Not long after I wrote a book called The Bloke’s Bible I started to do seminars called Real Men Don’t Go to Church. It was really a sort of fact finding mission to present my case about my own own struggles with church culture and to see if there were other guys out there who felt the same. One of the big questions that was often floating about, especially for church leaders was, and still is, ‘How can we get more men into church?’ There are some churches that have more men than women but most don’t. Having listened and talked with many in these groups I came to the conclusion that the answer is complex. Which is no answer at all really!
But I was reminded of this just yesterday whilst reading some more of Nick Page’s book on Acts – Kingdom of Fools. I discovered an extraordinary fact about the early church. They had more women than men too – but the reason is both shocking and significant. Few families in the world of that day raised more than one baby girl. Many were just abandoned and left to die. Nick quotes from a letter sent by a husband to his wife – ‘If you are delivered of a child [before I come home] if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.’ It is horrifying to us now but infanticide was rife back then.
But not amongst the Christians. They went around rescuing abandoned babies. Many of whom were girls. They took them in and gave them a home. They also tended the sick and dying when plagues struck the overcrowded and squalid cities and visited those in prison. We get a glimpse of their attitude in Acts 4:
‘All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favour was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.’
In the world at large men outnumbered women, sometimes by almost a third, but in the church the situation was reversed. Because this weird Jewish sect, who followed a Galilean peasant, were starting to change the way the world worked. Puts me in mind of William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and others who changed the global mind on slavery. In their time it was thought the ways of the world would collapse without slavery. They jammed a hefty stick in the spokes of that wheel, and began a fight which continues to this day. (see www.ijm.org and www.stopthetraffik.org among many others.)
There is sometimes a rather large gulf separating the Sunday morning expression of faith and the kind of things we find happening in the lives of believers across the world. That seems to me part of the complex answer as to why men don’t leap out of bed on a Sunday morning and jive down to church with their cap at a jaunty angle. Many guys do want to make a difference in the world though.