Growing Higher

Dr. Scott Dudley will join Christian Music Artist Clay Crosse as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Higher Ground Men’s Conference, on Saturday, February 27. Known for its straight talk and practical tools for the very real issues men of faith face daily in a compromised culture, Higher Ground has become synonymous with dynamic life change for men of faith in the Pacific Northwest.

Men just like Kevin.*

“As a young man I married a godly young woman and we served God together for decades. We recently celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. But we almost didn’t make it.”

Like so many men of faith, Kevin had a deep wound that he kept a secret until it almost unraveled his life. Due to chronic health issues suffered by Kevin’s wife, their intimacy – both emotionally and sexually – became virtually non-existent by 2013. When his wife said “I can’t,” Kevin’s heart heard, “I don’t want to,” and he started believing the lie that she didn’t love him anymore. As a result he began to consider both divorce and sexual sin.

That same year, Kevin’s pastor encouraged all of the men in their church to attend Higher Ground, and to take their sons. “Going as a group at our pastor’s urging meant I wasn’t admitting to a problem,” Kevin confessed. “No one talked about sexual integrity at church, and in my mind, going to a conference about it on my own would have been equal to admission that I had a problem. No way was I going to admit that to my wife, or any of the men in my church!”

But at that conference, the speakers, breakout presenters, and fellow attendees spoke openly and honestly about their own struggles, and Kevin realized that the temptations and challenges he was facing were very common. Getting real with other men who attended removed the barriers and allowed Kevin to pour out his heart at a men’s retreat later that year during group prayer. Healing came, changing his heart toward his wife and toward his marriage.

“I began praying regularly, ‘Lord help me to love my wife well in everything I say and do so she will feel cherished.’”

Opening the 2016 conference will be 4-time Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Award winning Christian music artist Clay Crosse. Clay has a powerful story of brokenness to victory as he came to confess to God, himself, his wife, and the Christian music industry, his descent into consuming pornography at the very height of his contemporary Christian music career.

The sharing of Clay’s story will be especially impactful and helpful for dads looking for a framework and tools for those necessary but sometimes difficult father-son conversations about sexuality, purity and the very real temptations men of faith face throughout their lives in a fragmented and over-sexualized culture.

“I always think back to the fourth grade as the beginning of me seeing some things that I didn’t need to see, that were damaging to me,” Clay shared. “I wish someone had been with me right then to say, ‘Hey, I understand why you want to look at that, but one day you’re going to be married to a wife you adore and you’re going to wish you had never seen these images.’”

Doug Engberg is a former BelPres elder and serves on the board of Prodigals International, the organization that organizes the conference. “To help dads, Higher Ground will feature a special father-son tract of breakout sessions,” Engberg said. “The sessions are designed as launching pads for discussing father-son accountability and how to truly raise our boys to be men of faith. We also have a unique session designed to help dads assess how to tell when technology becomes an unhealthy obsession during the teen years. This is a huge concern with parents today.”

Dr. Dudley will close out the conference, pulling from key themes from his Pathfinders series that he shared at BelPres last fall (online at “When a couple of us from the Higher Ground team heard Dr. Dudley speak about ‘the death of cultural Christianity’ and how that presented a unique opportunity to get real with our faith and truly impact our communities, we knew that was exactly the encouragement and challenge we wanted to close out the conference with,” Engberg said. “Higher Ground is all about encouraging men toward integrity in every facet of a man’s life, and Scott’s message of pushing past ‘church as usual’ and becoming champions of real change in our lives and in our communities is perfectly on target with Higher Ground’s overall mission.”

Designed for men, and youth aged 13 and older, the unique approach of each keynote speaker and breakout presenter strives to deliver conversation not found in other conferences, or in a typical church setting.

“We don’t shy away from the difficult topics of guarding a man’s heart against lust, pornography, or anything that threatens to erode a man’s integrity,” Steve Dulaney, president of Prodigals International, said. “Certainly, every man who attends Higher Ground isn’t engaging in sexual brokenness, but so many men come because they understand our culture is a war zone, and they want to equip themselves, equip their sons, and be a real friend and support men who are struggling with these things.”

And that friendship and support made all the difference for Kevin.

“My wife and I now communicate our intimacy needs with each other and effectively meet those needs within the physical limitations that have become our reality,” Kevin said. “That level of communication would not have been possible without the freedom I received through what I learned at Higher Ground. I’ve gone back every year, and always come back with something practical.”

For more information about Higher Grounds keynote speakers and breakout session detail visit  If you are interested in being a point person for organizing a group of men to attend Higher Ground, contact

*Name changed to protect anonymity.

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