Matthew James Christoff: Hello, my name is Matthew James Christoff. Welcome to the New Emangelization project.
Today, I’m speaking with Dr. Allen Hunt. Dr. Allen Hunt is the Vice‑President of Strategy and Content at DynamicCatholic.com. After starting his career with a major consulting firm, Dr. Hunt heard the powerful call of Christ, and he left the business world. He went on to attend Yale University and earned a Ph.D. in New Testament and Ancient Christian Origins. A Methodist at that time, he went on to lead a mega‑church for a number of years before converting to Catholicism in 2008.
Dr. Hunt is a nationally known speaker, writer, and hosted a top‑rated national radio show for a number of years.
Hello, Dr. Hunt.
Dr. Allen Hunt: How are you, Matthew. It’s good to see you!
Matthew: I’m great. Before digging into men’s evangelization, I want to mention that I re‑read your book Confessions of a Mega‑Church Pastor this weekend. I wanted to say that all Catholics should read this.
So many Catholics who have been raised in the faith don’t really understand and have an appreciation for the beauty of the Church. Your testimony of what drew you to the Church is quite powerful.
Dr. Hunt: Thank you. I’m glad. That’s why I wrote it, in hopes of helping people either take a fresh look or remind them what they already knew.
As I discovered coming into the Church, there are a lot of cradle Catholics who either have forgotten, aren’t aware or take for granted the richness and the beauty of the faith. It took me a long time and a few scars to discover those. I want to remind people of those. [laughs]
Matthew: I too am a convert. I came to the Church later in life. So many of the things that you spoke about just ring so true and are such a powerful attraction in my life. I believe a lot of converts like yourself and others who are coming to the Church now are reawakening many men. Thank you for that.
Dr. Hunt: My pleasure. I tried to write something that was fairly simple and straightforward with a lot of stories. Not real heady, intellectual stuff, but things that are helpful to the average person. I’m just sharing my own experience. I’m glad it was useful.
Matthew: Why don’t we just jump in to men’s evangelization? I think we’ve had a little bit of a pre‑talk about this and shared some information with each other.
There seems to be a pretty significant crisis in the Catholic Church in terms of people being casual about their faith. This is particularly true among Catholic men. How do you see it? You talk to men all over the country. What are you seeing?
Dr. Hunt: Help me a little bit, Matthew. In terms of seeing what? In terms of how men are relating to the Church or, help me a bit.
Matthew: Yeah, well, you know we’ve lost large numbers of Catholic men, they’ve lost interest in the faith. Those men that remain in the faith by any kind of statistical measures are much less passionate about their faith then they use to be, so the question is why are they less passionate and what can we do about it?
Dr. Hunt: I think obviously it’s not a simple answer and it’s not a simple solution. I think a couple things. One is, I do speak at let’s say ten or a dozen men’s conferences each year, and I’m really encouraged and heartened by those to be honest because at most of those there’s often times a thousand sometimes two thousand, sometimes five hundred, but usually a thousand guys, and by and large, their there because they’re excited, they’re enthusiastic, they’re yearning to grow in faith and to know our Lord more deeply.
But they do tend to, at men’s conferences, they do tend to skew to guys who are probably 45 or 50 maybe even 50 or 60 and older, and so I think there are multiple things at work. One is that we are living in a culture that is increasing hostile to the faith and a culture that is increasing hostile to men. I think men are under siege in several ways, one is the economic siege of just trying to provide, we’re wired to be providers, and so that’s hard work, guys are feeling the grind of that.
Secondly we have a culture that is increasingly feminine, and encouraging of feminization, and discouraging of anything testosterone, or masculine, so guys are confused as to what is our role.
The Church has not done a good job, and that includes you and me, we have not done a good job of articulating and communicating a more inspiring, more then communicating but inspiring men to be men and what that means and what that looks like as a follower of Jesus. To be a real man, a man’s man.
So, you have the confluence of all that, if you will of a culture that is hostile to men, hostile to the faith, of a Church, and of Christians that haven’t necessarily done a good job of showing what it means to be a man, and you have a lot of confusion. I think there are a lot of ways to look at it but that’s sort of the simplest that I think I can boil it down and how it looks in my mind.
Matthew: It’s interesting, I love, by the way, I wanted to also mention that your CD, “Five Things Women Need to Know about Men,” is a very powerful thing that both men and women, they’re married in the faith, and others that aren’t married in the faith, that are outside the Church, should listen to, because it’s got deep insights.
