Jesus is my Boyfriend and the culture of the God snog song.*

November 3, 2011

*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”

Wordsworth

 

50 Comments

  1. Fr. Thomas says:

    Thank you Carl, you are right. The male/female polarisation is unhelpful and just inflames the argument. I find it hard to express my love for God in somebody else’s words – especially when I wouldn’t put those words in a card to my wife! Some songs are just poorly written and make everyone equally uncomfortable. We are hugely out of touch as a church, and we do need to extend our ideas of praise and worship beyond just singing and find ways of worship that transform lives. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Shaun says:

    I don’t think it’s a one sided issue. I think we need to see Jesus as Bridegroom, King, and Judge as described in the Bible. Jesus described himself in this manner in his last message before the upper room discourse (Mt. 22:2-10), and also in the Last message in our Bibles in Revelation (Rev. 19:2-16, Rev. 21:2-11). Isaiah described Jesus this way in Is 61-63, as did John the Baptist (Mt. 3:1-12, Jn. 3:29-31). Bridegroom is a legitimate expression of who Jesus is towards His church, and should not be ignored. However Judge and King do need to be equally represented. More songs on Jesus’ might, righteous judgments, zeal would be a good thing.
    Concerning John Mark McMillan’s line “sloppy wet kiss” from “Oh How he loves us”, well it’s kind of been beat to death but it’s important to see the story behind the lyric(http://benkmoser.com/blog/how-he-loves/). I won’t criticize the man for being authentic in his lyricism. I actually like the original lyric. But then again I’m an American who been around southern Americans and I enjoy their colloquialisms.
    Again I think some of the problem is with the oversexualization of our culture. In Jesus’ times people greeted one another with a kiss. If we were to appeal to the culture only we’d have to clarify each use of the word love, or lover.
    In short I think the bridegroom songs should stay, and should be clarified with good preaching on why the Bible describes Jesus as the bridegroom. But I think we need more emphasis and songs on Him as Judge and King as well. And mix up the music a bit while we’re at it.

  3. Graham says:

    Oodles of issues raised. Yes, we do get theology from worship (using the broad term beyond just singing. As I sometimes explain to non-Anglican friends, the benefit of a liturgy is that it expresses theology. Go back to the days when every Anglican church was BCP only, and the Gospel would be expressed in the words of the liturgy, even if the vicar was a wobbly liberal), which is why we should be careful what we sing, rather than liking something as it has a nice tune. If I don’t agree with something, I don’t sing it. It is worrying whenever any theological idea is backed up by words from a song rather than a Bible verse.

    You are not being crude by referring to how “Jesus take me as I am” could be interpreted. If we are being genuinely seeker-friendly then there should always be one eye on how what we say/do/sing comes across. I was in a CU years back which from time-to-time advertised “love feasts” before the CU meeting. Now, a Christian will know what they mean, but what would a non-Christian think when they hear of a “love feast”? (why not say “bring ‘n’ share supper”?) Sometimes, it feels that there is an easy assumption that the unchurched simply think the same way as us and use the same language as us. Being the only, as far as I am aware, Christian in my office is a blessing as I can see how the world thinks, and my term for it is post-post-Christian (i.e. has gone one stage beyond the post-Christian society where there was still a cultural Christianity).

    “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”. Too true. We hear on one hand, how missionaries should ensure that the Christianity they proclaim should be “culturally sensitive”, yet on the other hand we- especially men- are not “liberated enough” in this country and need to be more liberated. Why not be “culturally sensitive” in the way that Christianity is shared with men? My other pet peeve in worship songs are the action songs. Any situation out there where men would jump around doing actions while singing together? Nope. So why assume that they would like to do that in church? Actually, I couldn’t imagine any unchurched women I know who would feel comfortable about that. But hey, I’m not liberated enough to join in with action songs. If I ever get that liberated, shoot me.

  4. Claire Alcock says:

    Thanks for pointing out about songs being too high – so many male worship leaders seem to be high tenors – it’s impossible and demoralising trying to sing their songs. And yes it’s often navel gasing. As you so rightly say, builders and van drivers don’t want to know.

