Men weigh 'game plan' in pre-Super Bowl weekend
"As we were looking through [Hunt's] notes and what all he was going to be discussing," Chris Lee, promotional director for the conference, said, "we realized that a lot of it was kind of providing a road map -- a game plan, so to speak -- of tools that guys can use. Men are, in a lot of cases, underprepared and underequipped to face the challenges that they're going to face in their daily lives from a biblical perspective."
Men are struggling with issues like pornography, faithfulness in marriage and relationships to their kids, Lee said. In football, the team that comes up with a better game plan is the team that's likely to be victorious. The same holds true for the Christian life.
This year marked the 27th year for the conference, which is normally held on Super Bowl weekend at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. With the game in Atlanta this year, however, and likely hotel room shortages, it was moved up a week.
The conference typically draws 4,000 to 6,000 men. The online simulcast for this year's conference drew an additional 25,000 men from 33 states, including viewers from Cuba.
"Men are the untapped reservoir of useful energy and resources for God's Kingdom," Hunt told the men in attendance to kick off the conference. "You're the priest of your home. You'll give an account, as the man of your home and the priest of your family in taking the spiritual responsibility to lead your family as God leads you."
Hunt, who has been pastor at Woodstock First Baptist for 33 years, is transitioning to a new role as senior vice president for evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board.
Jeremy Morton, who is co-pastor at the church and will assume senior pastor responsibilities upon Hunt's departure, served as co-host of the conference for the first time this year.
Morton said it can often be a curse for people to meet their heroes and get to know them personally, because they can be disappointed in what they see. But that's not the case for him in getting to know Hunt.
"He's even more impressive behind the scenes than he is on this stage," Morton said. "In every way, he's the real deal.
"Pastor Johnny believes God can save anybody, anytime. I love that about him. He believes nobody is beyond the reach of God's grace. Everything about his public life is tied to intimacy in his private walk with the Lord."
Morton said it speaks to Hunt's character that at 66 years of age, in 48 years of marriage, in 33 years as First Baptist's pastor and as 27 years as men's conference host, he has never brought public reproach to the name of Christ.
"He's vigilant about personal holiness," Morton said. "He truly wants to walk with God."
In following a "game plan" for their lives, Hunt said in the first of two plenary addresses, Christian men must be willing to show forgiveness to others, including their wives, since God has shown them ultimate forgiveness.
"Forgiveness reflects the highest human virtue because it clearly reflects the character of God," Hunt said. "A person who forgives is a person who emulates godly character."
Hunt used the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 to describe to men how much of a debt they owe to God for His forgiveness.
"Through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God has totally erased our certificate of indebtedness and made our forgiveness complete," he said.
In his second plenary address, Hunt addressed bitterness, telling men that it blocks their spiritual growth and binds joy, peace and love in their lives.
"Satan wants to render us ineffective," Hunt said. "He will use bitterness to take away our strength, to destroy our job and happiness. Bitterness will poison all of life."
Morton delivered one plenary address on Saturday morning, encouraging men to pursue purity and personal holiness. More than anything else, he said, men's wives, kids and churches need for men to be holy.
"This is a fight," Morton said. "If you think the devil can't bring you down by causing chinks in the armor of your purity, your integrity, your holiness, then you are already in a dangerous, dangerous, place."