Complementarian Marketing To Men Doesn’t Work, but It Doesn’t Stop Comps From Blaming Women – Churches Are Not ‘Too Feminine”
Gender complementarians have turned male leadership, masculinity, and the male biological sex into idols that they worship.
And this obsession and strategy has not worked to draw in men to churches or to keep them in church – and complementarians, most of them anyway, keep assuming it will work.
This fixation on masculinity and making churches more masculine in feel does not account for women who have begun dropping out of church in large numbers the last several years, either (The Resignation Of Eve).
Male hierarchy, and defending and promoting it, now takes precedence over about any thing else with complementarian Christians, and, at times, it causes them to do and say some very weird (and unbiblical) things.
Testosterone Vs. Estrogen – Complementarians Ignore The Bible
For example, this 2014 Tweet from the former head of the complementarian group C.B.M.W., Owen Strachan, is pretty weird (Strachan is one of those complementarian guys who is too preoccupied with proposing a masculine version of Christianity to the public):
[Strachan Tweet, Aug 14, 2014 –
“Satan hates testosterone. You can’t blame him – after all, he’s seen it used to crush his head”]
But it was Mary, who had estrogen, who carried Jesus in her womb, and who gave birth to him.
Notice that the God of the Bible, in Genesis, credits a woman somewhat with playing a role in helping in His plan to defeat Satan:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (from the book of Genesis)
Yes, from “her seed.”
Not from “a man’s testosterone.”
Even a complementarian-friendly site denotes this (source):
First, Messiah will be of unique birth— He will be the seed of the woman.
Although we should be patient with someone who has difficulty seeing the truth of the virgin birth in these veiled words of God, it is implied that the deliverer will be of unique origin. Else, why is He called the seed of the woman and not the seed of the man?
…Third, Messiah will be of the human race— He will be from a woman, not an angel or a visitor from another world.
The Messiah would come from a WOMAN (turned out to be Mary, specifically), and he had no EARTHLY Father.
Sorry, Strachan, purely human men and their testosterone didn’t play a role in the salvation of humanity – God reserved that honor for the female gender and their estrogen that you so revile.
Complementarians say they take the Bible seriously and literally, but they have a habit of ignoring verses that don’t undergird their complementarian views.
The Bible says that the biological sexes are interdependent, and that neither one has authority or preeminence above the other but are to rule and serve together, see 1 Corinthians 11:12, Galatians 3:28, Matthew 20:25-26, Genesis 1: 27, 28 and Ephesians 5:21.
Men Leaving the Church
As I mentioned in passing in an older post, as has been reported from various authors and organizations in the last ten years in books, articles, studies, surveys, and blog posts, more and more women and singles (of both genders) are dropping out of churches (see the bottom half of the “Singles” section on this page for links and resources about that, or the bottom of this post).
Prior to this, some time in the late 1990s or early 2000s, many Christians (usually conservative ones) became alarmed at reports that churches were losing male attendants, or not drawing new men.
So, a slew of Christian-penned books and blog pages appeared back then, bemoaning the lack of men in churches, and churches began scheming of how to attract more men.
Most of these appeals to draw men invested in secular, cultural gender stereotypes that all men like football, beer drinking, monster truck rallies, fire arms, hunting, and so on.
Here is but one example:
Combating an image that going to church is too “feminine,” many houses of worship are coming up with creative ways to lure dads in on Father’s Day.
… Kevin D. Hendricks, the editorial director at Church Marketing Sucks, says, “People are always going on and on about church being too feminine and about how churches need to do more work to attract men.” He adds, “It’s pretty ironic, given the patriarchy of the church.”
… Nate Pyle, author of Man Enough and a pastor of Christ’s Community Church located outside of Indianapolis, agrees with Hendricks. “By making [Father’s Day] all about bacon, giving away guns, or bringing in the local sports hero, churches hope to attract men by proving that churches can be masculine. But these macho activities are simply acquiescing to cultural ideals gathering than letting the gospel shape what we say and do.”
