CLEVELAND, Tenn. (BP) – To some, the 53 salvations recorded at First Baptist Church’s Gameday Men’s Conference Oct. 24 could be attributed to a “big church” event, something that is within the reach of only those with ample facilities and resources. However, Senior Pastor Jordan Easley says the harvest was set well in advance and occurred in ratios of 1 to 1.
“This event had very little promotion or marketing,” he said. “Our philosophy is built off of the belief that the Great Commission applies to the men of our church. We challenge our men to get their friends close to Jesus so that Jesus can do supernatural things in their lives.”
After the men responded to the message and met with members of First Baptist’s decision team, 14 wanted to be baptized immediately.
Originally slated for Oct. 17, the event required a delay when featured speaker Clayton King, teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., underwent an emergency appendectomy. On Oct. 25 King posted to Twitter the news that 53 men gave their lives to Christ, including a police officer. The officer, who is also a husband and father, was invited by his cousin and neighbor to the event.
Such personal interactions were the backbone for the high attendance, Easley said – more than 850 men from the community.
“One of my favorite stories in the Bible is about four crazy friends who carried their paralyzed buddy on a cot and literally tore the roof off a house in order to get their friend close to Jesus,” he said. “They did that because they believed. If we can get our friend close to Jesus, Jesus can heal him! And you know what? He did.”
Events such as the one last weekend have their place, but the impact begins in a more intimate setting, Easley said.
“In men’s ministry we have a huge emphasis on biblical community and small groups. At the conference, we challenged the men to consider leading a huddle with four to six of their friends or co-workers. Another 138 sent a text message indicating they were wanting to do it,” he said.
Jeff Draughon has been a lay leader for the men’s ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, La., since starting it 14 years ago. A financial advisor by trade, he’s planned conferences and retreats, led a mission trip to Nepal. But, he stressed, it all starts with The Quest.
Each Friday morning about 100 men arrive at Calvary at 6 a.m. for a one-hour Bible study led by Draughon followed by a half-hour of small groups. The Quest, as it is known, “is the foundation” for Calvary’s men’s ministry, Draughon said.
“We move out in our ministry from there,” he said. “Guys are charged $20-$25 for the materials and to fund the ministry, but also to give them a stake in it. It’s become a band of brothers since we started it, with around 2,000 men having gone through the various studies we’ve done.”
Small groups have a spiritual component in studying Scripture. However, Draughon said there is a very real mental health benefit as well.
“Men are in crisis – a crisis of isolation,” he said. “We often say isolation leads to insulation, which leads to elimination. They get in their own little world, and we know the enemy loves to work in that setting toward destroying families.
“It’s important for us to get face to face, knee to knee. Large groups are great, but men need to be together in those small settings.”
For the last seven years, Calvary’s men’s ministry has hosted a retreat in the spring. It’s designed for those who are “one the fence” in their involvement and relationship with Christ. Over the weekend, participants disconnect, literally, as in their phones are taken up on Friday and returned Sunday.
“We see more life change during that time than any conference,” Draughon said.
Such life change opens men up to see the needs in their family and community. Easley has witnessed that in Cleveland.
“We are surrounded every single day by people in need of the healing touch of Jesus,” he said. “They are hurting, lost and in need of the Lord. It’s our job as believers to pick them up and get them close to Jesus. Our men responded to that challenge and did what Christ commissioned all of us to do.
“We also believe that God still uses vocational evangelists. I’ve seen men like Clayton King draw the net in ways that can only be explained God’s calling and gifting for evangelism. We look for ways to utilize evangelists as a part of our ministry plan because we believe God designed it to work that way.”
The biggest hurdle for men’s ministry, Draughon said, is leadership. It needs to be consistent, and it needs to come from the laity for lasting effect. His pastor, David Brooks, is a staunch supporter of Calvary’s men’s ministry, of course, but is “humble enough,” as Draughon put it, to allow others to lead it.
Such responsibility calls on churches to challenge men, he said. Encourage those who are older to gift their experience to Millennials and Gen Z. Schedule consistent, small-group gatherings as well as the larger events. Get away from the distractions and get to what’s real.
“The secret sauce for a church is to have the men buy in,” Draughon said. “Don’t just let them be door-greeters. Challenge them. Raise expectations, get them involved and watch it light up every ministry in the church.”