I had been feeling stagnant. I had renewed my passion for writing and was going to school but something was lacking. I had lost my job due to the economy, so there was time for other opportunities. One such opportunity presented itself in the form of a men’s conference at the church I attend. My wife had attended the women’s conference and found it to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I never been to a men’s conference before and the benefits of attending seemed too worthwhile to pass up. I know plenty of guys of all backgrounds but this would be the first time I would be around a group of guys in a spiritual setting since I graduated from Lutheran High West. I went to a mixture of Catholic, Public, and Lutheran schools from K-12 while maintaining my southern Baptist roots. I tried to pull as much as I can from each. You could say that I am a spiritual hybrid and it has been to my advantage.
A thousand things ran through my mind as I gripped the steering wheel of my van. The only man I knew personally that was going to be there was my friend Terrance Walker. Everything else was a mystery. What would Bishop Michael Jones talk about? What are men in church concerned about? How are these men like me? What could I learn or hear that would promote my growth as person? Those questions motivated my thinking. Expectations were building.
Expectations are fragile as we all know. Mine took a hit immediately, not enough to shatter but caused the shields to be raised. There were women of all ages in the entrance performing in whatever capacity there were assigned with excellence yet something bothered me. I couldn’t help but to think about how tone-setting it would have been to have men in these spots. A brother there to welcome another. These women also remind men of why they came. Some to better themselves for their wives and daughters. Others, to deal with the ones that may have done him wrong or the ones he was doing wrong with. I went into an almost empty gym…..I was one of the first ones there.
Handshakes and names were exchanged as more men filled into the empty seats. After praise and worship, Bishop Micheal Jones then went into his lesson backed by years of wisdom and bible verses. At the end of the night, I felt good about the lesson. The teaching was spot on but I felt like it was restricted. Not as open and frank as it needed to be. Partly because there were women present. Men need that type of dialog. No sugar-coating. Men can only be reached through raw truth backed by scripture. Sugar coat it and he rejects it almost immediately. This may work for men already in church but as for the ones who are on the fence, it won’t cut it. Those who come to this conference fresh off the street won’t respond to an evening bible study. They need the direction only a church can provide. This is the very reason they came through the door. To confer with God minded men. I was hoping that we would get to some candid discussion during these 3 days but it was not to be. This is pretty much how the conference went Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday morning.
Lunch was served and it was delicious! I found an empty table and sat down. I tried to get the vibe of the men there. I had to remember to save a seat for Terrance but I knew there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. I wasn’t worried. We had already agreed to meet up before the outing to C.J. Barrymore’s, which was the finale to the conference. Oddly enough, no one else sat with me. I hoped that I didn’t scare anybody off by the way I showed no mercy to those chicken wings….they were good! In between texting my wife, I couldn’t help but to notice how big of a mistake this is! If I was a guy of the street, I would have no incentive to join this church. This was a perfect time for someone to make a new friend and win a new member. Luckily, I was already a member. I spoke briefly to Bishop Jones and made my way to the trash can. Now I had to meet with Terrance and run home to email my instructor. I didn’t need to get on the bus to the outing as the church planned. My house was on the way and I had been to C.J. Barrymore’s enough times to know my way there without a problem.
I had been home, emailed my instructor, and picked up Terrance from his house before turning into the parking lot at C.J. Barrymore’s. I was about 90 percent sure the church bus had beat us there by at least an hour yet I saw no bus in the parking lot but it was no matter. C.J. Barrymore’s is an outdoor/indoor entertainment hub. Multiple go-kart tracks, batting cage, and other outdoor activities surrounded the outside. Two bowling alleys, laser tag, and a vast collection of video games occupied two indoor buildings. Upon entering the main building, Men, Women, and Children of all ages were enjoying all this place had to offer but we could not find anybody from the conference except for 2 other guys. The fact that just about all of the seats there were reserved except for the ones at the bar made it worse!
We split up and made random checks around the complex and confirmed that we were the only ones from our conference there. I was thirsty and saw the bar. I wanted a beer in the worst way but that was not why I was here. I had to show some strength. Women came with their Children and from my estimation, they out numbered Men 7-1. Had our Men been there, these women could see true men in action and having fun. More importantly…They can see that real men exist. Maybe by seeing these men in action, they could see something special going on at our church or something special in one of the guys. Either way, it’s a win. We could have been a symbol to other Men walking around. Once again, it was not to be. After hanging around for an hour, we called it a day. Whatever opportunity for us to have an impact, passed like the go-karts whizzing by us.
I returned home after dropping Terrance off. I was physically and mentally spent. I told my wife how everything went and made my way to the patio. My body felt like it was 500 lbs as I dumped it into the chair. I only weigh 204. Memories of past disappointments flooded my mind and asked my experiences these past 3 days to join them. The funny thing is… I couldn’t do it. One thing I can say is that I crossed a personal barrier by even going, which was big. I often stayed away from groups. I can also say that I was proud of myself for the effort that I put into these 3 days. These facts put a small smile on my face. My wife was upset that the return for my 3 day investment wasn’t what I expected. In the beginning, I agreed with her but I had to think deeper. Maybe my days at the men’s conference were not for me. Maybe just being there set in motion a chain of events yet to be seen. Standing at C.J. Barrymore’s taught me something else. That I was willing to support my brothers through it all. Whether I knew them or not.
Men’s conferences are important! Whenever a tribe or army invaded another in the past, killing all the men were the primary objective. It’s no different today. Our community is under attack from Devil on multiple fronts. Even bringing the battle to some Men in their own bedrooms. Men’s conferences at churches across our nation are critical. God gives us the uniforms and weapons but men’s conferences gives us the strategies. It doesn’t matter whether a man drives a Phantom or an Astro van. We all need these conferences to succeed. This may not have been one of the better ones but they have a template to improve upon. The world around us won’t let up and nor should the church. Those saved and un-saved are depending on it! May the Lord bless and keep us all. Holla if you hear me.