"You better get your act together. If men would get their act together, our country's morality would not be going down the toilet with our economy. Just go to church...and be a good boy."
Have you ever heard the above statements? Or people thought them about men but would not say it out loud (but their body language said differently)?
The Spirit of Guilt is alive and well in the church. In fact, I think it keeps many men out of the church building. You ever wonder why there are more women in most churches than guys? We should be asking these questions. Do not assume all guys are deadbeats because they are not at church. Maybe they had to work. Maybe they are bored at that church. And maybe that church has nothing interesting going on except Senior's Shuffleboard. (Note: I think it is important for men to be going to church: HOWEVER, I think we need to know the WHY'S to why people don't like going to church).
I have heard the Spirit of Guilt from the pulpit. I was once involved with a church that ended almost every service with baptism. The pastor would drag on the service even when you knew no one wanted to go up to be baptized. The words "I know one of you wants to experience His grace and freedom" were chanted a few times and after 5 worship songs (this is AFTER the sermon), then someone stepped up to get baptized. I am not against baptism.....but it is beautiful and not scripted.
You see the Spirit of Guilt sometimes in families that have gone to the same church forever. They cannot stand change. They want the same pastor forever. They want the same worship songs forever. And they have not updated HOW THEY DO CHURCH IN FOREVER. Traditions, methods, activities---none of them are evil. But they are truly fruitLESS if they are done just to keep status quo. In fact, Jesus spoke out against this. Go read the New Testament. Religious leaders were more concerned about looking good and doing the same thing over and over--that they missed what Jesus was really teaching.
The New Testament should tick you off if you are a Christian. It really should. Because it speaks of Jesus attacking religious pride. It also speaks of people who could not think of God's work outside their little stained glass ivory towers. It talks about connecting the heart and mind in our faith and not just being a sanctified and petrified robot.
The Spirit of Guilt is alive in how we view visitors to our churches. Never have visitors at your church? Guess what, you missed it. Might as well shut the church down. And people from the same denomination who transferred to your church.....let's not count them. How about visitors that have not been in A CHURCH for months......years......decades?
People are spiritually hungry. I know because of conversations I have with people. I know because of work our ministry (Java and Jesus) is doing in Spiritual Direction and in larger gatherings. Additionally, I know this because of what friends are saying. And coworkers. And people from high school that I just happened to run into while out for coffee. And seeing the void in peoples' lives. They are searching for love, purpose, and acceptance. They are searching for Jesus. That is where wholeness happens.
Men are spiritually hungry too. But we can hide in our work/jobs. We can hide in our hobbies. Nothing wrong with us liking our jobs, working hard, and enjoying hobbies. But it is easy for us men to hide in these things. Because praise may happen there. But before God (and close friendships), we are stripped to our core. We are exposed. And we are hungry.
Dieting, exercise, weight loss......everyone talks about physical food. But what else we feed people (encouragement, advice, negativity, lack of empathy) is just as important. Because people forget certain meals over time. People don't forget the toxic words or encouragement that is fed to them.
People desire to belong. Men desire to belong. If you want to see this, log on to Facebook. People are always connecting. We are always connected. This can be an issue with more people who can do their job from home. They could be always accessible and this can be a bad thing. I believe cafes and bars are busy not just because of their products but because people crave community. They want to hear others and be heard. No one can survive in isolation. NO ONE!!!
When the Spirit of Guilt resides in people, they make it THEIR church. They make it THEIR ministry. And they make it THEIR God. Church becomes a country club to them. The Gospel is kept to those that already know it (or think they know it) and it is not spread to others. This is backward thinking. This is how cults are started. Do not even get me started on that one!!!
If we are going to engage men in the church, we need to know their stories. I know this because I am guy. Know where we came from spiritually. Understand our views on God because you assume you know us. Don't categorize all men together. We are all wired differently. Ask questions. And be open minded. Try to understand what men love and hate about the church. Then do SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!