If the growing number of conferences, meetings and groups geared to helping men become more godly husbands and fathers is any indication, a wave of positive spiritual promise seems to be gathering momentum across southern Louisiana.
Several hundred men of all denominations attended an Iron Sharpens Iron conference at Istrouma Baptist Church in March and another one is scheduled for March 21, 2015. More than 1,000 men gathered for a Promise Keepers rally at Healing Place Church on June 21, and the group just announced it will be returning next year.
More than 250 men met at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Baton Rouge on Aug. 18, for its fifth annual “Faith and Football” BBQ dinner to hear the Rev. Dr. Robert Lewis, founder of Men’s Fraternity. Many of them enrolled in the group’s 24-week “Quest for Authentic Manhood” course via three venues.
And last week about 1,000 men met at Church of the King, in Mandeville, to hear the Rev. Dr. Crawford Loritts, a popular Promise Keeper speaker and pastor of Fellowship Bible Church, Roswell, Georgia.
The Rev. Mark Lubbock, pastor of Walker United Methodist Church and executive director of Gulf South Men, a non-denominational coalition of men’s ministries from Texas to Alabama, said he sees the momentum growing.
“Throughout our region I am seeing evidence of a change that bodes well for our society if ‘the Church’ responds appropriately,” Lubbock said. “This change is a blossoming self-awareness of a spiritual vacuum that exists within (men), and a desire to do something about it!”
Lubbock cites the above mentioned meetings as his evidence.
“The trend is clear,” Lubbock said. “Men are hungry for a spiritual awakening, and are responding to appropriately focused challenges and making commitments to long-term spiritual growth.”
Life is a team sport
Men’s Ministry founder Lewis has seen millions of men’s lives changed since he founded Men’s Fraternity in the 1990s, and the program is now worldwide in more than 20,000 churches. The biggest impact for a man, he said prior to the “Faith and Football” event, is being in a group of like-minded, Christian men.
“Life is a team sport, and men do best when they play on the team,” Lewis said. “A community of men is where guys get to find out the things they struggle with. Most guys think they are alone in that.
“When guys get together, suddenly, the lid comes off and guys realize that we all struggle with some of the same things, and that’s the starting point,” Lewis said.
And when men get their spiritual life in order, good things happen.
“When men get better, everything gets better. The family gets better, the marriage gets better, the church gets better because as men get energized about spiritual things and have clear spiritual direction they have vision, which I think is the key to manhood — vision,” Lewis said. “When they get that (vision), they start self-initiating and self-managing a better life rather than having the church or others try to harangue them into that ‘better’ life. That’s why men being together is better.”
Hungry for purpose
The Rev. Dr. Gerrit Dawson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian, said the recent “Faith and Football” BBQ was the biggest yet.
“Our guys are hungry to grow deeper in Christ,” Dawson said. “Our men really want to be engaged. They want to have something more significant than just living for pleasure.”
Dawson and Barry Phillips are tag-team teaching the “Quest for Authentic Manhood” each Thursday at 6:30 a.m. in First Presbyterian’s reception room in the Sanctuary building.
“Our society and culture has become one where the man is absent from the family,” said Phillips. “Over 40 percent of our families are now fatherless compared to 17 percent in the 1960s. That should tell us something about why our young men are growing up directionless and angry and without purpose.”
Their men’s ministry, Phillips says, is based on biblical principles found in the book of Genesis.
“When men go their own way, when they adapt and adopt and conform to the expectations of the ‘world’ and ignore their calling as our Creator planned, there is trouble ahead,” Phillips said.
The Rev. Dr. Rodney Wood is also teaching “Authentic Manhood” to about 45 men at his The Gathering of Men at First Baptist Church on Thursdays at noon. He was contacted by a man, he said, who had already taken the course but wanted to repeat it and bring a friend.
“This is representative of many men here in Baton Rouge and all over the country,” Wood said. “They speak of how their lives have been radically changed, especially in the area of being husbands and fathers, and they are eager to continue in their pursuit of true manhood. My hope is that men who have been through the series before will invite at least one friend to participate in this series.”
“Authentic Manhood” will be held Fridays at 6 a.m. beginning Sept. 19 at the Lamar Building, 5321 Corporate Blvd. It will be taught by Tommy Teepell and Pete Adams, a longtime leader in local men’s ministries.
“We believe that men today face challenges to be authentic. They come from social and cultural forces that threaten God’s design for us to be sacrificial leaders in our family and community,” said Adams. “Men’s Fraternity helps us identify those threats and encourage one another to be men of integrity.”
And just this week, Promise Keepers announced it will be returning to Baton Rouge on June 5-6 for another event at Healing Place Church. Lubbock called the return session unprecedented because Promise Keepers hardly ever repeat same venues and because Baton Rouge is a small market compared to big cities like Dallas or even New Orleans.
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Wood posted a video of his first Gathering of Men presentation at youtube.com/watch?v=dnBdVPcbP5g