Why the Church Should Stop Telling Men to “Man Up”


There seems to be a growing theme in the evangelical church directed towards Christian men, in which they are encouraged to “man up.” I am sure the intent is fine, but if there is anything I have learned over my almost 7 years of marriage, it’s that telling a man to “man up” is almost the same as saying, “You suck as a man.” Trust me, it never goes well.

The truth of the matter is that the phrase “man up” is mostly used as a form of manipulation.

It is an attempt to control (I mean “inspire”) men to do what we want them to do. The problem is that these two words together are demeaning and are usually self-seeking. Now, I am not a man, but I do have a man, and I am 100% certain that my man does not like to be told to “man up.”

What does “man up” even mean? If I were to guess, I would say it means “to take responsibility.” There is no doubt that women want the men in their lives to take responsibility. There is truly no greater turnoff to most women than a man who does not help out in whatever way she needs and/or wants him to help out.

“Man up” means something different to every woman who says it.

It may mean…Get your behind a job. Pay your dang child support. “Take me” in the bedroom more aggressively (yes, I did go there). Unload the freaking dishwasher. Help take care of these kids we made together. Dust your stinkin’ Bible off. Fix the stupid car. Stop drinking so many beers. Fix the dumb roof. Romance me for goodness’ sakes. Make an executive decision every once in while. And the list goes on.

I think sometime in the last ten years or so, the Church decided that men generally were not stepping it up enough in the home and church. The Church was probably right, but as usual, the Church went about fixing the problem all wrong.

“Man up” sort of campaigns began and Christian women everywhere were ALL. ABOUT. IT. “Ya, buddy…I want my man to be wild at heart (wink wink) and take some leadership once in awhile,” churchy women reasoned (while giving each other high fives I imagine). The Church essentially took a common form of manipulation and put the Christian stamp of approval on it.

As a result, soft patriarchy was encouraged (complementarianism); many Christian men have become arrogant leaders (which is often a sign of insecurity), and women are being pushed back into subservient church and home roles (causing them insecurity). Not only this, but the Church is literally giving women permission to tell their husbands to “man up” which is getting us into trouble with our men.

The Church is breeding all sorts of insecurity in men and women alike and we wonder why we are not functioning properly as a whole. 

“Man up” Bible studies, conferences, and books are damaging men, women, and marriages. Men are striving to do better, which is great, but the foundation of this striving is manipulation and fear of not being man enough. In turn, men are leading out of insecurity, instead of out of sacrificial love. This leads to all sorts of dysfunction in the home and church and is not God’s ideal for His sons and daughters.

Rarely is a woman in the church told to “woman up.” Why? Because most of the Church is convinced that men are more responsible for the home and church than women are. But God never said this! I know what some of you are thinking, “But the husband is the head of the home and therefore men are the head of the church.” Yet, there still remains no strong exegetical proof that “head” means “authority over” or “leader.” (Read Scholarly Evidence Here).

In Scripture, husbands are encouraged to reflect Christ within the marriage unit, and for this reason I would propose the Church start a new campaign entitled, “Man Down.” Perhaps the slogan should read, “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).” Christ laid down His very life for His bride (the Church) and never demanded that men beat their chests, hog the pulpit, and teach women to submit to their illusion of power.

It is time to change our Sunday School Curriculum and teach boys and girls alike to find their full identity in Christ, throw gender roles in the trash, and seek to become an adult who is quick to take responsibility (leadership) through sacrificial love.  

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  • I have some mixed feelings on this post but I think it’s good to talk about these issues as they relate to gender roles both modern and traditional. Love the fact you gave illustration to every part of a relationship in your ‘man up’ examples. Very thought provoking.

  • I think there are at least 2 meanings to the phrase “Man up!” and one is valid, the other invalid and by combining these meanings, the advocates can slide to the meaning they wish, which I see as a form of deception.

    The valid one I will refer to as “Cowboy up!” or “Cowgirl up!”. Notice that it applies to both genders. It simply is a shorthand way of saying “Do what needs to be done to finish the job.” This is commendable unless taken to extremes of harming oneself.

    The invalid one I will rephrase as “Males, accept your God-given responsibility to lead and take charge.” Notice that this meaning is gender specific to males. This is the meaning subject to testosterone poisoning, justifies men making the final decision supposedly because they have the greater responsibility and a whole lot of male posturing and preening to demonstrate who is on top.

