This month’s speaker is Trey Etheridge, a founder of MPACT Ministries in Melbourne, Florida (their tagline: “Discovering grace one man at a time”). When struggling men come to his ministry for help, he often knows firsthand what they’re going through: In 2010, faced with mounting financial troubles and a marriage damaged beyond repair, Etheridge nearly took his own life. Fortunately, he says, a phone call from a caring friend reminded him of the true meaning of grace—grace he now tries to share with men going through similar crises, even those who are all but convinced they’re beyond saving. “I don’t have all the answers, but this is how Jesus affected me, this is what I understand from the Bible about what it means to believe in Him, and this is how I got there—and I can give that story to somebody,” Etheridge explains. “When a man realizes what the blood of Christ means and grows in the knowledge of what grace truly means, and he realizes how powerful grace is, I think that’s when the light bulbs start going off in his heart.”
Hello and Welcome. I’m Paul Amos, founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed is a place in a community for men of all types and all backgrounds to come together to share both life’s difficulties as well as the triumphs over those difficulties. Today we’re here on one of our video podcasts, to talk with a good friend and the founder of Men Passionate About Christ, Trey Etheridge.
Trey Etheridge: I’m just so excited to be here, and to be with you, we’ve had a good few days.
Paul Amos: We have had a good few days. I was fortunate enough to get to come down to your conference and talk about faith in the work place. Over 200 men you guys had, and it’s a phenomenal enterprise that really is turning out from a ministry that you started.
Trey Etheridge: I pinch myself every day. This weekend was great, it the middle of the summer we had a full house. I know everyone’s moving around on vacations and everything else, and for us to have 200 men come together in the spirit of Christ and talk about our number one mission places, where we work from Monday through Friday for 40-50 hours a week. It was a great session for men to get some enlightenment, to get some suggestions, get some great ideas on how to share that faith at the workplace.
Paul Amos: Faith in the workplace is a difficult topic. It’s something that people have to balance, especially if you’re in corporate America today, more and more, there is a belief of removing Christ and removing our faith from the work site.
Trey Etheridge: That’s happening at work. It’s happening in schools. It’s happening in other places. It’s no wonder some of the troubles that we’re going through in our country now, it all adds up. To have you there and to have the other two leaders there to talk about that with these men, there was a lot of light bulbs that went off and we had just great feedback this week on it.
Q: Paul Amos: Well, let me kick this off the way I like to start or these and ask: What does redemption mean to you?
A: Trey Etheridge: Redemption means to me means that I have been pardoned for my past bad behaviors like Websters almost defines exactly, but it’s even deeper than that. David wrote in songs, ‘I will remember your transgressions no more as far as the East is from the West.’ Through the blood of Christ, I can walk in that confidence, I can walk on that boldness of knowing that my past is gone. I don’t have to beat myself up for it anymore. I’m not haunted by some of the things I’ve done in the past or things that have been experienced. Although I may think about it, I don’t get hung up on it anymore, and I don’t worry as much about what my future holds. I know through the blood of Christ, he’s going to guide me, and the Holy Spirit inside of me is going to guide me through those tough times where his grace is just so overflowing and overpowering to me, it’s going to guide me to the rest of my life. That’s what redemption means to me is I have a freedom I’ve never filled before.
Q: Paul Amos: I think one of the things that men watching this struggle with is how shame works into this, you just said you’re free from it, but you also said that you remember it at times. If you can, talk for a minute about how you teach men to handle shame and handle the pain of the past.
A: Trey Etheridge: Many Christian men are still are hung up on that one thing that they did in their past. They ask their selves, ‘Did God really forgive me of that?’ We think it’s so horrible or we hurt somebody, or whatever it is. There are consequences for sin, that’s just the Biblical truth, and it’s also the worldly truth. There are consequences for sin, but when a man that we work with finally begins to understand what Jesus’s blood truly did to them on that cross and what his resurrection meant for them eternally, those light bulbs go off.
