WASHINGTON – It was a once in a lifetime experience for over a million men whose male and Christian bonds created arguably the largest religious gathering in U.S. history 10 years ago. Today, some of the men are returning to the National Mall to make it more than a one-time experience.
Stand in the Gap 2007 comes to the grounds of the Washington monument this fall, calling generations of Christian men both old and new to etch another – or a fresh – significant spiritual marker in their lives.
In the 10th anniversary year since the 1997 sacred assembly, a collaboration of national and local Christian men's ministries will produce another major catalytic event for men in the 21st century.
"Stand in the Gap 2007 will be a totally new experience," announced Dr. Rick Kingham, president of the National Coalition of Men's Ministries, on Thursday. "It will not be like 1997. It's not a concert; it's not a speakers' forum. It is, in fact, experiential for men to come together ... to stand before our God and to proclaim His works one generation to another."
Organizers of the Oct. 6 rally will not attempt to recreate a program of the same magnitude as the 1997 event. While a request was made for the entire National Mall, the National Park Service granted only the grounds of the national monument and the Ellipse, which would accommodate approximately a quarter of a million men.
Nevertheless, churches and ministries are already chartering buses and planes for the upcoming national rally.
Principal organizer Marty Granger, founder of Faith in the Family International, stressed that much has changed over the past 10 years, highlighting the developments of the Internet, the Sept. 11 attacks, war, scandals in the church and the government, and the most recent Virginia Tech shootings. "This decade is a new generation with all of its own unique challenges," he said.
And in the wake of it all, men's ministry has also taken a different turn.
Ten years ago when Kingham and his son were attending Stand in the Gap 1997, Promise Keepers - the now-prominent parachurch organization to men that organized the event - was just exploding. The spotlight was on the growing men's ministry movement, which had already attracted over one million men to its annual stadium-sized conferences that year.
Explaining the outstanding attendance at the first Stand in the Gap, Kingham says it just had never been done before and it was a phenomenon they weren't able to figure out.
"You can't deny the favor of God," he said.
Today, Promise Keepers is going through a period of refocus and recalibration and is currently making some significant changes including a reduction of their large-scale conferences to seven this year and an addition of smaller local events called Promise Keeper Selects. Explaining that Promise Keepers needs to be very focused on what they're doing now, Kingham assured that Stand in the Gap 2007 still has the full endorsement of the parachurch organization.
Although Promise Keepers is not in the position to redo the 1997 event, the organizers of this year's rally couldn't deny the catalyst that the ministry has served as to spawn a plethora of other men's ministries across the nation.
And men's ministries today are starting to see a transition from sitting at church on Sundays to moving out of church walls to impact the world. Witnessing the church more and more in campaigns against AIDS and poverty and the ongoing response to hurricane victims, Kingham described Stand in the Gap as a call to action.
"We believe that men are called to be a credible witness to the reality of Jesus Christ in their life and a mobilization of men is what is called for in this day," he said.
Stand in the Gap 2007 will serve to encourage men of all ages to take a stand in their faith and be emboldened to leave a legacy of spiritual strength and faithfulness from one generation to the next.
The idea for this year's gathering, which will be a once-every-decade event, came from leaders of the Washington Area Coalition of Men's Ministries who wanted to re-ignite a flame that burned so brightly for over a million men. The local organization will assist in preparations for the rally. Host organization is the National Coalition of Men's Ministries.
On the web: www.standinthegap2007.org