  5. Neil Whitehorn says:

    David Pawson points outhat that we don’t tell lies – we sing them! I will not sing stuff that is not biblical or keep on about what I want all the time or any lyrics like ‘sloppy kisses’ There is one song that has good lyrics but in there is ‘darling of heaven,’ man, that won’t do.

  6. Ben Thorp says:

    Great post, Carl. Sadly, though, the good points in these debates get drowned out amongst the debates over what masculinity is, or gender roles, or whether or not the lyrics are theologically sound. Often, the gospel gets drowned out too 🙁

    I think we also need to rediscover the difference between the individual and the corporate. Yes, Jesus is my King. And my Lord. But He’s not _my_ bridegroom – He’s _our_ bridegroom. (Not that my wife and I often use the terms given in these songs to each other).

    As I posted on Vicky Beeching’s blog, this is about so much more than just what songs we sing. It’s whether or not as a church we’re willing to take a hit on our own personal preferences in order to present a message that men are able to hear and respond to.

  7. Shaun says:

    Wether He is mine or ours seems moot, the point is that the Bible uses this kind of language and it wouldn’t if God didn’t think it wasn’t an important allegorical representation of who He is.

    She decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the LORD.

    Hosea 2:13

    For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church.

    Ephesians 5: 25-32

    • Tim Rowe says:

      But the Hosea reference doesn’t say that the relationship between her and God should be like that, merely that spending one’s time chasing lovers can be a distraction from one’s relationship with God. And as Ben has pointed out the Ephesians reference is about the relationship between Christ and the Church, not Christ and an individual.

      • Nathan P says:

        Tim,

        With all due respect to you brother, but I’m not convinced by your interpretation of those two texts.

        Hosea 2 isn’t – primarily – about Hosea’s chasing of the prostitute. Indeed, the earthly story of Hosea is given a heavenly anchor. God is saying that just as Hosea has been called to pursue his adulterous wife, so does He pursue His people. He even says this about them:

        ““In that day,” declares the LORD,
        “you will call me ‘my husband’;
        you will no longer call me ‘my master'” (Hosea 2:16)

        In other words, because of God’s redemptive work, His people will no longer think of Him in purely dominant terms, but will learn to speak of Him as ‘husband’ – an intimate lover. This is how God says we will speak of Him. This isn’t about ‘distractions’ from loving Him, this is about HOW we will love Him!

        Moreover, although Eph 5 is about Christ and the Church and not Christ and the individual, one shouldn’t make too much of the corporate/individual dichotomy. After all, the Church is made up of individuals and Paul’s point is about how an individual is to love another individual.

        Eph 5 is not about ‘either/or’, it’s ‘both/and’ – we are BOTH to love Christ as bride in the Church, AND assume that this is how we are to think of Him as individually. After all, individual Christians are united to Christ (Col 3:3), not some collective.

        Thanks for taking the time to read this brother. God bless you 🙂

  8. Jonny Wakely says:

    Interesting article – Thanks for sharing it. And the blog title is great!

  9. Due to a trapped nerve in my neck I can’t sit at the computer much at the moment! But I don’t need to Carl has said it all and probably better than i could have said it.

    It is about mission it always has been, let’s wake up to the fact that our churches are dying and lets do something different to reverse that!

    Simples.

  10. Mo says:

    Truth is that was a refreshing read, and one that provoked me, in a good way. You’ve covered a lot here, and I’m not going to spend more than a few minutes commenting (it’s past my bedtime)…

    There are ‘worship’ songs that I love, and there are songs that I hate. The songs I hate are the ones that are full of vague or isolated phrases that I can’t relate to, or as with a few of the examples, are just weird. I find them hard to sing. Hate is possibly too strong, I appreciate that the song-writer wrote them from the heart and meant them, but some things are hard to sing.

    I like Graham’s comment. I try not to sing words that I don’t feel I can. I love some of the old hymns, and when the pace is slow enough I can read the words, think about them AND then sing them, genuinely. Sometimes a song has words which are frankly a bit odd and while (I’m sure) written from a place of honesty are just hard to sing, so I don’t.

    I think I’m rambling. But I appreciate the honesty of this post mate, you’ve struck a few chords.

