Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stop the Exodus of Men from Church

Eddie Morris wrote this week's message. He is a DCE/Family Life Director at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He shares with us his design for and implementation of a men's ministry at his congregation. He writes:

"After reading the book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, I believe author David Murrow hits the nail on the head. We have designed our churches for women and not for men. If you have a manufacturing plant designed to put bumpers on cars upside down then you will get cars with their bumpers on upside down. The most interesting thing Murrow points out is that women will be happy with a church that is designed for men, but men will not be happy with a church designed for women.

My "Men's Weekends" changed drastically and were better attended when I began designing them for the men. Please notice I don't call these weekends, "retreats." Men, especially military men, have a negative connotation of the word "retreat." Both in promoting the event and informing others about it the elements of adventure mixed with just a little danger are highlighted. While this has caused a few older gentlemen to drop out, the younger guys involved has risen dramatically. Bible study is one main element of the weekend, but two things that have made the biggest difference are the "Group Initiative Challenge Course" and the "Walk with God."

On the challenge course, the participant is harnessed and involved in doing some risky activities - both physically and mentally. Complementing this is the Walk with God session, where the participant risks himself on an emotional level and comes to better understand that God can and does see the deepest part of him. The evaluations from those attending these weekends have consistently shown these two features have made the greatest impact on the men at my church."

What do you think?

33 comments :

Anonymous said...

Eddie,
Could you share a general outline of your "Men's Weekends". We are growing a men's ministry and this sounds like a great event.

Thank you,
Harvey Blessing
getharvey@comcast.net

Anonymous said...

This idea that we have designed our churches for women instead of men is something I hadn't thought of before. It seems that there's always just a few of us 'lifers' (born & raised in the church) that are willing to be leaders or even be involved. I'd like to hear more about how we can change our churches to be more for men. (I should probably start by reading the book, right? :) I'd like to know how we can get younger/newer men to get out of the back pews and take some ownership in the church and step up to take some responsibility for making it go.

Rick in MI

Anonymous said...

I came across your site from one of my emails I get. I am a woman, a wife and a mother and while you didn't ask for a woman's opinion, I agree...church needs to be designed for men. Men to learn to be leaders, fathers, husbands and spiritual leaders...the women, I can guarantee, will follow & flock to such a congregation and be elated to see evidence of real men leading rather than leaving!
Tulsa

Anonymous said...

Heard a sermon this summer relative to this subject in which the POastor indicated that essentially the church has moved toward being feminine. Our own congregation is in the early stages of hosting a men's retreat this year with the tentative theme of "Sharpen Your Sword". We pray that this will be a success and that it will reverse the loss of male participation in the life of the church. Details are not finalized, but this may be a full day retreat or maybe even a weekend event. The congregation planning this event is Immanuel Lutheran in East Dundee, IL. The web site is Immanuel-ed.org.

jeffrey_sr said...

I'm puzzled by this notion. How is the church geared more towards women than men? Do we need to fall into stereotypes and say that we're not going to sing in church anymore because men generally don't like to sing? Since men typically relate to each other around events and doing things together (whereas women typically relate to other women by establishing emotional ties), does that mean we have to make church be nothing but a work schedule of programs to do this and do that? Where is the Gospel in a church that is solely works-oriented? Do we stop talking about the love of God because guys don't like to talk about their feelings?

What man doesn't find tremendous comfort in hearing about the love that our heavenly Father has for him, especially for those men who felt their earthly fathers were emotionally absent? Since men typically don't like to take hand-outs from anyone, should we stop preaching salvation by grace through Christ alone, and that you don't need to (nor can you) contribute to your salvation?

You can see that this raises a ton of questions with me. Perhaps I'm missing something. I have not read the book, but it seems to me that we need to proclaim the Gospel more boldly, and stop trying so hard to find the right hook for a specific group of people at the exclusion of others. Stick to the true message of the Church - Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins and for everlasting salvation...for ALL people.

Anonymous said...

Posted by jeffrey_sr to Man Stuff at March 9, 2009 12:25 PM

Jeffrey_sr – I am puzzled by your response. You say that you “have not read the book” and yet you critique and ask questions that the book answers.

I have read the book.

The author does not say that we must not sing – he says, “I wish some composer could capture the masculine spirit of a Reformation hymn in a praise chorus; then you’d have something men would love to sing!” we do not need to stop singing, in fact the author says, “Am I suggesting we get rid of music in the church? No, but we may be dangerously close to making music an idol.” We just need to examine what we sing and how we sing it – funeral dirges are great for funerals, not too exciting for praise.

You ask, ” Since men typically relate to each other around events and doing things together (whereas women typically relate to other women by establishing emotional ties), does that mean we have to make church be nothing but a work schedule of programs to do this and do that?” The author does not say that, nor advocate that. What the author says is, “In my opinion, you should never teach men without at least one object lesson, unless you are content to have your words forgotten.” Is that hard to do?

The author writes, “Men want a pastor who will talk less and listen more. Men want a pastor who is firm in his convictions. Men like pastors who have the trappings of manhood. Men want a pastor who is a regular guy.”

All of that can happen in the context of the Sunday service – it can also happen on a men’s work event. So what is the downside of having a men’s work party?

“Do we stop talking about love?’ you ask. The author would say, “No.” He is asking pastors to be as sensitive to the make-up of men as they are to the make-up of women. Most pastors can relate very well to women, but few will relate well to the manly man – for the manly man is the one absent from church. The author is not advocating a change from the message - just the method of delivery.

Yes, the message of the church is for ALL (your emphasis) people – why not adapt a bit for the men?

Anonymous said...