This view overlooks that not all men meet the gender complementarian stereotypes of sports -loving, tough- talking, karate experts who like watching Mixed Martial Arts or NFL (but then, is anyone really watching the NFL these days? I think not. I digress.)
Either complementarians do not recognize or do not care that some men are more gentle, quiet, passive, artistic, or introverted in nature and prefer things such as reading novels, listening to classical music, painting, stamp collecting, or hiking than, say, watching two grown, sweaty men beat the snot out of each other in a ring.
The Bible simply does not tell readers that masculinity or femininity can be defined only this way or that.
The Bible simply does not define manhood or masculinity to mean “one who likes drinking beer, watching NASCAR, and being a tough guy.” I’m afraid that 99% of complementarians merely assume that this is so, or try to paint that picture of the faith, to make it appear more attractive to non-Christian men.
Not only does comp (gender complementarianism) box two genders into false constraints, but it fails to overlook differences among those within one gender or the other.
(In other words: Not all men like football. Not all women like pink. Not all men are assertive. Not all women are emotional.)
Supposedly Feminine Churches
Not only did churches start dreaming up marketing gimmicks on attracting more men, or keeping the men they already have, but some of them started complaining that the exodus of men from churches could be blamed on Christian women, and that churches were supposedly “too feminine.”
This male Christian tendency to blame women goes back to the Fall:
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Look at that. Look at Adam blaming the woman for his sin, his choice. Look at Adam throwing a woman under the bus to save face with God.
And men to this day – a lot of them – continue this behavior: blame women, blame women, blame women. Was Adam a real man, who took responsibility for his own actions? No. Why, when he had a perfectly handy woman standing there who he could blame.
John Piper believes that Christianity has a “masculine feel,” or that it should. Some links about that:
“Why many church leaders are tempted to confuse cultural norms with biblical truth.”
Who can forget some of the juvenile and moronic gendered comments “pastor” (use of sarcasm quotes entirely intentional) Mark Driscoll has made?
But if you need a reminder:
In an interview several years ago for Relevant Magazine, Mark Driscoll (well known pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle) said,
“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”
At the “Wartburg Whiners” blog, Seneca Griggs posts this (which he has taken from a site called “The Art of Manliness”):
Men And Church – on Wartburg Whiners blog
Griggs took that content from a blog post entitled, Christianity’s Manhood Problem
The post on “Art of Manliness” was published in 2016.
The post – on Grigg’s page as well as on the “Art of Manliness” site – contains the usual conservative evangelical hand-wringing over why there are fewer men in church.
I’d like to focus on this statement by Hendricks I quoted earlier (“the editorial director at Church Marketing Sucks”):
He adds, “It’s [the male complementarian claim that churches are too feminine is] pretty ironic, given the patriarchy of the church.”
Yes. How is it that male evangelicals and other types of male complementarian Christians keep saying that it’s the “feminization” of church that is driving male members away, supposedly, when women are not permitted to make decisions or to lead in churches?
Men Lead Those Supposedly Feminine Churches, Not Women
Most conservative churches are gender complementarian in nature, and depending on the specific complementarian church or denomination, they won’t allow women to lead, preach, teach, or so much as read a Bible verse aloud during a church service.
Men “run” churches. Men are “in charge of” churches.
Men make most to all decisions in churches.
Complementarians teach Male Headship, which some limit not only to marriage, but to all male-female relationships in and out of the church, or argue this should be so (which is going way beyond even a “complementarian” interpretation of the Bible).
So, because men are in charge of churches and women get little to no say-so in churches, how is it that women are “feminizing” the churches?
It’s not entirely possible for women to shape or influence a church and make it too feminine when the men do not permit women to have authority in the church, to influence the church, or to make choices in the church.
When churches are run and led by men, it’s not women that are feminizing the church and running men off: the men in charge would appear to be responsible for the decrease in male attendance or for “feminizing” the church.
The Wrong Solution
And the solution to this trend of decreased male attendance, which a lot of male complementarians put forth, is not to “masculinize” Christianity.
