A growing acknowledgment exists among many religious leaders that it’s crucial for the church to become more receptive to the issues facing their 21st century congregants.
This is news that is probably not all that surprising to most people. Men are less likely to embrace religion than women. There have been a number of studies conducted that have confirmed this fact. A survey completed by Ellison Research found that almost one third—31% of men never attend church even on holidays. These figures are very striking and revelatory.
Most of us would likely not dispute the fact that a sizable percentage of men spend their Sundays satisfying their randy cravings for sports, beer and catching up on sleep loss during the week. Attending Sunday worship is not a high priority on their list. That being said, the fact is there is also another segment of men who do not follow such a regimen, yet who still do not attend church as well. The reasons for this situation are multifaceted and varied.
Some likely reasons include:
- Men are looking for relevance
- Their fathers did not attend church
- Many men want to be seen as successful
- Many men, particularly, younger men want to be challenged
- Many men have lost faith in God or do not not believe in God
- Many men see the church as hypocritical
- A number of men are looking for camaraderie
- Many men see the church as being hostile to them.
The list goes on. Let’s address some of these factors:
- Many men in our 21st century society do not see the value of attending church due to the the fact that they do not see the church as addressing issues that are relevant to their current or everyday lives. Issues such as work, family, sexuality, finances, education etc… are topics that are likely to be rarely or ever addressed from the pulpit. Thus they do not see the doctrine of the current church as relating to them.
- Guys who do not attend church are likely to be the offspring of fathers who did not attend church. These are the men who likely saw their fathers often criticize or berate the church or religion in general and were more inclined to sleep in or engage in other activities on Sundays. These attitudes were often further solidified once these men reached adulthood.
- How many men do you know who want to be seen as a loser, failure or derelict? My answer would be ZERO! Or at least, I have never met any. Men want to be seen as winners and achievers. They want to be seen as aspirational. The image of being number one or embodying a sense of heroism is commonplace in the psyche of most men regardless of race, age, religion or socioeconomic status. Many see the church as wanting men who are average, conformist and cut from the same non-threatening cloth. This is undoubtedly a turn off for younger men, particularly millennials and a few Generation Xers.
- Many men (not all) by nature tend to be competitive. A large number of men seek risk, adventure, change, competition, action etc… They see the church in its contemporary state as discouraging such traits and rather, promoting an image of masculinity that is emasculating as opposed to empowering for men.
- Men who have grown up with a firm religious foundation usually have an easier time coping
with adversity, but as most of us know, life is filled with many unexpected and unpredictable
situations that can test the faith of even the most devoutly religious person. As someone who faced considerable adversity in my life when I was younger, I can personally attest to the fact that my faith was tested at times, nonetheless I also knew that it was the grace of God that helped me through my crises. Not everyone who faces major setbacks is able to maintain their faith. Thus, some eventually forsake their previously held religious beliefs.
- There is no doubt that over the past few decades immoral behavior, sexual misconduct,
embezzlement by church ministers leaders and other forms of unethical and less than
desirable behavior have caused many men to to give cause for pause in regards to their attitudes toward the church. These are the people who see many individuals who are active
in the church as arrogant, backbiting, petty, dysfunctional, driven by ego, lusting for power, filled with greed etc…They were/are behaving in a manner that is far from Christian. In fact, it was/is this behavior that is the antithesis of Christianity. In some cases, hypocrisy abounds. This attitude is no doubt very off-putting to many men, especially younger men.
- Many men are looking for other men to bond with. The fact is that there have a been a considerable number of articles and studies written about the fact that while many men have plenty of acquaintances, very few men have a good friend. In fact, the average man over 35 does not have even one good, close male friend. Men need an environment that encourages and fosters camaraderie, brotherhood and bromance. The church has not necessarily done an effective job in this regard.
- Let’s face it, many men (and women) who are religious and attend church are likely to be looking for an environment that is free of or less prone to harsh judgment. On the contrary, many men see the contemporary church as an environment that is harsh, judgmental, insensitive or unsympathetic to their situation. This is particularly true among younger men (especially those under 35), many of whom are still attempting to forge an identity and are largely coming to grips with who they are as men. Having the pastor spew a plethora of condemnations toward you from the pulpit on a weekly basis can be both humiliating and devastating to men who are still struggling to find their place in this world.
To be sure, there are many churches who have moved beyond the traditional basic hellfire and brimstone sermons that have largely characterized many houses of worship in America from the puritan era to the late 20th century. Moreover, there is a growing acknowledgment among many religious leaders, both prominent and unknown, that it is crucial for the church and religion in general to successfully adapt, acclimate and become more receptive to the climate, needs and issues facing members of their congregations of the 21st century. Let’s hope this will indeed become the case. If so, all I can say is AMEN!
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