Carl Beech: Jesus is not my boyfriend!Updated 8:01AM, Tuesday April 10th, 2012 by Claire Musters, Christian.co.uk 4 comments
In the last 20 years 38 per cent of believing men have left the Church and, in a survey conducted last year, most men indicated they would rather be in a women's underwear shop than in church. So has the Church lost touch with its men?
Carl Beech of Christian Vision for Men (CVM) tells Christian.co.uk why he thinks men are turned off church and the issues that he thinks the 21st century Church is getting wrong for everyone.
Carl thinks there are three main problem areas: today's worship culture, teaching and learning styles and the look and feel of the building.
"The points I'm making take a broad brushstroke look at masculinity – obviously there are so many nuances but I can't cover all of those here. Generally, it is true to say that men are objective rather than subjective.
"But worship songs are constantly on about how you feel rather than who God is and men find it difficult to engage with them. A classic example of this is a worship leader saying 'God wants to romance you this morning' – the average bloke can't take that – they find it tricky and it feels weird."
Carl indicates that his ministry's focus is on evangelism – so he is always thinking from the perspective of trying to engage guys who don't even see themselves as non-Christians as they've never thought about it. How would they feel in an average Sunday morning meeting?
"Some songs come across as quite sexualised and erotic. For example, not trying to be crude, but I took a non-Christian mate to church and he burst out laughing when they sang 'When the music fades/all is stripped away/and I simply come'.
"To the pure all things are pure, but these guys haven't engaged with this stuff before and so the language chosen seems random."
"I am not an all-grunting, Top Gear addicted men's ministry leader – just pragmatic."
Carl takes issue with the huge drive for intimacy and closeness in the language of songs, but also says the pitch of the songs are too high. As a woman I can concur that this is general problem as women can't sing them either!
Carl: "I think this is the real elephant in the room – but 90 per cent of the stuff I talk about changing in services the women are in agreement with too. It's a shame that the Church's default position seems to have become just a bit weak.
Guys worshipping at a CVM event.
“Take the teaching styles as another example. Most blokes think they are experts in everything. They have an opinion on just about everything and yet are forced to sit through a monologue preach. We can come out with brilliantly biblical teaching but the guys are thinking ‘what does that mean for me? I’ve got to make someone redundant on Mon – how does it practically relate to me?’
“I realise this wouldn’t be possible for every sermon but there is a place for seminars, gender-specific teaching, topical stuff that will get people going – I use these approaches and never fail to create a response.
“Men can be very apathetic. You need to get guys into small groups and produce the right resources for them. Church often doesn’t do that. It can be a very passive environment. It’s the outworking of how we disciple and retain men that we haven’t got right yet.
“Growth comes to churches that have a really big vision, that uses men’s skills, that creates a movement-based evangelism. We’ve preached a really needs-based gospel, talk a lot about inner healing etc but what about those who feel totally capable, feel they don’t need a crutch, feel sorted (even though we know they aren’t)? We have become so narrow in our thinking.
“Boys look for heroes from the age of five and men need strong, redeemed leader. They like people with opinions – that they can disagree with if they like. You can be a man or a woman leading a church– if I was looking for a female church leader she would be a redeemed version of Boadicea. Who is going to lead me into battle – give me something to fight for?
“Something that has been vexing me for a long time is we have no authentic rite of passage for men whereas a lot of other cultures have that. We slip into being a grown man in this culture. Richard Rohr’s rites of passage have done it well – although he’s had a mixed response as some think it is too liberal – but I would love to develop something here on this.
“When you look at all the social problems we have today – domestic violence, sex trafficking, porn – these are all male-driven sins. We need to teach guys to take responsibility – not to make it all about themselves, which is simply toxic teaching.”
CVM is a ministry that works with local churches to equip them with tools and resources to attract and keep men.
Carl’s vision for CVM: “We want to see a million men come to faith in the UK and we are growing in about 10 different countries at the moment too – so our dream to be an international movement is happening. We facilitated 5-6,000 outreach events, which got the gospel out to 250,000 men, last year. This is a very interesting time – I lead the team that gives the vision to the guys on the ground. I’m like a godly irritant to the Church."
Leave A Comment or join the discussion
My friend said this about your article, I would be very interested to hear your response as I feel it has some validity
"the main issue for me is the snappy lines they throw out; in the article it says something like, "most men would rather be in a women's underwear shop than in church" these lines are what stick in a man's brain. I feel it makes men see the church as the enemy instead of just a blunt instrument that can be sharpened."
A valid point - although doesn't that say more about the state of men's hearts rather than the state of the Church? If that is how they answered a survey... Although I do get that surveys can sometimes set you up to fall/put words in your mouth. I think local churches should always be considering the people they have in their congregation and how best to serve - and stretch - them. But also be aware of those unchurched people who may or may not walk through their doors too. Anything that challenges people to think more on that has its place I think - and I have certainly been pondering some of the issues I discussed with Carl when I interviewed him.
I too feel strongly about the feminisation and watering-down of worship. I have recently left a church (though not for this reason) in which we sang a lot of songs which talked about how beautiful God is, but none about Him being victorious. Our buzzwords were "be" and "relate", rather than "do", "adventure", "fight", "conquer", "battle", etc. It left me feeling unchallenged as regards reaching the world and sometimes I found myself almost choking as we sang song after song about looking deep into Jesus' dreamy eyes. Instead, I wanted to get into a trench with Him and machine-gun the devil!
Of course, the "softer" side is important too - I learned a lot about resting in God at that church. But it lacked evangelistic edge and I felt embarrassed bringing unsaved men into a service in which almost all of the things we were singing could appear soft at best and homoerotic at worst to anybody who didn't already know what they were singing about.
We have a men's group in our church and recently had a men's breakfast event, out of the 25 or so people who paid up to attend only 15 showed up! I think Carl has hit the nail on the head when he says the '..culture of church' (paraphrasing in my own words) feminises much of the worship and so on. The men in my church who didn't show up might have had all sorts of reasons not to come but one of the comments one of the men made when we spoke later was that the event would have come at the bottom ofa list of priorities of things they had to do not as a place they could come to be with their 'friends' to get strength but rather as another church activity synonymous with the usual Sunday worship with the same songs and directives that do not meet their immediate needs or challenges in life. How do you get men into church and keep them there? by making them accountable to one another and practical activities that enable them to use their hands and brains to solve something together! When they build together they sense the building of a common legacy which would endure longer than themselves and is passed down to other youg men who are coming of age after them. These are my thoughts.
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