The Bible doesn’t speak about making Christianity appear masculine or feminine.
God is described through out the Bible as having qualities most would consider both masculine and feminine.
Jesus told his followers to share the Gospel, however…
Jesus Christ never said that Christianity would be popular with people, or that it should be popular.
Jesus never advocated the use of marketing to spread the message (with all due respect to the aforementioned Mr. Hendricks).
Jesus was not consumed with numbers – he did not specify that the goal of a single Christian should be to gain a hundred or a billion converts; I think Jesus would be happy if you could gain even so much as one new follower to him.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
(from Matthew 7)
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.
Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
(from Luke 15)
Jesus doesn’t sound too obsessed with winning large numbers of converts in these parables.
Which isn’t to say Jesus is likely unhappy or displeased if a Christian can win a billion converts, but my view of some of these passages is that Jesus seems more about quality than quantity, or individual vs. group. He’s sure not as obsessed with large numbers as your typical seeker-friendly mega-church pastor is these days.
Complementarians Not As Concerned Over Loss of Women
From what I’ve read in the Bible, the souls and discipleship of men are not more important to God than the souls and discipleship of girls and women.
However, one would not know this if one only went by the contemporary Christian male complementarian “how to draw in more men to the church” fixation, what with their numerous books, podcasts, articles, sermons, and blog posts on the subject.
For any editorial you could link me to that expresses concern over the drop in female church attendance, there are likely about 10 by complementarians having a fit over the drop in male attendance.
In the past several years, several surveys have cited that attendance by women and by adult singles (of both genders) have dropped. I do not see any where near the obsession and hand-wringing by complementarians (especially male ones) with this issue.
Complementarians only care if or when MEN stop attending church.
Tell me again, complementarians, how dearly you value women and women’s eternal destinies and spiritual well-being when you show no concern over the drop in female church attendance?
Complementarians, where are your long- winded, concerned articles, books, and seminars that ask,
“Why are women not going to church anymore? Is the church too “masculine” for them? How oh how do we win women back?”
Not only are women dropping out of church, but one article I cited in a previous post said more and more women are ‘converting’ to atheism (see the section of this post, about half way down the page, under the sub-heading “Singles” for the links). And here (on other sites):
Do complementarians care that women are becoming atheist, or leaving Christianity for atheism? Because I sure do not see this concern from them.
(If complementarias expressed it, may I suggest: promoting complementarian views about women to women, in the assumption it would appeal to women, would be more of a turn-off for most women than a positive.
One reason of several a lot of women quit church or the Christian faith is precisely because of complementarian teachings about women, because these teachings are, whether you want to admit it or not, sexist and do not allow women to exercise the full range of their callings, talents, and gifts.)
Almost all complementarian blog posts, magazine articles, sermons, and books I have seen revolve around how to attract and retain MEN to the faith or church, not women.
Another example of male complementarian preoccupation for reaching MEN at the EXPENSE OF WOMEN, by way of pastor Matt Chandler:
by M. Mowczko
…The statement that concerned me most is what Matt [Chandler, preacher at Village Church] said [in a video] at 37:33-48.
Here Matt states unequivocally,
“I teach to men . . . I teach to men . . . I go after the men.”
And he goes on to say that this is how he understands the scriptures.
Matt focuses his ministry on teaching men how to be godly men. Why doesn’t he focus on teaching men and women how to be godly human beings?
…I disagree with Matt’s interpretation of scripture. I do not see that the Bible says that pastors should prioritise their ministry to men by going after the men and targeting men in their teaching.
Jesus had many female followers. Moreover, he taught that the good shepherd (i.e. the good pastor) goes after the lost sheep, and rejoices when it is found. Gender is just not an issue here (Luke 15:3-7).
When Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep”, he did not qualify the instruction by adding, “especially the men” (John 21:15-17).
