Book Review:




While I try to keep most of my book reviews in the Media portion of my website, I wanted to include this one here because it speaks to a problem in the church, one that hasn’t been talked about too much.  For a number of years now, John Eldredge’s book Wild At Heart has given hope to men who feel out of place in the feminized church.  But it addresses men’s inward being; this book by David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going To Church, focuses more on what the church needs to do about the problem.

I am a big fan of this book.  This book is loaded with ideas and research I haven't seen anywhere else.  In fact, the author says that's why he wrote the book: he's not a "theologian, pastor, or professor," but when he tried to find information on this topic, there wasn't any!  So he ended up writing the book.

It's a breath of fresh air.  It's some hard-hitting stuff that you've probably never thought of, but it's time for the church to start thinking about it.  The author says this book is not for church leaders but for everyone who attends church, particularly women, because the church today is dominated by feminine styles--relational styles, words used, decor, and so on.  Women need to realize the things they expect from a church that turn off men.  The author gives many examples of "peer pressure," so to speak, from women in the church, which prevents men from being men.

What’s In The Book

The book is divided into six parts.  In part 1, the author begins with anecdotes to show the problem on a personal level, then uses some practical examples to highlight ways that churches make men uncomfortable.  He finishes part 1 with nine reasons why it's important to have men in the church.

In part 2, Murrow presents research that shows specifically the gap in gender between men and women in churches.  He even has statistics that show which denominations have a greater problem at this, and why.  (An example from the book: Episcopalians have the highest gender gap, which he attributes to that denomination being the most feminine--and he explains what he means by that.)

Part 3 describes the nature of men, first from knowledge of biology and the social sciences, and then from some cultural examples. One of my favorites is his side-by-side comparison of "Real Men" vs. "Church Men," according to the culture at large. A few examples:  Real men go to parties, church men go to potlucks.  Real men drink beer, church men drink grape juice.  Real men drive cool cars, church men drive the church van.  Real men hang out in bars with babes, church men hang out with babies in the nursery.

Part 4 investigates men's view of the church and their reaction to it. It begins with a chapter entitled, "Men Are Afraid...Very Afraid."  Fears regarding church that men have include being singled out and embarrassed, having to sing in public, and fears of having to "check their minds at the door" as well as fearing the Christian lifestyle (what "church men" do).  The last chapter in this section, "Check Your Manhood At The Door," is one of the most powerful in the book, revealing things you've probably never thought of that turn off the typical man.  In the section that talks about the kinds of words and imagery often used in church, he shows how this is the kind of stuff to make a man flee, by an example of putting church talk into bikers' mouths:

Biker 1: "Hey, Spike, let's go for a ride in the desert so we can develop a passionate relationship."

Biker 2: "Sure, Rocco.  I'd like to enjoy some intimacy with you."

There are no sacred cows in this book. He lists lines from worship songs that are very popular and just by isolating the lines he does, it becomes glaringly apparent how feminine so many popular worship songs are.  He suggests that the whole organizational structures of most churches are set up in a way that is counter to men’s sensibilities.  He denounces authors and speakers who tell women to consider Jesus their husband--something dangerous for a marriage.  (He points out that no individual woman is the bride of Christ; the church is the bride of Christ.) He criticizes the focus so many churches have on women and children, which alienates men.  He maintains that churches who cater to men will not only have men but women and children too, and he gives both anecdotal examples and statistics to support his assertion.

Part 5 consists of six chapters that give very specific examples of what a church can do to become more palatable to men.  (Actually, the whole tone of the book is stronger than that; it's more like CHURCHES MUST REACH MEN OR THE CHURCH WILL DIE.) Included in this section is a whole chapter written specifically to women on how they must relate to men in order to make churches welcoming to men.

Part 6 closes the book by reiterating the critical importance of the church changing its ways to reach out to men, but from a different angle: by describing men's deepest needs, and how the church needs to meet them.  


It’s Too Feminine!

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My Reaction

The reason I am a big fan of this book is not because I feel out of place at churches.  I don’t feel out of place in churches; I feel right at home.  And that’s why I find this book to be important.  Since I feel right at home in churches, I have not been aware of the kinds of things present in churches that cause many men to wince and want to run (or just stay away). 

You see, there are a percentage of men who don’t fit the stereotypical masculine style.  I am one of them.  In school, I was always made fun of for being a sissy.  The satirical Canadian TV news show This Hour Has 22 Minutes once had a segment about guys in the military who didn’t fit well, not because they were gay, but because they were “girlish.”  While I don’t quite fit the term “girlish,” in a number of ways I’m not the typical guy.  In general, I find sports to be awfully boring.  I don’t like roughing around or hanging out with a bunch of guys.  I enjoy talking about my feelings.  Colors aren’t just pink, but mauve, rose, fuchsia, etc.  And purple and pink are two of my favorite colors!  So I’m not your typical guy.

Because of that, I was not aware of all the things present in a church that turn off the typical guy.  Thus, this book was important for me.  So I agree with the author, that this book should be read not just by church leaders, but also laypeople, especially women, who like me are likely not aware of these situations.  And all of us at church need to be aware of these things, so that we can make sure the church environment isn’t loaded to the gills with stuff that turns guys off.

The author is not suggesting that church should become a place where women feel uncomfortable, only that it should be more balanced so that men can relate to church as well as women can.

Jesus opened up church to women.  Now that the women have taken over, it’s time for the church to open the church back up to men.

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The book gave an example of the way decor can affect men.  At one church, there was a prayer room in which the walls were painted pink, there were flowers all around, tissues out in the open, etc.  Men were rarely seen in there.  So they changed the room by changing the color, putting warfare elements in it (after all, prayer is spiritual warfare), and they hid the tissues.  After that, men started using the prayer room...and women continued to do so.

One way I’ve become more sensitive to this kind of thing:  At our church, between worship songs, they often put up color photographs on the screen.  Nearly always, it’s some kind of flower or other feminine flavor of nature scene.  If you’re going to use nature scenes, where are the majestic mountains, the stunning cliffs, and the places a hardcore outdoorsman would love?  If it’s all pretty flowers, the underlying message to the guys is, “This Christianity stuff is delicate and pretty...nice for your wife or girlfriend, but not for you.”  It needs to be a mixture.

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Here’s a blog posting by someone else on this topic, with lots of comments discussing the posting.
Why Men Hate Church
by Tim Abrahamsen

Here’s a blog posting by someone else on this topic, with lots of comments discussing the posting.

Why Men Hate Church

by Tim Abrahamsen