Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Why Men Hate Going to Church

1.  Statement of essential information

Title:  Why Men Hate Going to Church
Author:  David Murrow
First Copy Right Date:  2005, Revised and Updated 2011
Type of Book:  Christian Living, Spiritual Growth, Pastoral Leadership, Men
Binding:  Paperback
Price:  $15.99
ISBN:  978-0-7852-3215-5

2.  The Author’s Purpose

The purpose of this book is to serve as a map through a minefield loaded with triggers, trip wires, and booby traps which are buried deep in Christian culture in order to recognize them and remove in order to prevent men from encountering God, beginning growth in faith, then stepping on a land mine leaving the church with destroyed faith.

3.  The Theme and Thesis

Theme:  The effects of cultural icons on men’s lack of attendance in church
Thesis:  Cultural icons built into the church structure are the major reasons that force men to drop out of church attendance and activity

4.  The Method of Development and support of the thesis

Murrow uses a combination of explanation and argumentation to develop his thesis. Murrow builds his case against cultural icons that detour men’s church attendance rather than enhance it by analyzing statistics, reports, numbers, and surveys regarding men’s church attendance. Murrow rarely uses Scripture to support and point of his argument. He uses what I believe to be skewed and somewhat suspect sources to make his point. Murrow uses strong arguments in his attempt to persuade the reader of the truth of the analysis and problems caused by the cultural items built into the church.

5. Evaluation for interest, accuracy, objectivity, important and usefulness

Murrow’s main arguments of why men are not either attracted to the church or remain consistent in church attendance/activity are twofold. First, he states that the church does not provide a return on the investment that men make in the church. Murrow sums that argument up with the thought that, “there are better offers out there.”

Second, Murrow states that the church is designed to reach women, children, and the elderly. He argues that Christianity’s primary delivery system, which is the local church, is perfectly designed to provide the results that the local church is receiving. In other words, Murrow argues if you look in the average church today – from the bulletin, to bulletin boards, to programs, and etc., you will find the church caters to women, children, and the elderly. Murrow furthers argues that if a church does make an attempt at reaching men or structuring a men’s ministry it will be highly feminized due to the influence of the women in the church.

Murrow argues that one must examine the process of program of the local church in order to identify how that process and program leads to the final product of the church. This examination includes but is not limited to the bulletin, songs, choruses that are sung, classes, study materials, the means and method of presentation, spiritual attributes, and character emphasis.

Being both a man and a pastor who is passionate about reaching and growing men I waited anxiously for this book to arrive. I discovered that it is written well, in a simple, homey manner and therefore very easy to read. However, the further I read the less value this book held for me due to three reasons:

  •   In utilizing his examples of “churches” and “denominations” along with some non-Christian mainline denominations it was hard to tell whether Murrow was lamenting the lack of believers or unbelievers in general in the church
  • In utilizing some of the examples of “successful” church approaches overcoming or avoiding, turned me off. Numbers do not necessarily gauge spiritual success
  •  In his analysis and description of both the problem and the culprit in the feminization of churches it was hard to tell if Murrow was referring to evangelism or edification
Murrow has divided his book into three parts, part one deals with the question “Where are the Men?” Part two deals with “Church Culture vs. Man Culture.” Part three deals with calling “The Church back to Men.”

I think Murrow is correct in analyzing and evaluating the evidence that in some churches there is a lack of men. I think Murrow is right in identifying some of the culture components of today’s Christianity that are responsible for driving some men out of the church. I think that the overall thesis of Murrow’s book is an excellent wake up call for each church to examine itself carefully and see if its process is engineered (unconsciously) geared to repelling or expelling men.

The trouble I have with his thesis and evaluation is differentiating between the evangelization of men and the edification of men. Natural, unconverted men will hate the church and anything connected to the church. Murrow argues that the church needs to examine what it does to repel men without any examination of the sin nature that reminds us that all men love their darkness and hate anything that is connected with “the light.”

Murrow makes much out of eradicating the “traditional” from the church and implementing “mega-church” components in order to attract and keep men. He makes the case that his own church meets in a “former warehouse”, auditorium feels like a theater rather than a sanctuary, two huge video screens with a stage “bathed” in dim lighting, the choir and organ was replaced a rock band., the pastor wears jeans and a snap button shirt. His assessment is that “this hip modern church system delivers a higher percentage of men than my old one.”