Complementarians Are Killing What Made the Faith So Attractive to The Earliest Women Converts in the First Place
From what I remember reading on other web pages in years past, one reason Christianity was so appealing to so many women when the faith first started 2,000 years ago, is precisely because it has an egalitarian message, that women are just as as valued as men are and are given equal opportunity in God’s kingdom. This was not a message they got from Judaism at that time or from secular culture or from other religions.
These days, complementarians want to reverse these very qualities that make Christianity appealing to women (and whatever other, traditionally marginalized groups).
As I said in a section above, most women are going to consider complementarian teachings too binding and quite sexist – not appealing.
False Dichotomy of Complementarianism
Only Non-Christian women who are tired of secular feminism and its excesses might even consider complementarianism worth a try, but they have bought a false bill of goods sold by complementarians, a false dichotomy:
That one must be either a liberal, secular feminist OR a conservative complementarian.
This is simply not true. There is a third course of action. The choices are not binary, “be a feminist and a liberal – or – be a conservative and complementarian.”
One can be a conservative and reject most of secular feminism (with secular feminism usually including these days being pro-choice, voting Democrat, etc.) but also reject complementarianism.
Being a conservative does not mean having to be complementarian.
I should know, because I remain right wing, ever after having rejected complementarianism myself years ago. I wrote more about this subject here.
Complementarianism and Masculine Christianity Have Failed to Draw Crowds
In spite of the fact that Christian men have been in charge of most Christian churches and denominations for centuries now, and that American, conservative Christians have been pushing male headship ideology strongly for the last few decades, their churches and denominations have been experiencing a decline of membership or attendance by men (and women).
I do recall that when complementarian Mark Driscoll’s “Mars Hill” church first started up – sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s – his church initially drew a lot of people including young men.
But later, the hyper-masculine form of Christianity that Driscoll promoted ended up playing a role in the implosion of his church.
Driscoll’s brand of testosterone-soaked Christianity, which also came with an abundance of sexism, drove women away from his church and repelled Non-Christian women away from Christianity even further.
Driscoll had to leave his Mars Hill church and start over in Arizona, and he has since claimed to somewhat soften his hyper masculine focus (see this CT page for more, excerpt below) probably because he figures he cannot attract new members if he keeps his sexist shtick in place. It’s no longer as popular as it was.
From the CT page, Driscoll now rebranding himself:
Driscoll also distanced himself from past crude and misogynistic remarks, calling “the perception of what I think about women…entirely my own fault.
“I want to have the heart for the women in the future who will allow me to be their pastor that I have for my daughters,” he said, “and that is if they have spiritual gifts, and are called by God, and are godly, I want to help them achieve that intentionally and encourage that and be a support for that.”
The somewhat cynical and suspicious side of me believes Driscoll dropped the He-Man, “For Boys Only” version of Christianity once he saw it was no longer working for him.
Appealing to Men At the Expense of Women
The churches who are into attracting more men will do things to make church environments more masculine tend to do things, I’ve read, such as rip out mauve-color carpeting in the church building to put in masculine blue or hunter green carpet, or paint the walls black, install fog machines, and loud audio systems.
Notice that all this sacrifices feminine sensibilities – no pink carpeting, no pretty flowers – women and women’s needs and preferences are dropped. Men are appealed to at the expense of women.
(I personally don’t like the color pink or extremely girly things or decor myself. But my concern remains, and my larger point here, is that churches that are obsessed with male attendance are willing to ignore women’s needs or desires in the process, and I don’t only mean in trivial things such as carpeting color.)
Complementarians in Violation of James 2: Favoritism
Doesn’t the Bible say something or other about Christians should NOT show favoritism among groups?
But complementarians consistently show favoritism of men over and above women and even promote this as being an ideal or strategy because they care more about winning men converts, and keeping them happy, than they do winning women over.
The Masculinity Strategy Has Failed
For more than a decade now, complementarian Christians have been strongly promoting a manly-man form of Christianity, with an emphasis on “male headship,” male hierarchy, strict gender roles, and culturally stereotypical masculine pursuits (hunting, sports, etc) has not drawn men back to the church. It has failed.
