What an interesting weekend I had. I was invited by my friend Lyndy Phillips to go to a men's retreat in Oklahoma. I attend a nondenominational church here in Dallas. And the retreat was sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. So that means I got to walk among 3,000 Southern Baptist men from all over the state of Oklahoma. The retreat was titled “Men Rewired”, and it took place at possibly the most gorgeous area of that state: Falls Creek Conference Center. I have been to the Arbuckle wilderness on other occasions. And as I rode through the mountains and trees, it was hard to believe that I was in Oklahoma.
What an amazing time. And there were three amazing take-aways from the weekend. Those of you who are Baptist will probably smile. Those who are not will scratch your heads.
1. It's all about the altar call! Their services were amazing. But each one ended with a request for men to become honest with themselves about their own spiritual condition. And it's if not good, “Come on down” to make it right. They would keep their “invitation” open for an inordinately long period of time. It was as if the longer they played the music and tried to coerce sinful men to leave their seats and journey forward, the more men would finally succumb. That is strange to me. I don't see Jesus doing that; or Paul for that matter. I am a very big fan of accountability and the confession of sins. (James 5:16). I also understand how much faith it takes for the power of God to move in a tangible way. Remember the woman who pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of his garment? (Mark 5) Even the prodigal son had to make the first motion of a trip home before the father ran to meet him. But to think that the Holy Spirit can't tell a man to get the porn off his computer or quit stealing from work from his seat in the auditorium makes me wonder. I guess it's just a Baptist thing. I'm not sure if it worked or not. Because the throng of men heading to the stage were a perfect mix of pastors who were asked to pray for people, and men who were coming to repent. So I guess it was a safe way for a man to confess and repent: look just like everyone else heading to the stage.
2. Keep those hands down! I admit it: I'm one of those types of people who get so lost in the praise of our great and glorious God that I simply must raise my hands in worship. But apparently the Baptists aren't. Imagine 3,000 men singing to some of the most anointed worship music ever. Then imagine only 6 or 7 raising their hands up to God in celebration. Yep, that's right. As I raised my hands, the older gentlemen next to me look at me as if I had just got off the mother ship from Venus. He had one of those “you ain't from around here” looks on his face. It was funny. Why are some men so afraid to freely worship God? Remember when David danced before the Lord with all his might? And his wife despised him in her heart. Why? Yes all things must be done decently and in order. ( 1Cor 14:40). And more churches are falling into the “slain in the spirit” and “holy laughter” trap. But Geez! Can't a man with a Skoal ring on his jeans and a big belt buckle take a minute to raise his hands to his King?
Here's where it gets good. We sang a song where the lyrics were “I'll stand with hands high and heart abandoned. In awe of the one who gave it all”. I thought that surely if the lyrics dictate a raised hand, they would comply. Nope! Never! I guess standing stoically like a rock is good enough for grand pappy, and it's good enough for them.
3. Man up! The third thing that came out of this past weekend changed my life. One of the featured speakers was Michael Catt, Senior Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia. If you are not familiar with them, they make Christian movies. They did “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof”. And I was lucky enough to get to watch their newest movie to be released in September: “Courageous”. How I managed to fight back the tears while sitting among dusty cowboys is beyond me. This movie is great! Check out the trailer.
I found this trailer on YouTube and called to Jayne to come in and watch it. I teared up as it played. And I had already seen the movie. This is one powerful movie. And it strikes right at the heart of what is wrong with the church today: men are weak and women have to take the wheel. I love my children more than anything on this earth. And I have some deep issues of regret that I wasn't a very good father. Maybe that is where all the emotion comes from. And this movie will do the same thing to you.
So I guess my big “A-ha” moment came as I thought about this past weekend. I realized that as dads, we want our children to raise their hands to us, but we don't raise them to our heavenly Father. We want our children to come to us freely, and without coercion. But sometimes we need to get hammered with endless stanzas of "Have Thine Own Way" before we move to our Father. We want our kids to crawl up into our laps, but we keep God at a distance. It makes me disappointed and a little hurt when I only get occasional communication from my kids (usually via Facebook or text), yet that is the way many times I communicate with the one who knew me in the womb.
So here are my lessons from the Okie weekend. Be free with your praise. Tell your Father you love Him. Watch “Courageous” when it comes out. And lastly, MAN UP! Just be a freaking man! Stop being weak. Get right with God, and then stay right. Cover your wife and kids with blessing and praise. Stay tuned for more thoughts from this last weekend.