Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Effeminate Worship Leader

A Note Before We Begin
Let me start by addressing a very sensitive related topic. I know that churches approach the subject of female leadership differently. Some find it acceptable to allow women to lead in every area of leadership in the church while others don’t even allow women to speak. The Bible is clear that men and women are valued by Christ equally (Gal. 3:28), they are spiritually equal, yet God in His sovereignty designed the roles of man and woman to reflect Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:24). God designed men and women differently so that they would find joy and a since of fulfillment in their particular role (Gen. 2:18). That said, a church that believes the biblical model of the roles of men and women will be shepherded only by men (1 Tim. 3:1-5).

On the same hand, we should also note that churches approach the position of worship leader differently. Some regard the position as a pastoral/elder led position while some regard it as simply a good singer leading songs to help the congregation. Depending on the church’s approach on the worship leader position a church might find it acceptable for a woman to lead worship. So with that out of the way, when I speak of The Effeminate Worship Leader, I am speaking about male worship leaders.

The Effeminate Worship Leader
There’s no real easy way to put it. I could beat around the bush and sugar coat it a bit, but in the end it would probably come off as more offensive than necessary. I’ll try to look at all sides to squash unnecessary offense so that the offense that will inevitably come might be helpful rather than harmful. But I want to address something that I’ve noticed and I am sure many others have observed and that is the Effeminate Worship Leader.

You’ve seen him. You know who I’m talking about. A little too sensitive, overly-emotional, flamboyant is a term that comes to mind. Usually it is seen as just an “artsy” thing. For some reason—and I just can’t put my finger on why—these guys are everywhere in Evangelical Christianity. I know I’m not completely off base because it has unfortunately become a stereotype. But I’m not just basing this off of stereotypes; I’ve noticed it many times personally and have had conversations with others who have noticed it as well. In some circles it has become a kind of in-house joke that the worship leader is metrosexual. And a metrosexual, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is basically a dude that acts like a chick (ie. effeminate). To make my point here’s a link to a humorous Christian satire site that provides a scorecard so you can rate how metrosexual your worship leader is. (I scored a 4 out of a hundred some points by the way…)

I know this isn’t a politically correct topic, but to me, it is a serious one. We can laugh it off with a wink, wink and giggle about it behind closed doors but there comes a time when leaders need to have their feelings hurt and be told to act like a man for the good of the church, the good of the gospel, and for the glory of God.

The War on Masculinity
Our culture is inundated with the lie that there is no difference between male and female. Everything is rapidly becoming gender-neutral. Actually it is more than being gender-neutral; plain and simple our culture is striving to become genderless. And one of the best ways to become genderless is to remove the very trait that has the courage to fight against it, masculinity. Boys are expected to act like girls at school, and when they don’t they get medicine shoved down their throats until they do. Homosexuality is glorified through media, academia, and legislation while any voice of resistance is slandered as hatred, intolerant, backwards and stupid. Feminism has practically stated that their goal is the eradication of masculinity. I could go on but the reality of our culture’s genderless agenda is all around us.

The Lack of Masculinity
On top of the bombardment of masculinity through genderlessness, it is also important for leaders to note the lack of masculinity in our society. Not only is fatherlessness a major problem in our society, but it isn’t even a stretch of the imagination to think how a child can grow up and never have any meaningful connection with a man. It’s easy to picture a child raised only by his mother, who goes to school taught by only female teachers, and perhaps gets a job where the boss is a woman. What’s wrong with that picture isn’t the amount of feminine influence; it is the lack of masculine influence, and that’s the ever increasing direction of our society. The lack of masculinity only fuels the fire for the war against masculinity.

What's the Big Deal?
So what does our society see differently when they go to church? I’m afraid in many cases they see only a mirror of the same effeminate culture. There is a time and a place to discuss the lack of masculinity in the church as a whole, and many helpful books and articles have been written to address this problem but I have never found one which focuses on worship leaders in particular. Though in snippets it has been discussed elsewhere perhaps I might be allowed a bit more liberty since I am a worship leader (and I have long hair too…).

