To be completely honest again. There are some things that I think are worth note, worth a comment, but not worth me spending a lot of time in debate over. One, it might be because I just don’t have enough knowledge in an area, and though I think the topic is interesting, I probably don’t know enough to post too much stuff on it (but then again, I guess that hasn’t stopped me much before). Second, some things are worth note and a comment because I see or have taken notice of the issue, but it’s not an issue that I think is the pressing issue at the moment. I think this issue is reflective of both of those things. I am no expert in this area, and I don’t see this as the pressing issue in the churc either. What issue? What some are calling the “feminization of the church.”
Now, let me first state that I like Biola a lot. I almost went to undergrad there. I have good friends there. And I have particpated in some events there. So this is not a knock on Biola, as much as some of my awe over some of the conclusions in the article I am linking below.
Over the weekend my father-in-law handed me a copy of one of Biola’s magazines. I don’t remember the name, but I think it might have been “Connections.” I don’t have the magazine in my possession anymore since my sister-in-law is in possession of it (she is an alumni), but the article was titled, The Feminization of the Church
Why Its Music, Messages and Ministries Are Driving Men Away. And though I don’t have the hardcopy of what I read, I found this article online which appears to be exactly the same thing.
This is an interesting topic to me because I often wonder why the majority of people in church are women. Is it because our population consists of more men than women? Is there something in the church culture driving men away? Or is it just part of the ebb and flow that we find ourselves in at times? I don’t have any really good answers, and the ones that I have heard, aren’t that great either. All I know is that I appreciate any help or leadership I get in my college ministry, whether it be more men or more women. And sometimes it just depends on the year.
But because of this predicament that many see in the church certain ministries have risen up like Wild at Heart, Promise Keepers, etc., etc. I have even been too several Promise Keeper events in the mid-90’s.
But what bothers me about this discussion is the “hyper-masculine” language, that seems to state that unless the metaphors of “war” and “battle” and “fighting” are used, than men are not being reached and any other message is irrelevant. Now I am painting with broad strokes here, but you know what I mean.
Let me give some examples from the article:
Feminized music concerns Steve Craig (’05), a graduate of Biola’s degree completion program and the director of a men’s ministry of over 400 men at Yorba Linda Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif.
“In our men’s ministry, we’re beginning to take out the flowery songs and replace them with the warrior-type lyrics and more masculine things that men identify with,” Craig said.
Mike Erre (M.A. ’04)– the director of a men’s ministry of over 400 men at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, Calif. — said feminine expressions of spirituality are more validated than masculine expressions.
“The classic example is the worship pose of the eyes shut and the arms raised in this tender embrace, singing a song that says, ‘I’m desperate for you. You’re the air I breathe.’ Guys don’t talk to guys like that,” Erre said.
Now, I’m not saying that there doesn’t need to be a balance of lyrical content, but is it unmasculine for a man to shut his eyes and raise his hands in the air in worship to God? And if worship music begins to be replaced by certain imagery, than is this movement of masculinity going to be all about warriors and fighting?
Then there is this comment:
Also, many church service opportunities are geared for women — like working in the nursery, teaching children, cooking and hospitality. So, many men feel their options are limited to ushering, directing parking, or sitting on a committee — activities that might not allow them to use their skills or challenge them.
Wow! The author may not mean it that way, but that seems like a sexist comment. And yeah, I know the author is a woman. But I didn’t know that cooking, teaching children, working in the nursery and hospitality were only gifts given to women.
What seems to underlie a lot of the article is that men…not all, but some…are uncomfortable with some of the shifting of roles in society, and they aren’t quite sure what to do about it. Maybe it’s not the lyrics or the music or the preaching. Maybe it is something larger. And it’s not only men that are uncomfortable with some of this role-shifting in culture, but many women as well.
Then there is this comment:
Even professionals who join church committees, like a building or finance committee, often complain that the skills they contribute to the corporate world –like taking risks, making hard decisions, and thinking outside the box –aren’t welcome in many churches, whose governing boards tend to play it safe, according to Murrow. As a result, less gets accomplished, which can be frustrating to men who are results-driven, he said.
