David Murrow has struck a nerve that has needed striking for years.
Concerned about the lack of men in church, Murrow began searching for books to explain the phenomenon. Finding none, Murrow did research on men and church attendance, religious experience and gender-specific behavior. What he discovered alarmed him. Murrow, a television writer and producer, asked and effectively answered the question: "What is it about modern Christianity that is driving men away?"
Just 35 percent of American men said they attend church weekly, he reported, and women make up more than 60 percent of the typical congregation on a given Sunday. Murrow contends the church caters to women, children and the elderly by creating a safe, predictable environment.
Murrow's purpose, he said, is not to call men back to church but to call the church back to men. A Presbyterian elder in Anchorage, Alaska, Murrow wrote that the church has become a hostile environment to men, particularly "masculine men" who are uncomfortable in the feminized atmosphere of the typical church. From the décor to the rituals, the ministry opportunities to the language, churches are designed to appeal to their greatest constituency -- women. Though the top leadership often is male, women constitute the backbone of most churches, representing more than 60 percent of the membership and even more of the volunteer force.
Men, Murrow wrote, want an authentic faith experience but find church services to be boring and irrelevant (and a whole lot of women say "amen"). As one observer noted, men have nothing real to do at church except serve as ushers -- which at least gives them a chance to move around. They want to be challenged, but they're only challenged to be good husbands and fathers.
"If we want to shed our reputation as a place for little old ladies of both sexes, we must recapture the challenge of following Jesus," Murrow wrote.
One section provides dozens of practical steps churches can take to make their facilities and services more welcoming to men. Among them, in no particular order: Ditch any activity requiring men to hold hands or share their needs with someone they hardly know; develop adventurous, risk-taking opportunities and hands-on projects; emphasize Jesus' aggressive, masculine attributes; become educated about the psychological characteristics and needs of men (an excellent portion of the book); shorten the sermon length.
"Just who decided that the lecture-style sermon was the best way to teach people about Jesus?" Murrow asks. "According to many studies, a long, uninterrupted monologue is the least effective way to teach people anything."
Now, to the women and another reason why this book is so important. Statistics show more than 20 percent of married women attend church without their husbands. They feel alone, abandoned, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, envious, ineffective and guilty, for starters. Ask a woman where her husband is or why you never see him at church, and the guilt and shame rise to the surface. She might stammer, roll her eyes and offer an excuse, but inside her head she's thinking, "I don't try hard enough to get him to come. I don't pray enough for him. I'm not a good Christian."
Those women need this book also. They need to understand why men refuse to go to church, and there's no better resource than the section on "Understanding Men and Masculinity." They'll discover why it's impossible for men to enjoy church, which is why the church has to change rather than the men. The issue is nothing less than the spiritual lives of many men and the future of many churches.
* Reviewed by Marcia Ford from bookreporter.com
Submitted by Kyle Ermoian, senior pastor at Celebration