State Of A Movement
By Drew Dyck
Ten years ago, the Christian men’s movement was like a monster truck–big, loud and seemingly impossible to stop. It rumbled onto the scene with Promise Keepers (PK) in the early 1990s and in 1997 roared to historic highs. That was the year more than 1 million men crammed into the National Mall in Washington, D. C., to participate in the PK conference, Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men.
The event, broadcast on C-SPAN and reported as the largest gathering of men in U.S. history, culminated seven years of rapid growth. PK had exploded from a mere 72 men at its first meeting to a veritable phenomenon, packing out stadiums throughout North America with what one commentator described as “hooting, hollering and high-five-ing” men.
But even monster trucks get stuck.
As the millennium approached, the organization suffered setbacks. Changes in leadership and financial troubles led to a drop in the number and size of events. Though still a force today it holds seven national conferences annually in the U.S. PK has never again achieved the kind of historic success of its early days.
With PK no longer being front-page news, some might assume the Christian men’s movement is in trouble. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
The movement has certainly changed. Today no one ministry dominates the skyline. Rather, a number of diverse ministries are springing up to create a new landscape.
Men are still congregating in stadiums but now they’re meeting in garages too. Yearlong training courses fill the gaps between large, annual events. And coalitions between different ministries are forming spontaneously.
The result is a movement that is decentralized, integrated with the church and, ultimately, more effective at reaching men and transforming their lives. New Man takes a look at some of the ministries leading the trend.
Iron Sharpens Iron
A big part of the new landscape is Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI), based in West Hartford, Connecticut. Since its birth in 2001, ISI has grown dramatically. The ministry now holds conferences in 24 cities every year that feature worship, seminars and speakers, all punctuated by times of fellowship.
No description, however, can capture the white-hot excitement these conferences generate. “You really have to be here to experience it,” says ISI President Brian Doyle.
He believes the ministry provides a much-needed corrective for how men how men have been ministered to in the past. “The church has taken the pressure off men – in a bad way. We give spiritual responsibility over to ‘the professionals,'” he says.
That’s exactly what ISI seeks change.
“When you equip men to be God’s man in the home, very quickly they become God’s man outside the home,” Doyle points out.
The ministry does not compete with the local church. Rather, it aims to empower it.
“Our goal is to give the church the tools and resources to mobilize and equip the men,” Doyle says.
The ministry has a coalition structure. Any church that signs off the organization’s beliefs and protocol can host an ISI conference.
“I want men to bring this ministry to their local churches and change men’s lives,” Doyle notes.
But for change to occur, men must first connect. And that doesn’t happen easily. “As men, we are generally well-connected when we’re young. In high school and college we have lots of friends. But then we get into careers and become isolated. We usually do very little to form relationships.”
Doyle sees today’s Christian men’s movement in indebted to PK, but now as “much more diverse, entrepreneurial and less organized.” All those changes, he believes, are for the best. Yet he still sees a place for the large, catalytic event, like those of the 1990’s.
“When you have a mass of men, they worship differently,” Doyle says. “They can get lost and let down their guard. That’s a very special place.”
Another fast-growing, dynamic ministry is Men’s Fraternity – basically a series of three one-year studies: “The Quest for Authentic Manhood,” “Authentic Manhood: Winning at Work and Home,” and “The Great Adventure.” Founder Robert Lewis teaches the courses with sharp biblical insights and relaxed drawl. During the last three years, the number of locations where the courses are held has expanded from 1,000 to more than 6,000.
The ministry, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, aims to foster “authentic manhood as modeled by Jesus Christ and directed by the Word of God.”
“Big events are great,” says Global Director Rick Caldwell. “But you need events and process-oriented ministry in order for lasting change to occur.”
The ministry’s meetings are tailor-made for men, who are also given tangible ways to chart their progress. “We don’t have the guys hold hands or sing ‘Kumbaya,'” Caldwell says. “We dispense with a lot of church trappings.”
“Men like to keep score. We have then set goals and measure progress.”
But the ministry isn’t about appealing to macho values.
“We think men have to be servant leaders,” he notes. “We encourage men to be available, sensitive and loving.”
With the ministry’s phenomenal growth, Caldwell cites quality control as the biggest challenge – but a problem he is thankful to have.
“We’re stumbling into success. God keeps surprising us,” he says. “We’re seeing people spontaneously conduct the courses in boardrooms, places of business, on campuses, in the military and even in prisons.”
Every Man Ministries
Perhaps no other men’s ministry exemplifies the integration of the men’s movement with the church better than Every Man Ministries. The ministry itself is a testament to the trend.
Originally an independent entity, Every Man is now part of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, pastored by Rick Warren. Kenny Luck, the founder of Every Man and now men’s pastor at Saddleback, believes that the church and the men’s movement are warming to each other.
“The men’s movement is moving into the church, and pastors are starting to realize that they need to capture hearts of men,” he says.
Every Man conducts conferences where men are challenged – thru goal setting, workbooks and small-group sessions – to live with integrity and sexual purity. According to the ministry, more than 95 percent of the attendees make a major, life-changing decision” and 25 percent make a first-time decision for Christ.
