A Jesus for Real Men
"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 relationshipsit "offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant."
Inspired by Murrow, comedian Brad Stine began GodMen, a ministry that provides space in which "men can be men; raw and uninhibited; completely free to express themselves in the uniquely male way that only men understand." In a 2002 GodMen meeting, this experience included videos of karate fights, car chases, and songs like "Grow a Pair!" whose lyrics read:
We've been beaten down
Feminized by the culture crowd
No more nice guy, timid and ashamed
Grab a sword, don't be scared
Be a man, grow a pair!
It's not sung to the tune of "In the Garden."
The message of Church for Men and GodMen is resonating with ministers of all stripes. Following Murrow's advice, Don Wilson, pastor of Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona, has geared his entire ministry toward reaching young men. And while his ministry is not to men in particular, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church, nevertheless desires greater testosterone in contemporary Christianity. In Driscoll's opinion, the church has produced "a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks," he explains, "and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks."
The aspect of church that men find least appealing is its conception of Jesus. Driscoll put this bluntly in his sermon "Death by Love" at the 2006 Resurgence theology conference (available at TheResurgence.com). According to Driscoll, "real men" avoid the church because it projects a "Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ" that "is no one to live for [and] is no one to die for." Driscoll explains, "Jesus was not a long-haired effeminate-looking dude"; rather, he had "callused hands and big biceps." This is the sort of Christ men are drawn towhat Driscoll calls "Ultimate Fighting Jesus."