As I write this, the world is gripped with sports fever. Here in North America big-league hockey and basketball have just crowned new champions. The rest of the planet is focused on the World Cup, where the best soccer teams are battling it out for football supremacy.
Men are the primary audience for these sporting matches. So if men can sit through a 3 hour-long hockey game, why is it so hard for men to focus for a 45-minute sermon?
Sports promoters know the male brain and they tailor their presentation to guys. A sporting event is really ritual combat. It’s a battle between the forces of good (the home team) and evil (the visitor). Player introductions build on this theme. Like rival armies, the opponents march into battle sporting their colors, symbols and uniforms.
Games are heavy on physical movement with lots of objects flying through the air. The most exciting games are those in which the teams are evenly matched so the outcome is uncertain. Most sports offer time-outs (except soccer). These breaks allow men a reprieve from the tension, and give them a chance to stand up and move around. Food is a big part of the experience. Finally, a win allows men to bask in reflected glory, while a loss teaches men to deal with disappointment in a healthy way.
In short, sport is built for the male brain.
But church services are built for the female brain. They are highly verbal and relational. They’re predictable and safe. The outcome is never in doubt. This is why women worship in churches, while men worship in stadiums.
Of course, just as there are women whose brains are wired for sports, there are men whose brains are built for church. I’ve been corresponding with a woman in New Orleans whose Episcopal parish draws more men than women. She says that her church draws a lot of lawyers and college professors. But this exception proves the rule: lawyers and college professors are men with verbally gifted brains. Lawyers and professors make their living working with words. So do pastors.
Pastors would do a lot for their men if they did something unexpected every week. Jesus was so engaging to men because when he was around you never knew what was going to happen. Kind of like a sporting event.