Your issue of that need for men to provide, to have that role is something that I believe you see it everywhere, with underemployment, and the breakup of homes, that men are losing that. When they lose that they, I guess, get filled with despair.
Dr. Hunt: We’ve got these really interesting trends going on among, particularly 20‑something year old men. It used to be that college was 55 percent, 60 percent men, probably 50 years ago, and 40‑45 percent women. Well, today, the national average is 60 percent women, 40 percent guys.
We’ve had this incredible push for women to achieve, which is good, for women to lead, which is good, but it’s almost as if we’ve done that to the point of diminishing men and not allow men to also lead and achieve. We have this new thing called prolonged adolescence where we don’t even expect young men to grow up now until they’re 28 or 30, as opposed to 18 or 20.
Guys are confused about their roles. We haven’t done a good job of saying, “Here’s what a man is.” As you said, in that talk that I give at these Passion and Purpose for Marriage events, most men, not all, but most of us spend a lot of time thinking about being the provider.
We feel the weight of that, the responsibility of that, and that’s not something that culture has taught us. That’s how we’re wired. That’s what it means to be a man.
Women, typically, don’t think about that. Now they may like their job and they see that as an expression what have you, but for guys, this is my role, and duty and responsibility in life. When that’s no longer there, “Well, OK, what am I supposed to do? Who am I?”
Matthew: The other major point that struck home with me was this third point that you had in your talk about the men’s need for sexual intimacy.
Dr. Hunt: Right.
Matthew: We’re living in a very, very confused and disturbing culture, as you mentioned, specifically around sexuality. As we think about Catholic men in the Church, I’ve seen various statistics. I haven’t seen hard numbers yet on specifically Catholic men, but on average, 60 to 70 percent of men are viewing pornography on a monthly basis.
Dr. Hunt: Wow.
Matthew: If you combine that with equal numbers of Catholics who are not going to confession, even once a year or never, it’s a great challenge and maybe a hook to draw men back into the Church, because they understand, I think, the nature of sin.
There are lots of kinds of sin that say, “Oh, it’s a jump‑ball. I’m greedy. I’m angry. I’m a little prideful,. Did I look at pornography?” I mean, every man knows.
Dr. Hunt: Right.
Matthew: How does the challenges that men are facing in terms of their sexual expression and their engagement in authentic, holy views of a sexual life, how is that adding or subtracting to the evangelization of men, and is there an opportunity there?
Dr. Hunt: That’s a great question, Matthew. I have two daughters who are in their early 20s, and they’re both dating young men. That’s something that, I guess, several things that have struck me in the process of watching them date is how few young men really have an understanding of what marriage is, and what healthy sexuality is, and just how much you and I and every man in this culture is bombarded all the day, every day, with sexual messages, and how easy it is to slip into that escape hatch of porn and create this little fantasy world. Pornography is not any different from any other sexual sin. It’s a dead‑end.
Adultery is ultimately a dead‑end. Promiscuity is also ultimately a dead‑end. Homosexuality is ultimately a dead‑end. Pornography is ultimately a dead‑end. All those lead nowhere, but they all this enticement to the game, that you think, “Oh, this is going to be satisfying.” Then, before you know it, you’ve been sucked into this vortex, and it’s hard to get yourself out of that.
It requires true intimacy with your wife, and requires a recognition that men, again, are hard‑wired differently than women. Most men, you’re familiar with Gary Chapman and his book, The Five Love Languages.
Most people have two primary love languages. We won’t go through all of those today, but it’s a great book. Most men, again not all, but most men, physical touch, sexual intimacy is one of our two primary love languages. For us, it’s not just that we have this biological urge, or it’s just something purely physical, but it really has this deep emotional component to it. Our sex lives is how we give and receive love.
Women often times that’s not their primary love language. That’s why I talk about it in that talk. For women it’s a want perhaps, for men it’s a need. It’s not an elective or an optional course, it’s part and parcel how we experience love and how we give love.
When that gets distorted in all those sexual sins that you and I just mentioned, we’re not finding love, we’re indulging our lust, but ultimately we’re ending up where sin always leads and that’s frustrated, despair, empty, wondering where do things go wrong.
Matthew: Right. It’s something we all need to pray about a lot and find ways. There’s a lot of good work being done on that with a lot of different men in the country, who are thinking about how to reach Catholic men regarding healthy sexuality and holy sexuality.
