Starting next week, thousands of men worldwide will voluntarily give up alcohol, sweets, television and warm showers for the next three months.
Participants in the next round of the Exodus 90 program – which begins Jan. 17 and ends 90 days later on Easter – will abstain from these comforts and several others and commit to a daily hour of reflection and prayer as they seek to grow closer to God and focus on what matters most through the spiritual disciplines of asceticism, prayer and building fraternity with other men in the program.
“In the middle of your ordinary life, if you just make some space, God can move,” Exodus 90 co-founder and CEO James Baxter said. “When that happens, you find more peace. You find more joy. You find more freedom.”
Baxter, a Fort Wayne resident who grew up in Zionsville, helped launch the program in 2016 with the encouragement of The Rev. Brian Doerr, who led seminary students through similar disciplines. Doerr, who is now pastor at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel, saw the positive results the program was having with his students and believed it would be beneficial beyond the seminary walls.
The first year, the program had 750 participants, and the following year participation more than doubled. Over the past five years, more than 50,000 men from 70 nations have completed the journey. Baxter is hoping to see 25,000 participants in 2022.
Exodus 90 has Catholic roots, but the program is open to all men. It has been completed by men of different Christian traditions and by those who don’t follow a religion at all. The program is not available for women.
Carmel resident Jonathan Titus, who helped test the program in its early days, has completed the Exodus 90 journey several times.
“It’s a roller coaster of emotion,” Titus said. “At the beginning, all the disciplines of the things you’re giving up get a lot of attention because they’re kind of a shock to the system.”
About halfway through the program, the asceticism and other elements become routine, said Titus, a married father of five boys.
“It definitely freed up more time and attention for other things in my life,” he said. “I found myself being much more present with my family at home, not distracted by so many things. I ended up finding I had a lot more time in my day than I thought I did.”
Baxter said that type of feedback is common, and many men choose to give up some former aspects of their life permanently. He, for instance, no longer uses social media. Titus has stopped watching televised sporting events, which used to take up a lot of his time.
“Looking from the outside in, sometimes it seems like it’s adding unnecessary suffering to already difficult lives, but the thrust and the whole reason behind the program is to try to gain freedom from things that are distracting or enslaving or holding us back from being free to be fully present in relationship with Christ and those in our families,” Titus said. “Freedom is the biggest fruit that comes out of the whole thing.”
The first week of Exodus 90 is free. After that, the program costs $10 a month or $90 a year. Members receive access to the program, daily Gospel reflections, a Biblical Series for study following the 90-day journey and more. The program is available year-round, although most participants will journey through it together beginning Jan. 17.
Learn more at Exodus90.com.