(Promoting a masculine, male-headship form of Christianity has also not lessened the number of divorces among Southern Baptists, please see this post on Istoria Ministries blog for more, if you wish.)
Many times, conservative Christians, who tend to be complementarian, like to point the finger of blame at secular, liberal (and sometimes at Christian) feminism for the failure of (Christian) marriages, or for even maybe dropping church attendance – or that men today aren’t as manly-man as they once were.
But complementarians have been hawking their own brand of gender views for several decades now, and they’ve not done any better.
I don’t think liberal, secular feminism is the problem for a lot of societal ills, as complementarians claim, but I can also observe that complementarianism has not fixed those issues they get agitated over, either, but complementarians keep keep pushing it. (The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.)
If Liberal Feminism Ceased to Exist Tomorrow
Imagine a United States where tomorrow, all liberal, secular feminism was instantly, completely removed, and we were left with nothing but Christian gender complementarianism.
Would sin be eradicated from the USA in that scenario? No.
Would divorce magically end? Would Christians and Non-Christian husbands stop abusing their wives or stop using pornography? No.
Would husbands stop getting dementia or paralyzed in car crashes? No.
Would all husbands stop having extra-marital affairs? No.
Do you know what we’d be left with in a complementarian-only United States?
Here are a few examples of what we would get in a complementarian-only America:
‘Submit to Your Husbands’: Women Told To Endure Domestic Violence In The Name of God (via ABC Aussie news)
Yeah, given examples like that (and there are many more out there), I don’t see complementarianism being the belief set or practice that would usher in Paradise, holiness, or Nirvana in the U.S.A.
All the years of complementarian churches hosting B-B-Qs, football game watching events, depicting Jesus of Nazareth as a tough-guy boxer who likes to smoke cigars…
All the years of the complementarian groups and figures, such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Douglas Wilson, the Bayly Brothers, Owen Strachan, Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Paige Patterson, Desiring God, Together For the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and CBMW tweeting and publishing blog posts extolling the wonders of complementarianism – have not stopped the drainage of men from churches.
Men continue to stay away from churches and the Christian faith in spite of the complementarian effort to make Jesus look like a Macho Man and to make churches look like a cross between a sports bar and a man cave.
And the hyper- masculinization of the Christian faith and its churches is certainly not doing anything to keep women in attendance or to attract new women or disciple the women who are left, either.
For Further Reading on Other People’s Sites:
“The rebranding of Jesus as a ‘tough guy’, in a bid to reverse the feminisation of the Church, should be avoided at all costs”
Some excerpts from
Calling the church too feminine is sexist
Most arguments that blame the church for the absence of men are rooted in sexist assumptions.
If you believe men don’t go to church because the church doesn’t meet their needs, then you are implying that women go because more of their needs are being met.
What if more women go to church because their faith has a greater integrity?
What if more women go to church because they have chosen to persevere and demonstrate a moral fortitude that contrasts the weaknesses of men?
What if women are more willing to work in community, more willing to repent, apologize and forgive?
Maybe men are so emotional they are unwilling to learn how to abide in complex community. Maybe instead of following the moral lead of women, men have isolated themselves from the church to keep from having to mature and grow up.
There is another twisted, sexist logic to blaming the church for the refusal of men to participate. Instead of correcting those in rebellion, we attack those who are sincerely trying to be faithful.
We tell the regular church attender that they are the problem, not the ones who abandoned the body of Christ.
…They blame women for the faults of men
Leaders who champion a resurgence of Christian masculinity often also decry the presence of strong femininity or strong female leaders.
They frequently speak of feminism as harming the ability of the church to reach men. They view women in leadership as a threat to men being able to follow God’s lead.
They portray powerful women as a hinderance to men being able to participate fully in the advancement of God’s kingdom.
In other words, they blame the weakness of men on the strengths of women. In my opinion, this is simply Cain resenting Abel. If Abel wasn’t such a show off, Cain wouldn’t look that bad. If women weren’t so strong, men wouldn’t look so weak.
See Also (on other sites):
See Also (on this blog):