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Friday, January 6, 2012
Why Men Hate Going to Church (Completely Revised and Updated) by David Murrow
Powerful and dead on.
Published 2011 by Thomas Nelson
237 pages, including end notes.
David Murrow has put a lot of thought into why men do not go to church. I am in my mid-40s and have gone to church all of my life, with the exception of 2 or 3 years right after college where my wife and I went every once in a while at best. We have been at the same church for 18 years.
We have a great church but we do have wives that come to church without their husbands week in and week out - not many, but after reading this book and being made more aware of the issue I am sure I will notice more. Murrow has studied and interviewed and talked and listened about this topic for years and he has come up with 12 reasons that men do not come to church. Among them are:
-I'll hate church, like when I was a kid;
-I'll lose control;
-If I become a Christian, I'll become soft;
-Church is full of hypocrites;
-All they want is my money;
-I'm jealous (women who idolize the pastor or men resenting the time their wives spend at church);
-I'm being held to an impossible standard.
I've heard all of these excuses (and more) for not going to church and I've had those thoughts myself so I got it when Murrow discusses these topics. Sometimes he even brought up things that I hadn't even realized I was bothered by, such as songs and church language that emphasize "relationship and romance" (p. 99) Men, if you have not noticed, are notoriously clutzy, as a group, with relationships. Don't talk about being intimate with Jesus. Not a comfortable image for most guys. Instead, give men a mission (like the old Blues Brothers movie where Jake and Elwood tell everyone they "are on a mission from God.").
The problem is that church, like school, has gradually become an environment run by women, maintained by women and very female-centric. It is highly verbal, lots of talk about relatioships, full of songs that Murrow refers to as "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs (he fulfills your every emotional need and holds you in his arms). The largest Christian music radio network is K-Love. My wife loves it. I don't. She ought to love it - it is aimed at a mythical listener named "Kathy" - a thirty-something soccer mom with two kids, a minivan and a mortgage. 2/3 of K-Love listeners are women and a whole lot of their songs are soft rock "Jesus is my boyfriend" stuff. (pages 66-7)
Men feel like they are not welcome by the decor, the songs, the style of service and the lack of things they can do to participate. Who wants to stay where they are not welcome?
I am a public school teacher. I can testify to the fact that boys and girls tend to learn differently. Church (and the sermon) is the weekly chance to teach men and women about the Christian faith. Do not make this experience all "girl friendly" and leave out many (but not all) men because the church favors one gender's way of doing things (Murrow actually presents statistics that show that women stay and enjoy church even if it really tilted towards a man's way of thinking).
Murrow provides lots of examples of what to do and what not to do, including success stories (including one from a church led by a female pastor - statistically the worst indicator of male involvement). I was excited by the chapter entitled "How Men Minister to Others" - lots of great ideas. It made me think about how two of our most active leaders were motivated to become more involved by mens' retreats. One really did not want to go, but he came back all fired up because he found out there were regular guys at church who drink beer while they study the Bible (yes, we do, but only on the mens' retreat) and he has organized and participated in any number of activities (as well as being an Elder). The second guy I was thinking about went on a weekend servant event (I went, too) - we helped a family re-do their home after a devestating flood (this event was organized by the first guy I was talking about) and had a couple of small Bible studies, played some cards, and had a real good time when we were not working. I enjoyed it but the second guy was inspired to really get involved and he has not slowed down a bit.
My wife is reading this book next (I talked about it while I was reading it) and we're passing it on to others in our church. Who knows what will happen?
The book has an accompanying discussion guide available at Murrow's website: http://www.churchformen.com/ .
I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Why Men Hate Going to Church.
Reviewed on January 6, 2011.
I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program in exchange for an honest review.