WASHINGTON—In numbers that were far fewer but with a faith that was nonetheless fervent, evangelical Christian men gathered in the shadow of the Washington Monument Oct. 6 for a day of spiritual renewal that recalled a much larger meeting of a decade ago.
The Stand in the Gap 2007 rally brought thousands to the National Mall, almost 10 years to the day when hundreds of thousands turned the prominent stretch of grass into a sanctuary. On a grassy hill just south of the monument, men dropped to their knees or bowed their heads in prayer, holding their Bibles open or lifting them into the air.
For six hours, men from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds worshipped together, some with their faces bowed to the ground in prayerful silence.
Solemn moments of repentance mixed with loud bursts of praise as men shouted or high-fived each other.
The event reflected changes seen in men's ministries as events have shifted from mass gatherings to smaller groups and fellowships. Just as this year's event attracted a smaller crowd, there are new networks drawing smaller groups of men to activities around the country.
Promise Keepers, which spearheaded the original “Stand in the Gap” assembly 10 years ago, endorsed the weekend meeting but was not an official sponsor.
While the 1997 rally brought hundreds of thousands of men to Washington, organizers of this year's event obtained a permit for 10,000, and the numbers who showed up totaled a few thousand.
Promise Keepers, which once packed stadiums and held dozens of conferences annually, this year hosted seven smaller gatherings. Next month, the group plans to launch a new Saturday morning “cinematic program” in local theaters to urge men to get involved in community service projects.
“The large, catalytic event that used to be synonymous with the Christian men's movement no longer defines the movement,” said Drew Dyck, assistant editor of New Man magazine.