  11. Tim Rowe says:

    Good thoughts well expressed. The minister of my church once expressed surprise that I was in the music group given the clash between my theology and the rather — er — lush theology of the songs the music group led. I pointed out that as an instrumentalist in the music group I was in the one place in church where I could not see or clearly hear the words.

  12. mrdavidberry says:

    I mostly agree with you! There is certainly no excuse for Jesus, take me as I am. Lots of songs have rubbish theology and many are badly written.

    It strikes me that when I sing a song like Isn’t he beautiful, I’m thinking beautiful as in standing on top of a mountain and being blown away by the awesomeness and beauty of it all rather than “Isn’t he fit”. It’s impressive that I would understand it that way as my wife often tells me I have no poetry in my soul.

    I’m not sure this is the sole (or even a particularly significant) reason for the lack of men in church. Churches that do Jesus is my boyfriend songs grow as do churches which don’t. The common factor is usually whether or not they are actually getting round to telling people about Jesus. Sadly it’s not just builders and van drivers who are missing from churches.

  13. Simon Ponsonby says:

    Good post Carl and a subject that needs much attention. Personally, I have no issues with singing highly intimate songs in worship of adoring love to Jesus. And many of my best pals are ex or serving military including special forces, and they dont mind either and I have seen the hardest men, hands in the air, eyes closed, tears rolling unashamedly. I think we can find a Biblical precedent for it as well as build a Biblical theology for such. What I think many of my male mil chums can’t stand is poor theology, poor imagery, poor vocabulary and limp insipid tunes. I recently spoke to a pal we both know, who served 17years with the SAS and he told me he needs worship songs with a “sense of direction” – which tell a story, take you on a journey, or which start with you and end with God, which have some inherent logic, not just repetition of limp lyrics – I thought that quite interesting. Lets by all means sing to Jesus and tell him we love him and he’s beautiful, but lets add the reason why – the gospel! The Puritans were the stormtroopers of Protestantism, who would often have a Geneva Bible in one hand and a loaded musket in the other – but they also were highly intimate in their devotional lives. Just think of the incredibly intimate language of Puritan Samuel Rutherford in his “Letters”- written from jail where he was imprisoned for being a fierce fighting Scottish Covenanter. The Puritans wrote more commentaries on Song of Songs than any other Bible book, and used it allegorically as it gave intimate language to convey their experience and love for Christ. Jesus rebuked Simon the Pharisee saying “you did not kiss me” Luke7. The only male disciple at the foot of the cross is John the Beloved – who incidentally is the only one who leaned on Jesus’ breast! So I personally think the issue is not “intimate language of lovers singing to our Beautiful saviour” which we employ, but poor theology, poor language, poor musical structure, poor tunes and worship leaders who often seem to care more for their hair than their theology & melody

    • Carl Beech says:

      Thanks Simon, very helpful. My fave psalm talks about gazing on the beauty of the lord! I guess context is so important.
      I agree re the gospel. As i try to say, my starting and finishing point is always mission… How do we engage with men who don’t do church is the sub plot for me….

  14. Stephen Lucas says:

    Guys, fellas, blokes…… whatever you want to call us are a very diverse bunch. I would not call myself a macho man at all. I perhaps ware my hart on my sleeve a bit. I think it is wrong for anybody to suggest that a man should conform to a certain way. For example a man is a godly man if he comes across as “macho” is totally wrong.
    If a guy wants to portray Jesus as a beautiful flower! then fine let him, there is the old saying I grew up with….. dont put God in a box!

    That said there is a serious problem in the church. The statistics and what I see is that there is a serious lack of men in the church. Especially working class men. I have spoken to countless woman who have said, where are the men? I went on a Christian 30s/40s singles holiday in the summer (dare I admit). 12 guys 24 woman. Speaking to a number of those woman they were saying there are no men in our churches. One evening the speaker for that holiday (a woman) got all the men to stand and get prayed for as she was saying there is a serious problem in the church. I think this article sums it up: http://www.whychurch.org.uk/gendergap.php

    So we need to do something about it and I think one of those things is to make church more appealing for men. That includes amongst (other things) watch what we are singing.

