Man Alive a men’s Christian conference at Porterville Church of the Nazarene was a welcoming experience for over 420 men on Saturday. Men traveled from all over the Central Valley to attend.
Jon Micah Sumrall, the engaging and charismatic lead singer of gold record and award-winning Christian rock band Kutless, was the keynote speaker, spoke about his faith and how it integrated into his life while describing some of his experiences touring with the band for the past 16 years, especially recent experiences in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016.
He spoke about how the group shared the gospel in the Communist controlled country, and in one particular town the band was hunted by the police and authorities, even though technically they hadn’t done anything wrong, but the local mayor didn’t agree with their message.
But in the hotel where they stayed, the clerks protected the group, by not giving the authorities any information.
In the majority of Ukraine, Kutless was welcomed by thousands of people, and most of their journeys and travels have been exciting and rewarding.
Sumrall spoke about how men want to do and be something or someone great in their lives.
“We all want to do something that matters,” he said, and he read and spoke about some of the great men in the Bible and said that being great “all began with their faith.”
Telling multiple stories about the band’s travel adventures and their mission, and their faith, Sumrall said God protected them in some perilous situations, “I pray for every man here today and welcome him to the event, and thank you.”
The well ordered retreat began with an early breakfast, and some exhibits, with the worship with Sumrall, and breakout sessions led by local pastors teaching men how to be better husbands, fathers, men of the church, and men of God in the community.
Michael Roach, the new Pastor of Country Salvation in Porterville, said that retreats for men need to happen more often, to help break down the walls between people and denominations.
For the younger men and teenagers attending the event there was a session with the Christian rock band Chaotic Resemblance led by Travis McConnell, and band members guitarist L.A. Ellis and drummer John Jackway. McConnell, also a dynamic speaker, said the retreat had been amazing. Seeing the men of the community come together and put aside their differences to worship Jesus was exhilarating. He said, “Men are stubborn. So it’s good that we’re focusing on the message of the man of love.
“So many times, we think he is a distant God. But he is much more than that. He is accessible. You have to read the Bible with your heart not with your brain to understand,” McConnell said.
Landon Bratcher, 14, said, “The retreat really lets you unleash yourself, and it helps you connect to God. I like the music of Jon Micah and Kutless a lot.”
Later in the morning there was another worship session with more fantastic music and prayer by various pastors and musicians affiliated with Church of the Nazarene. D. J. Davis sang a duet with Henry Serrato, who leads the prayer team.
Sumrall again spoke to the men of the retreat, telling them about how he grew up in the mountains of Oregon, and how he enjoys hiking, skiing, and some of the more extreme sports, and how his trust in God is a key part in his life.
“When we go through life we have these different paths, and we put our faith in tangible things everyday, but sometimes we also put faith in intangible things,” he said, “trust in what you don’t know. Faith in God. And faith in God needs a full commitment.”
When speaking about the band and their mission Sumrall said their music is a tool for their mission, and they are very conscious of how music impacts people.
“Art is in everything the band does, and we run that through the filter of impact,” he said.
Chuck Bunch, the district missionary coordinator for Central California Church of the Nazarene (COTN) said he was in Ukraine in 2002 and identified with what Sumrall was saying about the huge crowds. Sometimes over 30,000 people for a concert. He said things were more relaxed when he was there, but COTN was working on a construction project for a drug addiction program, and they had a Ukrainian minister working with them. Bunch said huge crowds also came out for political rallies.
Milt Davis, the founder of Man Alive, said it’s a great program with a powerful message. The turnout was great from neighboring churches in town, and they’ve always had different guest speakers. His favorite was Stephen Baldwin, who was so down-to-earth.
“I’m so happy Jon Micah came down to be with us from Oregon. People came who are on crutches, in neck-braces, and it humbles me that these guys made such an effort to come here to Man Alive.”
Davis says, “Men need to be ‘men’ again. To be the heads of their families.”