By: Katie Sobiech
It’s that time again… The Iron Sharpens Iron National Men’s Equipping Conference tour has hit Akron. Every fall Toolbox Ministries hosts this conference put on for men, designed by men, targeting their specific interests and needs.
This year’s keynote speakers are Bill Perkins, President and Founder of Million Mighty Men and also senior pastor and author, and Rod Cooper, a Professor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Sixteen different equipping seminars will be offered throughout the day on a range of topics surveyed as being most important to men, including marriage and intimacy, spiritual leadership, sexual purity, fathering and financial management.
There will be a great time of praise and worship and 30 local and national ministries represented.
“Iron Sharpens Iron is a once-a-year, powerful event. When all the guys go home on Sunday morning, Toolbox Ministries is here 24/7, 365 to help pastors develop their men,” Bill Thompson, President of Toolbox Ministries, a local ministry to help pastors equip their men.
Local Ministry Leaders Come Together
Men and leaders in the community are sensing a great need for godly men to step up.
“God inside of each of us has a plan and design, and life without God is meaningless. Without meaning there’s no purpose, and there are so many guys that are walking around today without purpose not knowing why am I here?,” Jonathan Greer, Founder of the Man Up Movement, said.
Greer says that through this conference they hope to recapture the hearts of men not only their sake but the sake of their families and communities.
“My passion is really to see men come to what God has called them to be,” Greer shared.
This Year’s Conference
This year both Greer and Thompson are teaching sessions.
Some things that men can expect are empowering workshops such as “Seven Power Tools for Dad”.
“There are 7 key things that dads need to be good fathers,” Thompson explained.
“I went to the workshop and it empowered and helped me out with him,” Greer said of his young son, sitting on his lap.
“I see my family as my mission field. I support missionaries, but this is my first mission field,” Greer said, looking at his son, “If I’m going to minister and talk about what it means to be a man and I’m not loving my wife or taking care of my child then I need to revisit that and check myself out. We need to war for our loved ones, be pillars in the community and love the world.”
The Father Gap
One of the biggest issues Thompson has found over the years throughout his ministry and work is “missing fathers”.
“Twenty-two million children will go home today to a single parent home. You think about absent fathers, but you can’t get a good father if you don’t have a good man,” Greer said.
Offering the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference, Toolbox Ministries and Man Up are ways these men are hoping to combat this statistic and raise up great men.
“The driver for me is that the biggest needs gap in our culture and biggest rift in our society is the absent father in the home,” Thompson said.
Government and the Church
Thompson recently attended a meeting where local government, country, state and federal government were all represented.
“A lady from one of the social services stood up and kind of capsulated what was going on. She said her budget has been cut by 50% but her workload is up by 60% and said ‘I can’t do this without you guys’,” Thompson shared, “So all of a sudden the government is looking to church organizations to help them accomplish and to say nothing of the fact that we’re probably a lot more successful because of our focus on character, which mirrors that of Christ.”
“Social services, the state, local and federal government are all looking for help because they are spending almost 100 billion dollars a year taking care of children who should be taken care of by their father, but he’s just not there,” Thompson said.
He gave startling statistics about Buchtel High School, saying that nearly 80% of them have no engagement with their fathers.
“Proverbs 14:12 just jumps off the page to me. There’s a way that seems right but without the discipline of the family and the father, that leads to death,” Thompson said.
The Church Steps In
Thompson, who also works at the Akron Pregnancy Center (APS), constantly encounters young men and women with no direction and who are looking for love in all the wrong places.
“The overwhelming, outstanding percentage of women that we see are looking for the love they never got from their father,” Thompson said.
The APS now has a group of men in their 30’s and 40’s working with the young fathers that come into the crisis pregnancy center, teaching them life skills, parenting, fathering and about leaving a legacy.
“Men’s ministry to me is family ministry because when you touch a man you hit their family, the church, the community and the culture,” Greer said.
Though fathering is a huge issue focused on at the conference, they have many other topics. It is designed for men ages 18 and up, married or single.
Working Together to Serve a Greater Purpose
The friendship between Greer and Thompson all started at a Love Akron prayer gathering when Pastor Mark Ford introduced the two to one another.
“From then on we’ve been partnered up, praying together and working together,” Greer said.
Greer now serves on the prayer team for Toolbox Ministries.
Though they both lead different ministries, they now intertwine and work together, even with Love Akron.
“Toolbox is a multifaceted ministry to men. Jonathan ministers in one facet and I minister in another, and we collaborate on a lot of things,” Thompson said.
“My passion is for the Body of Christ to come together. There are things that I do that he can’t do and that he does that I can’t do, but together we can do it. I love to see the Body of Christ start to link up and partner and do things together because that’s how we’re really going to impact this greater Akron area,” Greer said.
“I’m a young black guy and he’s an older white guy, and here we are working together,” Greer said of their unique partnership, “I believe if we’re going to say we’re Christian then we need to live it.”
“And we should see more of cross culture and cross denominations working together because it goes back to Jesus, the whole infrastructure of God setting up this body to be different members working together,” Thompson said.
For more information on Iron Sharpens Iron please visit http://www.ironsharpensiron.net. If you are interested in Man Up, a Bible study at 7 a.m. on Friday mornings designed for men who want to start their day off right before work, please contact Jonathan Greer at Jonathanagreer@yahoo.com For information on Toolbox Ministries please visit http://www.toolboxmen.org.