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Men’s conference ‘affirms who we are’

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Jamahl Glaze knows a good opportunity when he sees it.

He’s attended LifeWay’s men’s conferences four of the past five years with his church, Consolidated Baptist in Lexington, Ky. He makes the trip because he sees the time as an investment.

“I need to invest in myself as a man,” Glaze noted, “by gathering with other men who love Jesus and are trying to live for Him.”

Glaze assembled with 630 likeminded men at LifeWay Christian Resources’ Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina for the two-day sessions. Its focus — “I’m the Man” — called on men to embrace their God-given roles of leading, protecting, mentoring and serving.

Jay Wells, LifeWay’s director of black church relations, organized the sessions with a specific goal in view. “We wanted to create an experience where the affirmation of men happens,” Wells said. “We wanted to see men changed through a concentrated dose of God’s presence in a compressed, focused time of teaching and encouragement.”

Inspirational worship, preaching and breakout groups fostered that experience.

“We have to have a place where men can talk about being men in an environment that affirms who we are,” Wells said. “We chose to focus on a man’s experience as central, not around the personality of a specific man — even though we invited quality speakers to be with us.”

The lineup of speakers and leaders included, among others, Eric Johnson, pastor of Greater Galilee Baptist in Louisville, Ky., who challenged men from 2 Corinthians 4 to place themselves at the service of their Creator and to face life’s difficulties with courage.

“You must be determined to keep on climbing,” Johnson said. “Because God has given you a ministry, you can’t quit now. You might be in misery, but you still have mercy, so keep climbing!”

Mark Croston, pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., echoed the call to perseverance when he spoke from Judges 13-16, inviting each attendee to be a “true player for real.” Unlike Samson, who floundered and failed because of his impulsive desires and emotions, Croston implored men to live out their true potential with power and purpose under God’s leadership.


Tony Mathews, senior pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland, Texas, said he sees the men’s conference as a prime opportunity for him and the men in his church to be encouraged and built up.

“I came here and brought some men with me because the conference has a reputation for being biblio-centric and relevant,” Mathews said. “Here we can receive timely encouragement and solid biblical teaching that deals specifically with men’s issues.”

Mathews emphasized that the resources he gains are well worth the May 14-15 trip to North Carolina. “Beyond the academic, I gather pastoral, personal, practical and spiritual resources that help me retool and replenish my ministry focus for the men in my care.”

One such resource came in the form of a breakout group specifically for pastors and simply titled “How to Pastor Men.” Kevin Smith, pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., led the group.

Smith lamented that most churches overlook men or have no intentional focus for them. “Men are unique and distinctive,” he said. “That means that leading men must be unique and distinctive.

“Pastors need to make a priority out of moving the mind of God into the men of God to make them mighty for God,” he said.

Even though Jesus liberated and elevated women, He devoted much of His time and teaching to 12 men, Smith said, noting that men’s ministry is not a program –- it must be the DNA of ministry.

“You’re not gonna make a man of God overnight,” Smith added. “It is a patient process — just look at Jesus and the way He discipled men. It takes time.”

Smith suggested pastors should let their men know “you’re trying to equip them to lead, protect, mentor and serve — so that they can make a difference in their homes, church and community.” If men grab hold of that vision to empower them for ministry and leadership, pastors will begin to see changes, he said.

In each plenary session, Wells invited the men to affirm that “being a man is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to brag about, but something to be lived out because this is how God made us.”

To solidify this affirmation, Wells crafted a statement for men seeking to live the life that Christ has called them to live: “‘I’m the man’ is not a challenge. It’s a statement. Nobody can take away the fact that we are men. We are born to be men, holding some of the highest responsibilities in our homes, our communities and in our churches. Being the man is not a choice. The kind of legacy we leave behind is.”

The next men’s conference is scheduled for May 13-14, 2011, at Ridgecrest.
Micah Carter is associate to the vice president of the executive communications and relations division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Micah Carter