Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Female Verbiage

In several recent posts I have been attempting to explain a few of the factors regarding relationships and I have also been promising to explain what these factors have to do with Church. The two main points I have been trying to make is that each of us are only able to tolerate a certain number of relationships and that each of us have different criteria for what we consider a relationship. There is no dividing line between men and women. However, in general, men tolerate fewer relationships and men are more restrictive in how they define a relationship.

Traditional Christianity always emphasized individual character and the difference between right and wrong. With the reformation, the emphasis changed from the traditional view to an emphasis on individual salvation. I happen to agree with the reformation. People need to get right with God before they can get right with the world.

Church also changed with the reformation. Traditional Church was centered on the sacraments and on the community of believers with some memorized prayer thrown in. The reformed Church was centered on teaching and studying the Bible, worshiping God, and spreading the Gospel with some unstructured prayer thrown in. Today, the Catholic Church has retained much of the traditional Christian Church while the reformed Church slowly evolves toward less and less orthodoxy.

The ideal Church for me would be a blend of the Catholic and Reformed. A community of believers who worship God, teach and study the Bible, practice the sacraments, value individual character, know right from wrong, understand salvation, pray holy prayers, and spread the Gospel would be just about perfect.

Relationships are a part of what’s good about life and a part of what’s important in life. A healthy community is based on mature relationships. Church should be the model of a healthy community ministering to less than healthy individuals. But in no circumstance should Church be all about relationships anymore than Church should be all about spreading the Gospel or all about prayer or all about the Bible or all about anything.

When a typical man sits in Church and has to listen to the preacher go on and on about the need for more and better relationships in order to spread the Gospel, he gets turned off to Christianity. For some men, its like throwing salt on a snail. When an unsaved man visits a Church and hears the preacher go on and on about relationships, he is less likely to hear the rest of the Gospel because he is hearing female verbiage. Some Christian women are turned on by relationship talk and some unsaved women are attracted to a Church that emphasizes relationships. However, the emphasis on relationships is a massaging of a female need, not a traditional view of Christianity.

Perhaps the traditional Church did not satisfy the female need for relationships. Perhaps a tweaking was in order. Perhaps there is room in Church for a more masculine and a more feminine approach. However, if the Church continues down its current path of over-emphasis on relationships, it will be mostly women begging their husbands to come to Church.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: That was then, this is now.

I was fortunate enough to be a member of a Church ten years ago where I had the privilege of knowing a man who grew up in Iowa in the 1920’s. My wife and I were both part of the single group at this Church then. The Church usually had around 1000 people attend two Sunday morning services at this time. It also had a Sunday evening service that attracted less than 100 people. Almost all of the Sunday evening attendees were retired or single.

The vibrancy of this man who grew up in Iowa masked his older age. He passed away several years ago, but looking back now, it is clear that he spent his final years on earth preparing for heaven by witnessing to almost anyone who would listen, and he did have lots of listeners. During one of our conversations, he expressed sadness about how few people attended the Sunday evening service. He told me that when he was growing up, he would spend all week working on his family’s farm, and then on Sunday, he would spend all day, not just an hour or two, at Church.

He said the Sunday morning service would include at least a dozen hymns and two hours of preaching. After the morning service, the entire Church would eat lunch together and then the children would play, the women would fellowship, and most of the men would take a nap. The afternoon activities were followed by an early evening service with more singing, and more preaching, and more fellowship, and then everyone would return to their farms where they would rarely see each other again until the following Sunday. His Sunday at Church was the most important part of his week as he got to worship God and fellowship with other believers.

Everyone didn’t live on a farm in 1920, but most people did live a life that included much less interaction with others than we do today. Factory workers and farmers worked in labor intensive occupations, merchants had many less customers than now, and most of the wives raised children and performed manual housework without modern appliances. Therefore, Sunday mornings weren’t just a time for God; Sunday’s were also a time for socializing. The Church was where most of the actual relating took place for everyone in a typical American community.

Nowadays, most working people are relating from the time they get up until the time they go to bed at night. Many, if not most, of us work on projects with dozens of other people in office complexes of hundreds of other people. There are as many women as men in the workforce now. Even in software development, a good part of every week is spent in meetings and discussions with our co-workers. Outside of work, we have contact with the parents of the children who are in activities with our children, from soccer, to softball, to swimming, to gymnastics, to dancing, to singing, to talent shows, to scouting, to who knows what’s next! We shop in Super Markets with lines longer than all of the customers of a store in 1920.