    Another thought to add….. 93% of entire families come to Christ if the father does? Think about this then. Get every church to scrap all the youth work they do and put all of that time and effort into mens work. You may find more youth coming to christ!

    BTW…. I do think youth work is very important!

    • Stephen Lucas says:

      And another thing to add………

      If people dont see that the imbalance of men/woman and the feminisation in church is a problem then clearly the only conclusion I can come to is that God had pre elected more woman than men 😀

    • Jenny Baker says:

      I’d love to know the source of that statistic that 93% of families come to Christ if the father does. I’ve heard it quoted several times, but does anyone know what the actual research was, how it was done, how credible it is and so on? I’ve found links back to this page: http://www.e-n.org.uk/2790-A-man%27s-influence.htm, but that doesn’t give any information about the research

      Thank you!

      • Carl Beech says:

        Evangelicals now 2003. Obviously a bias towards male headship in the research. However with most churches 60% plus female it means we
        Obviously have a disconnect. Where we have put an effective men’s work in place we do see the stats even out and church growth. However, we wouldn’t stand or fall on that particular statistic (it was an extensive piece of research). We just want to see men come to faith, the sin issues that men struggle with (and the resulting injustices) dealt with and healthy churches for women, kids and men. The steep decline in men and issues such as violence against women demonstrate a need to have some focus on men.

        • Jenny Baker says:

          I wasn’t questioning the need for ministry or evangelism aimed at men – sorry if it sounded like that! After all, I run a network for women so that would be somewhat hypocritical! I’m just interested to know more about that research and the context it was done in, to see whether it’s still true and whether it translates to a UK context.

          • Graham says:

            From what I gather, having a bit of a surf around, it comes from Focus on the Family. I have contacted them via their website to ask them what the survey size was and where the survey was conducted. And I missed out the most important question- how are they defining Christian? Someone with a living relationship with Jesus? A regular churchgoer? Someone who puts Christian down on a census form?

          • Carl Beech says:

            Hiya, yep just adding clarity for the causal observer. Some people think that stat is the only justification for men’s ministry and so if that falls so does the ministry etc. I’m not sure if it still translates, it wasnadopted by uk researchers as valid but I think we will need new research and stats soon…

          • Graham says:

            I am trying to track down this statistic- I’ve just got it into my head. Focus on the Family are unaware of it and I have emailed Evangelicals Now to ask where they got it from.

            I did wonder whether American churches are more, or less, male-orientated than British ones, and so I contacted a couple of American brothers who have both spent years in the UK before moving back across the pond. The reply from one was:

            “I’d probably say they are about the same, relative to the rest of the culture. Britain is a bit further down the road of demasculinization than the US in general. For instance, my friend’s church has a weekend of ‘Praise, pistols, and prayer’ which it’s hard to see happening in the UK, but that probably reflects a general cultural attitude rather than anything to do with the church.”

  15. Andy says:

    Thanks for he link Stephen. I particularly liked the quote in the article, ” Looking at it from a man’s point of view most activity in the Church is by women for women.”

    Worth a read by everyone concerned in this debate!

  16. Nathan P says:

    this is a good exploration, i really liked it 🙂 the point about worship neither being “man-friendly” or “woman-friendly” was very good.

    although, it is sad that Christian guys find it uneasy to speak of God’s “romance”, or “Jesus as beautiful”. how unfortunate, not only when the imagery of the church is one of a bride as to a bridegroom, but also when the promise of salvation in the OT is heart-poundingly romantic (“I am now going to allure her… and speak tenderly to her” [Hos 2:14]).

    don’t get me wrong, i agree entirely that the church has a duty to cater its worship so as to represent the entirety of God, and we are in dire need of reclaiming the Warrior Christ (not least because there are too many evangelicals denying the wrath and anger of God – there is a need for worship to perform catechetically).

