Why prominent Christian men are abandoning the local church

  • High FlyersMany of society’s most prominent Christian men don’t go to church at all, according to Dr. Michael Lindsay, who interviewed 360 of America’s best-known evangelicals, 90 percent of whom were men. These famous believers included athletes, CEOs, Hollywood stars and two U.S. presidents. Lindsay “was shocked to find that more than half – 60% — had low levels of commitment to their denominations and congregations. Some were members in name only; others had actively disengaged from church life.”

    Lindsay found these high-achieving men typically practiced their faith alone or in small groups, far from the public eye. He writes, “Executives and politicians are often distressed by the way churches are run. James Unruh, who served as the chief executive of Unisys, was also at one time an elder at his Presbyterian church in California. He has since decided he will never serve again. He couldn’t stand the inefficiency of church meetings, a common refrain among those I interviewed. Others described local congregations as ‘‘unproductive’ and ‘focused on the wrong things.’

    “These factors are driving evangelical leaders into the arms of fellowship groups that exist outside the churches, often called ‘parachurch’ organizations,” Lindsay says. “The shift began in the 1950s, but it grew dramatically over the past 20 years as the parachurch sector became more professional and well-resourced. Nearly three-fourths of the leaders I interviewed serve on the board of at least one parachurch organization, such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. They prefer these groups because they have a broader reach and a bigger impact.”

    The 40% who did attend church overwhelmingly chose megachurches. “Powerful men choose megachurches because they see the pastor as a leadership peer,” Lindsay said. “It’s not so much the quality of the [worship] service, it’s much more about respecting the senior pastor as a leader. That’s the key.”

    I see two lessons for the local church that wants to connect with high-achieving men: 1) You need a pastor who’s a leader, not a poser. 2) Your church needs to accomplish something.

    Churches tend to focus on a multiplicity of goals, whereas parachurch organizations bear down on one target. As a result of their single focus, parachurch groups often achieve greater results.

    I guess the bottom line is this: Men’s time is valuable and they want to invest it in something that gets results. And they want a leader they can be confident in. Can we blame them?

    So what do you think? Comments are open.

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    March 25th, 2011 | David Murrow | 11 Comments |

About The Author

David Murrow

David Murrow is the director of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. In his day job, David works as a television producer and writer. He's the author of four books. He lives in Alaska with his wife, three children, three grandchildren and a dachshund named Pepper.

  • joel

    Spot on, Dave! I am in the process of joining the (unpaid) staff of a prominent megachurch (though I’m not a well known evangelical, by any stretch), and my first question to the powers that be was “how many staff meetings will I have to sit through?” If the answer was more than one a month, for any more than an hour, the answer would have been “No thanks”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Michael-Gallagher/100000266368713 Robert Michael Gallagher

    It’s hard to understand why we can’t begin to change things around, when the problems are so obvious (inefficiency of church meetings, local congregations are ‘‘unproductive’ and ‘focused on the wrong things.’ )

  • Anonymous

    I think your ideas are good, and I’m curious to see where you go from here, but I still don’t think there is realization of just how anti-masculine churches have become. You’re agenda leans towards helping female focused churches attract more men. How about adding not asking men to walk in around in heels as another idea http://www.irvingbible.org/stories/partnerships/local-partners/walk-in-her-shoes-update-with-pictures/ ? I bet that would be a deal killer for somebody like Unruh, and certainly a far cry from David’s mighty men.

  • Randall

    I suggest that these “prominent” men check their Bibles as to the reasons for going to any church and subjugate their egos and Type-A personalities to some of the commands of scripture…like not failing to meet together…like serving one another…like bearing with one another. I strongly believe our churches should be as efficient as possible, which is good stewardship of God’s resources, but their are more important goals than “productivity…professional…well-resourced…learship peer…respecting the pastor as a leader.” I fail to see any reference to or consideration of what the Bible says about why we should go to church and how we should contribute in any of this post. Instead, I see a self-focused emphasis on qualities valued by secular society. I realize this is direct, but the best way for these men to connect would be to focus on connecting with God and serving the local body instead of (from the appearances, tone, and statements of this article) expecting it and the pastor to march to their beat because they have achieved something in the world.

  • http://www.churchformen.com David Murrow

    The Bible doesn’t say we should go to church. I’m just sayin’…

  • http://www.churchformen.com David Murrow

    Thanks for that link. Actually seeing men wearing high heels to protest sex trafficking is a good thing. It’s kind of like NFL players wearing pink to raise money for breast cancer research.

    When men show solidarity with hurting women, that’s manly. The stuff that keeps men away from the church is the subtle feminization of the Gospel and Jesus.

  • Tammy

    I am a woman so I hope its ok that I post on here. I agree with so much of what your saying. I have always been a tomboy and more of a doer than alot of the other ladies. I don’t go to the “womens events” because they just don’t interest me (unless I am photographing them for the photography team, I’m the only girl on there lol). I don’t like the loooong services and would much rather be doing something too.. There is only one mens event that I know of at our church each year and a ton of womens events. I sidh they had more mixed events that were more physicla events for us as a group as we ladies like to see our guys doing the things they enjoy and a few of us ladies would enjoy too. But most would be afraid of doing the “guys” things. It makes me sad in some ways that we are this way at church because women (well at least I ) really enjoy seeing our (my) husband lead and do these things. Sorry if this came across in a way that it wasn’t meant too as I am not as eliqant a writer as some are.

  • Anonymous

    It’s never a good thing seeing men in high heels. 1st it’s just a “me too” of what secular feminists have already been doing, basically the church following popular culture. You’re right in that’s it’s similar to pink breast cancer weirdness. (Did you know men get cancer too?) It’s strange, and exhibits a kind of self flagellation, like Catholic worshipers crawling on their knees on some pilgrimage. Men don’t show solidarity with sex trafficked individuals (boys are sex trafficked too, and women participate as the sellers), they end it. They pass laws to make it illegal, protect their daughters and wives, and raise good sons. Showing “solidarity”, lighting candles, basically doing nothing but a show is the exact opposite of what men do.

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  • Nigel Mohammed

    There are alarm bells ringing because of the subtle secular business jargon used that the majority of the men preferred. They fact that they prefer megachurches as a reason to respect genuine leadership. I don’t think God developed Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David and many more into leaders through being able to create mega congregations by modelling the values of their culture. They spent many years being humbled and prepared. Even Willow Creek admitted they got it wrong in their Reveal report. Jesus asks to Come of die with Him, take up a cross and walk a narrow path where we will be persecuted. These megachurch ‘leaders’ may be leaders according a secular definition but the men who are drawn to this kind of leadership i think are looking to the wrong model of leadership. He would be the greatest let him be the least.

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