LEETONIA - In its the fourth year, the Men's Rally in the Valley returns to the Covelli Centre with a lineup of inspirational speakers and religious-themed entertainment.
Last year's event drew "right around 4,000," Wayne "Bing" Newton said, adding organizers are expecting around 6,000 at the May 4 event in Youngstown .
Organized in 2010 by Men of Faith, an informal group of Christian men based in Columbiana County, the rally encourages each in their faith.
Men of Faith was established in 2001 and is led by Newton, a retired Salem High School teacher and coach.
"God is using a different approach this year. In other words we're going one-on-one. He's challenging us to bring men with us. Not so much (through) billboards - (which are) not as important as you and I. It's a more personal approach" Newton explained.
"I think God is really moving through our valley more. We're encouraging churches that if they purchase 25 wrist bands they get 25 free to distribute to people outside."
Newton wears five wristbands and gives one to people he meets "to encourage them to go with me," he said.
As far as the 25 free wristbands go, Newton said, "We never did this before. We are going to contact every church across the valley. We sent out over 1,500 postcards two weeks ago - pastors wanting to get involved and even being on the team. I think the big thing will be when we follow them up through coordinators in each of the cities."
The tri-county area including Stark County in Ohio and Shenango and Hermitage in Pennsylvania are the basic areas in which the Men of Faith draw core members and hold team meetings.
Men's Rally attendees have traveled from Cleveland, Norwalk and surrounding areas. Newton expects a busload from the Norwalk area for a Teen Challenge in May.
"When God gets into it ... it just explodes," he said.
The rally theme is "Iron Sharpens Iron" from Proverbs 27:17 and Newton said the thinking on that is "one man helps to sharpen another man. It's the heart of Christianity; so iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another."
The first speaker will be Joe White on the properties of iron. Newton said that of all the speakers, White is "probably most impressive speaker" he's heard in his life.
Ebenezer Abbiagyei, pastor of New Hope Free Methodist Church in Warren and originally from Ghanna, will speak on the preparation and process of iron.
Bob Pavlich, a director of the Teen Challenge in Youngstown, will speak on "how God sharpened me." Neal Jeffrey, associate pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas and former quarterback for San Diego Chargers, will talk on the re-sharpening of iron.
Juan Rivera, pastor at New Life in Poland, will talk about how God uses men of iron while Ken Johnson, chaplain of Indianapolis Colts, will talk about being on the look out for iron: outside the walls of the churches as they work with God's people.
Entertainment so far has been tentatively scheduled by coordinator Mark Plegge who has arranged for Salem's Faith Chapel praise and worship group, the Boardman Christian praise and worship group and the Teen Challenge Choir from Youngstown to perform.
Another choir, "Calvary" from Youngstown, is a possible performer.
While fashioned after the "Promise Keeper" rallies that attracted upwards of 70,000 attendees years ago, Newton said the Men's Rally venue enables "us to see if what we do at smaller events will have more of an impact on the men."
He said the days of the big rallies have passed.
It was started two years ago and will continue in May with a group carrying a 300- to 400-pound cross from Trumbull County to the Covelli Centre.
"They carry it all night long," Newton said.
In the past the groups carried it the 18 miles from Hermitage.
This year's route has not been set, Newton said, but it will begin north, in Trumbull county.
Admission wristbands for $15 are available locally at Lion & Lamb in Salem, Shoppers Choice Marathon in Washingtonville and the Second Blessing, Salem on S. Broadway Ave.
The day-long event includes a boxed lunch which is tentatively scheduled from 12 to 1 p.m.
There will be a Women's Rally in the Valley on April 20.
Larry Shields can be reached at email@example.com