Let's see. You want some examples of feminizing the church, Jeffrey? Some aren't going to agree with me but consider the following:
- You walk into a large room with candles burning, soft music and often low lighting and flowers everywhere. Doesn't sound like my kind of place.
- You sing songs that are out of the vocal range of most men--and most of the songs are pretty somber.
- You're expected to sing songs that describe another man as "beautiful", "fairest", "lovely"--words I wouldn't use to describe my best male friend. And, by the way, this happens with contemporary and traditional songs.
- Your Jesus is often a very feminine Jesus--"gentle Jesus, meek and mild"--not the masculine, risk taker, confrontational Jesus of the New Testament--the Jesus who was willing to lay down His life for me.
- You ask me to sit still and listen for an hour when everything in me wants to be active.
- You value skills many men don't have--verbal skills, reading, singing, etc. Did you know that most ADD kids are male--and they don't necessarily grow out of that?
- The pastor is often dressed more like a woman than a man. And it's even more so when he wears one of those bright colored communion things over all that lacey stuff.
- Many pastors have more feminine characteristics than masculine ones. Many men have a tough time relating to a feminine or effeminate leader/pastor.
- You talk to me and then you talk to me some more. I'm very visual and yet you don't visualize much and what is visualized tends toward the feminine.
- You don't value what I value--and what I think the New Testament church valued--risk, challenge, courage, competition, the outdoors, physical activity, achievement.
By the way, I am a very active Christian and I worship every Sunday, but down deep inside of me, I long for a church with guts--one that is ready to take on the challenges of the day, see itself as sending missionaries out every week to represent Jesus Christ to a world that largely ignores Him. And I think I'm longing for a New Testament era church. Read the Gospels and Acts and think about what that early church was like. And, frankly, I'm tired of a feminized church that emphasizes love and nurture at the expense of courage and commitment. You think someone might just disagree with me?

Anonymous said...

What is the title of the book that is being said we should read?

Anonymous said...

The title of the book is "Why Men hate going to Church" by David Murrow.

jeffrey_sr said...

In response to Anonymous #1 of 10 March 09: You say the book suggests that pastors are to be sensitive to the make-up of men and of women. I believe that's true - pastors need to be sensitive to the fact that all need to hear every week - every day - that Jesus loves them so much that He died for the forgiveness of their sins and for their eternal salvation. Why isn't the message enough?

Yes, using Paul's example, we are to meet people where they are - "to be all things to all people that we might save some" - but I don't like the idea that the Church has to conform to a particular segment of society, when it is the Church through which the Gospel in its truth and purity is to be proclaimed and dispensed to those who are gathered in God's name. We should rather conform ourselves to the Gospel and gather together where the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. My fear is that, once we let a segment of society say how Church should look and how pastors should talk, what's to stop them from going further and telling the Church and pastors what they can and cannot say.

In response to Anonymous #2 of 11 March 09:

Candles are used in the Church to remind us that Christ is the Light of the World. Music helps us to recognize that we're in a place that's special; a place that's set apart from the rest of the world at a time set apart from the rest of the week. Colossians 3:16 - "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, SINGING PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, WITH THANKFULNESS IN YOUR HEARTS TO GOD" (emphasis mine).

When Jesus is described as our "Beautiful Savior," no reference is being made to His physical appearance; rather the beauty of what He did on the cross for you and for me.

Jesus is meek and mild when speaking the Gospel. But in speaking the Law, He is far from meek, like when He calls men to repentance and faith. He is far from meek because He had the courage to endure beatings, crucifixion, and death for you and for me. This is what the New Testament Church is to proclaim. This is the Church's focus; "we preach Christ crucified" - 1 Corinthians 1:23.

Pastors vest for very specific reasons; that they are clothed in the office to which they have been called and in which they serve. The stole symbolizes the yoke of Christ that comes with the office, so that the work the pastor does is not his work, but the work Christ has set him to do.

Now, if the pastors that you accuse of being effeminate are labeled so because they show love and care and compassion to the flock God has entrusted to them, then what will it mean to you when someone you love dies, but your pastor is too "manly" to show any care or compassion to you in your loss? Is this the kind of pastor you want? I want a pastor that can show care and compassion in my time of need, and can share the love and presence of God through himself, as my pastor.

As for the argument that men can't sit and listen, or men need visual stimuli, well, I just think that's a cop-out. There's nothing wrong with calling men to conform their lives to the Gospel and to see worship as a time to receive God's mercy in the means of grace - His Word and Sacraments. Guys like to have a little R&R once in a while. That's what church is...rest and, not relaxation, but a time to be recharged to live out our faith the rest of the week.

I'm not saying we need to disregard the needs of the people, men and women alike. But, like I said before, when we start talking about changing the Church, the liturgy, and our rich Lutheran hymnody for the sake of one segment of society, I think the focus is moved to the people and removed from Jesus. That's what bothers me about this whole notion.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey,
I am the "Anonymous" that gave you the list of feminized elements at 8:25 AM. Let's see, the statement you made with which I thoroughly agree is "I don't like the idea that the Church has to conform to a particular segment of society, when it is the Church through which the Gospel in its truth and purity is to be proclaimed and dispensed to those who are gathered in God's name." Wow! I couldn't agree more. And conforming to a particular segment of society is exactly what I'm objecting to. In many cases our churches are "built and designed" for white women--they conform to that segment of society. We are uniquely designed to get precisely the results we get. And what do we get? In the average Lutheran church, about 40% of those in attendance on a Sunday morning are males and about 60% are female. And, if you count the crowd under 50, then it generally skews even farther toward the female.

Now maybe your church is different, but those are the stats I've read (and observed) for Lutheran churches in the US.

