Having seen the head of Christian Vision for Men (CVM) give his seminar at New Wine, I waited patiently as a queue of people formed to speak to Carl. He would later reveal, while making a point about lust being a “primary issue” for men, that every conversation he had was about sexual sin.
After half an hour of Carl counseling and praying for people, we made our way to the speaker’s tent to discuss his vision of seeing a million men come to faith in Jesus.
One Million Men
Carl tells me that according to surveys, 75% of British men are antagonistic when it comes to the gospel. “Which leaves 25% who are not…I think we can take a million of that 25%. I think it’s a God given figure actually. I had a prophetic guy contact me recently who said ‘I don’t think a million is enough, you need to up your game’ which is quite interesting.”
Speaking bluntly throughout our interview, Carl keeps his answers to my questions brief and to the point. He’s just explained CVM’s four levels of evangelism. 500 small groups across the UK and beyond aim to: 1) Befriend other men 2) hold an event with a speaker who shares the gospel 3) organise an all male course further explaining the gospel 4) help people find a male friendly church.
Starting a fight
Next, the subject turns to testosterone.
“I’ve got my testosterone for a reason and since I don’t need to hunt a stag for dinner anymore, I might as well use it for something,” Carl says
“I’m trying to call the guys to get involved in a fight with something that’s noble and good.”
“We’ve been given a fighting spirit so I’m trying to call the guys to get involved in a fight with something that’s noble and good. I’m not talking about bar room brawls but the spiritual equivalent of that.”
“Let’s tackle issues like violence against women, seek to become better husbands and fathers or if we’re single keep our sexual integrity. We’re there to make a profound difference and bring men to Christ. So use your testosterone for good.”
The 12 point honour code Carl developed has resonated with thousands of men across the UK. What is it about?
“It’s like a new monastic order without the celibacy and we can still have a drink,” he says.
“The idea is you read it, are inspired by it and take action because of it. There’s things like ‘Jesus is my captain brother, rescuer and friend’ which is a declaration of faith and the last one is ‘I’ll never give up because he’ll never give on me’ which is a declaration of grace.”
“There’s stuff like ‘I’ll treat all men and women as brothers and sisters.’ If you do that you’re not going to jack off to porn because she’s a potential sister in Christ.”
“We thought about 12 areas of a man’s life that need to be brought into sharp focus. It took two years to work out 12 statements. Normally I do things in half an hour so that was quite challenging,” he admits.
Following on from The Code, Carl has just released a series of short snappy devotions for men called The Manual.
“On the basis that most men’s attention span is short and we like things that are blunt and direct we thought we’d pick on the issues that man are facing. They are 200-300 words long and start with a verse and end with a prayer. The idea is everyday a guy can pick them up, read it and get something out of it. It’s not irrelevant fluffy stuff, it’s real stuff that men are facing.”
Although these devotions are hot off the press, feedback has been rolling in already. “I had one guy saying he’s reading it outside of work with two younger men he’s led to Christ before they walk through the office doors. Crucially what we’ve done is we haven’t dated it, we’ve numbered it. If blokes miss the date they won’t look back at it through guilt but if they are looking at number 13 it doesn’t really matter.”
“It’s not irrelevant fluffy stuff, it’s real stuff that men are facing”
‘Why are there tissues everywhere?!’
Those familiar with Carl and his ministry will be unsurprised to hear him complain about what he calls the “romanticisation” of the Church. His seminar at New Wine included a moment where he kicked a box of tissues across the stage asking, “Why are there tissues everywhere!? Do they think we’re all going to cry or something!?”
It was moments like this that made me compare Carl to the controversial US pastor Mark Driscoll. “Yeah people say that,” he replies when I put this to him. “We’re the same age but I’m not as belligerent as he is. I don’t know. I think I’m my own man.”
CVM’s annual event, The Gathering certainly sounds like an event for manly men. “1500 guys together in a field. We burn stuff, eat stuff and talk to people about Jesus. We sing hymns, we don’t sing romantic songs. We make a lot of noise and it’s great fun. We have sports cars and that kind of stuff, it’s good blokey fun.”
Carl says the women he speaks to hate the romanticisation of the church too. “There’s a really small group of people who are really heavily into some of the intimacy stuff and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them but I would say is ‘don’t inflict that on the rest of us who don’t get it.’”
“A lot of people think you’ve not achieved this revelation of God if you’re not in that zone. They think you’ve got issues because you can’t say ‘Jesus is my lover’ or ‘He is beautiful’. I say ‘if that means I’ve got issues then I’ll keep them! I like those issues!’”
Amusing throughout our short conversation, Carl isn’t afraid to be direct and make important and weighty points. But he isn’t quite as macho as he sometimes comes across. “I drink warm beer in warm pubs with newspapers,” he says as we finish our conversation.
After thanking him for his time, I get up to leave. “Don’t write anything that will make people hate me too much,” he asks. Smiling I reply, “I’ll do my best!”