By the time Sunday roles around, some of us, mostly men, have had about as much relating as we can stand for the week. It’s no wonder the Sunday evening service is a sliver of what it once was. It won’t surprise me to see the Sunday morning service also experience more decline as well since Pastors continue to over-emphasize relationships in the typical Church ministry plan.

Friday, August 05, 2005

50% Crap

My wife and I had an occasion to see a marriage counselor at one point in our marriage when we were having a little trouble relating. [: -)] One of the first things the counselor tried to explain to me was that people are human “beings” not human “doings”. Just like Jennifer’s reaction to my previous post, my reaction to this counselor was that she was full of crap. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on her counsel, I will admit she was about half right. About 50% of people, mostly female [for lack of a better word], are human beings, and about 50% of people, mostly male [for lack of a better word], are human doings.

Several years ago my family went to the home of a friend of my wife for a barbeque. My wife and her friend met through their health club and had gotten to know each other by talking about their children. I had never met the husband of the friend of my wife, but I was anxious to meet and talk to him. Ten minutes into our conversation, he invited me to go with him and his friends on a weekend canoeing and fishing trip. In effect, he was saying, “Our wife’s have a relationship, we should have a relationship, too.” However, my emotional reaction to his request was, “Hey buddy, I’ve only known you for ten minutes, I’m not ready for a relationship.”

Jennifer and anyone else who doubts my description of the difference between the typical male relationship and the typical female relationship can test what I am claiming at their church. Does a female have a relationship with the other women she only talks to at church? If you doubt me, ask your female friends. I’m betting most of them will say, "Sure, you must be kidding.” Does a man have a relationship with the other men he only talks to at Church. Ask your husband and maybe a few male friends. The ones who are honest will probably say something like, “No, we only talk to each other at Church.”

I apologize for taking so long to get to my main point. I have at least one more sub-point to make about male relationships in my next post before explaining how the Church needs to at least modify the way it uses the word “relationship”. Hopefully, however, our Churches will start to understand what relationships are to men and then do a better job of designing and executing ministries to actually make disciples of men.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Men and Women

Read my previous post before reading this post.

For the purpose of further discussion the word men means male tendencies and the word women means female tendencies in this post since there are no attributes that are solely male or female.

Women tend to form relationships in order to have someone to talk to and do things with. Women will also talk to other women and do things with other women in order to from relationships. It’s all perfectly logical. So what is different about men?

Men don’t form relationships in order to "talk" or "do" and men don’t "talk" or "do" in order to form relationships. For men, the doing and the talking and the relationship are inseparably integrated. It’s not that men don’t want or need companionship. Men want friends to golf with, and fish with, and drink beer with. For men, the relationship, the golf, the fishing, and the beer are all one in the same.

Women derive joy from knowing about the happenings of their friends, their friend’s families, and the friends of their friends. Even when women friends share tears over a sad event in one of their lives, they are still receiving a certain satisfaction from having someone to empathize with. The relationship for women is the knowing, and caring, and empathizing, with friends. The “doing things” for women is the sideshow, not the relationship.

The “doing things” for men is the relationship, not the sideshow. Men will talk about golf, or beer, or fishing, but the talking is no substitute for the golf, the fishing, and the beer. Men will also talk about the happenings of their friends and occasionally even empathize with their friends, but men don’t get any satisfaction from crying with their friends, and rarely will a man care about the friend of a friend.

It’s easy for women to say men should be more like women. If men could make a decision to be more like women, I’m sure many men would. In some ways, the way women relate is much more Christ-like than the way men relate. However, men can’t just flip a switch and be more relational without the "doing" part. A good man will make the effort to compensate for the weaknesses of his nature, but no man can change his nature completely.

OK, in the next post I will get to the Church. [Hopefully]

Nature and Tendencies

Human nature is complex and complicated. We are all unique creations of God. However, it is the combination and the degree of our attributes and characteristics that make us unique. Rarely is a single attribute of any one person unique. God seems to have used building blocks that are combined with our life experiences and choices to make us who we currently are. Some people rise above the limitations they were created with while others never live up to their potential.

