In my nearly 25 years of ministry, I have seen all kinds of congregations: intimate gatherings of a few hundred, mainly consisting of older married couples whose children have grown up and moved away; larger groups of different cells huddled together in common pews, some with children nestled by their sides and others sitting by themselves waiting for fellowship; and, of course, the Potter's House, a church of 28,000 vibrant members. One thing I truly know about them is their fervor for the Lord and their undaunted cry of worship every Sunday and Wednesday.
For many years, I saw lots of women in the pews--but few men. Women have always been the rigid backbone of the church, used by God as a blessing. Women have welcomed this, but men have often run from the toils and burdens of ministry. Lately, however, I have seen a changing vista from pulpits around the country--more men smiling back at me.
I am hoping that as we go into the 21st century, men will not only strengthen their ideals and confront their flaws, but more important, they will develop the ability to admit their virility and understand that manhood does not mean invincibility but can signify occasional vulnerability.
Many people pinpoint this change to the early 1990s, when a brazen man named Bill McCartney left a fruitful career as head football coach at the University of Colorado to light a fire in the hearts of men worldwide. He started Promise Keepers, the large and successful Christian men's movement. Some people have said that McCartney's transition from coach to Christian visionary was uncomplicated, since he already had the attention of the nation. I disagree. He may have had their attention, but to take their pulse is an entirely different task. Successful men are a success by doing what they didn't want to when they didn't want to do it. Men needed to arise and be who God created them to be; someone needed to stumble into their bedrooms and wake them up.
At around the same time, I was launching ManPower. In 1996, we went to Greensboro, N.C., where I knew the men of the city wanted a spiritual awakening. Little did I know it, but this was to be a sacred wildfire that would sweep the nation and bind brokenhearted men, with the Holy Ghost fanning the flame. This week in Dallas, 18,000 mostly African American men will gather for ManPower's seventh annual conference and re-examine their personal and professional lives.
Men across the nation had dreams of nobility and accomplishment but did not know they could rely on God to bring them to fruition and rekindle the fire that once burned deeply within their hearts. I think that torch was ignited in the many national men's conferences that have followed those first few, but the fire will have to continue to burn in the private lives of men who are jogged into a deeper awareness of their need for spirituality and intimacy with God and family.