FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Grooming a Healthy, Masculine Spirit

with David Murrow | February 24, 2006
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There's a man shortage in our churches! On today's broadcast, David Murrow, author of the book Why Men Hate Going to Church, explains what churches can do to attract and keep more men in their congregations.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • There's a man shortage in our churches! On today's broadcast, David Murrow, author of the book Why Men Hate Going to Church, explains what churches can do to attract and keep more men in their congregations.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

David Murrow explains what churches can do to attract and keep more men in their congregations.

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Grooming a Healthy, Masculine Spirit

With David Murrow
February 24, 2006
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David: A man has to know in the first three minutes when he walks into a church that this is something for him and not just something for his Grandma, and unfortunately the vibe that we send to men is that you're not going to get any traction here because you're not as good at emoting, verbal expression, nurturing, all the things that we value in the church, she's better than you are.  Men are competitive; men always want to win.  What we have to do is create churches where men can win, and fortunately, that's being done in pockets around the country.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 24th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to examine today some of the things churches might do to help men feel more comfortable at church.

 [speaking in a tough-guy voice] And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the program, and we're going to talk about men and to men today, and I'm just thinking if you could get Clint Eastwood to be your pastor, then you'd have a whole – men would come back for that, don't you think?

Dennis: Is that a Clint Eastwood …

Bob: [tough-guy voice] Go ahead, make my day.  That's a pretty bad Clint Eastwood, isn't it?

Dennis: You've got a good Gary Smalley. 

Bob: [tough-guy voice] I could do a decent Mr. Roberts.  But, Clint, you don't go for that?

Dennis: It's kind of a – I don't know – a blend of Humphrey Bogart and I don't know.

Bob: [tough-guy voice] But it's still pretty masculine, isn't it?

Dennis: Wyatt Earp or something, I don't know.


 We are talking about how we can encourage men to become followers of Jesus Christ.  That's our motive.

Bob: [still a tough-guy voice] That's right.

Dennis: Tell Clint to go away, would you?

Bob: All right.

Dennis: And we have a guest with us who has been with us this week – David Murrow joins us on FamilyLife Today.  David, welcome back.

David: Thank you.

Dennis: He is the director of Church for Men.  Now, is that a church for men?  That's a new kind of church, David.  I've never heard of one of those.

David: We're an organization that helps churches recover a healthy masculine spirit.  Most churches are lopsidedly female, 60-40, women to men, and we help churches and individual believers sharpen their outreach to men and boys.

Dennis: You have said in your book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church," that men have a religion.  What is that religion?

David: Masculinity.

Dennis: And what does that mean?

David: There is nothing more important to a man than to be perceived by his buddies as masculine.  I mean, everything a man does – all of his addictions, all his foibles, all his hobbies, the businesses he builds, the family he rears, both good and bad, is designed to prove to the world that I am a man, and there's sort of a widespread but unspoken perception among men that church is not the manliest thing you can do.  So I think a lot of guys are avoiding church because it calls their manhood into question.

Dennis: So you're saying that my comment to Bob about this – was it cush ball, that you're playing with, Bob?

Bob: Somebody brought me this purple cush ball.

Dennis: A fuzzy thing.

Bob: It's kind of fun.  You'd like playing with this.

Dennis: You keep tossing it back and forth between your hands.  My comment to Bob about playing with the cush ball, you're saying that could have really been destructive to his masculinity.

Bob: I'm not offended at all.

David: No.  Well, but, I mean, picture – let's say it's Wednesday night, and you're on the construction site, and there's three constructions workers, it's been a hot day …

Dennis: I'll guarantee, they weren't playing with cush balls.

David: That's right.  They've been hammering nails all day.  And so he says, "Where are you going after work?"  And one of them says, "Well, I'm going to a baseball game."  And he says, "Where are you going?"  "Well, I'm going down to the bar for a drink."  "Where are you going?"  "Well, I'm going to church."  Can you feel that?  It's just not on the same masculine par as the first two.

