"Bring Them Back; Bring Them In"
 - Jeremiah 28:5-9

Last week I spoke to you on the topic of "Why Men Hate Going to Church." What I had to say then and this week, in continuing and finishing up thoughts on this topic, comes from a book by David Murrow, entitled, "Why Men Hate Going to Church."

It is interesting to note that in the reading today from Jeremiah, he speaks about bringing back the exiles from Babylon. We need to 'bring back, bring in' the men who are missing. Just as firefighters care for and about one another, and would never think of leaving behind some one of their team who was missing, nor would an EMT ever think of letting someone die, they would try to bring them back, they would do their best to save them, we need to care about those missing from worship and involvement in the life of the church.

We have to care about the men and women who are missing from our pews. Specifically last week and this week, however, we are focusing on the men. In most congregations, in terms of presence and involvement, women outnumber the men two to one. We need to say to the men who are missing, or even those who come, but come under protest, or come to worship but don't involve themselves in any other aspect of the church, we need to say to them, "We need you desperately. God has a sacred role for you, and if you do not do your part, all is lost."

That's right. All is lost. We are dependent on one another. We all need to be using our gifts for each other and Christ's church in order to survive. It isn't a matter of men filling the roles and positions we have available; it's a matter of asking men what their gifts are and then putting those gifts to use in the church. I don't want to create a position or job for the missing men. I want them to say, "Here's my gift; this is what I do well; how can I help?"

We who are not missing from the pews need to reach out. We need to care. We need to serve. Often those who are present get caught in an attitude of 'you need to serve what we care about.' No. We need to serve the needs of Christ's church. And that means caring about those who aren't here. Caring about those whose gifts that God gave them for service to others through His church, are going to waste.

Many men avoid the church and they suffer for it and we have to care that they suffer. That is, "men are more likely than women to be arrested, die violently, commit and be victims of crimes, go to jail and be addicted. They also die more often on the job, have more heart attacks, commit suicide in greater numbers, and live shorter lives than women do….If men want to avoid such things, they need to go to church, to hear Jesus' message, to be involved in the life of the church. A study by the Heritage Foundation found that churchgoers…express a higher satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness. Church involvement helps move people out of poverty. It's also correlated with less depression, more self esteem, and greater family and marital happiness. Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers. Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say that they enjoy spending time with their Dads and that they admire them."

After studying religion in America for more than fifty years, George Gallup concludes, "Women may be the backbone of a congregation, but the presence of a significant number of men is often a clear indicator of spiritual health." Jack Hayford notes that "if the church is to reach its maximum potential, men must find their places in God's economy." Women alone cannot constitute the body of Christ.

But men have gotten the message that the church does not need them. Most of the volunteer roles and positions in a church that we are always asking to be filled don't fall into the category of expertise of most men. "Generally speaking, men's gifts and abilities do not match the ministry needs of the typical American congregation. Men are square pegs trying to fit into a sea of round holes."

"Men need to be challenged, and the church isn't doing a very good job of that. Most men see church as something his children need, not him. Most church volunteer positions fall into areas where men feel the least comfortable. Most jobs in the church require verbal and relational skills. They demand proficiency with children, music, teaching, hospitality or cooking-areas where women generally have more experience. "

"Men's ministry so often falters for one simple reason: It's actually women's ministry for men. When Christian men gather they are expected to relate like women and enjoy the things women enjoy….So men's retreats often feature singing, hugging and hand holding, even weeping. Men sit in circles and listen, read and share." Fortunately there are some men who come to men's events and put up with that because they are able to sort through all that and get something from it that they need.

So, what do we do to speak to the men missing from the pews? I've just touched the tip of the iceberg in what I've shared about why men hate going to church. But we need to get focused on this; get started on this matter. So, let me suggest two ways of getting started.

The first, and it's essential no matter how one goes about it---you have to care about the men missing from the pews. You have to care that they are not there. Unfortunately most folks only give lip service to caring. They say they care, but they don't show it because they don't do anything about that. If you are concerned about someone in your family or circle of friends, you don't just sit back and watch them throw their lives away or endanger themselves. You do something because you care.

It's the same with the men missing from the pews. You have to care enough to do something. You have to care enough to let them know you miss them. Truth is that many of you DON'T miss them really. Many of you don't even KNOW who it is that is missing. Men, yes, but who?

And the second thing is that we have to minister to men as men, not as women. Men have different gifts and different ways of serving the Lord. We have to honor and appreciate those needs. If we expect men to get something out of church, then we need to ask men to give something to church by means of the gifts they have to share. We need to appreciate what they have to share. We need to invite them to share. We do NOT need to fit them into slots already created. Most of those slots don't fit what men have to offer anyway.

So, care about the men who are missing. We need men here "spurring one another on." We need men sharpening their gifts, and "when iron sharpens iron, sparks fly!"

So, ladies and gentlemen who are present today, what are you going to do about this? Well, what I say is, for Jesus' sake, let the sparks fly!!!


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