Where are all the men? More importantly – why are they not interested in Christianity? The stats, brothers and sisters, speak for themselves. Across all denominations a recent YouGov poll of 7k adults showed that only 4.4% of men attended church at least once a month, compared to 5.2% of women; and this equals a disparity of half a million women to men. By comparison, my own channel has about 12.5k subscribers and is growing, but 85% of those listening are men with the remainder being women. Of those men, 35% are aged between 18 – 32, which is exactly the demographic that is missing from so many of our church fellowships. So I think it’s fair to say that I have something to contribute to the debate regarding why we are not reaching men and what fellowships can do to have a better reach to men. It can be summed up in one phrase: the need for a muscular Christian faith. A subset of this idea would be to discuss masculine spirituality.
For all of you who care and want to see the Church grow, let me lay out what a masculine spirituality looks like, as practised and preached by me. I can say for certain that I am reaching the men you are missing in your fellowships. Here is what masculine spirituality looks like, as follows:
For starters it is gimmick-free! Again, a masculine spirituality is gimmick-free. It’s not about trying to be entertaining or be cool or hip. It’s not about creating contrived scenes to have a laugh. It’s rooted in emotional maturity. Frankly, men don’t need to be entertained on a Sunday or when you are trying to evangelise them. Most attempts at gimmickry are just embarrassing (as it’s mostly done badly) and cheapen the seriousness of the faith – thus discrediting it. So please, if you are going to reach men, stop trying to be entertainers; quit the silly gimmicks which smack of a lack of substance. People come to hear you if what you have to say is connecting to reality and actually communicating something they can get a hold of. You don’t need gimmicks! However, if all you’re doing is talking about fluffy stuff, sentiments and emotions, and feel-good garbage, and have nothing of substance to say, then you will most likely feel the need to compensate with gimmicks. This is a clear sign that you probably need to change your preaching style!
It emphasises personal responsibility. This is why Dr Jordan Peterson has such a massive following as he talks in terms that could be summarised as, “Man up! Take responsibility!” I think he has used those exact words and men listen to that. Even more so, Dr Perterson shows how you can man up – he describes the process. Christians have this in spades in our spirituality, but are we tapping into it? Do we talk about the cultivation of virtue or the development of character? Are we rediscovering the virtue ethics of the faith? Do we talk about the inner dynamics of the soul and how to transform the inner man through disciplines; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual? If you aren’t doing this, it probably means you have not done much in your own journey. So, if that is you – man up! Go out there and put yourself in some challenging situations, and reflect upon your failings, your failures, and pains. Educate your own soul in the way of Christ and you will be able to do the same for others.
It engages with the worldview of others polemically and apologetically. Another reason why Dr Peterson has such a following is that he is not scared to get involved in a serious analysis of the times we are in and is willing to call things as he sees them. He takes a side on an issue and has clearly thought about what he is talking about! The reason why Dr Peterson does this so well is that he has a clear sense of himself, his values, and his own worldview. Also, he is able to engage with the worldview of others polemically and apologetically. Christians, you need to have a clear sense of your own worldview. What are your Christian beliefs? What are your key Christian values? What is the right way to live (I just told you above – by Christian virtue ethics)? When you know these things you will be in a position to seriously analyse the issues of the world. Sadly, much of the preaching in our churches is so narrow in its confines, talking solely on dogmatic issues, yet neglecting so much of life. It leaves people starving spiritually, failing to offer an answer to the many challenges we face such as mass immigration, loss of identity, abortion, persecution, family breakdown, and so on. Not every issue needs to be shoe-horned into a presentation of the gospel. Not every issue needs to be discussed in terms of the demonic hyperbole or of your blessings and financial tithes. You can and should just take an issue for what it is and then think it through as a Christian; tapping into the full resources of Christian history and learning to arrive at a conclusion, even if that conclusion is subject to some measure of modification.
It calls for a clear sense of your identity. This brings me to the next point. Men respond well when I talk to them about Christian identity, Christian beliefs, Christian values, Christian ethics, Christian history, Christian customs, Christian culture, and a Christian political narrative. I have even spoken on Christian art and philosophy. However, the top four you need to have under your belt, as a minimum to reach men, are knowledge of Christian beliefs, values, ethics, and history. When you talk about history, discuss it as a Christian. Don’t just accept other people’s talking points about Christian history. An example of what I mean would be that I will always defend the Crusades as justified; I don’t just go along with the narrative of the western world’s post-enlightenment that the Crusades were bad.
Develop the ability to communicate this to the man in front of you. Learn to relate to his questions and issues in a universalised way, so that he can begin to see how it applies to him. Help him to imagine the Christian he can be. This requires being able to listen to other guys, not just preach at them! Learn to access his imagination and get him to imagine the Christian alternative to whatever he sees as ‘the issue.’ This does not mean spoon-feeding him what he wants to hear. Rather, it can mean challenging him on what he believes or does with regard to ‘the issue.’ Connecting with the guy and speaking into his life from a Christian perspective is important! This needs to be salted with your own emotional maturity!