For example, some businessmen might suggest that a church cut an ineffective program that is costing time and money and replace it with a more effective one. But inefficient programs often remain because a more feminine value–of not hurting people’s feelings– wins out.
Wow! The impication seems to be that women run more inefficient programs because of their feminine value of not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings. As opposed to men I supppose who don’t care about the feelings of others at all. Oh, and maybe the church isn’t supposed run like the corportations men work in during the week. Maybe part of the problem of the church is that it has succumbed to the American corporate business model for its operation.
Here comes more:
Touchy-feely sermons come from touchy-feely pastors. A feminized church tends to attract more “gentle, sensitive, nurturing” leadership,” according to Pearcey.
Now here comes my own bias, because I tend to see myself as senstive and nurturing as a leader. But I guess I didn’t know that leadership wasn’t supposed to be nurturing. My bad. I admit, I have my own flaws as a leader and I’m not always as well-rounded as I should be, but Jesus seemed to be a nurturing leader. And he seemed to be sensitive enough that one of his disciples was comfortable enough to recline up against him at the last supper (John 13:25).
Now here comes Pearcey’s knock on youth pastors:
Pearcey said to consider a typical youth pastor.
“He’s really into relationships, very motivating, but is he teaching good apologetics? Is he teaching youth to use their minds and to understand deeper theological truths? At least the ones I’ve known haven’t,” she said. “Today, the common trajectory is for youth pastors to become senior pastors,” she added.
There you have it. Ministry and the church and the pastorate is not about relationships, but it is about teaching good apologetics.
Here is the final killer quote:
Yet, much of the church is seeking further feminization, through attempts to increase female clergy and to create gender-neutral Bibles and hymns. Many liberal seminaries now graduate equal numbers of women and men, or more women than men, like Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School.
Well, they didn’t mention Fuller Seminary where I went. But I thought Fuller promoted women in ministry because of the calling of God upon their lives and the work of the Holy Spirit for full-time ministry, not because it was a coup to further feminize the Church. And maybe the church isn’t seeking feminization as much as it is cathing up to a history and a church that has been mostly masculinzed for so long.
The one thought that I really appreciated in the article was from one of Biola’s professors:
But Dr. Gary Strauss, a professor in Biola’s Rosemead School of Psychology, warns that Murrow may be promoting a “hypermasculinity”–the idea that all men should fit the stereotypical norm of a “man’s man,” like the Marlboro Man–tough, outdoorsy and self-reliant.
“He seems to place such a strong emphasis on the hypermasculine image that he doesn’t adequately affirm men of a different type,” Strauss said. “To me, from the hyperfeminine woman, on the one end of the human spectrum, to the hypermasculine man, on the other, and every person in between (assuming psychological health), reflects the breadth and image of God,” he said.
Hey, if you read my blog at all, you know I love Jack Bauer, and he is hardly your typical feminine stereotype. I also love Braveheart and Gladiator as much as the next guy. But I don’t agree with some of the conclusions that are being discussed, nor do I think that the answer for the chuch is to dress it up in military language and garb in an attempt to strike a better gender balance. And maybe the problem is not with the church, but with us as men in general. Maybe we as men need to learn how to be men in the church today, and not grasp for old stereotypes of what we think masculinity is supposed to be in the church. As the roles of men and women shift in both society and the church it is going to take time and some periods of wrestling out what the church looks like. There is no easy answer and there is no cookie cutter solutions.
I think and believe that one of the most creative relationships is that between a man and woman, a husband and wife. It is creative because of the differences that sometimes exist between the sexes, and it is that tension that I think makes for a beautiful relationship and marriage. It is a true balancing act that only God can succeed in bringing together. (But hey, what do I know…I’m speaking as a man who has been married for only ten months 🙂
And I think that if the church is truly going to be the Church, it is going to need both the gifts of men and women. It is going to need both men and women using the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them. And whether the church has more men or more women does not matter. What matters is that God is using both men and women to accomplish His work, in the Church and here on earth.