Dr. Hunt: It’s funny, because I had that 70 percent…I’ve seen all kinds of stuff thrown around in terms of what percentage of men view porn on a regular basis. Seventy, that sounds about right to me. Unfortunately, I wish it weren’t. I came across something to counteract that the other day. Somebody mentioned this to me, so I haven’t verified, but they remembered seeing a study recently that showed that if a man and a wife pray together with any kind of occasionally, not even necessarily daily, outside of mass, Other than attending mass, that they pray together occasionally, their divorce rate is three percent. Three percent.
If porn is one of the number one destructors of marriage, the number one safeguard of marriage probably is just a simple basic prayer life that bonds you together spiritually.
Matthew: I can think of no better insurance policy than spiritual insurance.
Dr. Hunt: [laughs]
Matthew: That’s an example of…as I talked about men are less passionate about their faith…the statistics…I just comment for a second. We have a void of statistics as we look at men in a Catholic Church.
There’s some formal organizations that think about statistics of Catholics…If you want to find statistics specifically about Catholic men, you got to dig, look for different sources. One place I found them is through a series of Gallup poles where you can get the break‑outs.
An interesting thing is just the lack of the prayer life for the majority of Catholic men. I’m certain it’s a man problem, because men are less religiously oriented than women are…Studies show that.
It’s specifically a Catholic man problem, because when you compare them to Evangelicals, they’re much more, 50 percent more likely to pray on a regular basis. Large numbers of Evangelicals ‑‑ men ‑‑ pray on a regular basis.
That draws me to the contrast. You have a very unique perspective of leading a mega‑church, and evangelizing men as a protestant, and now as a Catholic. Can you compare and contrast what you’ve seen, differences…
Dr. Hunt: I think the two things…well, three thoughts, hopefully I can remember all three of these. [laughs]
The first one is if somebody asks me what’s the best thing I can do to help my spiritual life. My response is to spend five minutes ‑‑ I’m not asking for lots ‑‑ but spend five minutes a day just sitting in the presence of God. Listening, and if there are things you want to say, say them. Don’t feel compelled to say anything just to start that relationship with God. That right there is a transforming thing.
The two things that I think that I learned as an evangelical pastor that I’m trying to figure out how they translate into the Catholic world are one, men tend to be much more practical and hands on. Women tend to be more interior, more compassionate. Prayer groups and study groups for women are very helpful.
For guys, it may be that the best thing we can do is have a regular Habitat for Humanity build, a regular mission trip down to Haiti to help in a school, a clean‑up of all the willows in the parishes yards, Saturday. The things where guys can get together and do things with their hands and actually see a beginning and an end and complete something. There’s just as much formation and discipleship that can occur in that for men, as can occur in a bible study.
Guys together for a holy purpose who perhaps even pray at the beginning or at the end sometime during that day…doing things together for a holy purpose…they will bond together on their own. There’s not a whole lot that you have to do. But if you create the opportunities, guys will respond to that. Guys who had never in a million years come to a rosary meeting at the parish, who show up for Mass once a month, they’ll show up on a Saturday one time every couple of months to cook‑out, to go clean up a widow’s house or what have you. I think sometimes we think in too narrow of a way of what it means to help make men into disciples and followers.
The second thing, Matthew, is, and I’ve been puzzling through this in my work with Matthew Kelly at “Dynamic Catholic” ‑‑ you mentioned that a minute ago, we’ve been puzzling through this ‑‑ is that when I was an evangelical pastor everything didn’t have to run through me. I tried to create a permission-giving environment, so that folks who had ideas could lead and create ministries.
I don’t see as much of that in the Catholic world. I don’t know if it’s men don’t feel empowered or free to do that kind of stuff. I don’t meet a lot of men that go, “Oh yeah, I’m excited this ministry that I’ve created to collect bikes for under‑privileged kids. I’m excited about this organization men that I’ve created that goes once a year to an orphanage in Nicaragua and serves the poor.
It’s almost as if men who have all these great skills in their professional lives, park those or check those at the door when they come into the parish. I haven’t quite figured out how we remedy that, but I think that’s one of the keys to unleashing a men’s movement within the Catholic world.
Matthew: I think that for a lot of years, we tended to rely on our priests, and expect that our priests to do everything. I think that we’re seeing an awakening. I’m seeing it up in the Twin Cities quite a bit. We have a number of very interesting ministries that are drawing a lot of men, that are lay‑driven, but really do rely on priests to be part of us and lead us.
