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Feminine Christianity turns men away from church, Stinson says
April 17, 2006
By David Roach

Walk into the average evangelical church in America, and you will likely sing lyrics such as "I want my life to be a love song for you, Jesus" and "I want to fall in love with you."

Then you might hear a sermon encouraging Christians to be "intimate" with Jesus and attend a "care group" where everyone is expected to share their feelings.

Such tactics might appeal to women, but they are at least partially unbiblical and push men away from Christianity, according to Randy Stinson, assistant professor of gender and family studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

"Where are the men in our churches today?" Stinson said in a lecture sponsored by Southern's theology school council March 29. "We have a crisis going on in the local church. Number one, men aren't coming. And number two, when they are coming, they're marginalized, they're being passive, they're being pushed to the side."

The current feminization of Christianity reflects a larger trend in pop culture where women are pushed to be more masculine and men are pushed to be more feminine, he said.

The culture tells men, "We're sorry God made you that way. But hang on. We're going to fix you. And with enough therapy and enough counseling, we're going to soften you up," he said.

As churches are influenced by the notion that men need to be softer and more feminine, they may use sensual language improperly to talk about the relationship a man should have with Jesus, referring to an individual man as "the bride of Christ," Stinson noted.

"It was not meant to be that way," he said. "I do not relate to Christ as a bride individually. It's collective language. When the Bible talks about the bride of Christ, it's the church collectively. We don't relate to Christ individually as a bride. When we introduce this individualized language, we begin to romanticize the language."

Worship songs are some of the most common venues where romantic language is abused and makes men feel uncomfortable, Stinson said.

"Loving God is biblical, but falling in love with Jesus is a contemporary, romanticized view of the relationship between people and Christ," he said. "Men should not be made to feel that having a relationship with Christ means that you have to check your masculinity at the door."

To remedy the feminizing of Christianity, Stinson recommended several correctives:

Pastors must exercise assertive male leadership to guide their churches away from a feminized Christianity. "Servant leadership doesn't mean that you never assert yourself," he said. "Servant leadership doesn't mean that you don't give directional lead to the thing that you're leading. Servant leadership means you do it for the good of the group or the individual that you're leading."

Churches must purposefully appeal to men. If churches will use language that does not scare men away and offer discipleship activities that do not stress emotions and sharing feelings, men will be more likely to participate in church life, Stinson said.

"Men generally do not emote," he said. "They generally do not verbalize all their feelings. And this is not a bad thing. Men do relate differently, but they shouldn't have to change all that in order to be a success in the local church. Too many men are being made to feel that they have to check their masculinity at the door."

Let men lead like men in the church. "We put men in leadership positions (in the church)," he said. "Then we require them to meet to death. Men don't want to do that. Men who are capable leaders in the secular world don't meet to death. They get stuff done. They are clear. They are direct."

Challenge men in evangelism and missions. "Take some challenging mission trips," Stinson said. "Take care of widows and orphans at home. Have a compelling ministry to boys without fathers. Let men get involved in these things that make a difference, that actually challenge them, that take a risk."

When men understand the biblical picture of Jesus and take risks for the Gospel, they will be more excited about their faith and their churches will be healthier, he said.

"When you take a clear look at the life of Jesus, you'll discover that He's not much like our modern-day depictions of Him," he said.

 

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