There’s been some writing lately about why men hate going to church; I haven’t read the book yet. There’s been a thought in the back of my mind on why some men may hate going to church which has nothing to do with church being for sissies (see Mr. Shame in Pilgrim’s Progress) in the estimate of some men. Has anyone seriously considered the possibility that some of the men who resist church involvement simply have never been saved?
I was involved in several churches during the 1970’s and 1980’s which did have a number of men who were enthusiastic in their involvement in church leadership and teaching, and yet were no sissies by anyone’s evaluation. They were also leaders in business, ran their own successful businesses or were in professions that would never have been considered a job for wimps. Yet they would pray fervently, could discuss scripture at length, share their faith with love and concern, and even join in congregational singing of the joys of salvation with gusto. They all had this in common: they had a testimony of salvation which was their own, and not a family heirloom or acceptable words which turn out to be borrowed from someone else’s experience of salvation.
What leads me to consider this possibility much more seriously is the memory of a number of unbelieving men in my college years and the years afterwards who were romantic impostors: they would use the words of Christian experience and make claims of involvement in a church or Christian ministry to win the heart of a Christian woman (usually quite attractive physically). Some of these relationships broke up, but some did not. Sometimes these couples began to drift away from church attendance and involvement. I would not be surprised, though, that some of these men might have well continued in that deceit for long afterwards, especially where their wives were strong enough spiritually to avoid drifting away from Christ and remained faithful to Christ and involved in his church. The professions of faith and church involvement by these men may have remained simply as a concession to keep their wives happy long after they had won the object of their desires. Maybe the call to them needs to be to come to Christ for themselves and develop an adult faith of their own rather than going through the motions to humor their wives.
I think that in these cases a pastor and church leaders need to build a relationship with the man so that they can be able to question him gently on his experience of salvation and his scriptural convictions. It may well be that they find that the man simply is a modern version of Mr. Ignorance or Mr. Talkative from Pilgrim’s Progress. The preaching and teaching of the church should likewise not assume that someone who is in attendance is actually a believer; showing up is not a scriptural indication of salvation.
Some of these men may nevertheless have a fear for what little religious reputation they may have; they may have played the game for so long that they could not face the exposure of their true state before the fellowship of believers. They may even fear the wrath of their wives if their deceit and the reasons for their deceit become known to them. They may even fear that if they let someone will gossip or crow about his being unregenerate and playing the game for so long – but after all, Christians never gossip about these situations or crow about it when they think they’re right do they? (Of course they do!) Perhaps what they need is an assurance that the responsibility for coming to Christ, confessing him openly without falsehood or deceit, and following him wholeheartedly is theirs and theirs alone. Certainly a wife who really cared for her husband’s salvation would be grieved at this deceit but glad if he truly came to Christ; her reaction – and the reaction of the church as a whole — should ultimately be joy and not wrath. Coming clean and truly coming to Christ in these situations should result in temporary shock and surprise giving way to overwhelming love and joy.
There is a second possibility beyond a man hating to come to church simply because he has never really been saved. The second possibility is that the man is leading a double life – one person at church and when with his wife and family, and another person when not there. Being in the church for more than a short time may seem too overwhelmingly convicting. I’ve been providing by my needs through secular employment for nearly two decades now, and had several jobs in secular employment in the years since then. It’s my observation that many men in the church can be very different people when they are at the church, with their wives and families, with other men and in the place of their employment. They may be clean spoken, charming and gentle in the first two instances, but hard, aggressive, deceitful and even profane and obscene in the next two environments. They may stand with believers in the church but on their job they may ridicule, exploit and slander them, and refuse to stand with them in situations which call for stands of honesty, integrity and compassion. My own impression is that their wives and churches would be quite astonished, ashamed and embarrassed if they knew the words and behavior of these men when they were with other men and on their jobs.