Wanted: men in church

Two things have me thinking about the place of men in church. The first is a visit from Carl Beech of CVM who led an awayday for the church here on Saturday. The second was an article by Steve Legg in Engage, the BMS:worldmission magazine lamenting the lack of men in the UK church; an article which has provoked reactions of disappointment and accusations of dodgy Bible engagement.

I’m sure this is something worth reflecting on in some depth but till then, here are a few thoughts:

Social factors

1. Society’s understanding of male & female roles is undergoing change; this is not just a church thing. In times of rapid change there are bound to be a wide variety of thoughts and expectations both in the church and in wider society.

2. There is something of a Times v Sun reader divide. Or perhaps more properly between the outlook of predominantly guardian reading Baptist ministers and the tabloid stereotypes used by some proponents of men’s ministry in the UK. To some the tabloid methodology (simplify, simplify, exaggerate) which creates a sort of identikit white van man is more the creation of a straw man. Perhaps this should alert us to consider whether the issue isn’t simply about reaching men or women, but whether our problem is we have become too middleclass.

3. One critique of the UK church is that it is too feminised and that is why men don’t feel comfortable in church. I wonder if this is because we often think of church buildings as private space rather than public space. An environment enhanced by home comforts. Thus we strive to make it feel more like a home than a pub or cinema; we take inspiration from home furnishing departments not car dealerships.

Theological factors

1. Human reality cannot be reduced to a series of slogans. As people we are products of both nature and nurture. Some traits may be more common in men than women but the reality is complex.

2. Gender differences are provisional; they are part of this created order but not necessarily part of the renewed creation (where there is no giving in marriage and there is no longer any male and female in Christ).

3. Humanity was created in the image of God as male and female. Our experience of gender is post fall with its twisted sense of desire, power and rule. A theologically coherent account of men’s ministry needs to articulate an understanding of male and female in the image of God without the scars of patriarchy.

4. Redemption is, in part, about humanity becoming the people God created us to be. Thus men’s ministry needs to paint a picture of how God wants men and women to become; an understanding which is rooted in the post Pentecost experience of the spirit poured out on all flesh.

One thought on “Wanted: men in church

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  1. I think your point about being middle class is probably more pertinent than the ‘feminisation’ of church, which I just don’t see. Our non-conformist tradition tends to put God in church on sundays, where we have to engage with him in a particular way that just doesn’t engage most people (in many churches through liturgy, hymns, silences and formality). I believe it’s only when we can recapture the experience of God in the everyday, that we will be able to make links with many people in the demographics currently missing in churches.

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