By Brent Adams | badams@secc.org

Men who attended Main Event, presented by Southeast Christian Church’s Men’s Ministry, participated in ax throwing, go-karting, a golf ball chipping competition and other contests aimed at fueling their competitive spirit.

What many might not have anticipated was that before they enjoyed chicken jambalaya from Café Lou Lou and frozen treats from Steel City Pops, they heard the raw, uncensored and candid testimony of four guys who have experienced spiritual warfare from the frontlines.

Southeast elder Brad DeVries, Single Life Ministry pastor Terrence Turman, Louisville businessman Rob Campbell and retired Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood shared testimonies shaped by the painful trials they faced before giving their lives to Jesus Christ. They also were transparent about the struggles they continue to face on a daily basis.

Two main points emerged from the discussion: the importance for men to have other Christian men who can provide a listening ear, accountability and encouragement, and the importance of confessing sin and not letting it rule life.

“There is complete freedom when you give your life to Jesus Christ,” DeVries told a standing-room-only crowd in the Block auditorium. “He died on the cross to forgive you for the sins you’ve committed, the sins you are committing and the sins you will commit. There is not one sin that is too big for Him. He’s already taken care of it. Find the freedom.”

Wood’s nine-year NFL career ended last season after a potentially debilitating neck injury was detected during a postseason physical. It was a crushing blow to the 32-year-old, who spent nine years with the Bills and played every snap for the team last season. Now, he finds himself trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

Like many pro athletes, Wood admits to struggling to cope with life after the days of a regimented schedule, media interviews, community events and the high that comes with being adored by a football-crazed community. He and his family have moved back to Louisville, and he has done his best to lay his anxiety at the feet of Jesus.

Rather than being bitter about his fate, he has plunged himself into community through Man Challenge, a weekly time of Bible study, table discussion and fellowship, held each week at Southeast. Each Thursday he sits at a table of men—some his former teammates at U of L and other men he has met more recently—and lays bare his struggles and his triumphs. They stay in touch throughout the week, texting prayer requests and providing encouragement.

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“We’ve got a big group of guys who all care about each other, and we pray for each other,” Wood said. “It gives you a real sense of community.

“Another thing it provides me is accountability,” he added. “You can easily cruise through this life and never check yourself, but when you come together as a group of dudes, even though we’re so imperfect it’s not funny, we come in and we sharpen each other. I know more about some of these guys I’ve only known for a couple years than I do guys I’ve known my whole life just because I know what makes them tick. I reveal to them what I want my life to look like in the future and what I want my family to look like, so then they can hold me accountable to those things.”

Turman, who said he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior when he was a junior in college, told men in attendance that struggles don’t end just because a person is committed to Christ. However, Christ helps His followers navigate struggles that leave nonbelievers dealing with pain and despair.

Turman was a football player who was looked up to by his teammates because of his relationship with Jesus. However, he was encumbered by unconfessed sin and that added to his stress when other guys came to him seeking guidance with their struggles.

“I had to hide this sin, and it was a tough season for me,” Turman said. “I walked around with a lot of guilt and a lot of shame.”

Things changed for Turman, however, when he began to walk alongside other Christian men who urged him to confess and repent of those sins and experience the redemptive freedom that comes through a relationship with Christ.

“What they revealed to me was, ‘Hey man, what you’re struggling with, I’m fighting it too. I’m a guy you can lean on,’” Turman recalled. “They gave me strategies to fight.”

Campbell, who is active in Men’s Ministry at Southeast, reinforced the idea that struggles will come, even to the men who show up each week to Man Challenge, but through an authentic relationship with Jesus and with other men to hold them accountable, men can be delivered from sin.

“I had a professional persona and kind of a social persona, and as I would go out on business meetings, I started feeling guilty,” Campbell said. “If my client knew what I was doing this past weekend, that wouldn’t make me feel good. I started being like two different people.”

A series of bad decisions put Campbell down the wrong path, but this simple prayer: “Help me understand what I need to do to get my life correct,” coupled with the unfailing acceptance of his Man Challenge accountability partners helped him to get his life back on track.

“I always thought when I was being sinful and making poor choices I was just hurting myself,” Campbell said. “But then I started looking a little deeper and realized that I was hurting Christ and I was hurting the people in my life who cared about me. That was a rough patch.”

Men’s Ministry Leader Ronnie Cordrey wrapped up the program by encouraging men to take the next step in getting connected to other men through Man Challenge.

“Man Challenge is not the solution. It’s simply a tool,” Cordrey said. “But, it’s a powerful tool if utilized correctly. If you find yourself going, ‘Man, I don’t know about this whole Jesus thing’ or if you’re like, ‘I don’t have one dude in my life who truly knows me,’ come check it out.”

Man Challenge at the Blankenbaker Campus will launch Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Block, from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and Saturday, Sept. 15, 7 to 8:30 a.m. No registration is required. It will be held Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. at the Indiana Campus; Tuesdays beginning Sept. 11 at the La Grange Campus and Thursdays at 6 p.m., beginning Sept. 13, at the Southwest Campus.

For additional information, visit www.southeastchristian.org.