Participants at the second "Calling All Men" were forced to confront questions that haunt almost all aging believers: When you die, how will you be remembered? What will you leave behind?
The 600 who came to the Aug. 7-8 event at Sevierville Events Center may not have departed with answers, but they were offered motivation to begin "Living to Leave a Legacy" through following and sharing Christ.
Organized by the Holston Conference United Methodist Men, the gathering invited men to commune from a Friday afternooon through a Saturday afternoon and to participate in worship and workshops designed for guys only. Attendance was down about 100 from the inaugural event in August 2008.
"The real numbers that count," said UMM President Mike Smith, "are that two men committed to Christ." In addition, two men asked to be baptized, and three men indicated on response cards they wished to speak to a pastor about life problems.
Opening worship on Friday night included a message from the Rev. Stephen Handy, pastor at Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tenn., and a former Resurrection youth event speaker.
"If you checked out tomorrow, would you be able to say, 'I did everything God called me to do?'" Handy asked. "Or are there some blanks, some spaces, some things you haven't accomplished because you keep putting it off?"
Handy led worshippers to huddle at the front of the convention room-turned-sanctuary. He asked them to place a hand on a stranger's shoulder, gather his contact information, and commit to praying for him over the next year.
"By Stephen Handy forcing us to put a hand on each other and look into each other's eyes, I met somebody I didn't know," said Keith Smith on the following Saturday morning. "He came by just a little while ago and said, 'Hey, I prayed for you this morning.'" Smith is a member of Red Bank UMC in Chattanooga District.
At closing worship on Saturday afternoon, Bishop James Swanson preached and officiated at Holy Communion. He told a story of how, as a Houston steel worker and new preacher, he at first failed to share Christ with his co-workers. He said he hopes to be remembered as a person who had impact on the spiritual journeys of others.
"Whether you like it or not, you cannot pass through this world and not leave an imprint somewhere," Swanson said. "Make sure your imprint is not only for God, but also that it glorifies God and makes humanity glad you passed this way."
Music was offered by praise bands from Concord UMC in Oak Ridge District and Fairview UMC in Maryville District. The Rev. Larry Trotter of Concord introduced a soulful cover of "The Motions" by Christian recording artist Matthew West. (I don't wanna spend my whole life asking, "What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?")
"I hope this hits you right between the eyes, like it does for me every time I hear it," Trotter said.
Bob Hylton, a member at Hardin's Chapel UMC in Morristown District, said he liked to see the reactions to the sermons and music at Calling All Men.
"In our church, it's small. You don't get to see a lot of men jumping up and down for the Lord. Here, you do," Hylton said.
Workshop sessions included, "Facebook: You and God are Friends," where Roger Williams encouraged parents to use technology to promote scripture. He showed them how to download Bible applications on their children's cell phones.
"If there's going to be a cell phone stuck on every kid, why not push God's word?" said Williams, youth ministry director at Fairview UMC in Maryville District
The Rev. Cliff Amos spoke candidly and humorously to large groups about tithing and saving in "A Man, a Can, and a Plan." He challenged pastors who don't preach about tithing and who don't set the example by giving 10 percent or more of their salaries to the church.
"The tithe is just the floor and not the ceiling," Amos said. "And if you think your congregation doesn't know you don't tithe, then you are crazy. They know everything about you." Amos is director of gift planning for the Holston Conference Foundation.
Cokesbury Bookstore was among the exhibits, where Jan Powell said books mentioned by workshop leaders were selling best. Powell pointed to "Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity" by Adam Hamilton and "The Wesley Study Bible" by William H. Willimon and Joel B. Green.
Amos mentioned "Enough" in his workshop, while the Rev. Mickey Rainwater mentioned "The Wesley Study Bible" in his workshop called, "Breathing in So We Can Breathe Out."
"Considering the economy, it's been a good day," said Powell. "We have the books they want."
An offering of $4,807 will help cover the conference cost to offer the event, Smith said. Participants paid about $50 per person plus accommodations, unless they received a scholarship. A Saturday box lunch was included in the program fee for early registrants.
"We still need to come up with a plan to cover our shortfall," Smith said. "But with the economy the way it is, the Design Team was pleased and proud with the way everything went."