I don’t know if I can put my finger on the exact reason why there are so many effeminate worship leaders. No doubt our society has played a part in producing men who think it’s cool or hip to be womanly, especially when it involves music. It is not uncommon for male musicians to wear eyeliner or paint their fingernails. People think of artists as having strictly feminine characteristics. They are viewed as sensitive, emotional, moody, frail, weak, and soft. In fact, this argument has been presented to me as an excuse for an effeminate worship leader. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it, that’s just how artists are.” Perhaps that’s how artists are expected to act in the world, but not in the church. However, if your worship leader is simply an artist and nothing more then, effeminate qualities aside, you need a new worship leader.

But should effeminacy in worship leadership really be addressed as a problem? Is it more than a pet peeve? Does it actually covey something to those who are being led? The answer to all is yes. If effeminate leadership reinforces a culture which opposes the gospel, then it is more than a pet peeve, it is a problem.

The songs that are sung, how they are sung, the clothes that are worn, and the manner in which one carries himself—whether in front of the congregation or not—all communicate something to those who are being led. And for those of us who are ministers of the gospel we not only represent ourselves and our church, but Christ whom we preach (or sing about). And if we lay aside our masculinity, the world notices nodding in agreement, the devil breathes a sigh of relief, and Christ is put to shame.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect anyone to lead worship with a gun or a Rambo headband. I’m not advocating for anyone to leave one stereotype and pick up another. I’m not saying you cannot be emotional. But what I am advising is to be aware of how you present yourself to a watching world and to not lose hold of your masculinity.

Act Like Men!
Paul encouraged the Corinthian church, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13) Paul is in essence saying, “Don’t act like women!” He is saying; Be watchful, like men! Stand firm in the faith, like men! Be strong, like men! Act like men! This is a message Satan and the world doesn’t want us to hear. It is countercultural. To the world this is just another one of those sexist, bigoted parts of the Bible only ignorant people believe. Their message is this: Don’t be watchful, be open! Stand firm in the faith that is right for you! Don’t be strong, be sensitive! Act like a woman! (By the way, the gender-neutral TNIV tries to side-step Paul and translates “act like men” as “be courageous”)

Men follow men. Women follow men. It is how God has designed us. When Adam surrendered his masculinity and failed to lead Eve, John Milton calls this move “effeminate slackness.” Adam took the route of effeminate slackness and switched the designed roles of man and woman, and when God approached Adam about his sin Adam pointed to the woman like a coward.

Jesus understood that people followed masculine men (and why shouldn’t the creator of the universe understand that?). In Matthew 11:7-9 we read, “Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John [the Baptist]: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes.” Jesus’ point is that the people went out to see a prophet, a truth teller and one who was prophesied about who would point the way to Christ.

But look how Jesus presents this to the people. He asks two questions that are designed to focus upon John’s masculine qualities. “Did you go to see a reed shaken by the wind?” John wasn’t a coward. John was no shaking reed, he was watchful, firm in the faith, and strong. Then Jesus asks a question regarding attire, “Did you go see a man dressed in soft clothing?” It is interesting to note that the Greek word for “soft” in this sentence is malakos, which is associated with effeminacy. John was not “soft” like the king’s men. Neither his style nor surroundings were effeminate. John wore camel’s hair and lived in the wilderness while the king’s men wore feminine clothing and lived in luxury. Jesus assumed the people understood the contrast.

Ministers Need to be Masculine
So while His point was that the people went out to see a prophet, Jesus centered their attention indirectly on John’s masculine characteristics as well as his masculine attire and environment. Why? Now pay attention here; Jesus is linking John’s masculine qualities to John’s office as a prophet. John’s office as a prophet required masculinity. Why? Because no one is going to listen to a cowardly weakling who shakes like a reed in the wind! Because no one is going to take seriously the message of a man who lives and dresses daintily like a woman! The same is true for shepherds and ministers of the gospel today. And if you lead worship by placing words into the mouths of those you lead, assisting the congregation in response to God through Christ, proclaiming the good news to those that gather then you are a minister of the gospel and your role is a masculine one. Even if you are a woman, you are to lead like a man. Deborah was a woman who led Israel in the time of the Judges. When no man would lead, she led like a man.