 So we've just sort of – there's just this reputation that the church is something that women and soft men do, and that's one of the things we're going to have to recover from in the coming century, if we're going to get the men and boys back.

Dennis: And, David, one of the things that really – well, it's more than irritating to me, it angers me, is in the midst of 50 percent of the population of America, speaking of the male half of the equation here, they need God.  They need a relationship with Jesus Christ, and we ought to be talking and thinking about what we can do to reach them.  It seems to me that while we ought to be targeting them specifically, what we have done is we've tried to broaden the Scripture to new versions of the Scripture that are gender inclusive, like the TNIV.  It seems to me, that's the wrong direction to go.  We need to let the Bible speak for the Bible and not try to make it this homogenized, gender, all-inclusive version of the Bible.

David: Yeah, it's interesting – if you look at the statistics, you see the denominations that have the hardest time attracting men are also those denominations that are more into the inclusive language, the more liberal theology.  They've tended to take more masculine references out of the Scripture.  They've brought in a lot of women into leadership positions, and so it's now possible for a boy to go all the way through the Sunday school and up through his 18th birthday and never once see a strong male role model in the church or see masculine references in Scripture.  And so we wonder why boys are leaving the church?  Well, it's become this gender-neutral, more feminine thing.

Bob: Well, you know, there are people on the other side who are saying, "Listen, the church has been so out of kilter in terms of abusive patriarchy for so many years, we're just finally correcting what's been out of balance for thousands of years."

David: If you're looking at the church leadership, that's definitely been a men's club, but for centuries the pews have belonged to women.  So there's sort of been this balance – men have had a pulpit, women have had the pews.  That balance is now being upset.

 In the mainline churches, in 50 years the male pastor is going to be as uncommon as the male nurse is today.  So a boy is going to be able to be raised all the way through the church and never once have a strong male role model, and I think it's going to be exceedingly difficult to keep boys in the church when the Sunday school teacher is a woman, the music principle are all women, the pastor is a woman, because, again, men follow men.

Bob: And the woman who would be listening and saying, "Well, that's just not right.  That's chauvinistic.  A little boy ought to be able to learn about God and the Bible from anybody, man or women, right?

David: He ought to be, but – I mean – I wish boys were politically correct.  They're not.  You know, boys follow men.  Whenever you talk to a man, and you ask him, "Why are you a follower of Jesus today?"  Invariably, they will tell you of a man they looked up to, that they admired, that led them to Christ or that was an example to them.  I have never spoken to a man, in all my travels around the country, and had him say that it was because of a woman that he looked up to – with the exception of Mom.  Mom is the only one.

 Men just don't choose female role models, so that's why it is so essential that we get men back in the church.  We have a generation of girls who are not going to have Christian men to marry, because there are no young men in the church.  Every Sunday we have 6 million women going to church without their husbands.  I would say probably half or two-thirds, maybe three-quarters of those women are praying earnestly every day for their husbands to go to church, but we've got a church system where those men can't get any traction, and that's what church for men is about, that's what my book is about.  I'm not calling men back to the church, I'm calling our churches back to men.

Dennis: I've heard a lot of discipleship stories.  I really tend to agree with you – it seems to me the normative way men are impacted is man to man.  It is older man to younger man; older man to boy; it is a male, masculine model of communicating the love of Christ, the truth of Christ, making it incarnate in front of another man or a boy's life.

 And if you look at the Scripture, the overwhelming data in the Bible, is that God used men to impact men.  It wasn't that He didn't raise up an Esther or as Timothy was impacted by his grandmother.  It's not that God doesn't use women, He does, but the normative way men are ministered to and profoundly discipled is man to man.

Bob: You and I have talked to a lot of women on FamilyLife Today.  We've learned from and benefited from and been stretched by their thinking and their insights and their wisdom.

Dennis: No doubt about it.