I understand the history and tradition behind those things we do, but I also understand that we have a great deal of leeway in doing church and, in many cases, we seem to be pretty locked into a Baroque music style and worship customs from the middle ages. For example:
- Candles - not commanded in the Bible
- Soft music - not commanded in the Bible
- Baroque music - not in the Bible
- "Feminine" pastoral apparel (vestments) - not commanded in the Bible
- Hymns written for the female voice - not commanded in the Bible
- Flowers in the chancel - Not commmanded in the Bible
Lacy paraments - not commanded in the Bible

Hey! You know what? We have a lot of latitude in worship!

I'm not necessarily arguing that we should do away with all of these things (though Biblically, I think we probably are permitted to do so). I'm arguing that if all the trappings are feminine you are doing exactly what you said we shouldn't do--cater to one segment of society.

My argument--and that in the book in question--is not that we should change church to something it has never been but that we have, indeed, changed church--we have feminized it so that it speaks much more clearly to one segment of our society than it does to another. It does precisely what you say it shouldn't do! If you want to read a more scholarly treatment of this very subject and follow the historic trend toward feminization, try "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity" by Leon J. Podles. The Murrow book is an easier read--this one much more scholarly.

Interesting discussion, Jeffrey!

jeffrey_sr said...

This has been a very interesting discussion; I appreciate your comments very much. I will admit that I'm still not convinced that this is the way the Church should go, but I do understand where you're coming from.

As I've been contemplating this in my mind, this question keeps coming to me: Is the desire to "masculine-ize" the Church coming from a people who also want to define Jesus and the Church by their own standards; to make Jesus the kind of guy they want Him to be, instead of Him who comes to us and reveals Himself to us in His Word? Don't get me wrong...I'm not accusing anyone of anything. But there is a culture that wants Jesus to be what we want Him to be; not who He really is.

The argument could be made that if Jesus was more macho, then He would "attract" more manly men. But Jesus' shows His strength in what we would define as weakness. Because He suffered and died and didn't do anything to stop it, even though He could have, by men's definition is a sign of weakness. And I guess that's where I'm coming from on this issue.

The ways of God are not the ways of man. So by trying to change the Church and Jesus to fit to our definitions, we end up proclaiming another "Jesus," but not the Jesus that has revealed Himself to us, not the Jesus that gave His life for us, and not the Jesus that paid the penalty of sin so that we can one day be rid of this world and our sinful flesh, and enjoy the heavenly feast that is yet to come. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey,
I am the first Anonymous that wrote to you. I feel your struggle. I, too, resisted when I first read the book. I was raised on the God of love, the God of meekness, the God of “turn the other check.” I was raised with “Jesus wouldn’t hit that person, be nice – like Jesus.” As a result I spent my youth and the majority of my adult life being “nice.” I really had very little courage.

Many events later I found out that I do have courage and that it is OK to be angry, to defend the faith, the have fun, to show a powerful Savior. If you would have asked me for three adjectives to describe Jesus when I was 20 years old, I would have said, “Loving,” “Meek,” and “Patient.” Today if you asked me I would describe Jesus as, “Loving,” Powerful,” Strong.” I started to read the scriptures about how Jesus cast the people out of the temple, how He threw a good party by making wine, how He taunted the Pharisees, how He spoke with authority and how He angered the people so much they wanted to kill Him. I also went to Israel and walked in His footsteps. He was physically a strong person to walk up and down those hills. It was very freeing to me to be able to see the strong, “Masculine” side of Jesus.

The best thing that ever happened to me was when my Pastor conducted the service in a suit and tie. I was feeling very despondent for a long time and felt that God could not accept me because I was, not good enough, didn’t get dressed for church and didn’t feel like singing “love” songs. Pastor came down the aisle in his suit and announced that we were going to come to Jesus, “Just as we were” – that was awesome. I admired him.
The next best thing was when my grandson was born with his life at risk and the Lutheran pastor came to the hospital and baptized him for the family. The parents had once been members of the Lutheran church but had left. This pastor said, “I will baptize the child.” What comfort and peace that gave the family and what a courageous thing the pastor did – for some would condemn him for his actions, split hairs over theological issues. I saw Christ in that pastor – strong – standing up for the child – granting a free gift of grace to the child and a witness to the family.

Then I read the book and it dawned on me – we don’t need to portray another Jesus – a man-made Jesus – we just need to show Jesus in all His forms – loving, powerful, meek yet strong, submissive yet demanding, quiet but boisterous, solitary yet gregarious – a Christ who loves sinners, touches sinners and damns Satan. I haven’t heard too many sermons about how Jesus showed His masculine side, His masculine characteristics.

That’s the point of the book and I like it – I would love to worship in a setting that allowed me to sing bass, watch visuals and hear about the power of Jesus and how we should confront sin as He did – in our daily lives. I would love to go to service and get tips and tools about how I can confront sin and confront the lies of Satan in my heart, my work and in my community. I would love it if t he church sent me out to change my neighborhood – to work, to build, to fight for my faith, to arrange to have me witness through activities – fishing, hunting, golf, grilling meat, drinking beer, playing cards. My Lutheran church doesn’t do a whole lot of that on a regular basis.

I pray that you have joy and blessings in your ministry journey.

jeffrey_sr said...

I do not disagree with most of what you said. In many ways, you are right on the mark. A couple comments:

When the pastor vests, he is not saying that he is better than anyone. He is rather acknowledging that God has called him to perform a particular function in His Church. The fact is that the pastor is a sinner just like every other human being. But God chooses some men to serve as pastors - to be His hands and feet and mouth in the world. In that office, while conducting the services of the Church, it is important that the man be covered up as a symbol of him being the one placed to serve in the pastoral office. It's the same thing as a police officer wearing a uniform to show who he is and by what authority he fulfills his duty.

