Today a friend asked what I thought about the idea out there in the Evangelical blog-o-sphere regarding the lack of men in the church. Specifically, a number of [male] pastors are stating the need to focus on recruiting more men in church leadership, because men are in the minority in their congregations and clearly if this isn’t addressed, the church will degenerate into…whatever the church degenerates into without men. I don’t know about other churches, but we have some men at Quest. Some in leadership (half our pastoral staff are male, including our lead pastor), some in the pews, and I don’t feel a dearth of male presence. I do have a few thoughts around the notion that the church will go to hell in a handbasket if we do not recruit more male leaders in a hurry.
1. Our churches aren’t supposed to mirror the surrounding world. In Jesus’ day, the folks who felt most welcome hanging out with the Messiah were those on the margins. Those who were not fully welcomed elsewhere. In the Jewish parlance of his times, that meant women, ethnic and cultural minorities, lepers, fishermen, and a precious few who may have been regarded as ‘Jews amongst Jews’. If our churches are welcoming to women in a culture where women are still paid less, who have never seen a woman president or vice president, who are constantly degraded and treated as objects in media and culture, who are more likely to be hungry, exploited, and abused, could it be that we’re doing something right instead of doing something wrong? Could the emphasis on a need for more male presence be also an affirmation to women that they aren’t ‘enough’ in the church just as they aren’t ‘enough’ in society? Don’t get me wrong, I feel called to minister to men as much as to women, and feel that they also need to be welcomed in our churches. It does make sense to me that a religion calling all in power to humble themselves and give up privilege could be most uncomfortable to those who have the most to lose.
2. We have a leadership problem here, folks. To my friends in the mainline, it’s absolutely unfathomable that we who call ourselves evangelical are still caught up in the women in leadership debate. It’s an embarrassment, it’s a justice issue, and it will kill us if we do not resolve it. I find a lot of folks saying “I’d support women on paper, but in reality, I think the culture wouldn’t understand it.” Really? Have you ever met a female doctor? Lawyer? Supreme court judge? Governor? Regardless of your political leanings, women in the workplace isn’t something new or different. Women in ministry isn’t something new or different. The voices we have traditionally marginalized because they haven’t come from the Western canon of white males are the very voices we’re continually resistant to hearing today, whether these voices come from other cultures, from women, or from whomever we can’t wrap our mind around seeing as Christian.
3. Male leadership doesn’t automatically attract men. I realize it’s easier to spend time with someone you can relate to, or who looks like you, but the Gospel is not some sort of exclusive boy’s [or whatever] club. For that matter, some of the very congregations led by males have a female majority, and churches led by women have male congregants. For most folks in the evangelical church, I feel there’s a significant ‘fear factor’ at work. If you haven’t seen a woman as a lead pastor before, there tend to be irrational fears about what that might look like, how it would work, and a sense that it’s not ‘normal’ or ‘natural’. On the flip side, those who were raised with women pastors wonder why this is even a discussion, because it seems ‘normal’ to them.
Tired of this rant? So am I. It disappoints me that we still are not willing to be the Body of Christ, and that we are still hung up on an image of what we think it should look like. As long as the church continues to be focused on image, like so much window dressing, we are missing the point of becoming the people of God, opening ourselves to be used to God’s purpose, on Earth as in heaven. Sigh.