More than 2,000 men from a half-dozen Southern states took a stand in the spiritual battle for their families and their nation when Promise Keepers gathered at Healing Place Church.

Hundreds of men repented and committed their lives to Jesus Christ during powerful and emotional altar calls after hearing inspiring biblical messages from eight nationally known speakers. They also intentionally befriended men of other races and pledged to work toward racial unity in their home communities.

Praise bands rocked the Highland Road arena with contemporary Christian music at the June 5-6 event. It rumbled with thousands of men declaring, “Stand firm. Act like men. Be strong!” and shouting the U.S. Marine Corps’ “Oorah!” in response to messages.

Promise Keepers, the largest nondenominational Christian men’s group in America with over 7 million attending its conferences, is touring the country to rally men of all ages to return to the God of the Holy Bible. For 25 years, the organization has filled football stadiums, and in 1997, more than a million men packed the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Interest waned in recent years, but this year Promise Keepers is being revived with a seven-city tour. Baton Rouge was third on the schedule.

“We’re living in a time in America where compromise is the norm rather than the exception in all areas of life, especially as it deals with faith and Christianity,” said Raleigh B. Washington, Promise Keepers’ president and CEO in a backstage interview. “Our conference is being called ‘Battle Lines — no compromise,’ because we are calling men out to obey the word of God.

“Our president (Barack Obama) said two years ago that same-sex marriage is OK, and now five Christian denominations have changed their definition of marriage from a man and a woman to two people. We’re caving in all around,” Washington said. “Here, in the Bible Belt especially, it is time for men to stand up and declare we shall not compromise!”

The Rev. Mark Lubbock, executive director of Gulf South Men, a local nondenominational Christian men’s group, helped organize the event.

“We have a large group from Tampa, Florida, one man came from western Kentucky, a whole bunch of Alabama guys, busloads from Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, of course from Louisiana and Mississippi,” Lubbock said. “That tells us that men are eager for a spiritual jump-start. They are willing to band together, to raise the money for travel and bring large groups. It is that important.”

The Rev. Cleo Loder, pastor of the multiracial Grace World Outreach Church in Brooksville, Florida, brought four vans on an 11-hour drive.

“We have 24 men who love their families and love their community and know that we can make a difference,” Loder said. “We are taking back home the seven Promise Keepers promises, to help each other to keep them and tell other men, ‘This is how men of God should live.’ ”

Jimmy James Haase brought several men from The Church at Addis.

“I’m a rocker, and when the speaker (Chris Harrell) said (Friday night) to imagine Jesus, I imagined him as a rock-star Jesus, a heavy-metal Jesus,” Haase said with a grin. “That’s my Jesus. In my opinion he was a renegade, he was a rock star. That’s what the atmosphere felt like.”

Harrell, a youth evangelist from San Francisco, told the men if they question where they are going in life the answer is in John Chapter 14.

“I am the way, the truth and the life,” Harrell quoted the declaration Jesus made. “You need me (Jesus) because your way, your truth and your life won’t work,” Harrell paraphrased the Scripture. His closing altar call filled the front of the arena.

The coach’s strategies

Promise Keepers founder and College Football Hall of Fame coach Bill McCartney, who took the University of Colorado Buffaloes to the NCAA National Championship in 1990, called on the men to always bring their A game.

“We are called to submit to the authority of God’s word and do what it says,” McCartney said.

“In order to go up, you need to get down,” McCartney said as he dropped to his knees as if in prayer. “When you get down, you put him first.”

McCartney told the men to spend their first hour each day studying the Bible to gain spiritual power.

“When you see a man who is regularly in the word and has no unconfessed sin, you see a mighty weapon in the hands of a holy God,” McCartney said. “The word of God lives in you, and that is how you win over the evil one.”

He also walked the men through “The Lord’s Prayer” and pointed out what each phrase meant and how to apply it, especially when it comes to forgiveness.

“It is my personal opinion that most Christians who don’t have any power in their lives, it is because somebody has done ’em wrong and they haven’t forgiven them,” McCartney said. “We have God’s Holy Spirit; we can forgive anyone.”

Three churches together

Promise Keepers events usually cost $79, but this event was paid for, except for $10 per ticket, by Healing Place, Bethany Church and The Church in St. Amant.

“I love the culture of honesty that is here within Promise Keepers. Every speaker is keeping it real, and that allows men to be real with their hurts, with their struggles, their pain,” said host Pastor Mike Haman, of Healing Place. “Promise Keepers met here last summer, and this attendance doubled that event. We’re just glad to be a part of it.”

The Rev. Mark Stermer, of The Church in St. Amant, said, “We’re involved in reaching men. That’s what we’re all about. Men need this. It’s a reset button to keep going.”

“We need as much ministry to men as we can,” added the Rev. Jonathan Stockstill, senior pastor at Bethany Church. “We are so thankful to see thousands of these men being impacted like they are, but when you think of the families that are behind them, the wives, the children, literally, there are tens of thousands of people who will be affected by this.”

A unified front

Former Penn State and Washington Redskins football player Tim Johnson spoke about “A Unified Front” and told how football teams do not become champions because of individuals but they win as a team.

“I had teammates that were black, white; I had a Hawaiian brother. It wasn’t about what color we were; we were all facing that same battle,” Johnson said. “We had to know where we belong; we had to know what we believe, we had to know how to behave.”

“The power of the church, the power of men being unified on the battlefront fighting the spirit of this world that is feminizing men, causing them to be lazy and indifferent, to check out emotionally,” Johnson said. “We have to be like men of war and head toward the battle not run away from it!”

Kerry Williams, 24, who attends The Church at Donaldsonville, said he appreciated the racial harmony expressed by the thousands of men who laughed and prayed together.

“The Bible says we are all one body,” Williams said. “Heaven will be filled up with all colors — black, white, Pentecostal, Catholic. It don’t matter. We’re all God’s children.”

While most of the men were older, there were hundreds of teenagers in the crowd.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Thaine Barber, 13, who came with a group from Word of Grace Church in Alexandria.

“It’s good,” added Judah Morris, 15, of New Life International Outreach of Forest Hill. “We’re Promise Keepers.”

Healing Place’s Haman talked about “Homeland Security,” focusing on the importance of fathers, and Dan Seaborn spoke about the devastating effects pornography is having on men and their families and marriages. Hundreds of contrite men knelt in repentance following his session.

Dobie Weasel’s topic, “Unbroken: No Compromise,” was how men need to finish the fight with God’s help.

Hispanic comedian Cleto Rodriguez lightened the mood with his humor, and an interracial band, One Body, composed of a half-dozen praise and worship leaders, got the men into a worshipful spirit in between sessions.

ä Internet Resources: