FLTODAY is the number. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team can let you know how you can get any of these resources.
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Well, tomorrow we're going to continue exploring the subject of men and church and why it just doesn't seem to click for some guys. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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