In further evaluation of the accuracy and objectivity of Murrow’s book, I am compelled to say that I think some of his faulty conclusions stem from faulty premises. For example, to say men will like a bible study better if it centers on “man” topics like war, weapons, violence, and etc. may have some degree of logic and reason, but who is to cater to whom? Murrow uses very little scripture to make any of his points. He fails to include any material on what its necessary to see God bring a man to a saving relationship with Himself and the subsequent growth process of submission, humility, and servant hood.

Murrow has omitted much of the spiritual and the working of God in a man’s heart in this book. Murrow seems to act as a cheerleader for both Hybels and Warren and their supposed success of overcoming the problem of attracting men to the church. Much is made of “Un-churched Harry” and “Saddleback Sam” in Murrow’s book.

I agree with Dr. Woody Davis, President of TEAMinistries (sic), Inc., when he says, “You may not agree with everything Murrow says, but you can’t ignore it.” I think that Davis is right. Much of what Murrow says has no Scriptural support and wouldn’t stand up to Scriptural examination. However, Murrow has identified a major problem in most churches, identifies some key reasons and culprits of the problem, and offers some valid solutions to the problem. The value in this book does not lie in any great contribution to the problem but in the clear identification of the problem and some of the sources leading to the problem.

I found this book to be interesting and yet alarming. I think his presuppositions are correct yet I find his solutions unbiblical.

6.  Credentials, Reputation, Qualifications of the author

David Murrow is an award-winning television producer and writer based in Alaska. Murrow is the director of Church for Men. The first edition of Why Men Hate Going to Church sold over 100,000 copies. He has written articles for the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He has been featured on PBS, the NBC Nightly News, and the Fox News Channel.

Although I have not read it, his book The Map: The Way of Great Men concerns me a great deal. The advertising blurb of this book states: “A map, written in code and hidden in the gospel of Matthew, reveals a truth so explosive it could rock the foundations of Christianity – or lead to its rebirth.”

This is a dangerous mindset. First, if it is just simple and plain dishonest hype to buy the book, it would be unethical. Second, if Murrow truly believes this, then he lacks any serious credentials to be writing on biblical subjects.

8.  The “back matter”

Murrow includes an “End-Note” section. This is extensive listing of scripture, books, quotations, websites, and articles used in the writing of this book. There is no index nor separate bibliography. The end notes rarely include any further clarification or explanation.

9. Summary and comment

Murrow concludes this book in Part Three with a chapter called “A Church for Everyone.” He asks the question, “Who’s to blame for Christianity’s gender gap? Men? Women? Pastors? Musicians? Authors? Businessmen? His answer, “Yes.”

Murrow concludes that we are all part of a religious delivery system that reaches more women than men. He further states that most Christians are happy with this system. He states we have gotten used to it and he wryly adds we can’t imagine it any other way.

His final illustration of a church that is doing it all wrong but achieving right results is liberal mainline denominational church pastored by a woman. After becoming the lead pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in LaSalle, IL, Wilson bought the first printing of Why Men Hate Going to Church and began implementing the ideas and suggestions of the book. She states other than the bible, “your book has shifted the way I do ministry more than any other book I’ve read.” She particularly began preaching sermon series that would interest men such as God, Love, and Sex. Power Play and Posers.

Attendance has doubled and she sees new men almost every week. Her confirmation class had seventeen boys while only having four girls.

Murrow concludes the chapter and the book with this assessment, “so, if a small, rural, liturgical, 160-year old mainline church that sings hymns accompanied by an organ, led by a woman can reach men-what’s stopping you? You’ve tried all the other church-growth strategies. Why not simply the one Jesus used? Go get some men.”

My summary is this – is that the best illustration he could find? Are we not at all concerned whether men are Christian or become Christian or just attend and participate in some form or fashion? Do the ends justify the means? Murrow in calling us to the strategy that Jesus used failed to discuss that strategy at all. Biblical evangelization or edification (discipleship) never came up.

I think this is a book began as a good idea and because it is man-centered rather than God centered derailed quickly and comes up short of the mark. It has a place in a leader’s library as a means to identify a problem. It has very little or no credibility in a leader’s library to “fix” the problem.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a personal review of this book. I was not promised anything else nor was I compelled to offer a positive or negative review. The opinions contained in this review are mine and not of the author, publisher, their agents, and etc.


Scott said...