Bob: I'm thinking of interviews with Elisabeth Elliot and Nancy Leigh DeMoss; I'm thinking about Shaunti Feldhahn being on the program.  These are women who God has used to help us understand more about Him, more about life, more about marriage and family.  It's not that a man can't learn from a woman, but I think what you're saying is that God seems to have a pattern and an order for men to grow up and understand manhood in the context of that being explained to them by other men.

David: And women and men should work in concert to bring the next generation of men to faith in Christ.  I agree with you wholeheartedly on that.  But there is a difference between learning about God and learning to follow God.  Men follow the example of other men.  So women have a role to play, and men have a role to play.

Dennis: And, David, Bob and I have spoken here as openly and as honestly as we possibly can, knowing that there are a good number in the Christian community who would really disagree with what we're saying here.

Bob: And who are going to write to us and express their disagreement, probably.

Dennis: Yeah, and you know what?  I welcome those letters, and I've gotten some letters from some angry women and a few from men who say we're off-balance here, and we're not reflecting the Scripture, and all I want to say is I am doing my best to represent the truth of God's Word and the overwhelming that it presents, all the way from Genesis to Revelation in an era, in a time, when, in my opinion, masculinity is being redefined, recast, and restructured to rob men of who God made them to be.  And it's not that men don't need to have a soft side, a tender side, a gentle side.  They do.  We need to learn that. 

But you know what?  The great need today in the body of Christ and for the Christian community, in my opinion, is for a groundswell of men to be raised up, both single and married, who champion the cause of Christ and who want to take the hill, who want to be courageous and who want to represent Christ.  And I think the way we're going to get those men is man to man.  I don't think they're going to show up at a women's prayer meeting or a women's Bible study group.  And it's not that they aren't welcome there and can't learn there, they can.  I'm just simply saying in order for that to happen, I think we're going to have to have strong men leading other men to know how to be strong followers of Jesus Christ.

Bob: We've talked about what some churches are doing in an effort to try to connect on a man-to-man level with other men.  And it may be that the worship service is not the primary target that needs to be addressed, although we've talked about what the sanctuary can and should look like, and what some churches are doing that's somewhat novel in that regard.  But, really, it's about creating an environment where men can go, "This doesn't feel weird, and I see other men.  This is okay, I can be myself here," right?

David: Exactly.  A man has to know in the first three minutes that he walks into a church that this is something for him and not just something for his grandma, and unfortunately the vibe that we send to men is that you're not going to get any traction here because you're not as good as the women, you're not as good at emoting, verbal expression, nurturing, all the things that we value in the church, she's better than you are.  Men are competitive; men always want to win.  What we have to do is create churches where men can win, and fortunately, that's being done in pockets around the country.

 You mentioned the church I attend, there are some good churches in Phoenix, in Little Rock that I've visited, but very few churches really get it when it comes to men, and we've got to turn that around.

Bob: You're talking around the country to men's groups, to churches.  You were just recently with the National Coalition of Men's Ministries.  Is what you're talking about stirring up some thinking?

David: Oh, my goodness, everywhere I go, people are tapping me on the shoulder – "Dave, thank you for writing that book."  I wish you guys could see my e-mail.  Every day I get half-a-dozen e-mails from men around the world who are saying, "Finally, a book that describes how I feel about church."  These are men who love God, a lot of men who are missionaries, who are serving God full time, but they just can't stand what church has become.  And that just breaks my heart.

 I mean, church should be a celebration where both men and women can encounter Jesus Christ in a powerful way.  But, unfortunately, 95 percent of the guys who come to our churches don't see it as their primary way of relating to God.

Dennis: I wonder if we had a woman in the studio right now, if she'd be saying, "Well, you know what?  There are a lot of us women who don't feel like church has been designed for us, either."

David: There's a lot of women who would like a more challenging, adventurous walk with God, and especially this younger generation of women.  They've been raised after women's liberation.  They don't want a lace-doily faith.  They want a faith that's just as adventurous as the men do.  So I think if we bring more of the masculine spirit into our churches, we're not only going to revive the men, we're going to encourage the women in the same stroke.

