Making Your Church Manlier Won’t Make It Bigger

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History tells us that denominational growth has nothing to do with sex ratios in the pews.

“There’s a crisis of men in the church.” You’ve undoubtedly heard this said in various iterations at various times. Mark Driscoll, former pastor of the now-disbanded male-dominated Mars Hill Church in Seattle, often made claims like “The problem with the church today … it’s just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chick-ified church boys,” or “sixty percent of Christians are chicks and the forty percent that are dudes are still chicks.”

The Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson has also tapped this nerve among Christian men. Most recently, Owen Strachan, director of the Center for Public Theology, kicked up this perennial conversation with a podcast and related tweet on the nature of manhood.

As the argument goes, “Where men go, churches grow,” or, alternatively, “Where men lead, women follow,” both implying that having a large number of women is bad for church growth. Scores of articles and books on the demise of Christian masculinity have cropped up, from David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church to Leon Podles’ The Church Impotent, creating a veritable industry advancing the idea that Christian manhood is under threat. The book sales have been impressive, so the ideas must be sound, right?

Wrong. It turns out that Christianity is no more “feminized” today than it was 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 300 years ago, a thousand years ago, or even in the first century of the church. Those who argue that church growth depends on special, male-focused activities—or especially “masculine” programming—mistake the historic record of the church and also imperil the church’s historic teachings on sex.

Ancient …

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