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.
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.
"The Men's Movement," as it is now called, is still marching strong. As a man walks through the gateways of time, he will eventually grow and mature to be the character that God created him to be. The men's movement is much the same--it began by marching boldly, but now it has learned to take its steps more gracefully. At first, men needed to be reconciled to each other and to their families. In order for men to continue to walk with God, they had to ask forgiveness from those they hurt in the past.
Now it is time to move on. This is where restoration comes in. If a man gets into a spat with his wife, he may say something ridiculous to her that he did not mean to say. There must be an initial apology; but this still doesn't erase the fact that hurtful words have been exchanged. There is an open wound that needs to be tended to.
Most Christians ignore the true difference between forgiveness and repentance. To ask forgiveness is to say, "I'm sorry." But since the effects are rarely lasting in those instances, I wonder if it really means, "I'm sorry...that I was caught." To repent for something literally means "to turn away from." Men of God need to turn their backs upon everything unsanctified so that they can become all that they are capable of being. It is much the same with reconciling and restoring. To reconcile is to make amends in the eyes of God and man; to be restored is to walk in those amendments and fulfill the call that the Lord has placed upon our lives.
The goal of Promise Keepers and ManPower is the same: to repair men so that they can achieve what they were created to achieve. The two movements are not the painting; they are simply the canvas used by men to create their own makeover. Restoration must precede reconciliation. Without it, reconciliation will be fraudulent.
If a man wants his dreams to come true, he must wake up. After he arises, he must continue to move in the same direction. With this collective accord growing and maturing, we will increasingly see more men in the pews, more in the homes, and more in the face of God. Men need to stand tall now. For years, they have tried, and it amounted to a resounding thud as they fell on their pride. Now, with eyes upon the promises of God, they are standing taller than ever before--on their knees.