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12/12/2011

THE CHURCH OF PEOPLE

A recent trend is emerging to bring men back to the church, to destroy the feminized church which drives away red-blooded men, and to create 'men-friendly' congregations.

The proponents point to 'foo-foo' decor, sensitive emotional music, and services and ministries designed to get in touch with the softer side of God.    This attempt to 'man cave' the church is not a way to dominate women, they say, but to liberate men.

"Ten Ways to Man Up Your Church" offers some interesting ideas but also infers some interesting things as well.  What is required is a "manly pastor" - therefore no woman can be a pastor of men simply because they fail in the "manly" category.  This also infers that most male pastors are lacking in the testosterone category as well.  An insult to many fine male pastors.  Next, things should be done excellently or not at all.  Another slap in the face of any group anywhere.  Also, an easy "out" to not do it.  Reminds me of someone whose idea of "picnic" was always so over the top, you would have had to cook for a week to prepare for it, and save a month to pay for it. Simple sandwiches and fun would not do. How many picnics did the family take?  None.  This may not be the end result of the strive for excellence but it could be.  It could also lead to a competitive approach to church..."Now, I want you to go out there this morning for this service, and give a 110%!!!"     Issues of giving men "space" and "speaking plain prayers" are valid and needed regardless of gender!   The imperative to respect men's time and avoiding services which drag on and on....are equally applicable to either gender.  Women probably enjoy long drawn out services no less than men.  There should be equal respect and honor of time.  

The basic issue is what have we made of church?  

What would a church decorated by men look like?  A military barracks or monk's cell devoid of anything of the arts or comfort?  Would it look like a ubiquitous sports bar?   Or, the teenage boy's never cleaned room?   Would it be finely appointed or mimalist?   Would it appeal only to men?  

Would every sermon be filled with sport metaphors and stories?  Every prayer time take on the look and feel of a huddle?  Would the sanctuary evolve into a men's area around a large screen TV with recliners with women in kitchen or out shopping?  

Barna research group indicates, though, women are also leaving the church.   It may not be just a gender issue, but a relevance issue.   It is not easy to manage, program, and plan for a church of both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and the like.  Too many churches have become like cruise ships offering diverse entertainments and activities to fill the time.  We have built long traditions of what has to be in a church service.

Instead of genderizing church even more, even in the name of balance, perhaps the emphasis should be on reshaping church into a more relevant, New Testament place of worship, training, and community.

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