I recently listened to a sermon and heard the preacher say something that really got me to thinking about the clichés we use at church. The cliché he mentioned was “a personal relationship with Jesus.” This cliché has become the most widely used metaphor to encapsulate a person’s faith in Christ. People are invited to have “a personal relationship with Jesus.” However, this phrase is not found in the Bible.
The problem with this cliché is it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—to have personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. While it may charm a woman—it does very little for a man.
Women are all about relationships. They watch romantic movies and read books about relationships. While most men appreciate a good relationship, they are more concerned about mission. They watch movies and read books about a man pulling off a dangerous mission. Men are most involved when they’re on a mission, and that mission is succeeding. Relationships rise and fall based on emotions. Mission is about achievement and purpose. Relationships are about being. Mission are about doing.
By speaking of the gospel in terms of a “relationship” we are engaging the senses of women. Extensive use of this terminology may explain why most church services are less attractive to men today. It is a proven fact that more women attend church today than men.
Where did the phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus” come from? According to a Google search, it first occurred in a book titled Rest By The Way, in 1881. You will not find it in the sermons of Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, etc. It did not come into widespread use until the late 1960’s, which was the same time when male attendance at church began to fall off.
Just visit most Christian bookstores today and look around. The decor, trinkets, music, figurines, merchandise appeal mainly to women. There is not much to motivate a man. Even most of the books have the female consumer in mind. In fact, look who most of the customers are!
I believe the constant use of saying “have a personal relationship with Jesus” has attributed to much of the spiritual immaturity among believers today.
I am not saying it is wrong to use the expression, “a personal relationship with Jesus.” It depends who you are trying to appeal to. While I appreciate ladies who attend church, I want to see more men serving God at church. Therefore, by God’s grace, I will do more to emphasize MISSION over “a personal relationship with Jesus.”
How about it men? God has given us a job to do. Let’s get with it!