Why Working-Class Men Have Abandoned the Church and How to Get Them Back

Good Morning!

Our topic today is a little bit out of left field, and may seem a bit strange, especially since it may appear to only apply to half of you. Most of you know that my dissertation for my doctoral degree was on reaching white working-class men for Christ. The least “churched” people group in the United States are young white men without a college education. No one knows that because most people don’t care. They are not high on the list of agenda items at most church plant conferences nor is there really anything being written about them. When I was doing research the only resources I could find were all negative. In other words these men who don’t actually go to worship on the Lord’s Day were being blamed for all kinds of societal problems with their evangelicalism coming along for the ride. Outside of the white working-class not really having any actual political power the bigger issue, at least for me as a minister of the gospel, was trying to figure out why they weren’t going to church, and the reasons I found were not exactly groundbreaking. For our prayer and worship help we are going to think through this for a little bit, and try and find a solution, or at least just complain about it.

First of all the men I talked to who were under fortyish all had one thing in common: they do not have fathers, and in many cases even grandfathers, for which meeting with Jesus on the Sabbath was any kind of priority. Even if they did attend on the odd Sunday they looked and acted like a conscientious objector through the whole service. Didn’t sing, didn’t really pay attention, was quiet, but completely uninvolved in the happenings around them. They might as well have been Helen Keller for all the good it did them to be there. Why should a younger man put any effort into being at the Lord’s house if the men in his orbit didn’t? It’s a good question, and one I don’t really blame them for. They just acting how they was raised.

The second big reason given to me was the church was full of hypocrites. Imagine finding sinners at a church. But that wasn’t really what they was talking about. These men may not be Christians, but one doesn’t necessarily need to be to put two and two together. People acting one way on Sunday morning and then another the rest of the week has a habit of putting a damper on you thinking it makes any difference how dolled up you get for Sabbath School and morning service if you just going to go roll around in the mud when Monday comes. Kind of like the first one I couldn’t really find a place to question the sincerity and veracity of their mindset when it came to this particular objection.

Lastly, the third one, which I didn’t fully get to be honest, but kind of understood what they were getting at was is they said there was no place for them at church. They don’t mean by that there is no place to sit or be. There’s plenty of room. The idea I think they were getting at is that all the extracurricular activities were geared towards the ladies. There is no man version of WOC, some may think that is what the Session and the Diaconate are, but no one who Biblically understands that would limit themselves to thinking it. But there was more to this exception than the formal side of things. I got the impression that what they were really meaning was the worship was in some sense effeminate. The songs were lovey dovey and emotional, not that men can’t show emotion. There is a difference between emotional thanksgiving and romantic longings. While that last one may not be as big a deal at a church which mostly sings the psalms (and who is more manly than David?) I could understand a little bit more of what they meant there.

With the space we got left what is the big giant solution? In the immortal words of John Calvin, good luck with that. There is no simple, easy to fix answer for what is a generational problem. You can’t make grandpa John who only is at church for weddings and funerals, and the odd baptism, care about Jesus. The Holy Ghost has to do that. It’s why sometimes you got to take the preaching to him in some form or fashion. Whether that be via visitation, ESP, or whatever method you might think would work, if you ain’t at least trying, he ain’t going to get converted. It also means recognizing that you got to start with what you got. Reaching the old man, while important, is not as important in the long run as making sure the generation coming up doesn’t fall into the same spiritual lethargy as his ancestors. Young men need to own Jesus as their own, and they need to see that is what a Man does.

There is a heart here that has to take into consideration that we are not playing around with the whole religion stuff, which gets to the objection found in #2. Far too many people in the Christian world treat the church like another organization they belong to. It’s just the Rotary every week and without the meal. There is a loss of the awesomeness of God and the somberness of what a life lived without the Lord means for eternity. There is a reason why Solomon notes that the Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. You should fear God, for He alone has the power to send you to Hell. That isn’t no game. It’s what Jesus says in Matthew 10:28. Raising the stakes in the Christian life would go a long way with dealing with the easy poke at hypocrisy.

In closing, when it comes to the question of a man’s place in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ there is a lot of weird stuff going around that looks like bizarre cosplay to me. I have a beard, largely because my face looks bad without one. It isn’t a statement on my sanctification. Have a beard, don’t have a beard, to quote Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, I don’t care. Your manliness does not come from these outward qualities or commitments. It comes from a deep love of the Savior who bought you with a price. Taking seriously the calling of Ephesians 6:1-4 to raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, listening to Ephesians 5 and loving your wife as Christ loved the Church, by leading her and being a Man for once. All these things are a helpful way to start thinking about the way to get the young men interested in being the kind of person God has called them to be, not fake society, or domesticating them into women.

Be as Christ and you will know the way.

A final word:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/if-he-does-not-love-jesus-he-will-not-love-you

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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