Through our brotherhood that man can confess and purge and get those things out. We see light bulbs going off, we see weights being taken off a guy’s shoulders of Jesus’s blood really meant something! God set it up for a reason and His plan worked perfectly, and I am forgiven. I am redeemed, I am forgiven, I’m set apart and holy, as Paul says in the Corinthian. I’m justified under the law of God as a totally forgiven child of God.
The men we work with, we try to try to work with him on understanding that they get to walk that out every day instead of being in shame. You’re almost in a little bit of a bondage situation thinking about that kind of stuff, and that holds you back.
Jesus is about freedom and moving forward with boldness and humbleness, and being bold in the spirit and shouting it out that there’s hope for you!
There’s things in my past I look back on and just kind of cringe, but at the same time, I understand the blood means. The blood is of Christ forgives sins. He cleansed me the day I believed, and every day I grow in knowledge of that bit by bit by bit, and I grow deeper in that understanding, and it’s just an amazing place to be in.
Paul Amos: I know sometimes it’s difficult, but we would love to hear a little bit about your story and how you came to Christ. You just mentioned your past and where it came from, and so if you don’t mind, tell a little bit of your background.
Trey Etheridge: I joke with people that I had an amazing childhood, and my wife jokes around and others that my family was like The Cunningham’s on Happy Days. I was Richie, I was that guy, that all-American kid. My home life growing up was great. I went to church every week. My dad was on the board at our church in Texas. I was at a church camp in the hill country of Texas when I was 13 in the summer, and I felt the Lord called me that day. I shouted it out at the top of my lungs under that pavilion where we were having praise and worship, and I shouted it out so everybody could hear it, and I felt amazing. And then from that point forward, I was a little lost on what to do next, quite frankly.
I kept going to church and going through this life of going to church, check the box, move on to the next thing. Then college came and different temptations came, like so many men have, and I got into this routine of a performance-based belief, the better I do, the harder I try, the more control I have, the better things are going to be.
Over the years, and that control, I finally felt I couldn’t anymore. It led me to financial ruin, it led me to a divorce, it led me to deep dark places.
There was one point about 11 years ago, and I was in that deep dark place. It’s crazy how Satan chirps in your ear. ‘They’re better off without you.’ I was sitting in a rest area one night on Interstate 95 in Florida. I was in my pick-up truck parked there, and I had a knife trying to decide if it was going to be my wrist or is going to be my throat?
It was crazy, Paul, how it works, how you think. I wasn’t in my right mind. I believed in Jesus, but I just never really allowed Him to control my life or give everything to Him. That night I was literally thinking things like, ‘Which is going to leave the least amount of mess, because I know my son’s going to get this truck?’, and ‘How is the funeral home man going to cover up the scars so my mom won’t see what’s there?’ I was in a deep, deep, dark place. My home was being foreclosed on, my marriage was ending, because I wasn’t being the spiritual leader, but I had no clue how to be the spiritual leader that God intended me to be. I just didn’t know Jesus yet. I believed, but I really didn’t know it.
That night, as I cried out to Him, blaming Him for everything in my life. Losing my business. Financial hardships; I think I had $600 in a bank with an $1800 mortgage due the next week and the foreclosure papers at the house. I screamed out, ‘I believe in you. Why don’t you fix this?’
For some reason, I had this overwhelming peace start hitting me. I felt him saying, ‘Glad you turned to me. I’m glad you called. I’ve been watching for a long time, and you never really call out to me anymore, and so it’s good to hear your voice!’
Then something kind of crazy happened. I sensed it, you can say I heard the words, I felt the words, I thought the words, but I heard the thought, ‘Who’s going to be there for your son on Friday night to watch him play football?’
And then the next words were, even more scary. I didn’t get it. He says, ‘You are going to need to be there.’ And it was puzzling, I was like, I don’t know how I feel this, and all this is coming to my mind in my heart right now.
