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.


Teresa said...

OK, calling all men! I just don't see that David. Hammer, are men REALLY thinking that? Any other guys want to chime in? I need to know? My husband does not see that and he's about as manly as they come. He came to church seeking realationships in fact he began the Men's Ministry in our 7000 memeber church and in a few months saw the membership grow to 500 men and the following year they had 1500 attend a Stand Firm conference and commit to small groups afterwards. The small groups are where it grew. It is not "manly" to be "relational" the way women are, but men have their own brand of relationships and they are needed just as much! Oh and the original church was NOTHING like what you are discribing that would make you feel most comfortable.

Derek Simmons said...


This would be a good time--belated but definitely not too late--to offer a suggestion in case you have not yet read these two books:

"The Death of Men" by Lionel Tiger; and
"The Feminization of America" by Ann Douglas.

The former talks about the rise of feminism from an anthropological as well as sociological perspective; the later describes the fall of male leadership in the American church--even where the leaders are men.

Is shoveling stuff against the cultural tide "contrarian"?

Your Brother in Christ,

Anonymous said...

I think I’m beginning to understand where you’re coming from. I can’t remember what kind of church background you had, so can you please remind me? What kind of church are you attending now? It sounds like you prefer a “liturgical” type of church, in which the Sunday service consists of lined reading and response, scripted prayers, lighting candles, taking communion etc., as is common in Lutheran and Episcopal faiths. Is that correct? My husband’s family is Episcopal so that’s what I’m using as a reference. It’s been my experience that those churches are not big on relationships, preferring instead to focus more on the ritual. Nothing wrong with that, I’m just trying to understand if that’s sort of where you’re coming from, or more importantly, if that’s what you are looking for.

Jennifer said...

The above comment is from me. Don't know why it says anonymous.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Teresa,

I have never attempted to describe Church as a place for me or anyone else to feel comfortable. Doing what’s right is sometimes comfortable, but often times it is very uncomfortable. I view the over-emphasis on relationships as the catering to those who are only concerned about getting their needs met at the expense of all of the other important aspects of Church. Our life in Christ should include elements of sacrifice, elements of holiness, elements of service, elements of works, and yes, even elements of solitude in addition to relationships.

The hunger for relationships can be similar to the hunger for food. I’ve been there too. I know during times of loneliness, developing a good relationship becomes very important. However, just as some people can eat beyond their need for food, some people can desire relations beyond their need for relationships.

I believe there are many people, mostly non-believers, maybe even mostly men, who do need more and better relationships. Church has got to be a place where these people can relate and learn to relate in a healthy environment. However, Church shouldn’t be a place where it is all about relationships because “all about relationships” is just as unhealthy as overeating and “all about food”. Doesn’t it tell you something that out of 7000 members you only had 500 men in the men’s ministry?

Just for the record, I was not describing the original Church when I described the traditional Church. The traditional Church grew out of the original Church. I could have thrown in aspects of the original Church as well, but since the original Church was so short lived, it didn’t seem applicable to the point I was making.

Hammertime said...

I'm not sure it's relevant, but I prefer candles on altars, clerical collars, hymns, stained glass windows, respect for and knowledge of the saints past, and classical music.

The church I serve in has none of those, and I love it.

David's preferences and church background have no impact upon his observations here, I believe, just as my assertions about tradition having some importance do not reflect my church experiences. Let's not try to explain away David's observations. I find them profound and truthful.

Teresa, David said a lot, so I'm not sure what you mean by "that", so I'm not sure if I am thinking it, too. However, while I am looking to have a mentor this year and to mentor another brother in future years, relationships are not what we, as a group, seek. Are we all the same? Nope. However, the tendency is toward task accomplishment, not relationships. You can be mission focused and people oriented, or people focused and mission oriented. We tend to the first, I would say.

This has nothing to do with "manly" - just male tendencies. Our society does not glamorize our behavioral tendencies, however.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Derek,

I’m not sure I want to get in any deeper [: -)], but I do want to know what others think. I will check out both books. Maybe Lisa, Teresa, and Jennifer can too.

Part of the reason I write my blog is to force myself to put my ideas to print and then see if my thoughts still make sense. I figured all of this would be new to Teresa and Jennifer, and some of it would be new to Lisa, but I really didn’t expect I would have so much trouble explaining and they would have so much trouble understanding.

One of Teresa’s points on her blog was that men run most Churches so how could the Church be feminized. I suspect the type of man who becomes a Pastor is more relational than the typical man, but I think the biggest reason is that the majority of Pastors are following the direction of other Pastors and the over-emphasis on relationships is the direction of most Pastors these days, at least in California. Maybe things are different in other parts of our country.