Haven't read the book. Don't intend to. It's yet another in a line of "pragmatic" approaches to ministry: "how can we get 'em in?" The truth is, I'm not interested in getting men to come just so they can beat their chest, swap hunting and fishing stories, any more than we try to reach women just so they can do crochet, compare tea sets, or whatever. Preach the Gospel! Men don't come because their hearts are depraved and they want what their sinful flesh wants. We need to stop giving in to secular humanistic understandings of "male" vs. "female" and gearing our approaches to meet those sinful stereotypes, and just preach the Word; let God handle the results; which is hopefully changed hearts.
(I'm trying to imagine the conversation where Paul goes into a city and says, "You know, what would really draw men here is a good gladiator fight. Yeah, that'll bring 'em in and then we'll preach at 'em. Pragmatism isn't Biblical!)

kc bob said...

I ran into an interesting webpage named FIFTY WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHURCH MORE APPEALING TO MEN. Here are a few ways from his list:

+ Lots of signs so men don’t have to ask directions
+ Keep the focus on God – not the family
+ Remove the “old lady” stuff: quilts, felt banners, needlepoint, etc.
+ Do not ask the congregation to hold hands
+ Choose songs that convey respect to God
+ Avoid wimpy “love songs to Jesus”

I do think that some things turn men off and church leaders should be sensitive to wheat those things are.

Mike said...

Gregg, I read your review a couple times and wanted to address a couple of your points.

As it relates to the mega church issue: Murrow never said the mega church was right on all counts. In fact, he did say that whether a person agrees with the m-c approach or not is not the issue, but simply that they are getting something right by attracting lots of men. He didn't suggest all churches adopt the model. He simply hoped to inspire them to reconsider their approaches.

As it relates to Scriptural examination. I'm wondering why not you say this book wouldn't withstand examination. Simply because he "rarely" cites scripture, as you say, does not mean he doesn't have scriptural support or foundation. Did he intend or need to write a theological treatise in order for it to pass muster? He found much support for his approach in the bible.

As it relates to strategy and discipling. Murrow spent the last section of the book addressing these. In fact, I think it was chapter 23 or 24 that was specifically about discipling men. He even wrote a chapter about discipling boys. I saw many examples given for how the reader could strategically approach the issue.

What was your overall rating? I couldn't find it in the review, and I couldn't find your review on booksneeze.

Gregg Metcalf said...


I think the danger in books like Murrow's, neo-evangelicals, the emergent "church," and many of today's authors is this: they have a low view of Scripture. None of them would admit this, or state this, or even realize it, they would even deny it and loudly state that they have a high view of Scripture. Why do I say they seem to have a low view of Scritpure? Why would Murrow's book have a hard time standing up against Scripture?

First, their writings, their examples, their illustrations are usually man centered and not God-centered. I think that this is becoming an art or a science much like biblical hermeneutics in discerning the difference. Many who claim to be God centered are man-centered by their pramatic methodolgy. Second, their writings, examples, illustrations are more about culture, it is about them, their insihts and their ideas and as such it lowers biblical standards. God's word is not central - and no, you don't need to right a theological treatsie to be heard today, quite the opposite, if you right one no one wants to read it. I don't think they have a biblical view of the church. I am not sure that Murrow has a clear understanding, at least it was not given in this book.

As a result the scripture is not dominant, or the priority. You can trace back this low view of Scripture through some of these leading men thru their guru's, Warren to Hybels, Hybels to Schuller, Schuller, to Peal. As a cop, and I don't use that word disrespectfully, I highly honor and respect you and the force, every and any force, you should know how much man hates authority.

The first step was changing the wooden, massive, authoratative sacred desk into some plexiglass lectern. That led to the eventual removal of the pulpit in most churches. Now you are lucky if you get a music stand to preach from. Taking the communion table out of the building? That truly helps a man to worship? I was somewhat surprised when Murrow took a shot a the songs of late. I have said for years they are girlish romantic love songs that are no different than what is on AM radio. I was glad to see that.

We need to reject pragmatic, man-centered philosophy, and preach the Word and let the Holy Spirit do His sovereign work. Lights, rock music, jeans, ripped shirts, warehouses, and sunday events are not indicative of the working of the Holy Spirit. Lest you object, pianos, pulpits, and programs are not indicative of the Spirit's working either. The result is changed men's lives who are holy, seeking God and not an experience, who truly worship froma holy heart, changed by the Holy Spirit.