Then right about that time, my phone rang, and it was a brother of mine, a great friend of mine, I coached Little League ball with him. Our sons are great friends to this day, and I picked up the phone expecting someone to be screaming at me, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ and all I heard was ‘Brother, I love you. I know what’s going on. We need to talk, but I can’t talk to you over the phone, I need to see you face-to-face, will tell me where you are, I’m coming to get you.’
And there was no judgment, there was no condemnation. I felt nothing but grace, and as soon as he got through saying those words, I opened my mouth and I began purging things that I had buried from my past 20, 30 years. Sin and confessing, looking up to God saying, I’ve been filling myself up with everything but you, since that day in Texas, when I heard you called on me and I asked you to come into my heart. That began to change for me, that was a transformational moment.
In spite of everything I’ve done, He never left me. And I got that sense. And it was crazy, Paul, because he told me, who’s going to watch your son play football on Friday, right, you’re going to need to be there one night, and it was sure enough, it was three months later with a TV audience, my son had the worst night of his life on a football field. It was awful, and he was devastated. He didn’t come home right away after the game. The game had a state playoff type implications and all that, and I sat there worried about him. Wouldn’t answer his phone, and he finally about 12:30 at night, pulled into the driveway and he came inside the house and his mother and I were there and he collapsed in my arms and beginning weeping. I laid with my son, my 15-year-old son all night while he cried on my shoulder. I slept with him, the last time I physically held my little boy like that. And I was sitting there with him, and I just thought back to three months before, ‘Who’s going to watch him play Friday? You’re going to need to be there.’
That was probably the most dramatic moment inside of me I’ve ever had. I felt there was no way I could leave my son, because there’s no way Jesus ever left me. He’s been right with me the whole time, even in the bad stuff I’ve done and the jams I’ve gotten myself into.
That conversation with my friend was also the seed that was planted for Men Passionate About Christ and brothers getting real with each other, talking with each other, and supporting each other through the Holy Spirit.
Paul Amos: First of all, thank you for your candor. Thank you for your story. That’s inspiring, and it’s also heartbreaking. I appreciate you being willing to sit here and talk about it with us.
So, 11 years has gone by and here you are on the precipice of taking this ministry to an entirely different level. Men Passion About Christ. Talk for a minute about the formation of MPACT Ministries and about what your objectives are for the ministry.
Trey Etheridge: A little extra back story on it. It wasn’t immediate. I got divorced, I was alone in a house that was being taken over by the bank, but the grace of God shown through. I had a great friend of mine who was a real estate agent that called me and said, ‘I think I’ve got a solution for you.’ We negotiated a short sell, which helped me tremendously as far as just life and pride and everything else. So that was a big moment.
I went about life for a couple of years, just trying to figure myself out. I met Donna. When I met Donna seven years ago, it was four years after the divorce. I met her and we got married and I moved to where she lives and where our home is now in Melbourne, Florida. I started going to her church and I fell in love with the people, it’s just a great group of guys. I was in one of the Bible studies, but at the same time I was thinking that there’s just something missing.
A bit more back story, I was in that place of suicidal thoughts, but there were three other men that I knew that were acquaintances of mine that had taken their lives. It left so many questions and I wondered what was going on in their lives. Afterwards, things start coming out, debt or addiction or job or whatever it was. And I’m thinking, if these guys were my friends, why don’t I know that? Those things were eating me up.
Then I got a call one day from a wife of one of my friends. I answered the phone and she said, Trey, I’ve got bad news for you. And I said, ‘What’s up?’ And she said, Well, we found Raul dead yesterday, he had killed himself.
I was with the guy two days before! She started going through these things, Paul, with me. She said, well, you know, he lost his job. And I said, I thought he just changed jobs. She goes, No, got fired because he was arrested in the company car under the influence of alcohol. Yeah, he was an alcoholic.