My finger in the dike isn’t going to stop the cultural tide, but hopefully there are a few people, including me, who have a better understanding than when we started.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Jennifer,

I grew up Catholic, but there are many Catholics, including my mom who spent 45 years in a Catholic Church, who don’t want anything to do with the liturgy. The first Church I visited after I became a true believer was a Catholic Church and it was even more wonderful than the Church I grew up in. I spent almost a year going to that Church, but then I started getting a little tired of the Liturgy and I realized I needed a better understanding of the Bible so I found an Evangelical Free Church where I became a member.

Since then I have joined mostly Baptist Churches. However, for the last several years I have started to develop some reservations about Evangelicals. Recently I have been attending a Presbyterian Church. It is a PCUSA Church, so I also have reservations about some of the politics, but after talking to Tod Bolsinger, it seemed like it would be the best choice for me and my family. Lisa doesn’t agree.

I do like the liturgical format better than just preaching and singing, but it still isn’t the Church I would design. The preaching still leans evangelical. Interestingly though, there are many women in leadership, including one of the Pastors, but I don’t sense the over-emphasis on relationships in this Church. Lisa usually takes the girls to a non-denominational Church where some of her best friends attend and she likes the preaching and music and the girls like the Sunday school.

Something else that is very interesting is that none of the Churches I’ve attended that over-emphasized relationships had anywhere near the Christian community of the Catholic Church I joined after I was saved. The style of worship is not as significant to me as the style of people. The Catholic Church seemed to have the right mix of service, sacrifice, outreach, and contentment. Contentment is an attractive aspect of a healthy community. I don’t know how a community can have this contentment when everyone is obsessing on relationships.

Teresa said...

Hammer, I guess I don't know what I mean by "that" or I can't remember. What is funny is that my husband is very much an introvert and likes being alone. He's a leader and often shunned by those who feel that his cop-like, sargeant type personality is intimidating. He is more an apostle than your typical Pastor (shepherd) personality. He's much like the Apostle Paul. He definitly does not have the gift of Mercy and he has had to work on that through his entire Christian life. If left to his own devices, he is Mr ANTI relationship. When I asked him about this conversation and what he thought, he agreed that men are generally non-relational, but me who have grown in the Lord begin to grow past that and realize the importance of relationships, like you are saying Hammer in your church... David, I agree that we need to find ways to make men feel more comfortable and I think that many churches are changing how they do things with MEN as well as the new Post Modern generation. Even the more Traditional, Liturgical churches are realizing the importance of relationships. The bottom line here is that the "corporate" worship setting post-Constantine was never meant to be "relational" and still is not. This is why Saddleback works so well. The LARGE congregational-style worship is NOT relational and the "relational" stuff happens in small groups. Those who need "relationships" WILL get into a small group and I will contend that if you do not grow into a small group, your relationship in the Lord will become stagnent because the Lord never intended us to be loners, which most who "only go to 'service'" end up being isolated. You are totally right about only having 500 men in a 7000 member church, but it illustrates my point. Only about 2500 of those 7000 members are mature Christians and only around 1700 of those are in a small group and growing in the Lord. How many of those are men--probably 2/3's and only a 25% of that has the time and ability...to be in a specificlly "men's" group. The "mens" ministry has proved effective in bringing in men who were not reached and connected through other means, which says to me that many men want realtionships with other men--they are just different kinds of relationships which make them feel more comfortable. I hope I made my FINAL point and did not ramble too much.

Teresa said...

OK, one more thing--sorry. I counted at least 10 times in your posts and comments on this subject where you used the word "obsession or obsessing" with regards to relationships. I think that is a strong word. They are important and may be the "key", but just like I just posted about the Bible being the "intructions" and very important, without the Holy Spirit it is nothing. Relationships are the "key" to growth in the Lord and something that Jesus felt was extreamly important, but relationships come AFTER your relationship to Jesus: the key would be my favorite verse: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and THEN along side it, love your NEIGHBOR as yourself; all other scripture hangs on these" (emphasis mine). SO relationships with others are second to Jesus but Jesus said that our "relationships" with the Lord and with others are the two MOST important things that are in the Bible; for if you have both of these, then all of the rest will come from that.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Teresa,

Thanks for staying involved in this conversation. I hope you realize I agree with most of what you write most of the time, but I still find a few details to quibble with. In this case, the word “obsession” is the key word. When you wrote that Church is all about relationships, I think you went overboard. When preachers preach on and on about relationships, I think they are going overboard. Therefore, my impression of the state of Church in California nowadays is that Churches have gone overboard in regards to relationships.

It also seems like you are using Scripture to mean what you want Scripture to mean. I can love another person without ever having a relationship with that person. Sometimes love means getting involved, but sometimes love means leaving alone. Minding ones own business is a traditional American value that has been losing adherents with all of the over-emphasis on relationships. I wouldn’t mind a return to this American form of love.

