Books The Arts

Review: 33 The Series (From the Creators of Men’s Fraternity)

Jemar Tisby

Reviewed by: Elbert McGowan, Jr., Guest Contributor

I have been pastoring college students for the past six years, on the campus of Jackson State University (JSU). JSU is one of the largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the country.  My college ministry, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), is the first such chapter started on a HBCU.

As I shepherd the young Black men on our campus I find that they are greatly influenced by Hip-Hop culture and thought.  Some of this music can glorify the very things that lands one into prison. I am not blaming Hip-Hop. We are all led astray by our own sinful desires. Nonetheless, a great deal of our college enrolling and class attending African American men are living very conflicted and confused lives.

About three years ago, I was tired and frustrated with having the same conversations with numerous guys, individually. I noticed reoccurring themes, issues, and faulty thinking. It dawned on me that there must be a way to efficiently and effectively pastor them collectively.

Guys Group

I responded by prayerfully launching what we called “Guys Group.” The following year we changed the name to “Man-up” and added more structure to the study. Man-up is a phrase popularized by a recent CD/Project of Reach Records. If you don’t own the album, get it!

Our group entailed 5 things: Scripture Memory, Accountability, Instruction, Modeling, and Fellowship.  We also planned regular events where I brought them around other godly men in order to watch how a man thinks and lives.

The young men got a chance to meet my father, who is now a follower of Christ and a deacon at our church, and numerous men in the church who love the Lord. Finally, we planned numerous events where we did things men do: shoot guns, watch football, eat wings, and chill.

While the pride in me wants to say our group was a success, the Jesus in me frees me to be candid. It was both good and bad. I found myself pulling resources from numerous books, sermons and articles. I felt unorganized and overwhelmed with the topic.

Despite the ups and downs, our young men begged me to continue it. Yet, I didn’t have the energy, time, or wisdom to create new material every week. Between raising support, preaching weekly on campus, preaching in local churches, meeting with students for one on one discipleship, leading multiple small groups, and remaining involved in my local church, continuing “Man-Up” felt like yet another thing to do.

33 the Series

One Sunday morning, during a retreat to Memphis with our JSU students, we worshipped at Fellowship Memphis.  As we were about to leave the pastor, Ricky Jenkins, gave me a copy of 33 the SeriesTM.

Pastor Ricky, who is also one of the contributors to 33 the Series, explained that the series is part of the Authentic Manhood curriculum which also includes the Men’s Fraternity series.

The website explains, “The Authentic Manhood movement finds it’s foundation in Jesus Christ. Modeled on the 33 years He lived on earth. His life gives us a clear vision of the manhood God calls us to embrace, a proper lens to view and examine our lives through.”

Although it’s best to start at the beginning of the semester, after watching two of the lessons,I prayerfully launched it mid-semester!

We have loved it. It has been one of the best Bible studies we’ve offered. We will continue this series, for our men, for years to come.

Here’s Why I love 33 The SeriesTM

1. True Manhood Flows from Unity with Christ

The series constantly reminds us that true manhood flows out of our union with Christ. Only when we are restored in Him, do we have the desire and power to change. Once we are made knew in Christ, we are immediately directed to the perfect image of authentic manhood, the person of Jesus.

2. A Multi-Faceted Understanding of Biblical Manhood

Jesus’ life was replete with situations that elicited various responses from Him.  He was tender with widows and the broken.  He was stern with Pharisees and religious leaders who challenged his authority.  Our young men need help to discern which circumstances require bold, protective, or courageous action and which ones require gentleness and patient deliberation. This series  equips young men to act in nuanced ways, by God’s grace, in a manner that honors Christ.

3. Diversity on the Teaching Team

There is an African-American pastor on the teaching team. This was huge for my demographic. You walk away with a visible reminder that there are godly Black men in the kingdom and that Christianity is not limited to our White brothers.

4. Team Beats Individual

There is a teaching team. Iron sharpens iron and where there is an abundance of counselors there is wisdom and safety.

5. The Importance of Men to Society

It properly uses world history and statistics to validate the obvious; men will make or break societies, families, businesses, churches and epochs in history.

6. Realistic Assessment of the State of Manhood

The series is not afraid to deal with the social-injustices that have led to such a demoralizing state of manhood.

7. Manhood Is not Merely Presence

It is sensitive to the fact that you can fail at leading your family without ever physically leaving your wife and children. We can get preoccupied with the wrong battles or “wear the wrong face” of manhood at the wrong time.

8. Multi-Media

Teaching is always balanced with supplemental video, music, montages, or sermonettes that reinforce and illustrate what has been taught.

9. Up to a Year of Material

The Series is currently 2 Volumes, and could possibly extend to 6. Each volume contains 6 lessons. This means that by the time the project is completed, we could very well have a 36 week course/curriculum on Biblical Manhood that integrates numerous scholars, pastors, resources, and art! Imagine committing to one year (factoring in holidays, breaks, etc.) to do this! Imagine training a group of elders, leaders, deacons and then entrusting them with the privilege of leading more men through it. The creators are aware that the topic of Biblical Manhood is robust and broad.

A Starting Point

Lest I make this series the solution to all of your desires to raise up men, remember that no study or curriculum, created by someone else, can perfectly fit your group. It is meant to be a starting point. It is meant to put something tangible, relevant, proven, and biblically sound in your hands in order to ease the burden of creating new material alone.

Immerse yourself in the series. Make notes of how to specifically engage your group. Follow up with your participants during the week. Plan numerous events to promote fellowship outside of the study. Pray for them and the men putting this together. Enjoy it, to the glory of Christ.

Click here for more information!

Elbert is originally from Jackson, Mississippi. He attended Alabama A&M University where he graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He received a Masters of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.  He is a Teaching Elder (PCA) and currently serves as a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. His wife is Karen and they have two kids, Karis and Tripp.

4 thoughts on “Review: 33 The Series (From the Creators of Men’s Fraternity)

  1. Elbert

    Craig and Mike, thanks for responding to the article. If you have any more questions about it, don’t hesitate to email me at

    If you want to talk about this, I’ll also shoot you my cell phone number. Hope it helps.

  2. Craig

    Thanks for the review. We will be starting this study shortly. We are currently finishing up year 3 of the Original Men’s Fraternity Series.

  3. admin

    Hey Mike,

    Check for more details! Thanks for reading!

  4. Mike Barksdale

    Where can I find more information on this?

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