Bob: I think the point needs to be made here, too – churches that might attempt to do what you're talking about in a trite or a superficial manner, are going to look foolish.  It really does have to take a fundamental embracing of the reality of masculinity.  You can't just say, "Okay, we'll put up some sports banners around the church and hope that this somehow is attractive to men."  You've got to understand manhood, you've got to embrace it, you've got to be about it, and say, "This is good, and we affirm it."

David: Well, you've got to value men.  I mean, right now, if every man in the church took Sunday off, the church could – except for the pastor – the church could easily function.  But what if every woman took Sunday off?  The church would grind to a halt.  Men know that.  Men know they're not needed.  So we need a church system where men, laymen, are desperately needed, and we don't have that right now.

Bob: And, again, I come back to this foundational, or this fundamental, idea in order to be attractive to men we really have to stand back and say, "Do we affirm and do we embrace and do we support and believe that masculinity is a good thing – the things that you've talked about – adventure and courage and challenge and boldness?  Do we think those are values that ought to be affirmed and exalted, or are we uncomfortable with those?  You know, the culture is saying those are bad things, those are man things, and some in the church have bought into that and said we're not sure boldness is a good thing.

David: We talk a good game, but we tend to discourage those things because those things upset people, and a lot of pastors have learned that the way to keep a happy church functioning is to keep everybody safe, everybody calm, and when boldness, when masculinity rears its head in the church, we don't know what to do with it.  But if you look at the life of Jesus, if you look at the churches that are prospering in our country, they're all about boldness, aggressiveness, moving out, moving beyond the walls of the church.  That's all men need.  We just need to walk what we're talking.

Dennis: And when I first came alive to Christ, I will never forget this – at the University of Arkansas – it wasn't that I had rejected the meek and mild Jesus, but I'd just never seen Jesus Christ for who He really was – who was a man's man and who looked men in the eyes with a piercing look that looked into their soul, called them away from sin, called them to be courageous, called them a mission, the greatest commission that has ever been given to male or female.

 And when I saw Him for who He was, that's when the spiritual lights went on in my life as a young man, and church became different for me at that point.  I don't think I walked into church feeling it was quite the matriarchal church that it had been after I really saw Jesus Christ for who He really is.  And, you know, it is interesting that when God decided to take on flesh, He became a man, and He discipled 12 men, and He gave them this mission, and the church has had its ups and downs in carrying on that mission for, now, 2,000 years, and it's our assignment today to take that same encounter with Christ that the Scriptures present and make sure other men see Him for who He really is and paint Him in the bold, masculine, vivid colors that will attract other men and call them to be followers of Christ. 

It's the greatest adventure that I could possibly live and, in fact, after leading a man to Christ here recently, I just was sitting there thinking – I was going, "Why don't I call more men to follow Christ?  Why don't I compel them wherever I go to meet the Savior, because He makes men real men, God's men, the men that He made them to be.

 Well, you know, Bob, I've just been invigorated by this discussion of manhood this week, haven't you?

Bob: Yes, I have been.

Dennis: It's been fun and, David, I want to thank you for writing your book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church."  David Murrow has been with us all this week, and you're a kindred spirit warrior, and I just appreciate you, and I hope when you get back to Anchorage, you'll tell my buddies, Karl and Dan, hi for me.

David: I'll give them a big hug for you, how is that?

Dennis: Do that, and then look them in the eye and then ask them, "Are you clean?

David: All right.

Dennis: Because that's a question that we ask one another on our speaker team that speaks at our Weekend to Remember conferences all around the country.

Bob: Now, wait, this big hug – you weren't being tongue-in-cheek – just getting the point back to that's what women do and men don't, is that what you were saying?

David: You know, here's the thing – when men know each other, they trust each other, they've battled together – what do men do after they score a touchdown?  They're all hugging and everything.

Bob: Yeah, that’s right.

David: In a lot of churches, you have a very hug-rich environment.  You've got strangers hugging each other.

Bob: Yeah?