I’d never seen him drink in my life, never. I’ve been in a restaurant eating dinner with him, and it was always Diet Coke. She said, ‘No, Trey, it was behind the scenes. And he was bipolar.’ I had no clue. He was dealing with all these demons.
It just really hit me. Us guys… What’s wrong with us? We push these things down, we try to put up a facade to the world. That’s when I talked to my wife and I said, I am trying to get a few guys together and try something different than just a Bible study. The Bible is going to be key with it. And she goes, I think you should, I can see it coming out of you.
So I got three friends, called them up and I said, ‘Come to my living room on Tuesday night, and I want to try something different. No women allowed. I’ll fill you in when you get here.’ They came and I said, I want to do something as men, and I want to hear your story right now. So the four of us just started bringing stuff from our past out that we’d never told anybody in our life.
We dove into some scripture and saw where some of the apostles struggled with things while they were trying to plant the church. We saw some of the struggles of some of the characters from the Old Testament and the people that had killed people or committed adultery. All of a sudden, the more we talk, the more we just felt weights coming off our shoulders.
Over time, the four of us turned into six, that turned into eight, and we outgrew my living room (and my wife was real happy about that, because she didn’t have to leave). We started meeting every morning, and social media started. Now Men Passionate About Christ is an non-profit organization where we help me and overcome through our brotherhood and the spirit of James 5:16:
Confess your sins to one another, and through that confession and prayer and the Holy Spirit, a healing will begin.
We just fill in some magical start happening, and that’s how the ministry started. We had 200 men in Florida last week getting real with each other about who they are in Christ, spiritual leaders of our homes and exploring what Jesus really did to us.
Paul Amos: One of the things that impacted me the other day was you went line by line to each of the important small groups. You talk about the leader, you talk about the focus, you talked about the power of that, and it sounds like the origin that began with you and the four members of your in your living room has a lot to do with why you push small groups. We had 200 guys in the room the other day, and it was powerful.
Q: What’s the importance of balance between those mega events and the small group?
Trey Etheridge: Small groups are where the rubber meets the road. Whether I’m sitting across the table from somebody with a cup of coffee, or it’s eight men. We meet for sunrise on the river and watch the sun come up two days a week. Having that sense of confidentiality, that sense of no judgment, that sense of no condemnation, that sense of transparency.
In a big, big conference type scenario, those are tough. Men come in, they’re intimidated by the size of the group, but if you narrow it down to seven or eight that you can just continue a process with of growing in who you are and the knowledge of who you are in Christ, and how His Holy Spirit and His grace helps free you from all of those things in your past and what you might do in the future, it frees you up. Jesus didn’t do it alone. He had 12, and I think He’s the prime example.
As men, we have to get past that macho thing of ‘I got this. I don’t want to show any weakness.’ And when you get to show your vulnerability, you see the vulnerability of some of the guys and the characters in the Bible, and you can kind of relate to who they were and what they did, and know that they had thorns in their sides too. It just kind of brings a peace to you that, ‘Okay, He’s with me. He’s not leaving me. I’m going to get through this. He’s going to help me with this addiction, or he’s going to help me with porn use, or he’s going to help me adultery or whatever it is, you fill in the blank… money problems or parenthood problems, etc. We as a brotherhood come together and someone else has experienced that, just like you.
Paul Amos: One of the great pastors that I ever spent time with taught me about the “Paul suit”. That was the fake facade that I put on for the rest of the world. I realized that I spent more time trying to build out an image that I actually did trying to build the character inside of myself.
I had this fake facade and this empty heart, and it truly almost broke me. I’m curious, as you think about that facade that people put on, how can we help men take off that suit? How can we help them begin to get to a place where they’re comfortable with confession? Confidentiality is something that has to be earned. So the ability to get in front of a group of guys and pour out your heart, very seldom does somebody step in and say, ‘Oh yeah, I just want to open up and tell my whole story.’
How do you encourage men to begin to let down and begin to let out the years of sin or problems that have happened in their world? I know for me, it was decades of issues that I had to let go of when I finally got to a place to find confession.
