Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I'm going to address an issue with an adapted post from a few years back. It will take two posts to say all I which to say about the feminization of the church.

The "feminization" of the Church is a much discussed topic today. David Murrow has written a very popular book entitled "Why Men Hate Going To Church" and Christianity Today reported that an earlier book by Leon Podles, a Senior Editor at Touchstone Magazine, entitled "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity," has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. 

You can see the subject is taken quite seriously in many quarters today. The CT report stated that some groups are seeking to remedy the problem with attempts at increasing female clergy and even producing gender-neutral bibles and hymns of all things.  

Well, is the Church being "feminized?" If so, has this resulted in men having little to do with Church life as many people claim? Like most issues, there is no simple or easy answer to those questions. That said, I have a perspective that I hope will help our thinking on this matter. 

But I first have to say that, in discussing subjects such as this, definitions are everything.

I remember witnessing to a teenager one time years ago. I recall asking him a simple question. [At least it was simple to me.]  I asked, "Have you ever been saved?" [Coded language of my generation you understand.] His answer was "oh yes." I was SO pleased. I then asked him to tell me about it. His response was, "I was going under the third time in a river and my brother pulled me out." [He was dead serious...excuse the pun.] 

Needless to say a few definitions were in order for him to understand what I was talking about and I promptly delivered them with a wonderful result of comprehension when those definitions were properly understood. I'm thinking definitions may be as much the problem in our questions on the "feminization" of the Church today as they were to that boy years ago.

For example, if by "feminization" is meant that you will find more women involved in Church life when gathered than you do men, I would have to agree. But I don't know that that is a problem. It seems to me that's been true of the church all along. Even in the NT the women were involved with the person of Jesus in many more ways than were men at times. The tomb situation, the Cross moment, the teaching and washing of Jesus feet are all illustrations of that fact. [Not many men mentioned in those moments.]

That, however, could be more a testimony to the courage of women as a gender and their ability to face the prospect of pain than anything else. Following Jesus often brought pain [and still may in many quarters] and women have shown their endurance ability for pain quite well in child bearing. Men will never experience that, for obvious reasons, and will, if wise, concede the point that women may be stronger than are men where pain is concerned. [That's just a thought.]

Some might mean by the "feminization of the Church" that men, as a gender, are less likely to be involved where relationships are concerned or small groups are being created because men don't talk  or show emotions/feelings as much as do women. But, if that's what is meant, I'm wondering if that might not be an unhealthy generalization based on a false premise. [Perhaps even as my own generalization in the preceding paragraph about pain might be taken as an unproven one also.]

I must say, I've always been suspicious of categorizing men and women with certain assumed gender characteristics as if they were absolutes anyway. You've heard it said of women that they love to shop but men hunt. The difference? Women "look and look and love the looking." With men it is.."I see..I shoot..[buy] I go home." At the risk of destroying any perceptions about Mary and me, [those who know us well know this to be true] Mary is the one who sees..shoots..[and would rather see and shoot [buy] off the Internet] and goes home. I, on the other hand, love to look and look whether I buy or not.. be it cars.. clothes..or garage sales. So, I'm thinking gender characterizations may not be helpful when speaking to this kind of question about the church either.

Then there is the thought that by "feminization" of the Church is meant a diluting of the message of Christ into an easy believism. In other words, the message of commitment and sacrifice is lost and a "feel good" message is being presented and accepted in our day and that turns men off. This is sometimes identified as "psycho-babble" which is a Siamese twin to "feminization" in the minds of many. The assumption here is that women will fall for "easy believism," [as evidenced, I guess, by Eve's proneness to deception] but men don't and most likely won't. They need an "Onward Christian Soldiers' message because that's the male mentality. 

But I would like to ask someone, if this is a fact, why the meetings of the TV preachers, many of whom I believe have diluted the message, are being attended by multitudes of people which, if my TV shows a correct picture, includes tons of MEN in those meetings. Where, of all things, there is the raising of hands, the shedding tears, the closing of eyes, and a singing of "loving Jesus with everything in me." Am I to assume those guys are ONLY "girly men" and no real men are present at all? [I'm being factitious here.]

I think it is part of our fallen nature and the flesh to be drawn to the big, sometimes easy, sometimes feel good, gatherings where a person may not be called upon to give a whole lot in terms of sacrifice. [Not that all those gatherings are that.] I do see a lot of "easy believism" happening all over in Church life today, but it isn't just the women doing it. I think MOST OF US may be falling into that trap in the present day if we cared to examine closely. 

We COULD get men together, if we want to, by emphasizing real "manly things" like hunting, fishing, [though I know women who love those things and men who don't] and singing triumphant songs with soldier lyrics, but we could still wind up with a big, sometimes easy, sometimes feel good gathering, that doesn't cost us a whole lot in terms of a sacrificial kind of thing at all. We will have just changed the content of the gathering.

The REAL problem with this "feminization of the Church" thing is perhaps far beyond any one of these ideas mentioned so far. What is the real problem? I think we have no genuine, satisfactory, biblical idea of what the Church and her life really is about, so we see something that appears to attract women and repel men and call it the Church and assume we've "feminized" the Church. 

I think it may be that were we to "masculinize" [made up word] the Church, we wouldn't solved our real problem either. So, again, what is our problem? One more time_____

I don't think we adequately__biblically__ understand in our day__what the Church really is.