Now, having said that, the pastor must also show himself to be human. The guy who is up in the chancel preaching and praying is the same guy who struggles with his own sin and needs the forgiveness that comes through Christ alone, and also needs the companionship of other faithful Christian men. He should also be the guy who goes out fishing, or has a beer with the guys once in a while. It is always great to know that the pastor is a regular guy also - and he should let that side of him show.

One thing I can't get past is watching visuals in church. How do we do that without completely destroying the rich and meaningful liturgical history we have, which is drawn from Scripture and has been passed down from generation to generation?

A word of caution: wanting a church that dispenses tips and tools can very quickly becomes just another "self-help ministry" where it's all up to you to make your life better. The only tool one needs with regard to sin is the Cross of Christ. Try as we might, we never overcome it by anything we do...it's only through Christ and His death and resurrection. That must always remain the central doctrine of the Church.

However, the Church absolutely should be strengthening and empowering Christians to go out into the world, to reach others through activities like fishing and cook-outs; how about organizing a group from your church to work with Habitat for Humanity, or an annual golf outing, or a weekly men's prayer breakfast? Invite the community; let them know what you are doing. There are always ways to invite others to participate in the grace of Christ.

At my church, a gentleman was just brought back into the congregation by a member who invited him to go on a day-trip with some other members, and then asked him if he'd come and help cut the grass last summer. He joined the church and was received into membership just last month. God is amazing, and does amazing things in ways we cannot always understand. But thanks be to God that He is not limited by our human inadequacies.

Again, I really appreciate the conversation here. I just think that the problem lies less with the church, and more with us sinful human beings looking for Jesus on our terms, not on His terms as He comes to us to rescue us from Hell. Thanks for the discussion. I will surely be contemplating these things over the next days and weeks. Peace to you.

Anonymous said...

Great discussion

Anonymous said...

I'm going to jump in on the "visual" thing here. We already use visuals in the church. We're just stuck on 12th century visuals and haven't updated in a while. Stain glass windows are visuals--originally designed to teach people the Bible stories in a visual format, as I recall. Could it be that a data projector and screen is the stain glass window of the 21st century? And if people (men, especially) tend to be visual learners, why on earth wouldn't we use those visuals.

Interesting discussion, you guys!

Logisticsman said...

I'd like to agree with the visual thing also. Our new pastor is very into using powerpoint with his sermons. I find myself more engaged (ie. less likely to yawn halfway through) when he uses powerpoint than when a guest pastor just speaks from the pulpit. People learn in many different ways. Why is it that, because of mainly tradition, we always seem to be using auditory learning?

jeffrey_sr said...

Deuteronomy 6:4
- HEAR, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD us one.

Matthew 11:15
- [Jesus said], "He who has ears to HEAR,let him HEAR."

And my favorite...

Romans 10:17
- So faith comes from HEARING, and HEARING through the word of Christ.
(emphases all mine)

I have no trouble whatsoever with power point in, say, Bible Study or something like that. In fact, that's the perfect time to employ other teaching tools. But I have not yet seen any congregation utilize power point and other visual media in a worship service without completely destroying the rich Lutheran liturgical heritage passed down from our fore-fathers.

Why is it so wrong for the Divine Service, for an hour (and maybe a half) per week, to be something that's different from the rest of the week? Why do we need to be entertained instead of truly fed and nourished by the rich food of the liturgy and sacraments? Sure, these things are not commanded by Scripture, but that doesn't mean we have license to be sloppy. I have the freedom to go jump off a bridge, but that doesn't mean I should go and do it. (Sorry, that sounded a lot like my dad...oooh, and my mom).

I said in an earlier post that I just think it's a cop-out that we men can't set aside our "preferences" and man-up a little bit and learn what's really going on in the worship service. I, for one, do not need to be pandered to in order to go to church. I also don't need church to be disguised behind a light show. I would much prefer to be taught what's going on. I would much rather engage my mind to pay attention to what's going on in the Divine Service than to have pictures and power point presentations paraded before me every Sunday.

By the way, I have never yet seen a power point presentation that hasn't all but bored me to tears.

Again, guys, I really appreciate the discussion. It has really made me think a lot about these things. I'm afraid I'm just not convinced. Blessings to you all...enjoy your weekend.

Logisticsman said...

I would argue that it is possible to still use hymnal liturgy and powerpoint. My pastor does it every weekend. He uses powerpoint as an adjunct to his sermon only. It is especially useful for letting the congregation hear the word as we read it out loud together (as I recall from confirmation, saying verses out loud is a good way to memorize, another way people learn as God has created us). There really isn't a easier way of full congregational reading other than printing much more in the bulletin.

My pastor loves the hymnal liturgy. He even has been using the versions with the chant's in them, something that wasn't done previously. I think if he had his way, we wouldn't have a bulletin at all and just use the hymnals only.

It is possible to be traditional and contemporary at the same time. It's actually funny thinking of that, because he uses powerpoint to show ancient or medieval pictures of different people in the bible during some of his sermons.

I don't know what other men feel, but I think that, used properly, visuals like that can enhance worship. God created us with many ways that we learn (Visual, Auditory, Tactile/Kinetic). These styles are not the same for all people and change depending on the sex and age of the person. You can vocally preach all you want to a deaf person, but if you don't sign to them, your efforts are for nothing. I think Paul would agree with this when he speaks of how he would rather have one understandable word spoken than many words that people understand.