    but, to speak personally now, i don’t know if i would be an active Christian today if God hadn’t revealed to me His tenderness and intimate love for me. it’s a shame that there’s a generation of guys who, in rejecting the over-feminisation of the Church, also reject God as their romancer.
    (not only because of the imagery used, whether it’s the bride/groom metaphor of Rev 21 or Hosea 2, but also because of the theology in play. what on earth is the ‘drawing’ of John 6:44 – *in reality* – if it isn’t an image of intimate, sovereign tenderness? moreover, how are we supposed to handle – *in reality* – Col 3:3’s union with/in Christ if we don’t handle it in terms of tender delight?)

    however, this point in particular worried me:

    “Jesus was fully God but he was also a man. … I find it hard to sing such lines to a man I worship and love in the agape and not eros sense.”

    this is, with all the respect in the world intended, doctrinally bizarre. when we worship, are we only exalting Christ’s divine nature? then surely, the resurrection is stripped of its centre? after all, human beings will be glorified in Christ because Christ’s humanity was glorified. we don’t sing to or delight in just one ‘nature’ of Christ, that’s bordering on nestorianism. we sing to His fullness, His entirety. the God-Man, crucified, glorified and ascended, soon to return – you can’t put a theological gender barrier anywhere in that ‘formula’ purely because it challenges one’s conception of masculinity.

    incidentally, i think “Come Thou Fount” strikes the balance very well indeed. its lyrics simultaneously acknowledge Jesus as beautiful and worthy of sonnet, whilst also speaking of His sovereign power and dominance over our lives:
    “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
    Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
    Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
    Call for songs of loudest praise.
    Teach me some melodious sonnet,
    Sung by flaming tongues above.
    Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
    Mount of Thy redeeming love.

    O to grace how great a debtor
    Daily I’m constrained to be!
    Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
    Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
    Prone to leave the God I love;
    Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
    Seal it for Thy courts above.”

    we may well have to revise our use of terms such as ‘beautiful’ when it comes to addressing Jesus in the public sphere. but ‘revise’ need not mean ‘reject’. my experience is that those in the public sphere ‘get’ exactly what i mean when i say it, and they think it’s surprising that anyone would be so intimately concerned for Jesus. i’ve never had anyone accuse me of being less masculine. now, this is purely anecdotal, i recognise this. however, our job is not to reject that which is thought of strangely in the name of mission, but to redeem it by proper use and demonstration. IF the world thinks calling Jesus ‘beautiful’ is totally weird (and that’s a big ‘if’), then surely it’s our job to show them its ground in reality?

    just my two cents. thank you for writing this, was a pleasure to read 🙂 got me thinking.

  17. Gwen says:

    Great points. Just 1 question and one point. Which popular worship song has “sloppy wet kiss” in it?? It’s one (thankfully I think!) I’ve never come across somehow

    2. Pitch – we musicians often can’t win – if we put it up the basses and alto’s complain it’s too high, and if we put it lower the sopranos and tenors complain. There rarely seems to be a happy medium one size fits all………………….oh wait hang on that’s kind of true anyhow is’t it 😀

  18. absolutely spot on. you have articulated with wit, care and accuracy the concerns of many christian men who are uncomfortable with the “worship” which is inflicted most Sundays and who know there is no way they would invite their mates along and would be embarrassed if their mate found out

  19. Ben says:

    Quick comment about that sloppy wet kiss line, just because a song has moving, powerful origins doesn’t mean we have to sing it as a congregational worship song, it also doesn’t mean it is theologically sound. However I’m NOT saying that makes it a bad song that should be banned from ever being played, listened to or even sung. Just don’t get confused between profound origin and theology.

  20. Ben says:

    And no, it is NOT a cop out!

  21. Alison says:

    Great post. I absolutely agree that this is not so much a male/female issue as one of weak theology. Also the points made about the ‘sloppy wet kiss’ line (I’m so glad I’ve never been asked to sing that!!) are good. When sung in church a lyric has to stand on its own, however moving the back story. I’m a female church leader who also wants to see “more women, men and kids meeting Jesus and churches that are healthy for everyone.” Thanks.

  22. Graham says:

    A few more reflections. Dave Murrow makes the point on p.116 of “Why Men Hate Going To Church”:

    “I’m convinced there are a million unchurched men who would attend a worship service this weekend if they just didn’t have to sing.”

