March 23, 2006

Several experts on men's ministry says churches must change or the exodus of men that has been ongoing for some time now will continue. Recently, the Denver, Colorado-based ministry Promise Keepers held its annual media day, featuring a panel of well-known speakers, authors, teachers and pastors, who examined why men are leaving traditional Christian congregations and how churches can reverse the trend.

One speaker, Promise Keepers founding board member James Ryle, says many modern evangelical churches are failing to fulfill their potential because they have become too secure and comfortable. "The church began as an influential organism and has become an affluential organization," he declares. "We find great comfort in our affluence, and that's why we segregate and separate and congregate and fortify our turf."

As a result, Ryle says, the church has been experiencing "a season where doing the same thing over and over is beginning to have some payoffs that we're not liking -- that is, people are becoming disturbed by this mediocrity."

The panelist, who serves as president of the Franklin, Tennessee-based TruthWorks Ministries, says times are changing and the biggest mistake the church can make is not to change as well. The church has become too institutional in a culture that is starving for what is real, relevant and significant, he contends.

"The people who are leaving the church aren't leaving God, truth, Scripture, or community," Ryle insists. "They are just leaving the game." He says the critical question for churches needs to transition from "how to get men to the church" to "how to get men to become the church."

Another speaker who addressed the forum was Pastor Alvin Simpkins of Emmanuel Christian Center in Denver. He says pastors must not only challenge men, but must also make themselves more available to the men in their congregations and find ways to deliver messages that reach the hearts of men and draw them to church.

The idea is to "preach them in every Sunday," Simpkins explains. "It's no longer just preaching to the women; we have to preach to the men, and you have to have a male-friendly, male-safe environment." At his own growing church, he notes, 40 percent of the members are men.

While sympathetic to the difficulties many church leaders face in trying to reach men, Emmanuel's pastor believes Christian leaders should be demanding more from the men in their congregations. Also, he asserts, pastors have to reach out to the men in their churches in a personal way.

"Most of the men in my church have my cell phone number," the Denver-area minister notes. He believes that approach has been effective in his own church in increasing men's presence, their sense of belonging, and their willingness to participate.

"You demand much, and your men respond enthusiastically," Simpkins says, noting that he gathers men from his congregation at 5:30 a.m. every Monday morning so they can pray together and discuss issues that matter. "You have to get out of the ivory tower as a pastor and get down to where the men are, in the ditch, and work with them," he adds. "And they will respond. We're seeing it happen."

Promise Keepers will hold a series of gatherings and events this summer. The theme for this year's conferences is "Unleashed: Releasing the Raw Power of Your Heart."


Promise Keepers (http://www.promisekeepers.org)
TruthWorks Ministries (http://www.truthworks.org)