Yes, it's true that we probably should be reminded the why of things in worship. I remember being explained the church calendar and how the order of service worked in confirmation, but I couldn't tell you the why of everything. I do also think that we need to make sure we do not make the traditions a law unto the church. That is not the reason we're there, the law has been fulfilled. I'm sure Paul and Christ himself both would have things to say about this.

I appreciate your viewpoint, but I can't say that I agree with it totally. I hope that you have a blessed Sunday.

agedwirehead said...

Wow! What a wonderful Sunday! Dr. Klaus' wonderful sermon on lhm.org, and here I find a lively discussion on a very timely topic.

First, so you can consider all of my comments appropriately, I am a lifelong Protestant Episcopalian. I may be one of the last members of that denomination still living. However, I do have a Lutheran or two as best friends! :)

I see an unstated underlying difference in the understanding of one word and one symbol in the discussions here--and the life of today's Church.

The word is "love". Somehow modern folks completely misunderstand this word. Today it has connotations of warm cuddly teddy bears, turkey dinners, and sexual expression.

When I was confronted by God at age 27, I was convicted that I was a liar. Satan is the father of lies, and try as hard as I could to be good, I had fallen into Satan's grasp.

"Jesus loves me, this I know..." came back to me, but offered no peace, no warmth. Neither did the fellowship of well-meaning Christians.

It was not until I rediscovered the Word that I rediscovered faith in a risen Lord, a faith I had laid aside as inappropriate some years before.

In the Word I found that love is completely intentional, disciplined, planned in detail, acted upon with certainty, performed in humility, unselfishly executed for the benefit of others.

The most loving act in History was Jesus Christ offering himself as the perfect Sacrifice to repay our sin. The second was when he spoke us into creation.

Jesus, who had ALL power at his hand, the very author of time, never weak, loved me so much that, at the specific time of His choosing, he submitted himself to a most horribly messy death, the worst that evil hearts could imagine.

He was stripped of all possessions, beaten to an inch of his life, forced to carry the evil hatred of all mankind. He was paraded through discontented crowds full of vile hostility. He was nailed, nude, to a cross and displayed for the derision of the passing multitude.

The mistake is to see this as something done to Jesus. That is Satan's lie. This is something Jesus did, solely so that those that have faith is His actions and power might have life eternal.

It clearly shows that God works perfect good through the hands of evil men of satanic intent.

But even more clear is this:

Only the Son of God has the power to perform this act of love.

No other man (or woman or god) could have carried this burden. Atlas bending under the weight of the world would have insufficient strength. No nuclear power source would provide us energy to keep our heart pumping under the weight of all of the evil created in the hearts of men.

The symbol is the cross. The cross was rough, blood covered, and adorned with nails and a sign of derision. Its beauty was a naked man, pierced in the side, hanging in death. From that cross runs a river of blood and living water. I must just kneel and drink it in.

So, where is the place for baroque frills in this great symbol?

May God bless you all in great strength, wisdom, and Love. And may we have many more years of public discussion of the Word of God.

Logisticsman said...

All I have to say is "Amen". If the cross of Christ is not the object, all our discussions of worship methods are irrelevant. I did listen to Dr. Klaus on lhm and must say that I was faced with pride, in my own viewpoint, as a motivation for my arguments instead of being solely motivated to find ways to reach out to all with the cross of Christ. I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

The cross is central. No doubt about it. Our struggle is to do the best job that we can of bringing that message of the cross to a dyng world. Most churches are using 21st century sound systems. Most of us are using 21st century (or at least 20th century) organs--at least I haven't seen too many teams of men pumping bellows as you would have seen in the Middle Ages. We are using 21st century lighting--candles are really only symbols. And we are using 21st century seating--old cathedrals didn't have seats at all. Why not 21st century visuals, if that helps peope grasp the deep things of the Christian faith. Certainly, a badly done visual (PowerPoint, video, etc.) is a distraction. But so is a badly played organ, a badly written or preached sermon, or a badly sung solo. I'm for doing whatever works best to help people see that cross and help them understand what that means for them.

jeffrey_sr said...

I really don't think I'm motivated by pride in my desire to protect the liturgy. And in fact, my point is just how much Jesus is in the liturgy; how much the liturgy focuses us upon the sacrifices of Christ. Jesus is the center of the liturgy. And my fear is that when we start supplementing the rich scriptural words of the liturgy with pictures on a screen, we get too distracted from hearing what God has to say to us.

There is a line between bringing Jesus to the people where they are in a manner that reaches them, and sustaining the traditions of the church. I think it can be both/and. I don't know what it is, but video screens and power point presentations in the Divine Service somehow seem unsuited for the proclaimed Word of the Gospel from the pulpit; much like a piccolo is ill-suited accompaniment for "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

And maybe my real issue is this: when Church starts looking like a motivational speech at a self-help convention, then I get scared that the people will come to expect the message to be a motivational speech at a self-help convention. The Divine Service is different, and it should stand out as something different. I think the responsibility fall to us who are already Christians to help those who are younger in the faith to understand what's going on in the Divine Service.

Happy St. Pat's Day!

Rick Weiss said...

After 56 years I left the ELCA, I am now a happy member of a Bible church,
Why? The ELCA church I attended was dead, and as a leader in that church at one time, I could not get anyone involved in the word of God. It was church for 1 hr a week and gone. And the Pastor never ever told people the Truth that would grow the Church, That the penalty for being a pew sitter is eternal hell fire.If we really, really loved our neighbor would we not want them to know that the words of Christ have merit, Truth, and consequences?

Thomas said...

