Kaylie and I were on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower sipping wine out of someone else’s glass. She was telling me about a man at her church she wished so badly would ask her on a date.
“He’s too timid. I don’t know what he’s scared of,” she said.
That was three years ago. This past week as I have been reading through the thousands of messages from fawning strangers, I have realized that this issue still remains.
Timid Christian men, to be specific. I have received countless notes from women echoing Kaylie’s sentiments:
You have given me hope that there are guys like you still out there.
Why can’t I meet a guy like you, who is attractive and loves the Lord?
The VERY first thing I should say is that I am not the ideal Christian man. Not by a long shot. Any of my close friends or family would laugh pretty hard about that.
But I think that the volume of messages echoing these sentiments is calling attention to something that is seriously lacking in the Church. I spent some time this morning doing some research on the feminization of the Church, including a fascinating 2006 article in Biola Magazine, and found that there really does seem to be an imbalance in the Church demographic. There are people far smarter than me talking about this right now, so I’ll avoid proposing solutions and simply give some thoughts and encouragements. As I write this, I write to myself and let you listen in.
A few summers ago, I was on a bike ride with a girl from Moody, where I went to college. She was arguably one of the most attractive women on campus at the time, and she ended up telling me that since she arrived on campus, she had never been asked out. Not once. I was floored. How could this beautiful girl be at school for two years and not be asked on a date one time?? I had to look no further than my own brain for the answer: I was scared that she was too good-looking to ever go on a date with a shlub like me. That, or she was already being pursued by countless other men who were undoubtedly better than me at manly things.
We can point our fingers at things like porn, movies, and advertising for making men timid, feminine, or fearful, and all of these are certainly factors. But I think another factor is the churches we have been raised in. We sing songs about being wrapped in the arms of…another man. We sit in circles and talk about our feelings. The sermons we hear often evoke emotional responses rather than inviting us to rise up and take action against injustice.
The studies conducted in the article mentioned above show that this has created one of two results: It drives men away from the church, or it makes Christian men less manly. (I am employing the general definitions of “feminine” and “masculine” as defined in the Biola article. For more clarification, please read her explanation, as she does a much better job than I could! I am not pro-hypermasculinity.) Of course, I know plenty of good men who are both attractive and godly, though it seems like they are becoming somewhat of a scarcity these days.
Studies showed women outnumbering men in churches by roughly 3 to 2. And to be honest, I can understand that. I can only sit in a circle and chat for so long before I get antsy. I can only hear so many sermons and sing songs before I want to get out and do something. Even Paul tells us that the Kingdom is not one of talk, but of power (1 Corinthians 4:20).
In my own life, the time I became most passionate about serving the Lord was when I first learned about the kingdom of God. It stirred me so much I got “your kingdom come” tattooed over my heart. It was when I read that Jesus came to care for the outcasts, the poor, the sick, and disabled. I realized Jesus is about justice and action. His is not a sideline Christianity, where we show up and watch a nice service.
No, in Matthew 11:12, Jesus says “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” How often have we heard a call for people to rise up and violently lay hold of the kingdom of God?
I think it’s interesting that the majority of Jesus’ followers were men. Yet today, Christian women are having such a hard time finding a godly man that they have to reach out to strangers on the internet. (Again….I am not Bible Man, Tim Tebow, or the Pope. If they knew how bad I snore, they would lose interest right away.)
We are supposed to be the pursuers. The fact that so many women have reached out to me makes me wonder what happened to all the guys in their home churches. Did they evaporate? I wonder if the format of our churches the past century has made a congregation of milquetoasts rather than Calebs, who at the age of 85 looked at an enemy mountain and said, “Let’s go get it” (Joshua 14).
So, to the Christian men, I say this in encouragement: Be bold! If there’s a girl you like, take a stab at asking her out! Too many women have slid through my life because I was too timid to make a move.
Even bigger than that, look at what makes your heart come alive. We as men tend to hide these things because we’re unsure how our gifts and desires plug into a church setting. Want adventure? Go do missions. Want to fight for justice? Stand up for the rights of the neglected and abused. God’s kingdom is much bigger than our perceptions of church tend to be.
And to Christian women, I want to lend a word: Don’t idolize me.
Don’t idolize famous pastors or speakers or missionaries. I think that could be a very dangerous road to go down, because no one is as good as you imagine (except Jesus!). We are not perfect because we are more famous than the dude running slides in your church. The same Spirit lives in him as the One who lives in us. We are far from perfect, and we would not be better husbands just because we are well-known or occasionally have a cool blog post.
There must be some great guys in your church. Give them a chance!
Wonderfully written article.
