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!