My rating: 4 of 5 stars
David Murrow has written an important book that churches can only ignore to their great peril. The statistics are frightening … mainline churches are increasingly feminine in their membership, even as they decline in overall membership. Churches that are growing and thriving are self-consciously targeting men and involving the men. More importantly, they are doing things that men want to be a part of. Men want to be on a mission–they feel uncomfortable around lots of talk of an “intimate relationship with Jesus.” Murrow makes some splendid points, especially in ch. 12 (“Twelve Things Men Fear About Church”). My personal favorites: “I’ll Get Stuck with Some Weirdo” (think Ned Flanders), “Is He Gay?”, “Church is Tough on Single Guys,” “Christians Don’t Get Much Sex,” “Church is Full of Hypocrites,” “All They Want Is My Money,” “I’m Jealous,” (Murrow quotes a country song–“She left me for Jesus/ And that just ain’t fair/ She says that he’s perfect/ How could I compare?”).
Murrow delivers a fair amount of Biblical exegesis, along with statistical realities. He shows how we have lost sight of the Lion of Judah in our emphasis on “Jesus meek and mild,” the Lamb of God. Both pictures are Biblical, but most people have downplayed the rugged and confrontational Jesus. We think of him as a bit of an effeminate hippies (just think of the atrocious Protestant “icons” that abound in older churches). But it’s not all bad news. Murrow also profiles some churches that successfully engage and retain men. Interestingly, the last church he profiles is pastored by a woman, but she is a woman who knows that men are different.
Murrow’s discussion of “Men and Contemporary Worship” begs for more development. He presents some great points. For instance, how many guys would be comfortable singing the words of many “praise songs” to other guys? Murrow gives us the hilarious image of two hunters sitting in a duck blind, with one of them suddenly telling his friend: “Your love is extravagant/ Your friendship, it is intimate/ I feel like I’m moving to the rhythm of Your grace/ Your fragrance is intoxicating in this secret place.” While there is much to be said about some of the language of the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and of David’s love for Jonathan (though Jonathan was probably old enough to be David’s father), Murrow’s basic point sticks. Contemporary worship does play to the strengths of women, as does church culture overall. We have constructed a culture where our core practices reward a woman’s typical gifting (speaking abilities, ability to empathize with others, emotionalism). This is a culture where more bookish types like me can excel. Men of action, or men who work with their hands, feel somewhat out of place.
We need to remember that Jesus called his disciples to come and do life with him. They didn’t sign up for a class, and didn’t go attend a church conference. They went on a mission with him. He taught them continually with stories and with plenty of visual illustrations. He challenged them, and gave them near-impossible tasks to carry out. He let them fail, but them spent time with them and taught them how to do it better. Murrow (and many others) are calling us to do the same for the men among us. With so many other things competing for man’s time, the Church needs to re-think its entire approach. How many more men will we lose in the meantime?
(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)