    Back in the mid-90s Leicester Uni CU for a while had CU meetings which were talk-refreshments-notices & singing, rather than bunging the talk in the middle of the singing and putting refreshments at the end. The reason was to make the meetings more evangelistic, so seekers could hear the talk, grab something to eat and drink and then leave (with the person who invited them) rather than sit through loads of singing and notices.

    While this was not just aimed at menfolk, if there is a problem that men are not going to church because of the singing, then why not split services? Have the teaching one, then a break, and then back for the praise & worship bit.

  23. Stephen Lucas says:

    Jesus take me as I am, I can come no other way, take me deeper into you… Try substituting ‘Barry’ for ‘Jesus’ and singing it in a communal shower!!

  24. Patrick Gillan says:

    I cant make up my mind if this is a pointless discussion or not.In all my years I have never once heard a complaint in regards to the worship songs that we sing.Is it that Carl(who incidentally I never heard off!)is trying to carve out a career for himself by inventing issues that dont really exist.Or is the threat of the church embracing people of different orientations a direct threat to Carl and his mates?Honestly these are just random thoughts sorry Carl no offence.I understand you are on the council of the EA who tried to recruit me alongside muslims and basically anyone else with a grudge against Cameron for giving Gay Men and Women the right to marry in church.Thankfully I saw the light and decided the EA the EA would fail in this respect.But is this what it’s all about for you your blogs seems to suggest your mission is not bolstering up the hetrosexual man but keeping out the moree feminine types?is this why you often use the word wimps?Again not an attack on you but just thoughts from me!

    • Carl Beech says:

      No offence taken…its a robust response to a robust blog! Of course its not a career builder for me…Ive been a specialist evangelist to men for many years now and our movement of over 500 groups across the British isles and more overseas are evangelistic…so this is really an issue of “how do we create an environment for all types of men and a worship culture (from a missional perspective) that connects across the spectrum of masculinities. Most objections come from the perspective of “churched” guys who are disconnected from certain male cultures…such as builders. Im not sure I ever used the term wimps apart from with irony. As for not hearing about me before…brilliant. Never let em see you coming I say. Best wishes.

      • Patrick Gillan says:

        You have raised some good points Carl and you are gracious with it.But let me say this(you dont need to respond if you dont want to!)I am the most feminine Gay Christian man you might ever meet(Baptist)I am in a longterm faithful relationship.I spend time up the pub(not every day!)with builders,gangsters and bankers not once have these guys been bothered about my high voice or my funny ways.Yet I know big butch Christian guys who have no idea how to engage with men in this sense.I dont think its about shape,muscles or liking footie or rugby,mission is about being human,being unafraid and getting on with it.I applaud your enthusiasm for mission I firmly believe my own challenges with church have been not theology hetrosexual dominance particulary when faced with a Gay Man.So are you helping reinforce these bariiers between your type and my type or are we just one type Carl saved by grace.Finally when was the last time you interviewed,invited to speak,quoted in one of your books,the musings,opinions,thoughts of a Gay Christian Man?Are we not men to?In peace and love,Patrick Gillan.

        • Carl Beech says:

          Hi Patrick

          Thanks for the comments on the blog. I’m just wondering if you’ve read the post called “my night at the gay bar?”
          I think that answers some of your questions. 

          The issue at hand is the church hasn’t done very well at reaching the average working guy, such as a builder.

          For the record I play piano, write poems and don’t like football.

          • Patrick Gillan says:

            Hi Carl,yes I did read it and left a reply.I guess I was surprised at your reaction as to how well received you and your friend were at the Gay Bar.Heterosexual men have been going to Gay clubs/Pubs for years no doubt dragged along by their girlfriends it’s now quite normal to find a mix of orientations at these venues..I think the sadness here is that in 2011 guys like yourself and church people have little or no experience in meeting gay people in theirown places.So the church needs to understand and meet gay people in their own territory before preaching to them.why do we expect everyone to come to our side of the football pitch when we are not willing to go to theirs?Jesus would know this.I appreciate youhave a love of the arts I am an artist myself so am delighted you enjoy poetry.Real masculinity is being able to be honest about what we enjoy so good for you for being honest.When I first came out most of the Gay guys I met were married and masculine this was a surprise and made me realise you can never know what people are hiding!Maybe I should do what you are doing and set about a mission to Gay men who like your builder types feel marginalised and alienated from a church set up at times for the geeky types?Just a thought.Once again appreciate your response and delighted both our faces areset for the one goal to introduce people to Jesus!