I feel quite odd comenting on something that was posted so recently. However I was on my daily break from psych homework by wasting time on fb and read this article. And I don’t comment on fb so I had to pop on over here. Anyway, I wonder if you have a female friend/acquaintance that has a female perspective to this? Besides the “I don’t get asked out” perspective? At the moment I am not married or dating, and despite how attractive I feel I am (in the most non vain way possible), I haven’t been asked out in over a year. But I also don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. You know that saying “a woman should be so wrapped up in God that a man has to seek Him to find her”? To me it always sounded like a holy way of trying not to be lonely. But, as I look at the couples at my church, the ones who I’ve been able to see from first meeting through marriage, have fallen into the truth of that statement. I don’t think there’s something wrong with me and that’s why I haven’t been asked out, I also don’t think I’m not “wrapped up in God enough” so the men that are seeking Him, aren’t able to find me. I don’t know what’s up with this dry spell. It just is what it is. But I do know that it would be totally awesome to end up with a man who got me as a bonus to his seeking God. Because when I dream about a man, what I dream about is standing next to him in my church’s worship service while he sings to our Jesus at the top of his lungs, arms stretched out. Bonus for being taller than me. Which brings me to you and Tebow. All women want a strong healthy man, so runner and football player theoretically check that box. Christian women, (probably most women actually, because even if you don’t believe in God, I think your heart still seeks him) want that plus an unwavering commitment to God. If you’re gonna go in front of America (where we somehow are ok with mocking on christian values) and say I heart Jesus, then that box is checked too.
I lost my point somewhere, but if you do have a female perspective to this post and are ok with posting, please do. I’d love to read it. Also I’m so not going back to proof read this. Imagine the errors to be whatever makes the most sense.
Amen. Well said Ethan.
They are great…they are also either 18 and under or 68 and up…but they ARE great men. 🙂
Small town life…what more can I say? haha kidding.
Your points were well made.
Love this narrative Ethan 🙂
It reminds me of this article I read a while back http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239895
Overall I agree with the sentiments you are saying here however as a Christian guy I feel there are a lot of generalisations being made here. You say you know a lot of attractive and godly men, what does this even mean? Is that your own perception of attractive you are referring to? As attraction is purely perceptive, surely? As an average looking guy, I can say its definitely not all about looks although yes our bodies are temples. Finally, do all women really want a ‘strong, healthy man’? Again I feel this is playing into a stereotype. There’s a whole lot to a man than his body.
Very good read, and also true in every respect.
Good read, true in every respect
Good article Ethan.
I think that part of the solution is: How comfortable am I with myself, as a man, so I don’t feel intimidated around women. As a generalization most women do desire certain things from a man. Obviously, not all women are the same. but that is a good thing! Once you become friends with someone of the opposite sex you can discover what that person desires. Then if you have the same desires in common you may decide to pursue a deeper relationship with that person.
In order for that to happen, as a man, you need to be comfortable enough with who you are, to hang out with women as friends, and get to know them.
Sounds like a pat answer but, as a man, are you willing to join the choir at church, get involved teaching a class, going on a short term missions trip, and just generally being involved enough with others to put yourself out there and get know them.
The great part about doing what you talk about in this article, seeking the Kingdom of God, His righteousness and His justice, is that it greatly impacts your relationship with Jesus, and then the relationships with others around you. Some of those others will undoubtedly be people of the opposite sex.
Keep moving forward Ethan
Thanks Ethan! I myself am a girl who is asking where are the “christian dudes” in church but on the right time, God will give us the right person 🙂
One thing you have not mentioned, is the simple fact that if you do approach a woman, who is less appreciative of your ‘unwanted’ advances, she can ruin your reputation with a simple accusation of you being a creep etc.
For this simple reason, I believe that approaching a woman at work or church etc. is not in a man’s best interest. Personally I’d rather forgo a relationship than go through that, but what do I know, I’m in my late 40s.
It’s fascinating to me that you read the feminization of the church as leading it away from being active and justice-oriented. I believe you enough to believe your analysis holds water in your own context. However, I worked in ministry-justice work and in community organizing for 4 years in Seattle in many contexts ranging from Ecumenical-mainline, Catholic, interfaith, and non-religious, and in several of those we have all been asking the question WHERE ARE ALL THE MEN? In church. In justice work. In volunteer work. In community building. When the work was paid (which was not often) my co-coworkers were generally evenly split, but in my volunteer work it was nearly 80% or more women. I did not experience this in my non-demonomination, evangelical communities in high school, mostly because I was told implicitly and explicitly that it was in fact “mens” work. This was done implicitly and explicitly. It took me leaving those communities to find my own fierceness and agency when it comes to working against injustice and towards healing and transformation. So I ask you, is feminization the cause of this or is it actually a mix of twisted feminization and twisted masculinity? At one of my jobs I spent time interviewing men about this gap and there were lots of reasons, but one significant one was not wanting or feeling ably to do work for free or with clear job benefits. This leaves me to wonder why so many men feel work must always be done for these ends. Whereas women who are also support in themselves are more willing to do unpaid work and be involved. And finally I ask, why is there the assumption that men always be the one to ask someone out. Pursuing someone is a two way street and is done in a multiplicity of actions, not simply asking someone out. By all means men, increase your confidence, take chances, be willing to be vulnerable (asking out someone does this). But don’t be bewildered if in fact you get asked out OR someone says no. I hope to work from the other side as a women encouraging other women to be aware of their own agency. In this I’ve often been confronted by the assumption that women, especially godly women, should be waiting around for partnership, too concerned with God to be pursuing men, however this basic idea gets phrased and it seems an unfair assumption to both women and men.