Tuesday, April 10, 2007

a response to a member of the church for men

my last post started a discussion in the comments that i wanted to bring out in the open. i think the discussion is healthy and did not want it to get lost.
here are the two comments.

I understand your sentiment about the shot clocks
and about the "drive through" church. but what if
someone were to come here that normally wouldn't
come to a "normal" church like you and i attend. what
if they came and were so intrigued that they began to
change their life and began to worship God in the way
that He wants us to and then joined in fellowship with a
"real" church? there could be some validity in this process.
just a thought.

-brandon


... Amen, that is exactly what is happening at Church for Men.
I am one of the organizers. Men are coming who have not been
to church in 9 to 11 years. They are not only finding Godly men
and encouragement. They are finding home churches.
-Mike Ellis, Church for Men Florida



first i want to say that i am glad to have an organizer of this group to comment. i do not want to misrepresent them or what they are trying to do. upon reading the initial news report i was unable to find a website. today i realized i had been putting in the wrong name. i was entering "men's church" instead of "church for men".

here is their website if you would like to look around.

the website addresses a concern that i myself have had for quite awhile. the content of much of the modern "praise and worship" movement filled with language of a dating relationship that if a non-believer were to walk in, it would be unclear if we were singing about god or our boyfriend/girlfriend. this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

so with the "church for men" i can stand in agreement with this.

i also think it is a valid concern that so many men who call themselves believers do not attend church with their families. again, i can stand with the "church for men" on this.

the website poses these "big questions"

• What is it about modern Christianity that
is driving men away?

• Jesus was a magnet to men, but our churches
repel them. What’s changed?

• Why do rival faiths inspire male allegiance,
while ours breeds male indifference?

• What can we do about it?

any search through this blog will find that i have been asking similar questions for quite awhile.
why is that that our church roles are three times larger than the actual attendance? why is it that those who call themselves believers or identify themselves as christians don't live like it?
what does the church need to teach and do to hold its members accountable?

all of this to say that my concern with "the church for men" is less with the questions that they are asking, but more with the solutions being provided.

as stated in the news article, the church for men says that men aren't going to church because they are "bored stiff"

“god, I would have gone to church more if it wasn’t so boring!”

is this a valid excuse?

our first question must be, why go to church?

it is for the worship of god that we go to church. a quick search through the new testament, especially the pastoral epistles, finds that the emphasis is placed on teaching / instruction / preaching. this does not mean that there is nothing else involved. there is prayer, singing, taking of an offering, discipline, taking of the lord’s supper, and other aspects to new testament worship. but the new testament is clear that it is the teaching of the scriptures that holds prominence, and everything that is done when a church meets is ultimately done for god.

if we have to be coddled and convinced and accommodated before we go even once a month, are we even going for the right reasons?

men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of their family. what kind of leadership is it that goes to church by itself once a month to a church that does things his way?

rather than catering to men who find church “boring” or an inconvenience,
perhaps we should care less about making church “attractive” and care more about
the condition of the soul’s of those who call themselves believers, yet need specialized and customized services to come.

with this in mind, i also note that there is no precedent for men separating themselves from women to worship. quite the contrary, it is obvious that men and women worshipped together.(gal. 3:28) to meet together exclusively based on sex is to divide the body.


all of this is not to say that we make no effort in our churches to worship and present the scriptures in a way that engages its hearers, but we must be careful not to sacrifice the integrity of the message for the way that is is delivered. where is the line between "entertaining the worshippers" and doing what we do to honor god? i am all for planning our church services in a way that engages those in attendance. i do not think that "the more boring, dry, and old ways of doing things the better."

there are obviously different ways to “do” church. some may meet at a large and ornate building and have a pastor in a suit and tie behind a pulpit and have an organ accompanying their music. others may meet in a building that is more modern, like a theatre, or maybe even a “warehouse” look and have a pastor in a golf shirt and khaki pants sitting on a stool with a band. some churches in other countries meet in a grass hut and sing with just percussion and listen to preaching from a preacher dressed in native clothes, just like the poorest of their congregations.

there are many great churches with pastors that i greatly respect who fit anywhere in the spectrum of these churches. i do not think one has to attend a specific type of building, dress a certain way, or have music in a certain style in order to be a real church. but what is the *reason* why we do these things the way we do?

