"The stallions hang out in bars; the geldings hang out in church." This observation from David Murrow strikes a little close to home for someone like me. I always thrived in my congregation but was never certain I fit the mold of masculinity I saw modeled around me. So as much as I resent Murrow's sentiment, it nevertheless rings true: In many churches, a certain type of man is conspicuously absent.

The disparity in men's and women's attendance in American churches has made men the target of specialized ministry over the last two decades. Promise Keepers kicked off the men's movement in 1990 by challenging stadiums full of men and boys to fulfill their duties to God and their families. Today a growing body of literature is leveling its sights on the church, suggesting that men are uninvolved in church life because the church doesn't encourage authentic masculine participation.

The first writer to popularize this concern was John Eldredge, who, in his three-million-selling Wild at Heart (Thomas Nelson, 2001), lamented that the masculine spirit was at risk because "most men believe God put them on the earth to be good boys." The church's tendency to promote discipleship as merely becoming "nice guys" keeps men from embodying their God-given maleness.

Wild at Heart sowed seeds that have sprouted as a new "masculinity movement" aimed to get men into church by changing the church's atmosphere. David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church (Thomas Nelson, 2004), founded the group Church for Men because, while the local congregation is "perfectly designed to reach women and older folks"—with its emphasis on comfort, nurture, and relationships—it "offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant." ...

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April 2008

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