That’s interesting. The physical aspect of men is something that keeps coming up in these interviews. I’ve done about 20 of them now from different angles. One of the things that is surprising is if you think about the sins that men are attracted to, they tend to be more physical sins…
Dr. Hunt: Yeah, and visual, yup.
Matthew: …visual, and sloth, and gluttony…it’s lust, sloth and gluttony are the top three…
Dr. Hunt: [laughs]
Matthew: …An old Jesuit did a study at the Vatican about the sins of men and women from a surveying priests. Women I think were pride, envy, and anger of the three.
This idea of trying to draw men in physically. There’s different kinds of Catholic men, obviously. We have many men, who are very devout, and we have varying streams of devoutness from that. We have to get better, at drawing more men in, and thinking about different ways, to reach them then some of the traditional ways. Maybe more entrepreneurial, I don’t know what the right word is.
Dr. Hunt: I’m not sure how we unleash that, that’s a real opportunity for us. One is going back to what, we were discussing, a minute ago. This simple way of, teaching men how to pray. Second, giving them a sense of community and belonging. Whether it’s a men’s softball team, Habitat build or something else. I was always amazed, at the discipleship that just accrued, just by getting men together to be on church softball team.
They’re getting together again for the right reasons, getting to know each other, and they realize they’re not, in this thing alone. I’ve got some brothers to walk along side me, then you trust the Holy Spirit to sprout, things out of those relationships. You don’t have to control all that, if you create the right environment, for them to meet each other and connect. They’ll do a lot of it on their own.
Matthew: That physical thing, that men are lacking in their work. Many have become sedentary in our work, and we don’t have that physical outlet, so we’re drawn to these other, kinds of things to fulfill that physical need. We’re not doing the way, we used to work, with our hands and with our bodies. These things that you’re talking about are powerful.
As we near the end here, if you were to step back, and give the 3 to 5 or whatever, number principles might suggest, that should be guiding, within a local within community. A group of men who want to, evangelize Catholic men, Priest in a parish or a Diocese. What are the 4 or 5 things, that you think are the key ingredients, to men’s evangelization?
Dr. Hunt: When you say men’s evangelization, what do you mean? In terms of helping the men, who are part of the parish to grow, so that they really become, committed followers of Jesus, or reach men who aren’t a part of the parish. I’m trying to get them in?
Matthew: I’m thinking of both. We have a large number of men, in the pews who are lukewarm. They do show up, but they’re lukewarm. Then we have a large number of men, who show up very rarely, occasionally, a couple of times a year. Who are also members of the parish, if there’s less then lukewarm, that’s where they are.
Matthew: We need to re‑evangelize. We can go out on the streets corners, and try to evangelize atheists. But what we really need to do is focus on our parish, is where we start and build stronger, more faithful Catholic men.
Dr. Hunt: The research that Matthew and I have done, and I haven’t been Catholic over three or four years. We did this huge research, in the Catholic in the world. What we found and you may be familiar with this. We put some of this in Matthew’s book Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Is that seven percent of Catholics, give 80 percent of the money, and seven percent of Catholics, give 80 percent of the volunteer hours. There’s an 84 percent overlap among those two groups, so essentially the same 7 percent.
Matthew: Do you ever split on that, with men and women?
Dr. Hunt: No I do not, we may in our data, but I don’t know it, off the top of my head. A lot of these frankly were couples. It’s interesting to see, essentially the same seven percent. Here’s what’s interesting, going to what you were just saying. What we found was, that 17 percent of Catholics go to Mass ever week, so 7 percent of the Catholics, who are the core, doing the blunt of the heavy lifting.
So, 17 percent are showing up every week, so there’s a 10 percent, between that seven percent, who are showing up and doing all the work, another 10 gets you to the 17. So, 10 percent are showing up every week, but they’re not connected, they’re not engaged and they’re not being transformed by this. Then you have another 12 percent, that makes it 29 percent, who show occasionally. You have 17 percent every week, another 12 percent that show up every once and a while.
Only 29 percent of Catholics ever go to mass at all. I’m in total agreement with you. Our first thing is, how do we help those Catholic men, who show up every week, but somehow totally disconnected, disengaged from this. What is something simple we can do? The first thing I would suggest, is think about the one thing. Think about one thing that they might like to do. I know that it sounds radical, let’s just ask the simplest question possible.