What do I mean? Next time we'll see.

Paul B.


Cathy_H said...

I like this paragraph a lot... "I think it may be that were we to "masculinize" [made up word] the Church, we wouldn't solved our real problem either. So, again, what is our problem? One more time_____I don't think we adequately__biblically__ understand in our day__what the Church really is."

Aussie John said...


You said,"I don't think we adequately__biblically__ understand in our day__what the Church really is."

Right on!

Now I can hardly wait for your next part.

Rex Ray said...

I’ll tell you what I think is wrong with the church today. And like Aussie John said, “I know I’m sticking my neck out…”

Today, Christians tend to let the Bible do all the witnessing for Jesus. In early days, there was not a New Testament.

Every Christian then, when meeting anyone, could say:

‘Have you heard about the Son of God that was crucified on a cross for the punishment of our sins that we could go to heaven if we accept him as our savior?’

Christians, today, (me) would fear asking that question to be thought ‘crazy’.

The logical question today would be as you asked, “Have you been saved?”

Oh, but that takes courage—it’s much easier to do all our talking on a computer.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


Sorry for the "lurking" I sometimes have a hard time catching myself coming and going between pastoring and hospice chaplain work I am involved in. Though I periodically log on and peruse a topic, time to comment (anywhere other than my in my brain) is limited.

However, a few thoughts are rolling around in my head...I do not know if they will contribute to the discussion but i will share them anyway..

Thought number one:

How can the church become feminized when mostly men are in charge!?! (removing tongue from cheek)

Thought number two

I think the "Church's" greatest problem is that it has more institutional than it is incarnational.

Thought number three

My wife who is a 4th grade school teacher and my mother who is has done special education for almost twenty years have both observed that our educational system is more conducive to the learning styles of girls(in general) than boys (in general...)and she is not alone in that observation (though the evidence is mostly anecdotal)

Much of what is done in the institutional church is informed by an educational mentality(teacher-student, sit down-shut up, listen-learn-apply) which may produce some of the "feminization" folks think they are observing

Thought number four

I thiink you are spot on about the "misundestanding of what a church really is" clarification/recovery in that area may be the best way to deal with some of the dysfunction that has developed over the centuries


I do believe this is one of the most profound things I have ever seen you tap out on your keyboard...

"Today, Christians tend to let the Bible do all the witnessing for Jesus."

I did a funeral yesterday for a patient I lost. I really enjoyed getting to know and interact with her son (who was old enough to be my father.) This guy was very smart, very well learned, very inquisitive, and very disillusioned with the christianity. In the course of my remarks to family and friends I made a comment that I did not intend to make...off the cuff...afterwards he hugged me and said "the main thing I will take away from what you saidis this":

Sometimes scripture makes me crazy...but Jesus gives me peace!

"because that is exactly how I feel

Rex, I think you may be on to something..Thx

Bob Cleveland said...

Some years ago, I was reading The Jamaica Gleaner online .. that's Jamaica's main newspaper .. and I stumbled on an article entitled "Why Men Don't Go To Church". It was an excerpt from the book you mentioned, and you need to know it's a much bigger problem there than here. That was early Sunday morning, and I read it to my class that day.

There were two generalities in it that I have never forgotten. And I realize that when you speak of "feminizing the church", you're speaking in generalities which apply to folks as a group but perhaps not all individuals. The points:

1) Men generally strive for greatness. That seems to attract them. If they've been well raised, they want to do & be the best. Church doesn't seem to encourage that, probably mixing up greatness with glory. I told my class that morning that my goal was the be the best Bible teacher in the world. I know I never could be .. that's Elwyn Stafford, one of my old mentors .. but if my goal was less than that, that I'd be shortchanging them.

2) Much of the praise & worship repertoire says things like "As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee". And men don't talk that way, outside the bedroom.

Of course, those intent on worshiping the Lord can get into that, but the church ought not to have to worry about attracting them. They're supposed to be there for what they bring .. that which every joint supplieth.

I'm not sure the word "feminizing" is the right one, but it's the best one I can think of. And, at that, I'm not sure I got my ideas across, but that's probably because I couldn't convey it in one sentence.


Paul Burleson said...


I was away from my computer yesterday and the entire day today... fishing. Caught several and will be having a fish fry soon.

Great comments one and all. I have finished my next post on this subject and will post it tomorrow. I will then address comments from this post as well as the next one...together.

Thanks for commenting. We'll have more to say I'm sure when the next one is up.

Kristen said...

"Much of the praise & worship repertoire says things like "As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee". And men don't talk that way, outside the bedroom."

Except that David, apparently, did. And was not ashamed. Maybe he knew something that we in our sterilized, reason-worshiping civilization don't?

I think part of the problem is that we teach men from boyhood that it's "sissy" to show these kinds of emotions. But men in the Ancient Near East really didn't think that way.

And with words like "sissy," we teach boys two things. One, that girls are a certain, stereotyped kind of being. And two, that being like a girl is a thing to be despised. Maybe the reason men are so uncomfortable with the Spirit-inspired words of David, sung in their churches, is that they have imbibed too deeply of the stereotyping of the female and the disparagement of women in our culture.

Paul Burleson said...


It would be impossible for me to agree with your comment more. Thanks.