By: Rev. Ed Schneider
There is a certain sadness and frustration I experience daily regarding the painful reality of fewer and fewer males being seen, much less actively participating, in the life of the Christian church. This undeniable fact has far more to do with what the ”body of Christ” is doing to block their entrance and participation rather than the standard excuse I hear all the time, ”It’s just the changing culture.”
This one component of the “life of the Church” is a real problem, and it’s not going away. Older denominational Churches, such as Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Reformed and the like, are facing this reality every single day, and the reality of the lack of males adorning the active participation in the life of the local church is at a point of crisis.
Thousands of churches have altered their music styles, thinking it will be a quick fix concerning the need to draw more men into the life of the Christian Church. Truthfully, in some rare circumstances, it works in the short term. However, the underlying challenge causing this multi-generational concern is not being addressed at all.
The harsh truth in this philosophy of ”drawing” males into a worship setting by changing music is that they’re coming for the wrong reasons. They’re being brought and bought under false pretenses, and I have a severe dislike for any Church trying to trick folks, no matter their motivation, just to fill the pews.
If personal pleasure and the rhetoric of ”self-validation” are what is being used to ”draw anyone to a Church,” shame on us for being cowards to the Gospel.
There is a growing group of Christian pastors and educators who are unwilling to accept this current circumstance as unalterable, and they are doing something about it.
In a normal church setting, the leadership of the local congregation is very pleased with 20 to 25 percent male participation in the life of the church. Why? Because historically women have always been far more active in the day-to-day activities as well as the support-systems of the local church. That philosophy CAN NOT exist any longer.
I want to be clear here. I am not saying men should be the only leaders in a church. That is simply not biblical. I am not saying that all the great female leaders that currently exist should keep silent because a bunch of new men show up to help. That would be silly. However, it is incredible important that each congregation’s leadership honestly reflect the actual goal of what the general congregation is supposed to look like. To that end, men must play a larger role than they do currently. We have to agree to the need of a greater male presence and we must commit to a completely diverse leadership team from the very beginning. Men must take not only an active role but a shared role of leadership with lots of different kinds of people from different kinds of traditions. By doing so, God’s kingdom….God’s people….God’s Gospel of love….will be healthy, growing, and sustainable.
Because we foster genuine value in shared leadership and because we validate through Christ, not self-serving personal pleasure, the men who have joined with us balance quite well the Bible’s call to unity in the faith as well as shared leadership and humility of personal service to others.
Beloved, it’s working and we have within this historic setting willing, wanting, searching and self-sacrificial men all over the place. Lots of differing colors, educational backgrounds, musical tastes, and philosophies of ministerial expressions. There are former Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and new converts sitting next to each other not only praising the Lord but enthusiastically uplifting each other and constantly searching for ways to serve others.
In Mark 3:13-19, it recounts Jesus leading and evaluating a group of disciples. It reads:
“Jesus decided to ask some of his disciples to go up on a mountain with Him, and they went so that they could be with Him. He also wanted to send them out to preach and to force out demons. Simon was one of the 12, and Jesus named him Peter. There were also James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. Jesus called them Boanerges, which means ‘Thunderbolts.’ Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus were also apostles. The others were Simon, known as the Eager One, and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus.” (CEV)
Jesus demonstrates clearly a few important realities of how to develop male followers into leaders. First, he chose a portion of his students, those whom he had invested his time and energy in to go with him to a place that was devoted to the presence of God.
Second, he had already committed to building a real connection and an intimate relationship before the evaluating and empowerment stage of their service of mission was even discussed.
Jesus demonstrated ”honest” leadership, not some manipulated and bastardized version of today’s modern Church marketing. It was person-to-person. It was genuine care and loving but directly challenging growth opportunities. It was single-focused that allowed for personal expression. It was ”you can,” not ”you can’t,” and it worked. It worked so well because it was genuine and it was personal.
Jesus’ process of leadership replaced his newfound disciples’ old way of living and understanding the world around them into an awakening path of faith discovery. By replacing their current environment with a new commitment to humble service and bold witnessing to the power and presence of God, a new way of walking through life became real, immediately powerful and especially self-sacrificial. He helped to redefine not only who they were but also how they were to move and interact with the world around them for the rest of their lives.
So, beloved, verily, verily I say unto you, the answer to the absence of young men and future male leaders within our Churches has everything to do with our willingness to provide a trusting, loving, validating, action-based expression of a personal relationship with people, male or female, who absolutely want to share the love of Christ in an intimate way.
Although there are not enough churches who understand this important foundation reality of healthy Christian outreach, there are some. All of us need to take a close look at our own willingness to personally find, uplift, encourage and validate males. Not because it will fill up our failing church ministries, but rather because it’s the Christ thing to do, it’s the Gospel thing to do and it’s proven to be the right thing to do. It works.