Hmmmm . . . Please clarify a couple of things, Rick. What do you mean by "pew-sitter" and "dead." Also, what exactly is "the Truth that would grow the Church?" Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I find myself intrigued by all of this. I agree that the Churches should gear more of their service towards men, and by no means do I think it should be soley for men. I myself have not read the book that is discuss here. I do find interesting the discussion of Divine Service. I am just a lay person so I dont have the full scope of knowledge that is required for debate in this matter, however I do like the way everything is currently organized. I feel as though sometimes it is easy to just recite or read the words and not speak from the heart because of the repition, but the repition is what leads to the memorization and leads to something to fall back on when in doubt. The confessionals are very powerful in the way they are written. I think that the Church should cling tight to what is in these liturgies. As far as men in the Church, I could not agree more on this issue. Does anyone else think that some of these problems are beyond the scope of the Church itself and more on society as a whole? There is a constant push for women to do more, the Church is not excluded. The basis for all of these issues NEEDS to fall back on the Bible. Read in 1 Corinthians. The parts I find extremly interesting are the ones on orderly worship. Discussions about womens and mens role in the Church seem to be clear, but again I am not a theologian. See 11:5, and 14:33-35. We also see the roles brought up again in Ephesians 5:22-33. I understand that this is probably beyond the discussion that was originally intended here, but it is a lamp that has been recently lit inside of me. I find myself questioning things like Womens Suffrage, and women assisting with the Lord's Supper. I have read some of the CTCL documents pertaining to these matters. I am, by the way, an LCMS Lutheran. My only problem lies in seeing something concrete, black and white, on this matter. All that is found is shades of gray. Ultimately, the only comfort I have found is on the issue of open questions. "44. Those questions in the domain of Christian doctrine may be termed open questions which Scripture answers either not at all or not clearly. Since neither an individual nor the Church as a whole is permitted to develop or augment the Christian doctrine, but are rather ordered and commanded by God to continue in the doctrine of the apostles, 2 Thess. 2:15; Acts 2:42, open questions must remain open questions. -- Not to be included in the number of open questions are the following: the doctrine of the Church and the Ministry, of Sunday, of Chiliasm, and of Antichrist, these doctrines being clearly defined in Scripture". Cited from: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=580. With this in mind it makes me wonder why we find the necessity to play the gray on some of these issues. As far as getting more men involved, lets let them know they are the ones that are needed in the Church. They are needed to take leadership roles. They are needed to be the father figure. Maybe more emphasis needs to be put on Jesus and the backbone that he had. Standing up on what is right and wrong. These are areas that I feel are becoming more and more lax in the Church I belong to right now. Not necissarily on the issues of our society, but on things inside the Church doors: properly conducting meetings, standing on issues for the right reasons and not for your own personal interests. The Church I belong to I feel has some work to do. Things like womens suffrage. Things like supporting Christian education systems. Elementary and High Schools as well. The Lutheran High School I graduated from recently voted to close its doors because of the lack of support for it. Christian education is nothing that should be frowned on, especially in this day and age. I strongly encourage all men out there to step up and take a stand. Stand on the Bible. Support our Lutheran School System, and support your role in the Chruch!

Thomas said...

I have read the book that is being talked about in this thread and, to be honest, when I first read it I really agreed with the author. I even began rethinking some of the things I did as a pastor and things our church does as far as liturgy, vestments, music, etc. This isn’t the first time, by the way, that I have read things about this topic. Each time the same thing happens. I agree fully at first, and then, as I read on, I come to the point where I completely reject the idea and I go back to being the old conservative Lutheran pastor I have always been – doing the things the Lutheran Church has always (at least until recently) done. The whole premise on which the book is based is false and misleading. We are to believe that men don’t come to church because we sing the wrong kind of music, have the wrong kind of decor, wear the wrong kind of clothes, etc. Simply stated, the reason men don’t come to church is because they are by nature spiritually lazy. Women have always been the ones who have been interested in God’s Word and spiritual things. In most families who is it that teaches the children their memory work and sees to it they are in Sunday school? Who teaches them their bedtime prayer? Since the dawn of creation it has been this way. In Genesis 3, who is the one who was using God’s Word in the dispute with the serpent? Eve! Yes, she did mess it up, but at least she was trying. What was Adam doing? He was “with her,” as the Scriptures plainly say, but not word one about Adam’s disputing Satan with God's Word – all he did was eat and the world went to hell. Most men simply don’t give a rip about the Church and nothing you can do will change that – other than preach the Word - Law and Gospel. We can change the church to get men into it, and a few might come, for a little while, and then we’ll have to change again and again and again and again.

The answer to getting men into church is not to dump the liturgy or have the pastor prance around in his suit and tie or sing “manly” songs or do “manly” things. The answer is godly fathers teaching their sons what is important about being in Church to sing the same old words of the same old liturgy we have been singing for years, to value receiving God’s service to us in the Means of Grace, to cherish the ancient hymns of the Church that teach us the faith, to simply live out their Sunday morning vocation and be hearer of the Word.

The historic traditions of the Lutheran Church and the old hymns of the Church are not “feminine,” neither are they “masculine.” They are simply the tools by which God teaches us the faith, puts it into our hearts and minds, and gives us a confession that will see us through this valley of tears into the eternal Easter morning of heaven.

