Christianity is the only world religion with a chronic shortage of men. So it’s not surprising that women are the backbone of the Christian congregations in America. Take for example, the facts that women are:
• 57 % more likely to participate in adult Sunday school
• 56 % more likely to hold a leadership position at a church (not including the pastor)
• 54 % more likely to participate in a small group
• 46 % more likely to disciple others
• 39 % more likely to have a devotional time or quiet time
• 33 % more likely to volunteer for a church
• 29% more likely to read the Bible
• 29 % more likely to share faith with others
• 23 % more likely to donate to a church
• 16 % more likely to pray
This disparity of participation has lead one researcher to query, “What is it about Christianity, especially Western Christianity, that drives a wedge between the church and men who want to be masculine?”
The answer? Men don’t go to church because they’re practicing another religion – masculinity, or rather, the quest for masculinity, which has replaced Christianity as the true religion of men.
Men seek the holy grail of masculinity with consummate single-mindedness: their work, hobbies, entertainment, follies, addictions, everything they do is designed to prove to themselves and the world they are "men." But, like the ego, it's only a concept and can't ever be proved with scientific certainty. Similar to the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity, a man's confidence in his masculinity is the most elusive trophy in the Temple of Manhood. The attainment of this elusive quest demands (among other characteristics I will address in another post) that men avoid anything that might call their manhood into question. Foremost among personal qualities that may cast doubt on a man's perception of his manliness are those associated with the feminine, such as gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, vulnerability, intuition, patience and sensitivity, to mention a few. Deep in their collective psyche, men believe church is something for women and children because it embraces and/or seeks to express so many of these feminine qualities.
That’s a curious conclusion, because in the Bible a youthful carpenter and 12 robust fisherman founded the Christian faith, following which men constituted most of Christianity's major saints and heroes. Men authored all the New Testament books; all the popes have been men; all the Catholic priests are men, and 95% of the senior pastors in America are men.
But while the pastorate may look like a men’s club, almost every other area of church life is dominated by women. Whenever large numbers of Christians gather, men are never in the majority. Not at revivals. Not at crusades. Not at conferences. Not at retreats. Not at concerts. Except for men’s events and pastoral conferences, there is no large gathering of Christians that attracts more men than women.
Visit a church during the week, and you’ll find most of the people working there are women. Drop in on a committee meeting, and you’ll find most the volunteers are women—unless it’s that small bastion of male presence, the building committee. Look over the leadership roster: the pastor is likely to be a man, but at least two-thirds of the ministry leaders will be women. Examine the sign-up sheets for volunteer work, prayer, Sunday school, and nursery duty. Rarely will more than a couple of men’s names be on these lists.
When men need their souls nurtured, they are likely to go to the wilderness, the workplace, the garage, or a sports bar - someplace where they can be reassured of their identity as a man. Or, they watch their heroes on TV, in a stadium or a domed-covered sports center; their identification with their heroes reaffirms their own sense of self. Church is one of the last places men go to seek comfort for their souls.
This is not to say that men don’t believe in God; more than 90% do, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only two out of six attend church on a given Sunday. And while the average man may accept Jesus as a reality, he fails to see any value in going to church.
As a good old Texas boy has said, “Men don’t go to church ’cuz they’ve been.”