What fraction of those, because those people are already there. You’re not going to have to look for them on the street corner, in the prison, or the grocery store. They’re already there. What’s something that, they might find helpful, and who do you know that’s in that group?
If you know someone in that group, think strategically. What happens if we could just find 5 or 10 of those guys, get them to participate with us, in a bible study, coaching kid’s baseball on the church parochial league or part of a one time mission team.
If we could find one thing, that we could get 5 or 10 of those guys, then we would have grown that, seven percent up to eight percent. Then if we did it again next year, we grown it from eight percent to nine percent. I don’t think it by designing big grand programs. Often we think it’s that big meta macro level, and I don’t think that works. It starts at the simple level, with the Priest and some of the guys, who are core guys going, “Let’s quit focusing on ourselves, let’s focus on that next concentric circle.”
Don’t go too far out to the edge of the universe, or up the “Rock of Gibraltar.” Just go into our own pews, and guys that we know. Sometimes it starts with a simple conversation with a priest. Who are some of the guys, you see here all the time, you know aren’t participating, other then coming to Mass? The Priest are going to now some of them, he’s going to say, “Yeah, there’s Tom, Bill, Bob, Tony, etc.” Then he says, “What if we host a dinner at your house?”
Again, the goal is not to do anything, just to have dinner. We’re not trying to create this huge program. We have five guys who are pretty committed, we have five guys who show up for Mass, and don’t do anything. We get together at Father Bill’s house, we have dinner, have a beer, we have a good time, talk about things of God, then we go home. Then we trust God, instead of trying to say, “We’re going to sign up and do this every week, for the rest of our lives.”
Those guys are going to freak out and parachute on you, you say, “We had a good time.” The next time you call those guys, they’ll say, “Yeah, I had fun last time, let’s do something.” Don’t over think it, don’t over organize it, let it be organic, and we as Catholics, aren’t very good at that.
Matthew: No, and we get program-itis, our preserve are stretched thin. What they need, is one more program, right, they don’t.
Dr. Hunt: What you need are, some guys to step up and go, “You know what, we have 5 or 10 guys, that want to help, go one step forward, and we’re going to help them, do that this year.”
Matthew: We have a couple of very powerful, things happening in the Twin Cities. One is called “Argument Of The Club” We gather 400 or 500 hundred guys together every month, to hear or debate about Catholic Theology. It’s pretty powerful with Catholic men.
CatholicManNight is another idea which draws men into Eucharistic Adoration , in both of those instances, they started just as you talked about. With a priest, a few men and meals, and they’ve grown into these events, that have drawn thousands of men, into a deeper relationship.
Dr. Hunt: A lot of times, we want people to sign, up to be a part of something, for the rest of their lives. Really, what we need to give then is a good one-time experience. Let’s not say we’re going to meet up, every Wednesday until you die. You have to die or move away to get out of this group. People will freak out over that. Just say, “Hey, we’re going to have good one time experience. Then a couple of months later, “It’s about time, why don’t we have another good one time experience. Let’s all go bowling.”
Then many a few months late, “Hey. Let’s have another good one time experience. Let’s go to the after school program, and teach some kids to read.” Before you know it, you’ve got some people minimum people fell good about it, it’s loosely structured, rather then over structured or over-controlled. In which case the spirit gets squirted, and the life gets squeezed out of it.
Matthew: I couldn’t agree more. Dr. Hunt, do you have any parting thoughts, before we close?
Dr. Hunt: I just appreciate what you’re doing Matthew. I’m excited about your passion for Jesus, and your passion for men. I look forward to seeing you sometime in Minneapolis. I think I’m going to be up there, some time in next year, as I look at my schedule, hopefully we’ll connect.
Matthew: We’ll have to coordinate, I think we could find some things, for you to come and help us with, I’m pretty sure it.
Dr. Hunt: We’ll have a good one time experience, we’ll go bowling.
Matthew: I’ve been speaking with, Dr. Allen Hunt, Vice president of Strategy and Content, at DynamiCatholic.com. I like to urge everyone to pick up Dr. Hunt’s moving apologetic Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor and also his really powerful CD Five Things That Woman, Need To Know About Men both of which you can find at dynamicatholic.com.
My name is Matthew James Christoff, and you can learn more about the New Emangelization Project at NewEmangelization.com.