It would be absolutely false for me to claim all men behave a certain way and all women behave a different way. There is very, very, little that is true for all men and very, very, little that is true for all women. However, if the tendencies of men were plotted on a graph, the resulting graph would look like a bell shaped curve. There would be some men on both ends of the graph and a big hump in the middle of attributes and characteristics of most men. The same is true of women. A graph of all humans would be two overlapping bell shaped curves. The female graph would start inside the male graph and the male graph inside the female graph.

When I refer to male nature or female nature, I only do so because I don’t have a better word to use. What I am actually referring to is the downside of both bell shaped curves; not the big hump in the middle, but the parts of our nature that seem to be mostly male and mostly female.

There are men who rarely talk and when they do talk, their words are very precise. There are women who are never quiet and whose words are explaining three things at once. The men who rarely talk are an example of an extreme male attribute and the women who are never quiet are an example of an extreme female attribute. This description does not describe most men or most women; it just describes a difference between an extreme attribute of men and an extreme attribute of women.

When my oldest daughter was very young, I could tell she was different than the boys her age. She was 100% girl. I was so happy when my second daughter was born because I wanted another 100% girl. However, it didn’t take me long to discover that my second daughter has a little boy inside of her. She has just turned six years old. Her mouth moves at 100 miles a minute except when she is serious about a game she is playing or a picture she is drawing; then it’s all business.

One of the points I have been trying to make in the relationship discussion and the Church ownership discussion is that we need to be aware of human nature, male tendencies, and female tendencies. The nature and tendencies we were born with are not sinful. However, the choices we make based on our nature and tendencies can be sinful. It has long been accepted within Christianity that males need to control their sexual nature. Sex with a spouse is good, but unlimited and unrestricted sex leads to all kinds of sinful problems. Relationships may be the female equivalent to male sex. Relationships are good and essential to the Body of Christ. However, an insatiable appetite for relationships needs to be controlled.

In my next post, I hope to get to how this has affected the Church.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Problems and Solutions

For a problem to be solved, the problem must first be observed. Then the problem needs to be analyzed in order to understand the cause of the problem. After understanding the cause of a problem, possible solutions can be tried. It is very common in most organizations for the leaders and the participants to have a different list of problems that need to be solved. Rarely do all of the followers even agree on a problem. A husband and a wife may even disagree about whether or not certain behaviors of their children are a problem. Observing, analyzing, and solving problems within organizations is much more complex and much more difficult. Solutions to problems often cause new or different problems. And so the cycle continues…

Most Christian leaders believe the problem with Christianity is a lack of commitment from average believers. These leaders think that if and when they inspire their followers to greater commitment, more Bible reading, more prayer, more evangelism, more donations, and more service, then the cause of making disciples will be advanced. Most followers do the best they can to meet the leaders expectations, while feeling a little guilty about not ever being able to be or to accomplish everything the leaders want to achieve. Most followers know that time and effort are limited. And so the cycle continues…

One of the aspects of the blogsphere that I have enjoyed is the number of non-Pastor bloggers who are offering their own solutions to the problems within the Christian Church. For instance, Teresa at Restoration Station is an advocate of Home Churches and the Home Church movement. There is much to like about Home Churches. In many ways the Home Church is exactly what I am writing about with the concept of more “ownership” within Christian Churches. When an individual or a married couple decide to use their own home as a facility to congregate, break bread, fellowship, and pray, more opportunities for unfiltered and direct ministry should result.

The interesting part about Teresa’ solution and my support of her solution is that the two of us are trying to solve two different problems. I like Teresa’s solution because I think there are many believers and also many non-believers who would prosper in a Home Church environment. However, I don’t think the Home Church movement is the solution to all of the problems within our Churches.

I see one of the big problems within our Churches as an over-emphasis on relationships which has led to the males of our species becoming disinterested in Church matters. Teresa sees the problem within Churches as the inability of believers to form meaningful relationships because of the time and money being wasted on non-relationship matters, such as buildings. Maybe we have been going to different Churches, but most probably, we have a completely different perspective.

Our perspectives have been articulated in a couple of posts and comments. Teresa’s Give Him Back post and comments and my Relationships post and comments are the background for Teresa’s post yesterday. In my next post, I will add to some of what I’ve already written and also respond to Teresa.