the church, we often forget, is (biblically) made up of believers. the gathering of the saints is for worship by believers. however, in our pragmatic society, we have gotten things backwards. our church services have gone from the biblical model of the gathering of believers to worship and hear the word of god in order that they be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness ( just read paul's instructions to timothy and titus), to focusing on getting the lost into our churches and doing whatever it takes to keep them there with the hope that they will be converted.

this is a concern that does need to be addressed. of course a church should welcome all who want to come, but the church is made up of believers! the church is to train the believers who come in all matters of the faith, including evangelism, so that as these members go out to work, school, and the community, they are witnessing and sharing the gospel.

the church in the new testament was not an evangelistic gathering. it was a gathering of believers.

we spread the gospel as believers in hopes that the lord will change their hearts and they will repent and believe! then as believers, they join the church to be trained and equipped, admonished, corrected and instructed, so that they too can go out and fulfill the great commission.

obviously this does not mean that within church services we act as if there are no unbelievers present. of course there will be, and they are always welcome! but the point is, if we spend all of our energies and efforts making our services evangelistic, we are neglecting the believers in attendance who have come needing to be matured beyond the basic matters of the faith. (heb. 5:11-13)

now, what of non-believers? in no way to i want to convey any ounce of anti-evangelism. far from it, as believers we are called, commanded to evangelize! and so by all means, i hope and pray that churches teach their members to share the gospel with those they come into contact with. we, as believers, should all be actively involved in evangelism. a healthy church is one that teaches its members to evangelize and whose members do evangelize.

what i am saying is, a church that focuses, develops, and directs its corporate worship to a gathering of non-believers is neglecting the people the church exists to benefit.

i am all for organizations making an effort to evangelize and spread the gospel to non-believers. there are many groups that do this. i have been involved with several. b.s.u./b.c.m., campus crusade, intravarsity, young life, billy graham crusades, youth evangelism conferences, etc. these are good organizations that seek out non believers to come and be the bulk of their participants so that they might hear the gospel.

but they are not churches.

a healthy church is a church that does everything in a way that honors god. in this there is room for diversity in methods, so long as it does not contradict the word of god, or turn the worship of god into a trivial matter. it will also help its members grow on into maturity and be there to instruct, correct, encourage, and minister to its members as they grow.

one final thing.

mr. ellis responds saying that many from the “church for men” are "finding church homes." if this means that they leave the "church for men" to go somewhere else, my simple question is this. where do you find an example from scripture of a church encouraging its members to go worship somewhere else? (outside of church planting) what is it at "the church for men" that is lacking that men must move on somewhere else once they reach a certain point of maturity? is this not an admission that rather than being everything that men need in a church, it is actually missing what a growing christian man needs?

if this means that they find a church home at "the church for men", what about their families?
the church's members are diverse and have diverse needs. to organize and plan church services to meet the needs of just one demographic is selfish at best, and harmful at worst.

i agree with the "church for men" that they way church is often "done" leaves a lot to be desired. but i do not believe that the answer is to custom make services for every demographic that feels slighted. (1 cor. 9:1-27)

the unifying purpose of the church is the glory of god, and that is something all christians have in common. there is something to be said for "dying to self", even in the context of how we order our worship services.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Hey, just a quick 2 cents... a friend linked to your blog post and asked for my feedback, and I read through it along with the Church for Men website. I'd like to make the observation that churchformen.com doesn't seem to be affiliated with what's going on in Daytona Beach. In fact, it seems like they'd even be opposed to such an extreme outworking of their ideas. For example, looking at their mission (http://www.churchformen.com/ourmission.php), you can see that they're looking to encourage healthy churches that are unified. No separate men's ministry, but an integrated men's and women's ministry.

I wonder if the church in Daytona Beach just has the same name and was maybe inspired by the teaching. I may be proved wrong here, but you can find the answer here when someone gets around to answering me:

http://www.cfmboards.com/viewtopic.php?p=2735#2735

(That said, I'm with you and am interested in reading more at Church for Men. The main reason men don't go to church is they aren't Christians. I don't think there's any need to make church more macho, but I would love to see more churches dealing with families and the biblical roles for men and women! I thought an article they wrote about the nature of Islam and why it appeals to men was pretty good...

http://www.churchformen.com/leadstory.php

We should be encouraging men to step up and be leaders more! We love to be challenged after all.)