From my perspective, and my understanding of Scripture, God requires justice, mercy, and humility of us all. Justice meaning to do what is right all of the time, mercy meaning to forgive others when they fall short, and humility meaning the understanding that individually we are not always right in our views or in our actions. We may practice justice, mercy, and humility in our relationships, so relationships are integral to what God requires, but the emphasis is on what God requires, not on the relationship or the way of practicing what he requires.

I think it is a modern notion that relationships are the key to growth in the Lord, and not a traditional or orthodox view. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert away from everyone else, and he frequently walked away from crowds and from other people. He modeled self reliance along with the way he interacted with others.

Please understand I am not opposed to you stressing relationships in your ministry. However, I am opposed to an ideology that claims everyone would be more holy if they only had more or better relationships. I think some people would be more holy if they quit obsessing over relationships. [Like I’m obsessing over writing about it ; -) ]

Teresa said...

Let's just agree to disagree here. Yes, I am seeing scripture through one lens and you are seeing it through another. I do beleive though that if you look up LOVE in the original language (Greek for the New Testament) "most of the time", love is an ACTION and used not as you speak. I agree though that there are times when we need to leave those alone, way yes! I think you are speaking of this more often then the action though. Anyway, I do understand you more here, but I disagree. We have to "earn" the right to be heard in this post-modern world we live in and that requires building relationships to share with others the greatest love of all, which is Christ. You mentioned that you would not just get "chummy" with someone you just met--most would not David. That is why you would need to, over time, build a relationship with someone in order for you to understand them and for them to understand you--just as we have been doing here. love ya dude-and that is an action!

Anonymous said...

Just weighing in here, b/c this is an interesting discussion.

I don't think we're called to be in 'relationships' with every person we come in contact with. And naturally, our relationships with the people we do know are on different intimacy levels.

Jesus 'did life' with 12, but was closer to 3 (Peter, James, John) and was even closer to John - whom He loved.

I think there is plenty of biblical precedent to model walking with a few in close community and accountability. And I certainly don't think our relationships are necessarily supposed to be for the sake of our 'comfort.' Meaningful relationships require honesty and transparency. We should be spurring one another on in the race.

I think in any church, there is danger of developing traditions that have no biblical basis whatsoever.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Gayla,

Thanks for weighing in. I’ve seen your comments at Teresa’s site.

Teresa, I, and a few others have been discussing relationships for quite a while now. A while back, Teresa started claiming Christianity was all about relationships. From my perspective, Christian leaders have been over-emphasizing relationships at the expense of everything else that is important about Christianity. And so our discussion, debate, posts, and comments ensued.

I do think that community is very important to Christianity, but I don’t think that a emphasis on relationships means a better community. I think contentment makes for the best communities while emphasizing relationships always leads to discontentment. Individuals are just to fault ridden to make relationships the focal point of Christianity.

Did you read my header?


Most of us may quibble over what is pointless. People probably think I’m talking about Catholics when I use the term “pointless tradition”, but I’m not. I see Evangelicals as having a lot of pointless traditions that go along with a pretty good understanding of the Bible. I see Catholicism as having some solid orthodoxy to go along with a fairly poor understanding of the Bible. I’m stuck in the middle.

Please feel free to return and comment any time.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Teresa,

I don’t know a single person who works for Levi Straus & Company much less have a relationship with anyone at that company, but I have bought Levi’s and Dockers my entire life because of the quality of their products. I don’t know anyone who built my home, or who works at blogger, or who produces my milk, but I still manage to live in my home, post at my blog, and drink milk. I only have a “relationship” with any of these people in the broadest definition possible; certainly not in the way you are using the word “relationship”.

The truths of Christianity can be communicated without relationships, unless we are using the broadest definition possible. Relationships, the way you are using the word, can sometimes hinder prayer and fasting, can slow down important projects, can limit structure, order, and consistency, and can leave people feeling discontent when the relationship fails, as many do.

You seem to really have a gift of connecting with people. I would never tell you to be anything other than what God created you to be and what he desires you to be. However, the claim that it’s all about relationships is not a Christian truth. When I read about the Churches in the book of Revelation, I don’t read anything good or bad about how people in the Church relate. When I think about the historical revivals, my first thoughts are personal repentance, not relationships. Relationships may be your individual most effective evangelical method. However, Christianity has been going down the wrong path for quite some time claiming relationships are everyone’s most effective evangelical method.

Hammertime said...

Of coure, love is an action. So is leaving someone alone when that is the loving thing to do. The fact that we don't "do something" doesn't make it a failure to love - at times it is exactly love.

"The original Greek" is a tired phrase - this from a man in his first week of Greek classes. If, with over 250 English Bibles, we can't get it right, then we can't get it right. I have never had myself, nor met anyone else, who's life was changed measurably by a Greek or Hebrew word study or explanation. They have value - but not for this sort of thing.

Teresa said...

I told you that I would leave you alone, but I noticed that you have not posted since the 9th. All OK?