There are some ladies who think I’m wrong and, perhaps, that it’s even sinful to be a speaker at the 21 Summit.
I understand why they find some of the past speakers and content reprehensible. So do I.
But I don’t regret speaking there and I will be there again this fall.
So what is the 21 Summit? It is three secular conferences that run concurrent in Orlando, FL. I helped emcee the Patriarch conference last year and will do so again this year. They call that being the “chief patriarch.” This conference focuses on fatherhood and family life from a variety of perspectives. I am just a speaker other two conferences, 21 Conference and 22 Conference. Those conferences have in the past involved more salacious speakers and topics. For example, there have been speakers that are advocates for BDSM and fornicating with as many women as possible. I’ve called those activities, what they are, sins and perversions. I’ve done so from the stage and in person.
Why then have they invited me back and even given me more profile? Well, many men bond over conflicts and are attracted to men of principle even if they disagree with them.
Why do I speak at the 21 Summit? It ain’t for the money. I do it free of charge. They just cover my travel expenses. I do it because I was introduced to 21’s very popular YouTube by multiple Christian men 5 years ago. These men wanted to know my thoughts. They were, as implied above, mixed: some of it was very good and some vile. Nonetheless, I saw more and more Christian men referring to the channel or speakers associated with it. I thought if I ever had a chance to get unfiltered Christianity on the channel I would. I don’t want paganism and secularism to be the dominate voice on the ever-important issue of masculinity among non-Christians and especially Christians.
And a few years later, I unexpectedly got invited.
A Twitter follower introduced me to the guys at 21 and I was invited to speak in 2020. I agreed on the grounds I could say whatever I want. And the lead guy, Anthony Johnson, said he wouldn’t have it any other way. So I did.
It was an amazing experience both years. Multiple men, some speakers, invited me out to dinner or lunch to talk about Christianity. I laid out the gospel and I did my best to answer their questions. I confront people on the destructiveness of sexual immorality. The receptivity was off the charts. A few became Christians and now attend reformed churches.
The conference, itself, isn’t as salacious as it appears. A lot the talks focus on fitness, finance, mental health, politics, etc. It’s usually just like an edgy TED talk for unawoke men (and women at 22). But there are some talks that are wicked and condone sexual immorality. They have been by far the minority in my two years there.
The attendees are always a varied and unexpected bunch. You get some of the young guys looking for tips on how to get women in bed. But you also get couples celebrating being married 40+ years, divorcees trying to get shared custody of their children, and married men looking to better lead their home. It’s all over the place. There is surprisingly little macho alpha talk. When it does happen, most of the speakers roll their eyes and some poke fun at it. It’s not that different from a laid back trade show but with a few out-there breakout sessions.
I’m showed incredible respect by most of the people speaking or in attendances. They refer to me as pastor or reverend. Many change their language simply out respect. Some ask for prayer, recommended books, and where to find a good church. Again, it’s not what you think…
…but even if it was, I’d still speak there.
I want these people to know Christ. I want the gospel to ring forth in all this section of the internet.
But shouldn’t Christians shun all associations with fornicators?
In a word, no.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, Paul says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.”
Corinth was a mixed society. In such a situation, there was no way to “quit the world” outside of death.
Hence, Paul clarifies:
“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” (11-13)
We can bring separation in the “society of the church” through discipline and excommunication. We are both remove and dissociate with those who name Christ and yet remain in a lifestyle of sin. You can’t, however, do that with those who are strangers to the church. With this in mind, Calvin writes:
“As to strangers, the Christians at Corinth had no jurisdiction, and they could not restrain their dissolute manner of life. Hence they must of necessity have quitted the world, if they wished to avoid the society of the wicked, whose vices they could not cure.”
You can’t avoid association with the sexually immoral in a society made up of both Christians and non-Christians. Such was Corinth, such is America.
So I find Chrysostom’s interpretation of this text to be a helpful summary:
“When I command you to shun fornicators, I do not mean all such; otherwise you would require to go in quest of another world; for we must live among thorns so long as we sojourn on earth. This only do I require, that you do not keep company with fornicators, who wish to be regarded as brethren, lest you should seem by your sufferance to approve of their wickedness."
Not only can we not avoid the sexually immoral of this world but, in a sense, we should pursue them.
In John 17, Jesus prays:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
Christ removes us from “the world” as in the system under the dominion of sin. Since we have been freed from sin’s dominion, we are no longer “of the world.” In his prayer, he prays not that we be removed from the world but that we would be kept from falling back into system which under sway of the evil one (1 John 5:19). We are to be set apart in the sense we under the rule of God’s word. This is what means to be “in but not of the world.”
Jesus goes beyond praying that we have a mere passive existence “in” the world. He says, “…I have sent them into the world.” John Montgomery Boice writes, “The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin verb mitto, mittere, misi, missum, which means ‘to send’ or ‘dispatch.’ A mission is a sending forth.” With the same thing in mind, Charles Spurgeon writes, “Christ was the great Missionary, the Messiah, the Sent One; we are the minor missionaries, Sent out into the world to accomplish the Father’s will and purpose.”
We can’t go “out of the world” but we can call others out of the society of the wicked into the church. We are a missionary people sent to represent our great Savior and God, Jesus Christ. This mission work will involve being with those who live lifestyles of sin. It is the model of our King:
“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matt 9:10-12).
There will always be those who, like the Pharisees, have no regard for those in need of the gospel. They care more about keeping up appearances than risking guilt by association. Our Lord was of a different sort. He was a man of compassion. We must be like Him. We must be “in” but not “of.”
That being said, we all are called to be salt and light in our given locations and vocations. So not everyone has the same opportunities.
I see the 21 Summit as a great opportunity for the moment. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to bring Christianity to the “manosphere.”