Back in the 1990s I was one of the legion of men who attended Promise Keepers events in large sporting stadiums. The smallest venue I attended was at the Oakland coliseum, where the A’s and Raiders play ball. Just two years earlier, in 1995, I’d rode with a group of guys from a small town along California’s Eastern Sierra range to the LA Coliseum where 72,000 guys filled the site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics to be motivated, challenged and spurred onto biblical manhood and leadership in our homes and communities. Speaking for myself and of my friends who attended with me, we were on fire and ready to take on the world.
Let’s just say some of us didn’t do so well in the battle to follow.
Land mines known as divorce and adultery picked off some. Others were wounded by snipers and never recovered to the spiritual health they once had; some simply went AWOL and abandoned The Way.
So what happened?
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Raleigh Washington, president and CEO of Promise Keepers, at a small Promise Keepers event in Shiprock, New Mexico. I shared with him a bit of my story and some thoughts on where men in America are today, and the church in general, in light of the large stadium events that I likened to a “mountaintop experience.” How come we didn’t revolutionize this nation for God and spark a spiritual revolution to turn back the tide of divorce and other societal ills in America?
I assured Dr. Washington that my questions weren’t an indictment of Promise Keepers, but honest questions with personal implications. I’ve heard some of the nation’s greatest speakers on topics of marriage, spiritual growth and leadership, I’ve been educated by pastors, teachers and through books, yet I failed too. He agreed that PK had fanned the early flames of spiritual revival, but somehow those flames were allowed to die out as men returned to their churches, their communities and their jobs. Promise Keepers, he said, is not the church, but a catalyst to spark change. If that’s the case, then I believe the church has failed to live up to its responsibilities.
It’s more than that though. The bible tells us in Ephesians 6:12:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
I think of the soldiers and marines doing battle in the Middle East right now. While they may get amped up prior to battle through some sort of motivational speech by their commander or senior non-commissioned officer, when the bullets start flying and rockets begin landing the words of those motivational speeches aren’t even a memory. It’s time to do battle. It’s time to defeat the enemy or be defeated yourself. It’s time to kill or be killed. It’s now time for the hard work that they’ve trained to do.
Having been in the Army I know a thing or two about military training. You work to improve your physical capabilities and fitness while educating yourself on new technology and tactics. New soldiers are never simply thrust into battle immediately after being issued weapons and equipment; they must be properly trained first. Soldiers perform tasks over and over again until they can perform them by rote. The idea is to execute your assigned duties seamlessly in order to defeat the enemy and in the process, defend the lives of the other men in your squad and platoon.
Maybe that’s where we’re failing in the church. Men aren’t being trained for the kind of combat that we’re engaged in these days. Heck, men aren’t even showing up to be trained! David Murrow talks about this in his book “Why Do Men Hate Going to Church?“ While God has charged men with spiritual leadership in the family and the church, it’s the women who’ve been forced to step up to the plate to take on the physical and spiritual battles of life while men, for the most part, have gone AWOL. This is just plain wrong!
Wouldn’t it be great to see an army of men properly trained and equipped for spiritual battle, courageously doing that battle in our communities and our nation in such a way as to significantly defeat the enemies that are successfully destroying the family and the church. We can do it! But we can’t do it alone! We must be willing to follow God’s orders and suit up with the body armor and equipment He provides.