  25. Stephen Lucas says:

    Jenny,
    Interesting point you raise about the statistic thing. I am somebody who doesn’t like to take statistics too seriously but you can just look at the make up of society and see how this statistic could be relevant. Men are hugley influential in families and the problem in society today is widely reported to be because of the lack of father role models for children. (look at the London riots) Girls need fathers to feel loved and valued. Boys need fathers as a role model. Wives need husbands that will love them.
    Take a family that has had an abusive father. He comes to Christ…. The influence of that change in his life will have huge effect on the rest of the family in terms of his gradual change in behaviour. Yes it can happen the other way round but I do know many couples where the wife is a Christian and the husband is not but almost none the other way round.

  26. Stephen Lucas says:

    The churches in the UK that seem to be thriving is the Nigerian church.
    Few months ago I was chatting with a mate that goes and I asked him what the M/F balance is? He said very much 50:50 across those churches.
    Intresting.

  27. Truthteller says:

    Responding to Graham’s comment above about whether the churches in America are male oriented. You really need to ask the women, as the men in America’s churches are generally in denial about it. About 75% of America’s men are unchurched – a statistic that I got from either Barna’s research or research from the Assemblies of God (can’t remember which). The churches in general, and especially the evangelical churches, cater to families only. If you are a single man over the age of 24, the churches don’t have a place for you and many don’t want you there. I worked at an evangelical Bible college in a major city in America and spoke to many pastors about the problem of men not attending church, and most told me that they didn’t want single men there “preying” on their women and causing morality problems. They preferred that men come after the got married. For the single women, it is a disaster. There are about 4 single women for every single man on average. The men don’t think there’s a problem – it’s paradise for them. But for the women, it’s catastrophic. Many will face a lifetime of singleness, with no family or children if they are obedient to God’s command to not marry unbelievers. The church does not talk about this issue at all – it’s taboo. To talk about it is like admitting your weak, desperate, or worse unfaithful to God. The message to single ladies is to somehow believe that Jesus is all you need – not a man or a family. This attitude and misspiritualization of female singleness absolves the church of her responsibility and from the needed conviction that she has utterly failed to obey Christ’s command to go out and make disciples (in this case to reach to out men in society) and spread the gospel. Soon, and even now, the church faces a problem of older singles that are basically in a state of widowhood – getting older with no families, needing care when illnesses arise, etc. and the church ignores this as well. I would say that by the time the singles reach their late 30s onward, male or female, most begin to drop out of the church altogether. In secular society, about half of the population is single in America, either through divorce, etc. The unbelieving singles I speak to, male or female, don’t go because they don’t feel welcome or wanted there. So as you can see, there is a very serious problem in America’s churches. I applaud you in the UK for at least talking about it. The leadership in American’s churches pretend there isn’t a problem and remains silent, while a huge elephant in the room stares them in the face.

  28. Don Egan says:

    Good post except… “Men like the volume up”

    Erm… I’m a man. I definitely DON’T like the volume up! Much prefer the quiet meditative stuff.

  29. […] Carl Beech whose work I admire greatly, has thought through and written on this in the context of church and worship. I recommend a read HERE. […]

  30. Kendall says:

    Thanks very much Carl. Although I am American, I think we have the same issues. Until now I have somehow been unable to verbalize my thoughts about this. Some of the worship music makes me want to escape post haste. I really want to worship Jesus, but I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, when it wasn’t cool to be feminine. My grandpa was a bear hunter. I don’t think you would ever catch him singing about the wet kisses of Jesus.

  31. Peter Davey says:

    Any situation out there where men would jump around doing actions while singing together?

    YMCA, anyone?

    I’ll get my coat …

  32. […] For more about CVM click here and to read Carl’s own blog about today’s worship culture clickhere. […]

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