ANKENY, Iowa—As the crowd streamed into the auditorium at Faith Baptist Bible College, one thing was evident. The Men for Christ rally was going to be a bit different this year, organizers having invited women and children to attend as well. Event organizers referred to the family emphasis as a bit of an experiment related to the theme, “Biblical Creationism in Your Local Church.”
Carl Kerby began his opening address with a question: “Is Genesis relevant to today’s world?” For Kerby, a founding board member of Answers in Genesis, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Kerby had worked behind the scenes at AiG for 10 years—he’s the brains behind the organization’s well-regarded website. He had no aspirations to a public-speaking ministry, preferring instead to support the ministry of Ken Ham.
But then came a climactic moment when he and Australian Ken Ham arrived at a Japanese airport, only to discover that Ham would not be admitted without a visa, despite a carefully planned itinerary of speaking events. Carl, who often traveled with Ken and whose wife is from Japan, had the needed paperwork and was admitted. “Ken spent five minutes with me in the airport, then handed me a stack of overhead transparencies,” Carl remembers. “That was it, and I was on my own.”
Kerby was a member of Fox Valley Baptist Church, Dundee, Ill., working as an air traffic controller, when he began his speaking ministry. Kerby seemed excited to share the platform with the other featured speaker, John Whitcomb, the noted Old Testament scholar who cowrote The Genesis Flood with Henry Morris.
“All of us at Answers in Genesis stand on the shoulders of John Whitcomb, who was a founder of the modern creationist movement,” Kerby said. He went on to explain that his real passion is for evangelism—connecting the truth of God’s Word to people who know little or nothing about the Bible. His message today can be seen as a summary of AiG’s operating premise: the book of Genesis is a powerful tool for evangelism. The Men for Christ rallies started in 1997 with an organizing meeting at Fourth Baptist in Minneapolis.
Thorin Anderson, who was then the director of Baptists for Life of Minnesota, called together representatives of several overlapping constituencies including GARBC churches; the Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa state GARBC associations; Faith Baptist Bible College; Central Baptist Theological Seminary; Northland Baptist Bible College; and Maranatha Baptist Bible College.
A few months earlier, Anderson had shared his brainstorm with friends who were attending a conference at Northland Baptist Bible College. “We need to learn how to work together as a group,” Anderson recalls saying. And he recalls how his friends answered: “Oh, that will never happen!”
Anderson was not necessarily surprised by this response. He had learned a few hard lessons after traveling from church to church representing Baptists for Life. Describing his initial difficulty in organizing fundamentalist churches for social action, Anderson says, “Churches were not prepared to work with each other—they weren’t prepared to cooperate, even on an issue where they all agreed, like abortion. Yes, cooperation is a hard line to draw . . . but back then it seemed like we made it too easy to separate over minor issues.”
The Men for Christ group became a direct result of Anderson’s Baptists for Life organization; he called the same supporting groups together to organize what became an annual men’s rally. Anderson describes how the Promise Keepers movement was at its height in 1997—a regional rally had just met in Minneapolis—and many church members were attending the events. “On one hand, it was hard to be critical of a movement that challenged men to become more godly,” Anderson says.
“While Promise Keepers was kind of a catalyst, we were not comfortable with every aspect of their program.” Now Anderson sees a direct connection between this cooperation and the proposed merger of Central Baptist Theological Seminary with Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. Having worked together on social issues and men’s rallies, the various groups began to see the potential of other connections.
“I found we needed to challenge the men to think differently—think about more than just their local church,” Thorin Anderson says.