Can you imagine what the church would look like if her worship leaders were no longer thought of as limp-wristed, girly men but rather strong, watchful warriors who are firm in the faith? Can you imagine how Satan and the world would react? It would be all out war. John the Baptist lost his head. But as it is now Satan and the world are content to leave the Effeminate Worship Leader alone.

So where do we go from here? I have no formulas or methods but for starters let’s take the Word of God seriously. Recognize that God designed leadership roles to be masculine. Resist the temptation of the devil and the world to become gender-neutral or genderless. Take advantage of the great resources the church has produced about biblical masculinity. Raise your sons to be men. Ask God to help you understand what it means to be a man and how to lead like a man and ask others to pray for you. If you have succumbed to the temptation of effeminate slackness or if you tend to be effeminate, then repent and ask God to change you and start to lead your people like a man. Ask Him to root out that which you don’t recognize in yourself to be effeminate. Confide in other believers whom you trust. Remember to rest in the assurance of your salvation in Christ and be thankful for His abundant grace. Then be watchful like a man! Stand firm in your faith like a man! Be strong like a man! And act like a man!

UPDATE 4-14-10:
I have had some requests to put forward what biblical masculinity should look like. Instead of writing a new post I think it would be of greater benefit to link some really good resources to further our understanding of what it means to be a man according to the Bible. Hope these help.

-"Every Man’s Call to Biblical Masculinity" - Day 1 - Day 2Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5
-"Profiling Christian Masculinity" by Stuart W. Scott
-"We Need Some Leaders!" by Bob Lepine
-"Off with the Skirt, on with the Pants" by R.C. Sproul Jr.
-"The Mature Man: Biblical Perspectives on Being a Man in Our Time" by Thomas Bjerkholt
-"Valuing Biblical Manhood" by John Piper
-"Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood" edited by Wayne Grudem (an entire book on PDF)
-"Masculinity Reclaimed Series" from The Resurgence


  1. This leaves me a bit confused--likely because I'm not seeing a clear definition of "masculinity" here. What if someone's a high tenor?

    Perhaps what's bothering me is the thought of some young men I know who have been told (implied or outright) that, since they're interested in "effeminate" pursuits such as art, music, theater, books, singing, etc., they are not sufficiently "masculine" and therefore they must be gay. Why do you think we see so many gay men in arts and letters today? At least partly because of our culture's unbiblical dichotomy in this area. I personally know one young man whose family of "manly men" essentially convinced him that he is homosexual, simply because he likes musical theater better than hunting or working on cars.

    Historically, though, the "manly man" who doesn't care for sensitive things is the modern worldly cultural construct. In the 17-1800s, for instance, if you weren't fastidiously dressed, scholarly, sensitive, and interested in the arts, it showed that you weren't interested in being presentable in polite society--and thus that you didn't want to be attractive to women (knowwhatImean)! Modern American culture misses this; I've often heard it said that "Guys don't like singing." Should we leave music to the ladies and go watch football, then?

    Or if we're talking about courage, strength, vigilance, and determination-- OK, but thinking of the women I know, I can't see those qualities as exclusively masculine.

    I guess I'm just looking for some balance-- like David, who showed emotion in public, sang, wrote poetry, and played the harp, but could fight and swing a sword with the best of them. Shouldn't we be showing the world that their image of masculinity is wrong because it's not based on Jesus? And (consequently) that you can be a "real man" and still enjoy the opera?

    My $0.02 -- Eric

  2. Great thoughts Eric!

    You are exactly right in saying that we should be showing the world that their image of masculinity is wrong because it's not based on Jesus. Great great observation.

    Not exactly sure if this particular post would be the best place to discuss it. Perhaps a post in the future. I hope this post serves it's purpose to shake some weak foundations and get people talking about leading biblically.