    I think it can help to distinguish these two meanings and see where the speaker is coming from.

  • I really enjoyed this blog 🙂
    I agree , I also would like to add though that we do need Christian Men to step up and be courageous, and be the men God called them to be.
    I think we should use a different phrase then man up . It should be step up or be courageous.

    • Good points, but I would add that both men and women should step up and be courageous – as God has called us to be! 🙂

  • Hi Jory,

    I think you have some great points here. Personally I am a fan of the phrase “man up” simply because I think there are too many boys walking around calling themselves men, and we do need men to rise up and show Christ’s love. This is not to say that women should not rise up, just that men need to get there act together. But I agree with you that the technique used by the church is not the best. I firmly believe that you cannot shame anyone to change, and this seems to be what we are trying to do. Thanks for posting this!


    • Some great thoughts there Andy! No doubt, women want “men” & not “boys” around. It does seem we need to encourage women to rise up as well though! 🙂

    • i’m hoping God could change someone’s mind because in our area, the old lady, 3245 e23rd ave vancouver bc v5r1b6 canada(604 4347745), had a baking plate at the back of the house. we have no idea why that plate is there for 24hours a day, even rainy, windy, snow or nice weather the plate is still there, however, there is a metal post nearby, whenever the plate hit the metal post, noises could be created from the plate. in this winter season, we usually have windy weather at day and night, most of us have double layer for the windows. eventhough we closed the windows tightly, we still able to hear noises from the plate, we are not sure how long that problem gave the neighbourhood. i really want a change in this neighbourhood. quietness could give us more comfort for resting/staying at home.
      I wish God could do something to this old lady,
      Thanks God, Or you could spread the problem to everyone. Thanks

  • If what we really mean by saying ‘man up’ is actually ‘grow up’, then we’re going about it all the wrong way. Because isn’t our charge in general as Christians to be constantly maturing in both our faith and in our lives? By telling men constantly to ‘man up’, it seems like we are saying ‘hey look, the women have it all together, you guys are failing’. Which honestly isn’t true, I’ve got moments and areas where I need to grow up (and I’m 47), and I’ve met plenty of women who do too, we just display our lack of maturity differently. So, less ‘Masculine Mandate’ studies and more ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ studies and the like. (And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to prepare for a staff meeting where once again I explain to our pastor that no, a marriage seminar by “The Dudes Guide to Manliness” really, really, really does not sound in the least bit appealing.

  • Hey Jory! I’m going back and forth on how I feel about this one. It’s really difficult to know the intentions of someone’s heart when they say “Man up!”. I am a word lover. I’m always searching for meaning and significance of words. So I’m not certain if ” Man up!” is an appeal to male ego and arrogance or an appeal/encouragement for men to be all they were created to be. I know that it does imply that men are failing in some way. I’m pretty sure no man wants to be told that he’s not Man enough. In that way it could be very manipulative because the one saying “Man up!” gets to fill in the blank on what it means to be a man.

  • Hello Jory, Thank you again for your writing. I have to say that the whole men lead as head of the house and submission thing really made the first about 17 years of my marriage difficult, we are on year 21 now. I still struggle to take to even make decisions on my own with somethings. I feel I don’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities or even what my gifts are. Sometimes waiting for him to do things when I could step up and do it. He felt a lot of unneeded pressure to be the spiritual LEADER, it left him feeling like he often fell short. He did not like the manly man books like Wild at Heart. He is not into that stuff. We are learning a new way of doing things but it is hard to unlearn. I see some women still waiting for their men to man up, step or whatever you want to call it and lead. But it would be so much better to learn each other’s gifts and how we can complement each other even if that means the wife leads in bible study, picking the church etc. Thankful we finally figured out what was not working. Learning to partner more, to listen and make more mutual desicions.

  • “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 4:6 is my vote for the companion verse for the “man down” campaign.

  • Do you find it at least a little disturbing how quickly and comfortably the church embraces manipulation and shaming tactics? One does not embrace manipulation and shaming tactics on one’s first time doing it. The church is an organization with a long history of manipulation. How else do you gain that kind of power without being able to offer logic or reasoning? Don’t you find the church’s focus on reaching children before they reach the age of reason a little disturbing? If any political party tried that kind of tactic, you’d call it what it is: indoctrination.

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