Men today still look for robust and strong environments to forge friendships. They may not express it like this but men really do desire authentic relationship. Men want a “band of brothers” that they can stand shoulder to shoulder with. So, they shoot off to the pub, to the match, curry house or the lodge meeting! In reality men don’t expect to find a band of brothers in a church, so they just don’t look there. For the most part, major male driving forces are money, sex, and power. I’m sure some of you will want to argue that with me (and yes I am painting a broad brush-stroke picture) but before you do, just consider the most popular question men ask when getting to know another man:
“What do you do for a living?”
Why is that the most popular question? Simply because men instinctively want to work out the hierarchy and the pecking order in the new relationship. It’s why when you go to an expensive gym you see men place their car keys on the bar with the brand of car on display (unless like me you have an Eastern European car!) It’s why men say “I’ve got the BMW parked outside …” instead of, “I’ve got the car parked outside.”
Men will instinctively (thanks in part to the media) believe that what the church has to say about those issues will be diametrically opposite to what they want to hear. For the most part they are right. The publishers of some of the best selling quality men’s magazines know want men want as a result of extensive and expensive research. You can read some of it in on the internet and it makes for fascinating reading. Their livelihoods and profit margins depend on them featuring content that men are interested in and so they make sure they have got it right.
By contrast, in the church we don’t research the culture, nor do we even read the magazines and therefore we so often fail to hit the spot. Call me an old fashioned orthodox Christian, but I truly believe that we have people’s eternal destinies at stake, not a mere profit margin. We need to engage in some serious thinking and cultural engagement.
Take for instance the issues of status and success. These are of huge significance to many men, which is why their work is of such importance. Yet church rarely, if ever, tackles workplace issues head on. You could easily attend most churches for years and come to the conclusion that God isn’t interested in what happens 9-5 at all! But where does that leave men?
Carry out an audit; take a look at your church. When did you last hear a sermon on work? Do you have a theology of work? When did the church last pray publicly and seriously for those at work? In general we are great at praying for the so called “caring professions” but when have you heard a prayer for a Tesco van driver, a policeman dealing with child abuse work, a solicitor handling divorce work each week or a train driver who must spot the red lights or endure the trauma of suicide attempts?
We pray for those in “full time Christian” work and we tend to pray for those in teaching or medicine (because they are perceived to be more Kingdom orientated as they are caring professions) but we leave out the vast majority because we haven’t developed a robust and holistic theology of every day life. When it comes to teaching in church, Christian men – let alone those yet to believe – will sit under sound and tremendously accurate Bible-teaching only to wonder what’s in the service for them. The preaching deals at best with generic issues, or with churchy or touch-feely things, and the very things that absorb so much of a man’s time and energy mid-week are never mentioned. While we sit under teaching about how to pray better or give more, most men will be thinking about the challenges of the week ahead.
Consider the real things confronting a man at work this week:
- Setting Profit and Loss
- Fiscal control in hard times
- Negotiating Skills
- Human Resource Management without exploitation
- Integrity in advertising
- Handling redundancy – each side
- Conflict Resolution
- Sexual Harassment
- Discrimination – race, gender, religion, disability
- Time Management
- Work, home, church balance
- Personal ambition
- Debt issues
- Late payment terms
- Negotiating parameters
- Knowing when to close down
- Employing Christians because they’re Christians
- The place for compassion
- Self Image
- Corporate sponsorship of Christian events
Let me emphasise again: Men are being spiritually starved in church and they are voting with their feet! The decline in male attendance at church is almost terminal. “Believing” men are switching off to church at an incredible rate. We desperately need churches to engage with men on the real issues they face.
Part three will be published on Wednesday 12th August.