There was a post about church renewal that involved men recently on a social media channel I monitor. Sidebar: is anyone else seeing a pattern in these blog posts? Hmm.
Anyway, this post specifically addressed the decline of men in the attendance at a church not terribly far from the church I serve.
The issues the pastor there saw began when she recognized that most of her congregation were female and older and that her church was essentially decorated in a fashion that suited them. As she looked deeper, this trend had impacted areas of the worship service, the lectionary, hymn selection, and more. She made the determination that if she wanted to see growth in the church community, she needed to see masculine growth in her church. She explained the issue and her plan and received buy-in from her team. They changed the decor to be more masculine than the doilies, pastel tone paint and quilts and began balancing the nature of the worship service. They decorated in a gender-neutral fashion that was appealing to both men and women.
The net-net is, they experienced growth that was not only in numbers in pews but also in engagement within the church body. Men didn't only show up, they assumed roles serving the congregation within their church.
All in all, it was not well received by this group, which saw this as a return to patriarchy, catering to men's needs, instead of women's needs and the desire to have a gender-neutral church that is apparently only welcoming to women.
In order to achieve that sort of removal of any warrior nature from God that are not honoring to the idea of a gender-neutral church, we need to do a few things.
Rewrite the script
We'll need to delete the following from the Bible at the very least. We should do so with the understanding that there will probably be more, as the Bible is full of stories that appeal to the masculine, patriarchal nature. These specifically speak to the warrior aspect of God, so its a good place to start if we plan on neutering God of His nature so that it's more palatable to what we expect of men.
- Exodus 15:3
- Isaiah 42:13
1 Samuel 1:3, 1:11, 4:4, 7:26, 17:45
Jeremiah 10:16, 31:35
Amos 3:13, 4:13, 5:15, 5:16, 5:27, 6:8, 6:14, 9:5
We should also seriously scrutinize Revelations for its imagery that has Christ coming with robes dipped in blood, fire emanating from his eyes, and a sword issuing from his mouth, all from the back of a horse, the symbolism of which is that he is not returning in peace, but rather as a warrior.
In order to get rid of a masculine viewpoint, we need to get rid many parts of God. That, for the record isn't just ill-advised, it's impossible. Instead, I propose we honor and balance the nature of our church as God is balanced within His own nature.
The biggest issue with this is simple. Its unbalanced approach leads to an unrealistic expectation that men will stand firmly rooted in the power God placed inside them because it removes from them the inspiration and the scriptural backbone of how to be men, to begin with. In other words, don't expect stand up men to fill your congregations if you are removing the inspiration for them to stand in the first place. They have nothing upon which to stand.
Men won't be very interested in that, I'm afraid. And it's not conjecture, it's actual fact as congregational demographics often skew female and older.
A balanced approach to a worship service and space has to speak to the warrior/protector nature of God, as well as to the nurturing/loving nature of God equally. Not more male, not more female, but equally balanced as God is balanced. When it gets out of balance, you have to re-balance it by attracting those who need to return to balance it. Once back in balance, you can enter a more neutral mode, by speaking harmony into the body from the pulpit and from the activities present within the church, serving everyone.