    Thanks for the discussion!

  3. I get it. Bathe yourself in stereotypes to make the point that stereotyes are wrong. Meanwhile, you miss every point you try to make about masculinity and the assertive peace and self-assuredness that comes with knowing that true manliness doesn't require finger-pointing judgments of others. Makes me wonder where you learned that creating stereotypes just to knock them down was a "Christ-like" exercise of your intellect. If you're unable to let others live in their own way and embrace the way you choose to live as a Christian, then maybe you ought to try another belief system on for size that allows you the freedom to place people into neat categories based on clothing and speech patterns. If Jesus read this he would puke.

  4. Thanks for visiting Anonymous. Obviously we're at odds...but I wonder why you think Jesus would disagree to the point of vomiting? What part of Scripture leads you to this conclusion?

  5. Thanks, Rich! I came across an excellent blog post today which expresses my reservations a bit more insightfully than I did:


  6. Thanks for the link Eric. I actually agree with alot of what the author has posted. But I think we're coming at this from two different angles...

    I'm not advocating a Rambo-type, cage-fighting, grunting in the woods brand of masculinity. Perhaps I could have been a bit more clear about that. I hope you will read through some of the links I posted in my update. My hope in linking them is that they will further help flesh out what it means to 'act like men'.

  7. Great article, Rich. It was named dropped here http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/theresurgence this morning and I was perusing the articles.

    I wonder if an effeminate cause here isn't fostered by the worship leader, but by the leadership that appoints the worship leader. Theological misunderstandings or??

  8. This is the most misguided "Christian" writing I've read in a long time. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born acting in "manly man" ways or likes doing "manly man" type stuff. People don't and can't choose the way they act! You should try living on the opposite side of "manly man" for a while. Never feeling like you fit in, always be left out and not feeling like a "real man", then you wouldn't be so quick to judge! And where do those of us who aren't all the time "manly men" have to go to find acceptance? Apparently not the church. Not YOUR church. Walk a mile in our shoes buddy and then you'll find some of your judgemental comments can't be taken so "lightly"! SB Columbus OH

    1. 1. The way I understand your comment is...you have a stronger feminine side, and you are living in it, and the masculine character is not your type.
      2. "People don't and can't choose the way they act!" I totally disagree with you about this. It seems like someone is controlling you. The best guess I have is SIN/carnal self.
      3. Seems a lot of people had put a heavy judgement on you, and you feel alienated and you tend to cave in with people of the same feather.
      4. You seems to be going in church but not communing with Jesus- You need Him buddy, we all need Him, Im not perfect, but He is our perfection, our strenght- our masculinity!

  9. There is a lot of data which says that pagan worship leaders had to be male but had to "perform the role of women." Plato notes that this pretending in the theater can literally change one's character.

    Father Johannes Quasten quotes:

    ""Philodemus considered it paradoxical that music should be regarded as veneration of the gods while musicians were paid for performing this so-called veneration. Again, Philodemus held as self deceptive the view that music mediated religious ecstasy. He saw the entire condition induced by the noise of cymbals and tambourines as a disturbance of the spirit.

    He found it significant that, on the whole, only women and effeminate men fell into this folly.

    Accordingly, nothing of value could be attributed to music; it was no more than a slave of the sensation of pleasure, which satisfied much in the same way that food and drink did."

    A noted professor gloats that matriarchal theology wins "by small acts of treachery."

  10. Hello Rich,
    This is one of the best Christian blog posts I have read. It addresses a real problem in our church culture that, like you, I have noticed. Gender distinctions are real and they matter because God matters.

    But I'm also somewhat troubled. I feel like there is an elephant in the sanctuary. You mention the need for ministers to be masculine and how clothing and behavior send an important message, to which I wholeheartedly agree. But doesn't hair factor into this too?

  11. You are right.Some of the songs are an embarrassment. One song sung by a male says,"I want you to put your passion inside of me." I am embarrassed to take my fellow truck driver friends to many of today's churches