It is polemical and apologetical. If you want to appeal to men, get into the ring of intellectual battle, put up your dukes and do combat! Seriously! Defend the faith from criticism, not just its beliefs. Defend its values, its ethical system, and its history. However, don’t stop there! Have a prepared criticism of other ideologies and worldviews. What criticisms are you able to make of, let’s say, Islam, Hinduism, Communism, Nazism, Nationalism, or Mormonism? Could you really debate these folks and stand your ground?
It grounds faith in serious things. Ground your faith in serious things, especially the persecuted Church, martyrdom, honouring Christian customs and traditions, the project of civilisation building, families, sex, sexuality, politics and political issues, and so on – this list is not exhaustive. If you can not be serious and all you want to talk about are whimsical things – go home! Yes! Having a sense of humour is essential and, yes, being able to make a joke is super important – as well as being able to take one – is critical to building rapport, but if that is all you have – you have nothing!
It doesn’t shrink from conflict. This brings me to the next point. Do not shy away from a ‘them vs. us’ narrative, or shrink from conflict. Think about it… there are thousands of men gathering in sports stadiums weekly satisfying the longing to belong to a thing bigger than themselves and feel part of a group. Yet, essential to this is the other group! The EDL and Football Lads Alliance motivated thousands of men to march and stand up to Islamisation in a way that was not effective, but it did motivate them. The ‘them vs. us’ is a powerful motivator that Salafist Muslims often use to reach people as they recognise it is a powerful motivator. So, embrace differences; embrace the truth that the Church does have enemies. Militant progressives are one such example; I do not need to give you a list. Do not shrink from standing up to them! However, be practical and serious! As Christians are too spread out to do much here, we desperately need to consolidate geographically to be able to stand up for ourselves in the absence of that physical strength that comes from geographical saturation. We need to get involved in democratic campaigning avidly (this would be strengthened by the Benedict Option).
It has a strong physical stature. This kind of spirituality will require you to have some physical stature. If you are unable to bring a ‘presence’ with you, fewer men are going to listen to you. So, muscle up! No, seriously! Go to the gym! Why? Well, apart from it helping to cultivate a disciplined mind and improving your health, men respect a man whom they think can fight. I need to do this more, I recognise, as time permits. It is important to make time for yourself. If you are already doing this, then start working on getting the men in your fellowship fitter and stronger!
It has charisma. Have some charisma about you. I don’t mean screaming your head off, but learn to speak with some passion, some panache. Have some energy in you; deliver your talk like you believe what you’re saying and that you mean it, and that you are basing your life on it (I am sure you are – but does it come across in the way you talk about it?). Speak with some inner sense of convictions; an inner solidity. Be resolute! However, combine this with humbleness – not in a contrived, gushing, desperate, enfeebled way. Rather, if you have a genuine sense of humbleness you will be happy to mix with all kinds of people and meet them on their own level without looking down on them.
It forms a sense of solidarity and belonging. Form a sense of brotherhood and belonging. This is more than just a men’s breakfast once a month or a men’s ‘anything’ once a month, which is not bad in and of itself. It’s more of a culture of solidarity among men, of being there for one another, sticking up for one another, supporting one another, speaking with affection (suitably attuned) to one another. Speak as a brotherhood; speak as a people with a common cause, values, and beliefs. This is where common customs and traditions are going to help you a lot! Also, nothing binds a group together more than facing a common enemy. So why not battle together for a common cause of the Church? Why not do sports together and cultivate a sense of all the above ‘together.’ Cultivate the attitudes of brotherhood with language, action, and custom; the activities should just feed that. This will do your men’s activities a great service.
It supports geographical saturation. The Church is in crisis because men are going to one kind of church (traditional), in fewer numbers, whilst the women are going to another kind of church in larger numbers (family orientated). The two are not mixing because of the curse of denominational sectarianism and the fact that every pastor is scared of losing members so avoids mixing congregations. So we are stuck in a death spiral that nobody wants to talk about and nobody can get the leadership to see as they are blinded by their own concerns of keeping their congregation going. Compound this with the fact that, as a proportion of the wider population, active Christians probably only make up about 10% of the population. As well as being divided, we are too spread out. We have the single biggest issue that causes young men to leave or fall out of the Church, the lack of family creation.
It supports the creation of family. We need to find ways of coupling adults. The romantic model that we adopt from the world around us is not working for anyone – Christian or non-Christian. However, the Amish, Brudahof, Copts, and others show that if you consolidate geographically you can be a growing church just from family creation alone. Polish Catholics and Muslims show us that with geographical saturation and strong family values, families are created. We have reached a place where to find a partner most Christians have to look outside the Church. That is why most men leave at around 24 years of age. We have to deal with this issue more than any other and most fellowships are just not big enough to deal with it alone, which means we have to organise above the level of a congregation.
If you want to reach men, particularly young men, then we have to change. Now, we can change or we can die! Yes, some fellowships will outlive others, but the way we are doing Christianity in the west is not working. There is plenty of evidence to show that it can be turned around if we commit to doing things differently! I don’t know about you, but I am about what works within the Christian paradigm; not holding onto structures, practices, attitudes, and spiritualities that do not work! We need a masculine spirituality in the Church if we are going to reach men and a Benedict Option for everything else!