But Luck’s efforts extend far beyond the walls of Saddleback. “We’re getting flooded with calls from churches,” he says. “I don’t work for Every Man. I work for local pastors.”
And there is still much work to be done, according to Luck.
“The men’s movement isolated itself, and the dialogue needs to continue to grow,” he says. “Instead of competing with the local church, it needs to compliment it.”
Man in the Mirror
Another striking feature of these ministries is their interconnectedness, not only with the church but with each other as well. The mission field of men is huge, and there’s a growing realization among leaders that no ministry can harvest it alone.
The work of Man in the Mirror offers a perfect example of this new pat-tern of connectedness. The Winter Park, Florida, ministry has formed partner-ships with about a dozen other men’s ministries, including PK.
Its recently launched Web site, rcinlemen.com, is designed to equip leaders of men’s groups. Man in the Mirror founder Patrick Morley describes the site as “a single, online, neutral location for leadership resources.”
David Delk, Man in the Mirror president, believes the site provides a missing ingredient to the movement.
“Right now there’s an incredible inefficiency in men’s ministry,” he says. “There are a lot of good-hearted men who want to help of other men, but they’re too busy.
“Nothing will happen unless someone comes along and provides access to the better resources.”
Morley, a fixture in the men’s movement since he authored his best-selling book, Man In The Mirror, in 1989, sees the rise of the Internet as part of a providential plan.
“Do you know why all this technology is there at this point in time?” he asks with childlike wonder. “To help us to fulfill the Great Commission.”
The Samson Society
Many large ministries are conceived around boardroom tables and then launched by high-powered churches. Others simply grow out of one person’s response to God’s call to fill a need. The men’s movement is increasingly populated by the latter kind, which includes the Samson Society.
Former porn and prostitute addict Nate Larkin established the Franklin. Tennessee-based society so other men wouldn’t have to battle temptation alone. The Samson Society, named after the flawed biblical character whose moral failings the members deliberately seek to avoid, is led by Larkin, who calls himself a “leader with a limp,” and meets in groups 5- men or less. The small-group atmosphere encourages transparency and intimacy, a place where men can air their struggles.
“There’s a real locker room dynamic in our meetings,” Larkin says. “It’s such a relief after years of being a solo disciple.”
Larkin sees the small-meeting model as a sign of the times. “Men have tasted the stadium experience, and they’re hungry for something else.”
According to Larkin that “something else” has not been available for men in the traditional church setting either.
“The church has overemphasized the feminine virtues. Hey, I need to cry. But I also need to roar. There’s no place for me to roar in church.”
Larkin believes the church has also done a disservice to men by failing to challenge them. “I meet guys every day that are dying to be trusted. They’re not trusted to be trusted. They’re told what to do.”
Today Larkin’s biggest temptation is to avoid controlling the ministry, as chapters continue to pop up across the country. His personal challenge, he says, is “to let God do it, without managing it, branding it or controlling where it goes.”
Men’s ministries are also leaping the sacred-secular divide and making an impact on men’s lives seven days a week. Connecting Business and the Marketplace to Christ (CBMC), based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was founded more than 75 years ago, but the ministry is more vital than ever. Already in 40 cities, the organization predicts it will soon be in 100 due to a recent rapid international expansion.
Worldwide, CBMC has teams of men committed to changing the workplace though five functions: prayer, evangelism, follow-through, discipleship and community. National Director Patrick O’Neal is optimistic about the state of men’s ministry.
“It’s very alive, it’s just growing deeper into men’s lives. There’s more discipleship going on,” he says.
CBMC embodies a holistic approach to ministry.
“Sunday morning should flow into the work week,” O’Neal says.
For that to occur, CBMC challenges men to think of themselves as missionaries in the workplace. To O’Neal, the private sector is a white harvest.
“We see a deep hunger and thirst for real relationship,” he says. “Men want better answers than just, ‘Climb the corporate ladder.'”
The Way Forward
The Christian men’s movement in the U.S. has a breadth and diversity today that it did not have during the 1990’s when it was mostly defined by the influence of PK. There are many more significant ministries involved than are possible to mention on these pages.
Yet some key features of the current movement can be identified, according to Rick Kingham, president of the Redmond, Washington-based National Coalition of Men’s Ministries–a network of more than 80 member ministries.
First, the movement is thriving and changing.
“The movement is very robust, and it’s shifting,” Kingham says. “There’s a lot of transition, and it’s definitely becoming more grass roots.”
Second, it’s becoming more intergraded with the church.
“Pastors have a tendency to be intimidated by their men,” Kingham says. “But churches are becoming more and more open to seeking help from men’s ministries.”
Kingham traces the current state of the movement to PK’s “catalytic effect” and ability to “pull a national audience,” both of which increased the visibility of the movement and raised awareness about men’s needs. Since that time the movement has proliferated.
“The men’s movement is stronger than ever today,” he says. “That’s not hype. There are over 100 new ministries out there.”
As for what’s next for men, Kingham anticipates big things to come. “The next phase will be a massive mobilization of men empowered to be a credible witness of Jesus Christ to the entire world.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
This article “State Of A Movement” written by Drew Dyck is excerpted from New Man Magazine the 2007 July/August edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”