So here I am, as an example, not in the least “unmanly” if you want to use that term. I like all kinds of manly things. I ride a Goldwing, I carry a 9mm pistol, I hunt for big, hairy animals and fish for little slimy ones, I love a good game of golf, a nice shot of well-aged whiskey and watching a Twins game. I play video games (especially HALO), and am looking forward to the next Terminator movie . . . and any number of other “manly” things. But on Sunday morning I park the bike, put my gun in the drawer, shut off the video games and go to church where I put on the same vestments (yes, I wear a chasuble - what many call a “dress”) and sing those same old hymns and speak the same old words of the Liturgy and preach the same old sermons proclaiming Law and Gospel without nice little stories and remember my Baptism and feast on the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of my sins and life and salvation. What more could any man want? What more could he want for his wife and children?

It must work because my sons, who also like the “manly” side of life, are in church every Sunday. My oldest, who lives now 13 hours away from us and works at a very "manly" job, just told me tonight that the first place he took his new girlfriend was to church – a Lutheran church where they used the Liturgy and sang the hymns and the pastor wore a chasuble and proclaimed Law and Gospel in the sermon. May we never change the church because those on the outside don’t like what they see! Rather, let us change the hearts of those outside by being faithful to who we have always been: confessors of the true faith, proclaimers of Law and Gospel. And may we men who are in the Church, take the time to learn why we use all those things some say are not "manly," and then teach them to our sons.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to read one more book - "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity" by Leon J. Podles. I don't think the issue is whether or not we should change the church. I think it is that the church has changed--we aren't really very close to the New Testament church. And the change has made the church look and act more feminine than masculine. The Podles book will illustrate, in a sometimes boring, scholarly way, how the church has changed. I think the argument is for a return to historic Christianity--and that doesn't necessarily mean 15th century Christianity.

And I think the suggestion that men just aren't spiritual anymore won't hold water either. That can't be the issue. Islam and conservative Judaism are both religions where men take strong leadership roles. Why?

Men were very prominent in the first century Christian church--and at least through the time of Constantine. What happened? What changed? I have my ideas, but you might want to read that second book.

Anonymous said...

Some of us understand that having an enemy gives us a chance to be Warriors again.
In the days of our Grandfathers when the enemy came, we staked ourselves to the land. We faced whoever or what ever it was that made war on our people. You would hear the chant shouted out "HOKA HEY!" (literally, "this is a good day to die"). If one of us fell, another would take his place.
The question is, not why did we get off the road, but who will take his place, and not let the enemy take us down. That one has to be Christ.
Christ is the staff to which we tie ourselves to, His word is the fire that destroys the enemy like a two edged sword. The Church is the front line from where the battle is staged.
When you walk, do you put one foot forward first, or do you shift your weight first? We as men are expected to step up and shift our weight together and leave no one behind. So, we step up to the staff, and tether ourselves to Christ for eternity to fight the good fight.We do this together and from Church where we gather as one in Christ.
As the good road runs north and south, so the road of imbalance runs east and west, we see at center the cross and Christ where we can return when we lose our balance, when we step off the good road. This is Chunka Luta,the good road or "The Red Road." Here at the center, The Church in Christ, we can as men and together shout, "HOKA HEY!"

Thomas said...

A couple of thoughts come to mind, though. First, assuming for a minute that the church has been "feminized," I wonder which came first, the feminization or the exodus of the men. I would suspect it is the latter. More on this in a bit.

Second, what is historic Christianity? Is it not Law/Gospel preached and taught? I will agree that the statement that men aren’t spiritual is obviously short-sighted; your example of Islam is a good point. But the next question we need to ask is why are Islamic men so “active”? Why are they willing to strap bombs on their bodies and kill and send their children to do the same? Is it not because Islam, as all other religions outside of Christianity, is basically a religion of the Law? You have to DO in order to be saved; God is pleased when you do the right things. Yes, men like to do things, “manly” things, like fighting and even dying for a noble cause or purpose (by the way, any Islamic suicide bomber thinks he is dying for a noble cause, doesn’t he?). Maybe one of the difficulties for the Christian Church is that the Gospel requires passivity. It is not about our doing, but about Christ’s doing for us; God is not pleased when we try to earn our salvation by doing the right things; He has done all in Christ crucified and all we are to do is receive the benefits of His actions, namely the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Our place in relation to God is to be receivers of His service through Word and Sacrament. (There is a place for our doing, which is our vocation in the world, but that is a topic for another thread). When it comes to Christian worship we are hearers and receivers, that is our Sunday vocation. We simply sit and receive what God gives to us. We don’t have to yell and scream, we don’t have to shoot and kill, we don’t have to be good or be driven by a noble purpose or even be willing to die – Christ has done the being good and the dying (active and passive obedience - check out Luther’s Small Catechism) and by these things we are benefitted and changed to be what God wants us to be: people who have been declared righteous and who live by faith. True worship is simply receiving from God. He ministers to us, He serves us, He acts, He does – this is why we call it the Divine Service. This is what the Liturgy teaches and does as it cradles the Means of Grace (Baptism, Word, Holy Communion). By repeating the same words week after week, by seeing the same Baptism, hearing the same Word, receiving the same body and blood of Christ in the holy Supper, by this constant repetition the faith is implanted in our hearts and minds and it becomes, then, our confession and a solid bedrock when affliction strikes (I can’t tell you how many times I have called on Christians in some sort of affliction and it is the words of the Liturgy - which, by the way, are mostly right out of the Bible - that they remember because they have repeated them so many times. I always sing the Nunc Dimittis with Christians on their deathbed and, unless they are too weak to do so, they always sing along because they know it having repeated it almost every week for 40 years or more). By these things we learn and are weekly reminded of what God has done for us in Christ which, in turn, empowers and encourages our service to our neighbor through our worldly vocations.

Anonymous said, "Men were very prominent in the first century Christian church--and at least through the time of Constantine. What happened? What changed?" Men surrendered their leadership role is what happened. It isn't that the church left them, it is that they left the church. So in this way I guess you can say that the church has been feminized. There are many reasons for this, but a big one in recent history, in my opinion, was because men didn’t want to be seen as discriminating against women (equal rights and all that sort of thing, you know). So, in order not to discriminate, in order to be tolerant and loving and all that happy nonsense we’d better let women vote, we’d better let them in the pulpit, we'd better let them be elders and presidents of congregations, we’d better let them be professors and teachers in our seminaries, we’d better let them be the leaders, and we have; and the more the women do these things the less the men are willing to take any responsibility. (By the way, I am not saying that women are incapable of doing these things; what I am saying is that we need to grapple with the question, based on God's Word, should they be doing them?) These are unhappy developments in the Church. Would that we could go back to the days when men truly did lead in the Church. Years ago it was men who served on the altar guilds in the churches, men who taught the children, men who chaired congregations and taught in the colleges and seminaries, but men have given that up. In one of the congregations of my parish I can’t even get a single man to serve on the board of trustees! We have a woman who is taking care of the building and doing a fine job of it. But she shouldn’t have to. Man, I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. The answer to this is not object lessons in the pulpit and getting rid of the vestments and the Liturgy, etc. It is learning again, or perhaps for the first time, what it means to be a Christian man and a Christian woman.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this. Just one other thing, to the other “anonymous” post, one of my favorite movie scenes is from the second Lord of the Rings movie. If you have seen it, it is the “last ride of the Rohirim” where King Theodin and his men charge out into the vast army of orcs knowing full well that they will not survive this battle, but also knowing the fight is worth the sacrifice. "We will make such an end as will be worthy of song." Would that we had men like that today (and we do, but they are getting harder to find). "HOKA HEY!" Absolutely. But first let me go fishing. I’ll die another day.

Ok. That’s all. Thank you all for the lively discussion. I am enjoying this and I hope not offending anyone by my thoughts and opinions. Keep the faith and, when it comes to defending that faith, may God make us all men who will truly say “HOKA HEY!” and not shrink from the fight.

Anonymous said...

I confess – I am a “Lurker.”

However, I “Lurk” no more.

Reading all of the comments I think I have my mind wrapped around some things:
1. Men are not active in the church
2. Pastors struggle with how to reach men

So I see two approaches:
1. Keep the church the way it is – Liturgy, vestments, repetition, hymns, etc.
2. Try some new approach to reach out to men in specific

I see that those who advocate for choice number one indicate that this is the only true and right way to do church. I make an observation – if it is so good – why do we keep losing members? My conclusion – it was a perfect way to reach people with the Gospel in the 17th – early 20th centuries. Today it doesn’t work.

Some of the largest and fastest growing Lutheran churches worship outdoors, use drums and contemporary songs, preachers preach wearing limited or no vestments and the service involves people moving, dancing, and sharing. The people leave church and are involved actively in their communities. Yep – I envy these Lutheran churches – in Africa. I pray we could learn from them.

I have worshipped in 3 different Lutheran Synods – I have worshipped in almost every state of the US and in three foreign countries. I have participated in services where the pastor elevates the host before distributing it and have received homemade flat bread. I have heard chants and rap. I have sung form the old black hymnal (in German) and have danced in the aisles. I have seen pastors who dress in 12th century vestments and other who preach in blue jeans. I have sat for hour-long expositions of the text and have participated in “let’s share your experiences.” I have worshipped in my car at a drive-in theater, sat in an auditorium drinking coffee and stood in centuries old stone churches.

I have been at the deathbed of three close family members – one we cried as she breathed her last, one we sang hymns as she breathed her last, and one we prayed the Lord’s prayer as she breathed her last breath. The Nunc Dimittis never came up – although I can sing it.

I would say that many of our pastors make way too much out of the issue of passive versus active grace. I know that I cannot by my own reason or strength. . . but I also know that faith without works is dead. If I am content to sit in church each Sunday and hear wonderful platitudes that have no bearing on how I live my everyday life – on how I struggle with job loss, how I fight temptation of sexual sin, hoe I must give my time and treasures to God, how I can witness to a neighbor who blasphemes with each word, or how I can be taxed by a government that appears to want me to be socialist – then where is my faith? I know the head knowledge – how do I put it into “hands of Christ” actions?

Pastors who hide behind a white tab and say they “speak for God” and then give me no clue as to how to live my life, only how to recite 15th century hymns don’t help me in my faith struggles. Neither do wrinkled blue jean preachers who tell me over and over and over again that Jesus is love and all I have to do is say “yes Lord” – about a billion times while clapping my hands don’t do it either.

I want a pastor who challenges me as a man – not only in church, but in my home, in my neighborhood and in my work. I have seen pastors visit the elderly, the sick, the ladies, but never have I been visited by a pastor to see how I am doing in my faith walk.

The Men’s NetWork is giving me an opportunity to hear and to (now) participate in issues which are important to me. I thank the Men’s NetWork for doing this. I wish our pastors would spend less time arguing about worship form and spend more time on worship substance.

I disagree with one of the writers – there really is no good day to die. There is a good way to die – in faith, assured of eternity with God. Death is no fun. But I would die for my wife, my children, my friends, my neighbors and even for unbelievers if it meant that they could come to a saving knowledge of Christ – but there is no good day to die.

I apologize for the ranting and I pray you all can forgive me if I offend.

Anonymous said...

I agree, after reading John Eldridge's book "Wild at Heart."
Men definitely need a little dabger added to their activities for satisfying their 'Man's Soul."

Anonymous said...

Ex-Lurker:
Wow! That was well said. Wish I had written that! I couldn't agree more.