25 July 2008

Real Men Don't Want a Tame God

There was an interesting article by Cathy Lynn Grossman in the USA Today yesterday (linky). It talked about how men are coming to church in fewer numbers, and touched upon some reasons as to why the trend is developing the way it is.

I'll tell you why:

Churches tell men to behave. To sit quiet and listen. To not make a fuss. That there's a certain way that Christians act, and if you want to be a Christian, you have to act this certain way.

Too often, this message runs contrary to how men are put together. We were created to be wild, fierce, and free. We're just not finding anything we can identify with in church these days. We're bored.

John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart, explains that one of the keys to understanding this is found in Genesis. Adam was created outside of the Garden of Eden. He was built to survive in the wilderness. For Eldredge, the wild, untamed Creation holds a very deep, spiritual connection to men in particular, and humanity in general. Adam was created outside of the Garden, in the wilderness. The nation of Israel, God's chosen People, began as a Bedouin herdsman's nomadic family, in intimate connection with the wilderness. On their way out of Egypt, the Israelites wandered (toured?) for 40 years across the Sinai Peninsula, before finally taking back their ancestral lands by force. Jesus, before he began his teaching, went into the desert for a month and a half.

The message from most churches is all nice and squeaky-clean. No dirt, no wilderness, no untamed anything. I think, on some level at least, this turns men away. We want to make things dirty. We want wilderness. We want challenge. The article states, " Warm, nurturing congregations ignore men's need to face the epic struggles of living for Christ," This sentiment is given by David Murrow, of http://www.churchformen.com/. The website provides church resources and ideas for bringing men in and engaging their needs and desires.

121 Community Church, in Grapevine, Texas, was designed and built with this demographic shortfall in mind. The decor is more "lodge-y", with dark green and amber walls, rustic beams supporting the ceiling, and a stone floor in the worship center. The idea behind this, says the pastor, was that if the father comes to church, then 90% of the time, the rest of the family will follow.

An interesting idea, perhaps, and their heart is obviously in the right place, but is it just a marketing gimmick? Guys are more than just RealTree, denim, and pick-em-up trucks. Eldredge says that "real masculinity is spiritual." Is there something in the message that will retain and engage these men, or will they just stay because they like the paint and the trees on the wall?

Comedian Brad Stine's GodMen ministry shows videos of martial-arts fights, car chases, and other action-oriented "typical" guy stuff. It is an attempt to bring men in and engage them, but again, the danger is that we allow that type of behavior to define men.

These aren't the real issues. If I visit a church, I will not stay or go based on the color of paint in the hallway. I won't complain because of the lack of action video sequences before the sermon.

The real issue is the message. Our North American Suburban Christianity is not the passionate, wild, untamed message of the Scriptures. The God we seem to follow here has given us everything we could want, and we now don't need anything from Him. In fact, we tend to not want anything from Him, lest He rock our ever so carefully ballasted boat. That's what needs to change. The church's message has matched our perfectly manicured suburban lawns. Everything is neat and tidy, and we can carry on undisturbed.

Meanwhile, the real world carries on, dirty, untamed, fierce, waiting for us to engage it.



Amy said...

Wild at Heart is a great book and I think that women should read it too. Especially mom's of boys :)

-Tim said...

Your post reminds me of Erwin McManus' book The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within. Have you read it? Very good book... I'm pretty sure it's on our shelves somewhere if you'd like to borrow it.

So, funny you ask about the fiction writing. It's a thought that has been weighing heavily on my mind recently. I've discovered sooo many markets for publishig short fiction and I've had some ideas beginning to rattle around up in the old noggin as of late. It's something I'd really love to devote some time to (however all may free time now is devoted to critical lit analysis for my class). I think I'd be about the happiest boy if I could get something publlished in one of my genre's magazines or the audio mags I listen to. That would be soooo fricken cool!!

And on my way to your page, though your bio, I see you have a new blog... Hmmm? Can we expect to see something soon? It's a great idea. I'm thinking about setting up my own blog for the same purposes, however I'm sure I'd keep all my posts private until I feel confident about them.

Anyway good luck!!!