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An inspired Christian layman catches a vision for men, encourages them with a dual call to conversion and godly living, and along the way launches a Christian men's movement. Soon, pastors and organizations around the country join the effort, which sends teams of speakers to major American cities, reaching more than a million men.

Is this movement the now-famous Promise Keepers organization? No. It is a description of the largely forgotten Men and Religion Forward Movement, founded in Maine nearly 100 years ago. Throughout the twentieth century, that group and many others like it have proclaimed the message that men need to be committed to God. Or as Promise Keepers (PK) founder Bill McCartney often says, "A man's man is a godly man."

It is a theme that inspired the athletic evangelism of Billy Sunday, the businessmen's crusades of Dwight L. Moody, and England's "muscular Christianity" movement. And in today's topsy-turvy, post-feminist, 12-step, gender-bending world, masculine ministry is a big, brawny success, influencing America's major denominations and changing the focus of Christian retailing. It is also spawning dozens of parachurch groups such as the Christian Men's Network, Dad's University, National Center for Fathering, Career Impact Ministries, Business Life Management, Men Reaching Men, Fathers and Brothers, and Dad the Family Shepherd.

"There is a growing number of men today who are recognizing that success in business, achieving all their goals, and making huge amounts of money are not going to satisfy them," says James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family. Dobson's 1980 book "Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives" and Edwin Louis Cole's 1982 book "Maximized Manhood" marked the opening salvos in ...

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In the Magazine

April 29, 1996

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