Religion

Men encouraged to wake up to their calling

Ronnie Babbitt and Russ Pierce of Ironmen Ministries in Warner Robins address men at The Awakening 2016 Men’s Conference.
Ronnie Babbitt and Russ Pierce of Ironmen Ministries in Warner Robins address men at The Awakening 2016 Men’s Conference.

Organizers of The Awakening 2018 Men’s Conference are calling men to wake up to their purpose and calling as Christian men in their homes, their churches and their communities.

To that end, organizers put together the two-day, statewide and national Christian men’s conference in Perry featuring speakers and fellowship to encourage and challenge men during the two-day affair. In addition, free materials from the conference are intended to do the same long-term in days and months ahead.

The conference is the second nondenominational Awakening Men’s Conference sponsored by Warner Robins’ Ironmen Ministries. The group has the gatherings at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter every two years.

“The first was in 2016 and we plan on having the next in two years,” said organizer Russ Pierce. “We feel doing this every two years is good timing for men to get away and come but also since it’s purely and all-volunteer effort doing the meetings it makes them do-able for us as well.”

Pierce leads the Ironmen Ministries along with Ronnie Babbit. Together they spearhead The Awakening weekend with other Ironmen members, but even then only with the efforts of what Pierce called an “army of volunteers” whose work and donations he said make the conference possible.

Whereas the conference is every two years, Ironmen Ministries conducts a weekly 6 a.m. men’s meeting in Warner Robins every Friday at the Wellston Center on Maple Street as well as other local events.

The Awakening brings a statewide and growing nationwide group of men together. Last year 1,000 who attended. This year Pierce expects more.

“We were an unknown commodity in 2016 for our first year,” he said. “This year it’s different and people have seen the positive impact we’ve had. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3,000 to 5,000 men come to the fairgrounds from a variety of denominations. Pastors have told us they were hesitant to promote the conference last year because they weren’t sure what it would be but they’ve said this year they know and they’re all for it. In fact, we’ve apparently been effective enough encouraging men in the things of God that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board partnered with us to encourage men from churches all over the state to attend. This is a nondenominational event but they’ve seen the value as have other denominations. We’re glad all are involved but also glad it’s not just about one group but focuses on men being men of God.”

The need for men’s ministries

Pierce said part of the reason the event was begun was because most churches have strong women’s ministries but most don’t have strong men’s ministries centered on Christian growth and discipleship. He said lessons learned through the conference not only build men up but help them build strong ministries at home in their local congregations.

“Often men’s ministry is either nonexistent or simply a pancake breakfast or geared toward doing maintenance for the church or the elderly,” he said. “That’s all well and good and to be encouraged but it doesn’t fill the need men have for growing in God’s word, growing spiritually and standing in the gap for one another through prayer and accountability and being there for each another when needed. We’re eager to encourage one another to grow and have an impact on those around us and on our culture.”

Pierce said during the conference a diverse group of speakers will address various areas to engage men in different parts of their lives. Beyond this, he said men will go away with materials to use for ongoing discipleship alone or, preferably, with other men. He said the multiweek discipleship book will allow change to go deeper than just the excitement of a rousing weekend.

Pierce said speakers at the event include former Atlanta fire chief and administrator of the United States Fire Administration Kelvin Cochran, and College Football Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden who will be joined by his son, former Clemson University coach Tommy Bowden. Other speakers and details for registration and where to stay are on the conference website at www.theawakening2018.com.

Cost for the event is $45, a price Pierce said organizers keep low to ensure more men will be able to attend.

Pierce said Middle Georgia’s Rehoboth Baptist Association is also a supporter and sponsor helping organize the event, though he again stressed The Awakening is not denominationally affiliated.

“We just hope men will come, be challenged, be encouraged, meet a lot of great new friends, have great times of worship and return home to be the man God wants them to be for their family, their church and their community.”

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

CORRECTION: The date of the men’s conference and the web address were incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

The Awakening 2018 Men’s Conference

When: April 27-28

Where: Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, 401 Larry Walker Parkway, Perry

Information: www.theawakening2018.com

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