*as described by my not yet believing mate…
So here’s a blog on a current and enduring hot potato, men and worship. Time to point out the elephant in the room, the emperors’ new clothes and buy a Kevlar vest from eBay.
Some bullet points;
- My German shepherd dog “Flick” doesn’t seem to have the capacity to wonder. It doesn’t look at the stars and think “wow that’s awesome”. We on the other hand were made with the capacity to wonder, awe, love, adore, praise and worship. To say that we don’t would be to deny that which God has placed in us.
- It’s a big mistake to make this argument about emotion or the demonstration of emotion. It seems to me that the issue is often confused when people start to talk about men wanting “songs that don’t have emotion in them.” I believe this is a misinterpretation of the issue at hand and its not what men are saying.
- Who is worship and praise ultimately for? Is it for me or God? If it’s for God why are so many songs focussed on how I feel, how I’m doing, how secure I am etc. Not that there isn’t a place for this but it seems to me that even in the psalms where David is incredibly vulnerable such as in Psalm 42, he ends by saying “put your hope in God, for yet I will praise Him my saviour and my God.” This effectively puts the final emphasis on God and not himself. I like that.
- There is a huge spectrum of masculinities out there and to make a simple pronouncement that “this song is/isn’t man friendly” misses the mark and is effectively a shallow interpretation of masculinity. However, as an evangelist who has noted that the church seems to be pretty empty of builders and van drivers I think we need to do some serious thinking about a culture of worship that helps these missing millions from the UK church engage with God.
- Lets not polarise men and women and stop talking about “man friendly worship.” Instead lets talk about good, biblical, culturally relevant worship and praise.
- Some people may say that I have issues because I struggle with calling Jesus beautiful beyond description and my lover. That may well be true. But then I kind of like those issues and I think I’ll keep them. Karen is my lover and she is the one who is beautiful to me. I love Jesus in a different way and would use different language to articulate that love. For the record, I don’t think Karen likes calling Jesus her lover either. Thankfully she only has eyes for me
- Jesus was fully God but he was also a man. If I stood next to my closest friend and said, “Stu, your name is like honey on my lips, I’m out of my depth in your love, I love feeling your arms so strong around me…’ I think he would get out of dodge. I find it hard to sing such lines to a man I worship and love in the agape and not eros sense. Agape love requires a different approach. I think the church gets confused about the difference.
- Some songs are inadvertently erotic. For example ; “Jesus take me as I am, I can come no other way, draw me deeper into you.” I’m not seeking to be crude. In fact there are far worse examples but in the interest of decency I won’t post them. In the cold light of day the lyrics would look semi pornographic or at the very least not out of place in a Jackie Collins novel and yet we sing them all the time. I read some lyrics to my unchurched mate and he was wiping tears from his eyes in laughter.
- I was walking with my friend Prem in India once when he reached out and gently held two of my fingers. To say I was a bit shocked and mildly uncomfortable was an understatement. Then I noticed that lots of guys were walking hand in hand. I’ve been to India many times and often hold my friends hands as we walk along. I kind of like it actually. However, I wouldn’t do that in Chesterfield. It’s Indian practice and I’m British. It belongs in India as much as cows wandering down main roads. It’s a case of when in Rome. Strangely the churches there often sit the men and women separately for worship. Lets leave that practice there as well!
- I express my deep affection for my male friends in the UK in a different way but it has no less meaning. Let the British men work out how they express their emotions towards Jesus as the Holy Spirit leads. They don’t need culturally unhelpful references or to be told how they aren’t in touch with their feelings because they aren’t demonstrative enough. Its not helpful.
- It may take courage, as someone suggested recently for a man to say Jesus is beautiful but its just not a helpful missional approach in our culture. Intimacy with God is crucial but lets recast the language.
- The fact that so many men are aggrieved does indicate there is some problem somewhere, as does the incredibly steep decline in male church attendance. We cant write it all off to men being out of touch with their emotions etc.
- I was in a church recently and the worship leader opened proceedings by saying “Jesus wants to romance you this morning…” I did find it a bit tricky to engage with.
- Sometimes the pitch of songs is too high for men to sing.
- Men like the volume up, simply because they don’t like to hear themselves singing…but they do like to sing. They will sing on the terraces and so they will sing in church, if the songs aren’t weak.
- Much of this isn’t about feminisation, its about weak theology and lack of missional thinking. The fact that we learn so much of our theology from our worship therefore troubles me.
- Sentimental grade one level saxophone solos in the middle of worship will cause (particularly) men and women to shuffle their feet in discomfort. I don’t mind the solos. Take Raul D’olivera who plays trumpet at our men’s conferences. Its off the chart! It’s the quality that counts. If it’s not good, don’t inflict it.
- Why do we only talk about singing when we talk about worship and praise? Are we stuck in a rut?
- Heaven did not touch earth like a “sloppy wet kiss…” Yes sports fans, that really was a line from a hugely popular worship song.
- The truth of the matter is this; When I speak about this at churches and conferences the women love the suggestions we make as much as the men.
And this leads me to my final thought for now. Perhaps this debate and all the angst is a symptom of a Church that has lost touch. Perhaps its navel gazed for so long that its lost sight of reality and the world it was sent to serve? If we were all desperately seeking to see our mates, colleagues and family members meet with Jesus and put our churches at risk in order to engage with the world, then perhaps our worship would change? Perhaps the inward looking worship culture came from a period of being inward looking?
Just maybe this isn’t about man friendly worship after all. Perhaps its about creating a world loving, God seeking, hands dirty church that’s worship reflects its heart beat and its desire to engage.
Bottom line, I want to see more women, men and kids meeting Jesus and churches that are healthy for everyone. Lets get on with it.
“All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”