Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus



                                                                           illustration by Adiyush

29% LESS LIKELY THAN WOMEN

    A quick look around the church house easily betrays our shortage of men. A 2011 poll at Barna.org showed 44% of American women and 36% of men attending church weekly - a 22% gap. PBS.org polled a 35% difference (31 to 23), and PewForum.org documented a 29% gender gap of 44 to 34 respectively.
   These alarming statistics lead some to claim women have a "religious gene" making them more prone to church involvement, but Pew Research shows Muslim statistics holding just 37% of women attending mosque weekly compared to 57% of men. With Muslim women 35% less likely than men to attend mosque, religion can not be considered the universal domain of women.
    Pastors and other high level church leaders in America are overwhelmingly men, so the opportunity for advancement could hardly favor women. If we can not blame genetics or advancement opportunity, why do women hold such a strong majority of church attenders in America?

RELATIONSHIP NOT RULES
    Perhaps American churches today are best summarized by, "Christianity is relationship, not rules." While the phrase is true, it is only one aspect of our faith. The relational truth of our faith has unfortunately become our synopsis of the entire New Testament to our detriment. We have limited the much larger, much deeper, much more exciting message of scripture so much that Christianity has become defined almost exclusively by a feminine strength: relationship.
  To be fair, men understand relationships. Men need relationships. Men appreciate relationships. Men engage in relationships. But women have a much better grasp of the importance of relationships. Women generally do relationships much better than men do, and women speak the language of relationship far more fluently than men.
     When a man visits a church house, he sees people neatly dressed, speaking politely, talking, laughing, hugging, going to well-mannered classes, and listening attentively to others. We men can do those things, but all of the above behaviors come more naturally as a whole to women than men. As the visiting man passes through the relationship oriented lobby, he enters a room designed for passivity. He finds seating designed to limit his location to a few square feet where he must sit, stand, sing-a-long, and passively listen for an hour or more. When the religious music begins, he most likely hears either an antique hymn or a modern soft-rock song from a style of music (soft rock) documented to appeal 60-65% to women rather than men.*
      Once the church-visiting man has waded through the relationship oriented crowd, the passive seating, and the feminine music, one would expect the sermon (mostly likely from a man) to be the church's grand opportunity to reach him. To the contrary, despite an obligatory comment about sports at the opening, our many sermons typically turn to one of three subjects: either polite (moral) behavior, how to improve family relationships, or how to improve one's relationship with God. These are all great topics; but to men, these messages can sound like the taming of masculinity rather than empowerment.

ROUGH & TUMBLE, NOT SOFT & TAMING
     Jesus had no imbalance of women among His followers. He won instant allegiance from men who followed Him by the thousands. Men laid down their lives in torture and execution to testify that they had seen Him rise from the dead. Men went into the temple, synagogues, and town halls to declare Jesus as their new King. He won no followers by sword fights. He won no followers by talking about the latest games in the coliseum or Olympic contests. King Jesus won followers by speaking almost exclusively one message: Kingdom. He spoke again and again of the domain of a king. He talked about a new kingdom, a new king, and about an enemy kingdom. He talked about the paranormal powers of the new kingdom, the abnormal ways of the kingdom, and the coming battles between light and darkness.
    Jesus spoke the language of men because He spoke of kingdoms in addition to relationship. Our relationship messages and focuses are true and good and crucial, but so too are the messages of the King, of the kingdom, of our enemies, and of spiritual war. Christianity is all about relationship, not rules. But so too is Christianity all about victory, conquest, dominion, and rebellion against the enemy ruler of this world.
      Christianity is rebellion, not rules; revolution, not rules; riot, not rules. The New Testament is about a new kingdom and our battles in the new King's name, triumphing over evil. When we begin explaining the mysteries of God's kingdom and tell men how they can join this great war, they will no longer be 29% less likely than women to join with us in this great adventure.


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*Inside Radio 2009 poll via nytimes.com 12/9/2009. Inset illustration "Vikings Fighting" by Tone in Denmark August, 2005.

"Why are Men 29% Less Likely Than Women to Attend Church" by Matthew Bryan first appeared at www.matthewbryan.net on January 1, 2013. All rights are reserved.