David: A lot of men are uncomfortable with that.  So I was talking to an African-American brother who had been praying for a man for years to come to church, and that brother finally came to church, and it was a very huggy church.  And when he said when he hugged that guy, it was like hugging a two-by-four. 

Bob: I bet.

David: He did not want to be hugged by these strange men.

Bob: What are you doing hugging me, yeah.

David: So there's lots of little things that we do in the church that make men uncomfortable.

Dennis: Yeah, but you know what I've found?  I think after a man feels like it's safe to be there …

David: He loves it.

Dennis: He enjoys a man-to-man hug.

David: It's all about the context.

Dennis: I just gave a man a hug just before we came into the studio.  He's a great friend.  That's good, that's healthy.  I am not going to allow my culture to rob me of that kind of healthy, godly embrace.  And I think that's what Jesus Christ came to do.  He came to redeem us from that manhood that is selfish; that is exploitive; that is carnal and fleshly and just wants to use people, to becoming a man who is tenderhearted, caring, a spiritual leader, and he wants to make us into men who know how to express the love of God to this generation.

David: I agree.  When brothers have fought together, and they know each other, and they trust each other, hugging is good.

Bob: Yeah.

David: But in some churches we're so indiscriminate with it that if a guy has been abused sexually …

Dennis: Yeah, sure.

David: He's got guys hugging on him, he says, "Get me the bleep out of here."

Bob: And I think the point is that hugging is just one of those things.  This isn't about hugging, it's about the things we do in church that may cause a guy to back up a step instead of inviting him in, and we've got to be aware of that, and we've got to be alert to it, and we've got to figure out what we can do so that men would say, "That's a place I want to be," rather than "That's a place I'm uncomfortable being."

 And, again, I think the premise of your book is a provocative one for anybody who is involved in church work, whether it's a pastor or an elder or a deacon or anybody who heads a men's ministry, anybody who just cares about men being a church – they will benefit from reading the book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church."  They may not agree with all of the conclusions, but that's okay.  At least it will stimulate their thinking around what kinds of things can we do or stop doing that may be subconsciously keeping guys away from church. 

 We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Again, it's called "Why Men Hate Going to Church," by David Murrow.  You can request a copy when you go to our website,  In the center of the screen, you'll see "Today's Broadcast," and you click on that, and it will take you right to the page where there's more information about David's book.  We're also recommending you consider getting a book by Stu Weber called "All the King's Men."  Stu is a pastor, a former Green Beret.  He understands something about men needing other men and being a spiritual band of brothers, and that's what this book is about – how men can connect together and strength encourage one another and strengthen the church at the same time.

 Again, find more information about these resources on our website at, click the center of the screen where it says, "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you right to a page where there is more information about these resources.  If you order both David and Stu's books, we'll send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with David Murrow, and if you would prefer to call to request these resources, the number is toll-free, it's 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

 I guess because of Valentine's Day, a lot of people have begun to look at the month of February as a month when we focus on romance and love and passion and intimacy in marriage, and this month we wanted to make available to anyone who can help with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today a message on CD from Jody and Linda Dillow that deals with this subject very biblically and, I think, very helpfully.  The message is called "The Four Flames of Intimacy," and we've featured it before here on FamilyLife Today.  It's a powerful message.  We're sending it out to anyone who requests it and who makes a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month.

 We are listener-supported, and those donations help keep us on the air here and in cities all across the country.  So if you can help with a donation during the month of February, you can request a copy of this CD.  If you're donating online, there is a keycode box you'll come to.  Type in the word "flame," and that way well know you'd like the CD sent to you.  Of if you're calling to make a donation at 1-800-FLTODAY just mention that you'd like a copy of the CD on intimacy, and we'll be happy to send that out to you as a thank you for your financial support of the ministry this month.  Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY or you can donate online at, and we appreciate your partnership with us.

 Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in church, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday.  Josh Weidmann and his dad, Jim, are going to be here, and Josh is going to help us understand that there are things teenagers really wish their parents understood about them.  We'll talk about that on Monday, I hope you'll 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.  Have a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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