Friday, March 03, 2006

“What Are You Looking At?”

By Rev. Stephen C. Butler
Sermon #4 in a series: “Not For Women Only”
Job: 29:1-5, 30:24 – 31:6 McKownville United Methodist Church
February 26, 2006

In today’s Bible reading, the once rich and powerful tribal chieftain Job
complains: “What have I done wrong? How I wish for the good old days! No one abandons a friend like God has abandoned me. I’ve dedicated myself completely to God’s laws. I haven’t even looked at a young woman. If I’ve done anything to deserve this, somebody please show me!”

This is the sermon you’ve all been waiting for, or dreading! You knew we’d arrive here sooner or later, right? And here we are. We’ve been working or way through Shaunti Feldhahn’s new book on the inner lives of men. And the title of chapter five is “Sex Changes Everything.” We all agree with that, don’t we? Ms. Feldhahn says “the lack of sex is as emotionally serious to a man as his sudden silence would be to a woman, were he simply to stop communicating with you.” And why is it so important? It’s because every man needs to feel wanted. In her survey, she asked “How important is it to you that you feel desired by your wife?” 66% said “Very important” and another 31% said “Somewhat important.” Only 3% said it’s not very important. Feeling desired by a woman is important to 97% of all men. Maybe that’s not a surprise either. But it’s important to a man for different reason than for a woman. When things aren’t going well, it’s common for a woman to say, “You think sex is going to solve everything!” Most of us men have learned to keep our mouths shut at that point, but what we really want to say is, “Well, yeah! Of course!” For a man, it really does make everything right.

And in general, men are incredibly visually oriented. We are neurologically very well suited for hunting and gathering. Visual images stick in our heads and can pop up in our minds at any time whatsoever. I can be driving down the road, minding my own business and suddenly a photograph I saw two years ago behind the cashier at the Victoria’s Secret store in the mall can pop into my mind. And I certainly didn’t stare at it. I just saw it once, when Joan and I were Christmas shopping for our daughters. Now, in my mind, it’s stored forever. And I know I wasn’t the only man affected by it. I never saw so many fidgety guys looking at the floor in my life! But women’s minds don’
t work that way. Shaunti Feldhahn recounts the “Tom Cruise conversation”
she had with her husband. He asked, “After you’ve seen a movie with Tom Cruise, how many times will that attractive image rise up in your mind the next day?” “Never,” she answered. And he replied, “I must not be explaining myself correctly. How many times will a thought of what he looked like with his shirt off just pop up in your head?” “Zero times. It just doesn’t happen.” And to that, all he could say was, “Wow!”

Saratoga Gaming And Raceway, popularly known as “The Racino” has a new advertising campaign featuring an attractive young woman in a long red dress. How many women have a mental image of that woman? Probably only a few, right? And how many men? Let’s be honest here! At least half of the
men, right? Men cannot help but notice an attractive woman. And at this
point, at least half the women are saying “But that’s just an excuse!” Okay, ladies. Try this. I’m going to project a simple common phrase on the screen.
Please look at it and do your best to not react to it. (Project the phrase; “Don’t read this.”) Were any of you able to not read it? Of course not.
That’s what it’s like for a man when he sees an attractive woman. We cannot keep from noticing. We can keep ourselves from staring, but it takes all the energy we have. One of men’s greatest complaints is, “Women don’t appreciate what we do for them.” That’s one of the hardest things we do, and we do it all day every day, to not look at other women. It goes completely against our human nature and it takes all the energy we can muster. But we do that for the women we love.

What’s this got to do with church? It’s a lot easier to not look at women when you’re not around them. And there are a lot of women here every week.
So it can be hard for men to honor their wives and concentrate on the sermon when there are lots of women around. Why do you think there are so few men in the choir? Most men don’t like singing in public. But it’s also difficult for men to concentrate on singing in a choir full of women! Also, in the general population, men are less verbal than women. Yes, we do like to talk, too, but give a cell phone to a boy and he plays video games. Give one to a girl and you can’t get it way from her ear. What’s a boy’s greatest complaint about Sunday School? Sitting still and listening. The male hormone Testosterone produces activity. Women produce more Seratonin, which calms people down. It’s much easier for a woman to sit still and listen. Men need more activity. They like to stand up and walk around. That’s why they like to be ushers and take the offering. They also need more visual images to keep them from getting distracted. That’s why we use the video screen during the sermon. Our Education Team is looking at a new type of Church School curriculum called, “Station Rotation” where the children go to different Sunday School rooms each week with different activities in each room. A lot of churches are switching to it and we may, too. Everybody learns better that way, but especially boys. And it’s a lot easier on the teachers, too.

In his book, Why Men Hate Coming To Church, David Murrow states that men find excitement in greatness and heroism. Yet for the last 100 years, most American churches have developed self-appointed “Humility Police” who see it as their job to humble anyone who might get any praise or credit. (Page 98). He says, “The Humility Police hurt men, because the aspire to do great things, like God does. And the Humility Police make sure that doesn’t’
happen in church.” Doesn’t every boy want to become a hero? Don’t most of us dream of hitting the home run that wins the World Series or scoring the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl? At one time I actually entertained the fantasy that some day I might preach a sermon that was so powerful and moving that the congregation would not only rise up cheering, but carry me out of the church on their shoulders. Crazy dream, eh? But one day I told them I wasn’t moving away and they did stand up and cheer. And another time, I did deliver a sermon that helped them turn an important corner in their life. Practically every man wants to do great things. Sometimes we do succeed and when we do, it’s important to celebrate that.

Murrow also reports there are some churches that specialize in ministering to men’s needs and they found out something quite surprising. They attracted just as many women, too. Powerhouse Christian Center, in Katy, Texas was designed from scratch to teach Spiritual Fathering: walking with God and leading men by example to maturity in Christ. They found that not only do men enjoy hanging around with mature Godly men, but women do too. Single women say “Men are like parking places. The good ones are all taken and the rest are all handicapped!” Seriously, a single woman’s most common complaint is, “He’s so immature!” I think the Powerhouse Christian Center is on to something! The key is that every person is involved in a spiritual mentoring group of twelve. And each of those is responsible for eleven others. Men mentor men and women mentor women. And on Sunday evenings over 1000 family members join in co-ed study, fellowship and support groups in their homes, and everyone participates equally: men and women together. They must be meeting people’s needs or they wouldn't be drawing so many people.

Men and women are different. We have different needs and we express them in different ways. Churches all around the world have neglected men’s needs for a long time and all of Christianity is suffering as a result. We’ve gotten pretty good at attracting and keeping women. My prayer is that we’ll become just as effective at attracting and keeping men once again as well.

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