Men aren’t attending church! This is the cry of
panic among many organized church attendees. There has been a rapid decline in
the number of men attending church services. This decline has caused many
leaders within religious institutions to embark on a search for answers. They
are desperate to find some kind of method they can apply or program they can
start that will draw men back into their institutions. This endeavor to get men
back into religious gatherings has been the subject matter of countless articles
in popular Christian magazines, the theme of some recently released books, and
the hot topic on numerous Christian on-line forums. Well, I wanted to take some
time to share my thoughts on the matter. I'm a man who doesn't attend church
services, so I guess I can present the other point of view to some degree.
Let me lay it out flat. There is no new style of preaching, no sermon, no
program you can introduce, no musical styling you can bring into worship that
would bring me back. There's no secret formula you have to crack to understand
my mind so you can appeal to me. No gimmick, no game, no special event you need.
I'm not somebody's trophy to be won through clever outreach tools. I'm not a
potential pew filler, chair warmer, sermon listener, or ministry need filler.
Religious meetings and services have no appeal to me at all what so ever.
So what does appeal to me? Jesus. Plain and simple. Jesus. No agenda, no
sermons, no services, no ministries, no organizations, just this amazing guy
named Jesus. And I like people who are real. And I especially like people who
are real and are really in love with Jesus.
But see, I don't think Jesus is in such a rush to get men into church services as many
folks are. He hung with men by the sea shore. He fished with them. He ate with
them. He even hung out with the scum bags and laughed with them. He never told
them to get somewhere or be somewhere. He went to them in the real world. And He
didn't come with the motive of being with them until He could get them to join
something or be a part of something. He knew how to be a friend. He was real. He
wasn't offended by them. He didn't judge them. He just accepted them. And then
when He turned and said "follow me" He didn't lead them into a church service.
He lead them to walk on water, cast out demons, go to prison for Him, be broken,
beaten black and blue and to be killed. But He never sat them down in a church
No, services have no appeal to me. I don't need soft carpet under my feet or
nice sermons in my ears. What I crave, want, and yearn for is the real life of
Christ lived out in the real world in raw reality. You can't manufacture this in
a meeting or develop a strategy for this. Either you've got Jesus or you don't.
Either His life is real in you or it's not. I don't care what works within the
four walls of a Sunday morning meeting. If I doesn't work out here in the real
world, then it doesn't mean a hill of beans to me.
I have found that many Christians are held captive within a mindset that church
is either "my way or the highway." I don't believe Jesus nor scriptures ever
taught that church is a once a week meeting, a religious organization, or a
building with a cross on top. What is the church? It is the people who follow
Jesus. Now we know this theologically, but like many things we know
theologically the reality of that is just not there for many folks. See, not
attending a once a week religious meeting does not mean I have "left church." If
church is the people who follow Jesus, and I am a person who follows Jesus, the
only way I can leave church is by leaving Him. Being His church is based on His
choosing me, not on my attendance to a meeting.
So does not belonging to a religious organization mean that I'm a “Lone Ranger?”
The truth is, anybody with a growing and thriving relationship with Jesus is
drawn to be around people more and to connect with people in deeper ways. I have
established, and am establishing many relationships with other believers that
are very Christ centered and very real. Jesus said where two or more are
gathered there He is. So anytime I'm with these folks, Jesus is there and we are
simply being His church. We pray together, talk about what He's doing in our
lives, encourage one another, correct each other, and spur each other on in our
walk with Him. But it's not programmed. It happens naturally in our daily lives
so there is such a raw reality to it. We are living things that all my years in
Sunday morning meetings tried to accomplish, but all the organization and
programs seemed to get in the way of the reality of it.
So by leaving church services am I saying I don’t want to be around the body of
Christ? Heavens no! Just the opposite. I have such a desire to be connected with
the body of Christ that I got tired of the structures and meetings getting in
the way of building authentic relationships. See, the question I ask is through
all of the Sunday morning services and meetings, are Christians really
connecting with the body? Sure they are in midst of the body, but are they
connecting? If you took away the Sunday service and got rid of the building,
would the relationships continue? Or were they built around an organization or a
structure? Can people connect without a man up front telling them when and how
to connect? Or do they look to the religious machinery to orchestrate and
organize life as God's family?
So am I hurt or offended? No way! The belief that if somebody doesn't attend or
belong to a religious organization means they are bitter, hateful or angry is an
old stereo type that really needs to be put to death. Sometimes I think that
stereo type is used as a form of manipulation and control to keep people
attending religious meetings, that in honesty, many folks are bored to tears
with. (Not everybody.) Who wants to be viewed as bitter, hateful or offended?
Jesus called us to a life of knowing and enjoying Him. But sadly, for many
(especially men) religious duties and obligations suck the joy right out of
following Jesus. Do we serve God by what we do? Or by knowing Him? That is the
real question. I hear Martha calling from the kitchen of religious obligation,
"Lord make them get in here and help us." But Jesus said Mary chose the better
part that would not be taken away from her.
This isn't about "us verses them." If attending a Sunday morning meeting works
for you, then fine! Go for it! But there are many folks that it doesn't. For
them it's just dead works. So if they don't want to do that, then fine too!
Remember, that meeting is not the church. The people are, whether they attend a
weekly meekly meeting or not. And meetings should never be the measuring stick
that we use to assess somebody's heart for God or concern for His people.
Of course at some point the question is always asked of us non-attenders, “What
about ministry? How will you use your gifts if you don’t go to church?“ Well,
does somebody have to attend a weekly Sunday morning meeting in order to
minister to other Christians or receive from others? Is that meeting the church?
See, I believe the people are the church, not a meeting. So the key is learning
to live as the church through our daily lives. Absolutely, we should be
encouraging and ministering to one another. But is a formal weekly meeting the
only way that happens? (The truth is only a handful of people even have the
opportunity to minister in those meetings.) Can this not happen through real
relationships with one another? What about having other believers over for
dinner? Is that not the church gathering together? What about sitting down with
some brothers or sisters in Christ over lunch? Didn't Jesus say He'd be in the
middle of that? What we Christians have done is drawn up little compartments for
God. We say that this one meeting once a week is spiritual time and when true
ministry happens, then we view everything else as inferior to that time. But I
don't believe that at all. In fact, through looking at the life of Jesus and His
relationships with those around Him, I personally believe what happens living
relationally through out the week with other believers is far more impacting
than a weekly service. It was as Jesus and His followers were going from place
to place among the people that He shaped their lives. I believe lives are shaped
through genuine relationships, not weekly services. And the deepest ministry
happens through relationship, not services.
If men are following Jesus, they aren't hating church because church is what
they are, not a place they go or a meeting they attend. If men stay out of
religious organizations, yeah, the organizations may eventually die. But if the
church (the people) aren't finding life in these things, maybe they need to
shrivel up and die. Jesus said that He would build His church. Perhaps what we
have been building and what He is building are two very different things. Just
some thoughts from a man who doesn’t attend “church” because he decided to be
the church instead.
Articles by Loren Rosser