Level Four evangelism – “man-friendly church” was once a far-off, lofty place we only aspired to one day reach. In the meantime, there was a whole stack of work to be shifted in getting Levels One and Two off the ground. (To the uninitiated, in CVM’s Four-Level Evangelism Strategy, these are ‘content’-free socials, and food plus speaker events, respectively). At Dawlish Christian Fellowship, in South Devon, we grew tired of waiting for Level One to ever give us a leg-up to Level Four, so we decided to turn the whole thing on its head and start working on Level Four right now. Not that we’ve stopped meeting new guys out in the community, but if we don’t sort this, our men’s ministry will only ever be a waiting room for men who are all dressed up with nowhere to go, at least not on a Sunday morning. Nothing frustrates men leading men in church like ‘invitophobia’ – the inherent fear of bringing unchurched men into church because we are either, a) not sure what it will be like on that particular Sunday, or worse, b) knowing all too well what it will be like.
So, what does Level Four look like for us? Well, firstly, I’m going to openly admit that we’re not there yet. Our décor, our worship, and our coffee might fail to inspire Dave Murrow – we’re ‘on a journey’ as the post-modern cliché goes. More significant than where we currently are, is where we are currently heading, and our compass is set to “man-friendly”. Here are four values that I believe are essential, in addition to the blatantly obvious fact of being a Bible-based, Gospel-driven, Spirit-led church, if we are to retain the men we reach. In no particular order, as they say…
1. Spontaneous humour.
Men have a caricature of Christianity in their heads that is dull and party-pooping, as if you get handed a long list of ‘can’t do’s’ on the way in through the door. Genuine humour has real power to very quickly dismantle this preconception. We find that spontaneous ‘off-the-cuff’ material goes down even better than telling well-rehearsed jokes, good as that can be. Spontaneity seems real, because it is, and it makes the church look like a place where anything could happen in the next half hour. To pull this off needs quick-witted, vulnerable service leaders who are ready to seize the moment. It doesn’t always come off, but it’s so worth the risk. One young woman in our congregation recently quipped ‘I love it when church goes wrong’, and she meant it as a real positive, which shows we’re helping the women, too. Humour turns an awkward silence into an opportunity for an authentic connection.
2. Top quality.
No-one wants a fake, plastic church; everyone’s these days in sick-to-death of being sold something. And yet, I’d equally hate to put pressure on any church leader to have to do every little thing to the ‘nth’ degree just to keep the men happy – the last thing we’re to be is people pleasers. But we won’t reach men with a rubbish sound system and weak tea. Men just vote with their feet if it’s rubbish. Let’s get the basics solid and reliable so we can make space for a spontaneous and genuine church experience that men will love. They might not be impressed by the things they take for granted, but neither will they complain and leave. Make it good. Not perfect, but good, and a maybe a little rough at the edges to breed confidence that it is real.
3. Brutal honesty.
In preaching, don’t hold back; give the message like it is. Men love and appreciate honesty as we’re mostly very poor at second-guessing and working out hidden meanings. ‘Since we have such a hope, we are very bold’, so let’s be very bold. And do not be afraid of the old ladies; when I preach like this the most encouraging comments I get are often from old ladies. They don’t look very radical, but they often are on the inside. Give all the glory to Jesus and set the bar reachable, but high. Challenge the men to stand up and take a step – if they think they’ve got what it takes. The key is that every man secretly wants to believe this of themselves – “You cut the mustard”, “You da’ man”. OK, we all know Jesus is really “da’ man”, but you get the point – if our identity is hidden in Christ, we are what He makes us. Therein lies the challenge to men to be godly activists.
4. Real simplicity.
As well as a blunt message, men also like blunt, direct language that tells it like it is. We need an everyday theology that connects the Word into the real world – after all, we should to be whole-life disciple-makers who value the spiritual significance of the daily work that most men do, paid or voluntary. Major on using the most ordinary, mundane illustrations you can in your preaching and illustrate almost everything to add colour and life to the message. Avoid all forms of theological language, including use of the word theological (oops!). Find another way to say it, a clearer way, a better way. Imagine you’re talking to a 25-year old labourer who has no church background and no Bible knowledge. The objective is to “de-pigeonhole” the Christian faith, dismantle the caricature and reveal the real thing. KISS
Keep it simple stupid!
5. Raw edginess.
Men often recommend things to other men based on perceived “edginess”. Edginess is a man’s way of discerning goodness. If there’s some form of kudos involved in doing it, using it or visiting it, men will happily ‘sell’ it without even being asked. Church was always meant to be dangerous and costly and not for the faint-hearted. How did we manage to turn it into a ladies’ knitting circle? Maybe it started when we saw fit to segregate discipleship from mission and made what’s really one thing into two things. So let’s reunite hearing the Word and doing it, and let’s offer a church experience for men that presents opportunities for direct action, positively subversive behaviour, and a measure of risk and danger. Sounds like the early church to me. Or is it the suffering church. Same difference, eh?