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Growing Disciples in the Smokies: Every Man A Warrior conference encourages leaders to press on

By John Lundy
Americas, Global, Brazil, Canada, Kenya, USA, N America

Meeting in pods was a crucial aspect of the Every Man A Warrior conference. [ Photo by Sterling Ottun / TWR ] 

Martevious Young doesn’t have to talk men into joining his discipleship groups.

“The person who sells guys on Every Man A Warrior (EMAW) is my wife,” said Young, a former college and indoor football quarterback. “She sees the fruit.”

Young shared his thoughts during the EMAW “Expert Builders” conference April 1-2, which took place at a camp in Dayton, Tenn., in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. The invitation-only event drew 178 men, said Sterling Ottun, deputy director of EMAW, which is a ministry of TWR. Only men who had already led EMAW groups were invited.

“The fact that they came to this conference meant that they were already committed,” said Lonnie Berger, founder and director of EMAW and author of three of the four EMAW books. (The fourth is called Every Man A Pure Warrior.)

Indeed, most men probably wouldn’t consider sleeping in bunk beds in a large room in a camp to be ideal overnight accommodations.

“This was pretty nice, actually,” said Tom Fredericks, 57. “As far as I could tell nobody was required to sleep up top. … I was pretty content and satisfied with my sleeping arrangements.”

Fredericks, a transportation expert from Dixon, Tennessee, led his first EMAW group in 2016-17 when he was pastoring a church in Upstate New York. He describes himself as passionate about discipling men. Although Berger notes that EMAW doesn’t see itself as a conference ministry, Fredericks had attended two previous EMAW conferences, one of which was primarily for staff.

Yet Fredericks said this conference changed him.

“I came face to face with some guys who have mastered the gift of Scripture memorization,” Fredericks said. “And something happened on the inside of me that weekend that made me really understand that I’ve got to figure out a way to erase more meaningless time in my life and spend more time … getting the Scripture in my heart so I can be a walking Bible.”

One of the tools he has added for doing so, Fredericks said, is carrying EMAW “verse packs” with him wherever he goes. He’ll pull them out if he’s stuck in traffic or if his wife needs an extra 10 minutes in the store.

“There’s no easy way to sit down and memorize the Scripture, because the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy,” Fredericks said. “He’s working against you all the time. But I am much better when I can hold something in my hand.”

Five hundred men had been invited to the conference, Berger said, but many were unable to come because of COVID-related issues and visa restrictions. Nonetheless, men came from 25 states as well as Canada, Kenya and Brazil, which is the location of EMAW’s second-largest ministry. A similar conference, for European leaders, is planned soon in Norway.

“If I’m hearing the Lord right, he wants to use Every Man A Warrior to build leaders in many countries,” Berger said. “We’re in 55 now, and we’re starting in four new languages.”

The “Expert Builders” theme was drawn from 1 Corinthians 3:10: “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.” (NIV)

Young wasn’t alone among attendees in terms of an athletic background. Sam Hornish is a former NASCAR driver who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2006. Hornish is sometimes able to take advantage of that background in bringing men into EMAW discipleship, he said.

“A lot of guys are excited to meet Sam Hornish, and then they find out I have a bunch of work for them to do,” he said with a quick grin, and then added: “And it’s not work. It seems like work to have a daily quiet time – to spend time in the Scriptures, memorize the Scriptures, things like that. But the sweetness of what you are able to gain and to glean off of what God’s perfect Word is gives you opportunities to step into things that you never thought you could.”

Whether transportation expert or NASCAR driver or quarterback, men who attended the conference acknowledge a higher calling on their lives.

“I thought football was my calling, and God laughed at that,” Young said. “He said football was a tool that I had to sharpen your calling.”

Watch Lonnie Berger speak on “Engineering Principles for being an Expert Builder” here.

Images: (middle, right) T
he Smoky Mountains offered a stunning backdrop as some of the small groups at Every Man A Warrior chose to meet outside. [ Photo by Sterling Ottun / TWR ], (bottom, left) Lonnie Berger, author, founder and director of Every Man A Warrior, was a featured speaker at the conference. [ Photo by Sterling Ottun / TWR ] 

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