Trey Etheridge: That’s the biggest challenge. And first off, is the example that you or I would give to somebody. I’m an open book with guys now. There are guys that know stuff about me that no one else knows, and it’s a process. We have men that come to our meetings that they’re quiet the first few times. They’re soaking it in. But then all of a sudden, something will trigger.
Without getting into too many details, we had one man, a pastor’s kid, and we were getting real on the topic of the day. The conversation turned to lust and sex. And he was so quiet. And then in a pause, in a brief moment, he just mentions this woman’s name. Part of our process is we don’t try to offer help right away, we just try to listen.
Men don’t want to be fixed, they want to get it out. And so we sat there for a minute, and then he told us this horrific story about his first sexual experience that he had never told anyone in 40 years. That sexual experience warped his mind on sexuality as a whole. As he was talking, the tear started flowing, and you could see this burden, just getting lighter and lighter.
I talk about our identity as Christians all the time, people say some like a broken record, but I really talk to men in depth about what Jesus did to you on that cross. His blood meant something, and it was the biggest moment in the history of the world. You think about the Pentecost and the 12 men, until that time, did they really get it? I think they were kind of lost, they all scattered when Jesus went to the cross.
I really try to emphasize who you are as a Christian, and your identity now is Jesus. Your identity isn’t that experience you had that’s been haunting you for so many years, your identity is not the bottle you go to, your identity is not your sexuality, or the cars you have, or the money you had. Your identity is Christ, and if you walk that out every day, he’s going to take care of the other.
With the guys, the transparency and the confidentiality is huge, but also trying to get them to understand what Jesus really did to you. It’s a huge thing because we’re not really taught that growing up. So many people just listen to a pastor from a pulpit, but they never open up the book and really dive into who they are in an identity from Paul’s writings and James’ and Peters’.
There are two key things we try to work with on guys:
Paul Amos: I feel like that Covid has brought upon a whole new level of issues, depression, sadness, addiction, pornography. Things that men were on the cusp struggling with, or we’re struggling with that have gotten worse. What are you seeing out there? And how can men right now help turn away from the things that may have been brought on by this isolation and by this period of abnormality to our world?
Trey Etheridge: I think about that all the time. It disrupted us for a while. We wouldn’t meet, the restaurant where we usually met in the back room, they closed down totally. We tried to do Zoom calls and stuff, but for some reason, a Zoom calls, great for a Bible study, but for what we do, it just wasn’t really working.
As things lightened up a little bit after a few weeks, I just said, ‘Let’s go to the river and watch a sunrise. We will be outside, we can spread out.’ Now that everything’s open back up, no one wants to go back to the restaurant.
But to answer your question, you’re right. Suicide rates are up, especially among kids. Alcoholism went up. The latest stat I saw was the search for the words porn or porn hub went up depending on the country you were in between 18 and 50%. That’s a trap. We are huge supporters of anti-porn and anti-trafficking organizations, because they go hand-in-hand.Every time we click on a porn screen, we increase the chance of a young lady or a child being abducted.
Depression and anxiety obviously went up because of losing jobs, you’re locked in a house. Domestic violence went up because husbands and wives are in the house all the time together, they got angry at each other.
I think Covid affected us quite a lot along those lines, but at the same time, I think at the core it made so many people more hungry and made a lot of people miss just going to church. I think as we’re coming out of it and moving back through, we had 200 guys there last week, and it was over what we projected.
I just think Satan’s playing with us with this disease. My friend Michael, said, ‘God’s planning something bigger.’ We just have to keep moving forward. God knows what’s happening and He’s in total control. He’s totally sovereign. The question is, do we really trust him enough to go the distance with Him on it?
Paul Amos: I want to remind you that The Redeemed is out on social media, please follow us, tag us and look for us. We’ll be having another upcoming webcast next month, and we just thank you and look forward to the third Thursday. Thank you and Godspeed.