The Mountain Top


Spirituality and the Land
Author Russell Powell

Our special adviser on Men and Christianity Russell Powell recently attended the inaugural Men’s Katoomba Convention, held in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia. Here are his reflections.

I have been to the Mountain Top...

Anyone who believes Christianity has nothing relevant to say to men today, should have been among the three or four thousand men at the Men’s Katoomba Convention – men with anything from skateboards to walking sticks, some travelling 600 kilometres or more just to be there.

To see so many men gathered together was an incredible buzz, all the more as they started singing their lungs out. It may not have been Cardiff Arms Park before a Welsh rugby test, but it must have come close.

There were twice as many people as the organisers expected, so it seems the idea of having an event just for men really struck a nerve.

It’s interesting to speculate why. You might like to leave a thread on this page, and give your opinion. But for my money I think there are three main reasons.

This, Bud, is for you...

First, the character of men’s fellowship with each other is completely different to fellowship in a mixed group. It’s often been said men are emotional cripples when it comes to relating to each other – that may be true in many cases, but we still long for it. We still recognise that despite all the layers and masks we hide behind, we can relate to other men in ways we cannot relate to women.

Second, men appreciate straight talk, and they know that’s what they can expect at a men’s event: bypass the bull, get to the point.

Third, and perhaps most basic, is the spiritual hunger many men feel. Spiritual hunger is a cross-cultural thing. Anyone from a brickie to a barrister, once he gets past his 20s, or even before then, starts to really reflect on his life. He may have had the sex, the beer, maybe even the power and the money, and while the beer ad may say "It doesn’t get any better than this", he says, "If this is the best there is, what the hell am I doing here?"


Given what I’ve just said, you might imagine there were guys hanging on every word that was said. It’s rare to have the opportunity to give some straight talk to men and the speakers weren’t wasting the opportunity. The keynote speaker was Frank Retief, who runs a large church in Capetown, South Africa. His church (St James, Kenilworth: hit the headlines in 1993 as the scene of a terrorist attack in which 10 people died.

As a journalist covering the transition of power in South Africa, I visited the church a few weeks after the attack. What I found was a group of Christians who’d been through an incredible ordeal, but not only was their faith unshaken, it was strengthened. And here was a man well qualified to talk on stress!

Frank spoke about the effect that change has on men. He spoke of how men encounter a changing society. Anyone who’s experienced the revolution in the workforce since the 80s can testify to that. Then there’s changing family circumstances. Kids, if you have them, are getting older and bolder, and before long you don’t run them... they run you! There’s the changing community – we no longer live behind the picket fences of the 1950s. And finally there’s the change in our own bodies – we’re breaking down as we get older.

Are you resisting change?

Many men are notorious for resisting change. Whether it be at work or home, they are so set in their ways, they will not be moved.

Christian men are not immune from this either. BUT THEY SHOULD BE!

If any man should be ready to change, it should be the Christian man. Let’s face it, our lives are built on change. Change in the first place through Jesus entering our lives, and then ongoing change as his Spirit works in us.

If you are not a Christian, or still making up your mind, let me make a strong distinction at this point. Many people think a Christian is one who has to constantly purge his life of anything that is fun and then blindly hope that at the end of his life, the balance sheet has enough good things in order that God will accept him. In other words, be constantly on his best behaviour, or God will zap him. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Christians aren’t trying to be good in order to be accepted by God, they want to change their lives because they have already been accepted by God. That’s a sharp difference. (for more on acceptance by God the father see my previous article ‘God the Father’)

The change I’m talking about is personal change. Men growing to love their families and others as God intended... that self-sacrificing love that Jesus showed. We are not naturally like that. It will take prayer and effort on our part, and God’s help, for us to become the men He wants us to be.

The source documents for Christianity stress over and over that God does not change, but that men need to. Think on that, and email me with your comments, or leave a thread on the page.

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