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SATURDAY, AUGUST 13, 2005
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James L. Evans

The quest for a manlier church

David Murrow, an award winning television producer and devoted Christian, is worried about men not coming to church. Not just any men — but real men.

"Tough, earthy working guys rarely come to church," Murrow told a Cox News Service reporter. "These high achievers, alpha males, risk takers and visionaries are in short supply, and fun-lovers and adventurers are under-represented in the pews."

In his book, "Why Men Hate Going to Church," Murrow amasses a litany of indicators that prove, for him at least, that the church has been emasculated.

For instance, according to Murrow, the typical U.S. congregation draws an adult crowd that is 61 percent female and 39 percent male. Murrow claims this gender gap is present in all age categories. On average, he notes, on any given Sunday, there are 13 million more adult women than men in America's churches.

Furthermore, Murrow asserts that the majority of church employees are women, even in churches that have male ordained leadership. He also notes that even though 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five of six call themselves Christian, only two of six attend church on any given Sunday.

It has not always been this way according to Murrow. The 1950s and 1960s were marked by rapid growth in mainline churches. These were the "greatest generation" folks who poured their energies into building faith communities.

But in the 1970s, younger men started to withdraw from churches. Women had taken over churches, "leaving undeniable fingerprints of femininity" on all church activities.

"Praise and worship services are 20-30 minutes of love songs to Jesus Christ in words no man would say to another," Murrow said. "What the church needs is less wiping noses and more pounding nails."

Even if Murrow is right about the gender gap, there are serious problems with the idea of trying to make the church manlier. For one thing, the image of maleness he has grabbed onto is a transitory cultural ideal of manhood. There is also the danger of diminishing the role of women as the church seeks to promote the role of men.

What makes more sense and is certainly more consistent with biblical teaching is for the church to promote a spirituality that is rooted in our common experience as human beings. In other words, we in the church are challenged to maintain a spirituality that is neither male nor female but rather is distinctly human.

For Christians the ultimate expression of human existence has traditionally been found in Jesus. The church has long held that Jesus is the ultimate role model for human life. In him we are able to find all that we need to live our lives as human beings — male and female.

He was certainly no wimp as he stood up to Roman governors and religious legalists. And yet, he was not afraid to show his emotions as he wept over Jerusalem. We can be sure his hands were calloused from his work as a carpenter, but he also was a pretty good poet judging from the Sermon on the Mount. He loved parties and at least once kept the party going by turning water into wine. But he hated violence and counseled men and women to turn the other cheek.

To paraphrase Paul, we don't need a church that is more male than female, or more white than black, or more Republican than Democrat. We just need a church that tries to follow Jesus.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church. He can be reached at faithmatters@mindspring.com.

James L. Evans James L. Evans

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