Stand Firm: Giving men more than warm-fuzzy fellowship

RAYTOWN, Mo. (BP)--The Stand Firm 2003 "Carry the Flame" tour is designed to get men out of their familiar patterns and into a place where spiritual growth can take place.

"Whenever you have two, 10, 50 100, 300, 500, 1,000 guys come to something, it is quite a phenomenon, because men naturally tend to isolate, whereas women naturally tend to congregate," said Sid Woodruff, men's ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"You put on a pot of coffee and have a group of ladies walk into a room, they'll throw a party," he said. "You put a pot of coffee in a room with a group of guys and in five minutes they're going to say, 'Who's in charge here? What's the agenda?'"

In that regard, the Stand Firm events at Pensacola, Fla., and Raytown, Mo., were successful in that 650 and 350 men, respectively, even showed up, Woodruff said of the significance of men doing something on a Friday evening and Saturday morning that they would not normally be doing.

"We're trying to give the men a handle on their personal lives," said Stand Firm event coordinator Larry Mizell, an adult event coordinator for LifeWay. "We don't want them to come just to hear these great speakers and hear the praise band and get real hyped up, then go back home and say, 'Now what do I do?'"

There are marked differences between the Stand Firm events and Promise Keepers, regardless of the inevitable comparison of the two. Stand Firm workshops give participants opportunities to talk with conference speakers. More than half of the men who filled out comment cards, indicated that they liked the workshops above everything else, Mizell reported.

"Our vision for the event is to help men see what it means to be a godly man," Woodruff said. "To come and receive encouragement from other men."

Seventeen workshops were offered during the event at First Baptist Church in Raytown. The practical nature of the workshops was illustrated by Kenny Harrison, a member of First Baptist Church, Blue Springs, Mo., who attended a session on debt-free living led by David Jamieson, a Christian financial management consultant from LifeWay.

"He talked about how to start getting out of debt," Harrison said, "and then he went into a lot of areas like setting up a budget, living by a budget, and [identifying] some areas in your life that you can pull back and save money once you've got your budget set up. That was what I was really interested in, because I'm having trouble making a budget work. It was really good."

The main speaker, Voddie Baucham, a preacher and author from Houston, led "The Ever Loving Truth" workshop before a packed room of 73 men.

"He's probably one of the most outstanding speakers I've ever heard," said Sammie McCain, another member of the Blue Springs church. "He doesn't beat around the bush. He just takes the Scripture and tells you how it is."

Bryan Bail from Kansas City, Mo., who doesn't normally attend church, confirmed McCain's assessment.

"I was trying to get myself a little more familiarized with the history of Jesus Christ, and Dr. Baucham did a great job of explaining it, breaking it down," Bail said.

Alan Bail, Bryan's father and a member of First Baptist Church, Camdenton, Mo., said he's looking to apply what he learned in "Becoming the Man God Uses," a workshop based on "The Man God Uses," a LifeWay church resources study for men based on the book by Henry and Tom Blackaby.

"It really sparked my interest," said the elder Bail. "I think that it will be a very good small group study for our church to do. It really is focused toward developing a real relationship with Christ as opposed to just saying you've got the relationship. For revival to come to our churches, that's really what we need to focus on."

The focus for organizers in the four-year history of the event has been on the phrase "stand firm." It is a natural slogan to use, Woodruff said, because it comes straight out of the Bible with an unusual amount of power.

"Look up the number of times the phrase 'stand firm' appears in the Scripture," he said. "It was shocking to me. It was single-spaced, two pages of references. Of course, the one that comes to mind immediately is 1 Corinthians 16:13. When that was being written, Paul was addressing the men in the church.

"Today we have many men who are spiritually passive, spiritually irresponsible and not very courageous when it comes to spiritual things. So when we talk about stand firm, we're talking about a man who rejects passivity and accepts responsibility."

In other words, the focus of the weekend is clear. "It's stand firm on Jesus," Woodruff said. "When guys come here and see who they are in Christ and what God has called them to be, it's pretty exciting."

The final three Stand Firm events of the year will be:

-- Houston, April 25-26, Metropolitan Baptist Church.

-- Dayton, Ohio, May 16-17, Far Hills Community Church.

-- Highland, Calif., May 30-31, Immanuel Baptist Church.

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