I’m James, Co-Founder and CEO here at Exodus.
The founding story of Exodus is neat, and I want to tell you about it if you have a few minutes.
What I love about the story is that it is one. We didn’t put this together because we needed something to do. Exodus started as a real solution to a real problem.
A priest that I had known from high school was assigned at a seminary in 2011. When he arrived, he realized that as good as the intentions of these young men were in their desires to serve the Church, many idols plagued them. They were not free to be who God was calling them to be for his people.
He found a perfect image in the Book of Exodus. He had a devotion for the Desert Fathers of the Early Church and the tradition of asceticism (a fancy word for acts of self-denial). And he knew from his experience the encouragement, accountability, and transformation that can come from a fraternity grounded in truth and charity.
He gathered five men, and together they prayed, practiced asceticism, and met together regularly for ninety days. And, it worked. He piloted it with many other groups over the next few years who found freedom through the process too. Many called it life-changing and the most critical factor in their formation for ministry.
Eventually, they asked: if we need Exodus, what about other men?
“Maybe you could figure out how to share this around?” the priest proposed to me. That’s where I enter the story. It was late 2015, and I was 24 years old, broke, with no network, and though I had studied philosophy and theology, I had no idea how to make things work in the real world. But it became a calling and one that I could not get away from even when I tried a couple of times.
Let my people go.
I structured the experience in a way that we could share and tried to share it with as many men as I could. I showed up to conferences and parishes and talked to anyone who would talk to me about Exodus. When I look back on that time, I wonder what had gotten into me! I’m an introvert. And my favorite part about events is when they are over and I am walking out the door! Anyway, I would give everyone little handouts that I made on Powerpoint, and frankly, they looked terrible. But I did what I could with what I had, and I learned very quickly that: a) everything I needed was right in front of me; and b) that everything was working for my good and the good of the idea that God had entrusted to me.
My brother Doyle GoFundMe’d our first website from Paris while studying abroad, and from there, we began to publish e-books, email drips, books, and eventually, we would build an app from scratch. An old friend from seminary named Nathaniel showed up one day and said that God was calling him to work at Exodus. I didn’t know what to say but thank God that God told him that because he helped to adapt and update Exodus 90 for the men we reach today and came up with the whole idea for the Biblical Series. Bishop Rhoades and his blessing saved the whole thing from dying before it had even started.
We had 750 men or so in our first year, and I did not think much of it. But ninety days to Easter in January of 2017, we added 1,500 men in only a few days. I thought that we had been hacked! It turns out, all those guys from the first year told their friends about what they had experienced. We’ve been growing that way ever since.
To date, we’ve reached over 50,000 men in more than 70 countries around the world. Sometimes that number feels big. It would nearly fill Lucas Oil Stadium, where my beloved Indianapolis Colts play football, and that’s a big place! But at other times, it feels like we are just getting started.
There have been many ups, downs, and all-around’s over the past seven years. I am so surprised and humbled by how God has brought us to this point, but I know that He wants free men and that our Church and world need free men.
Whether or not Exodus is for you, I pray that God gives you the graces you need to become the man you have been called to be for Jesus Christ, the Church, and for others. Be assured of our team’s daily prayers and sacrifices for you and those that you love, and know that all Exodus men are praying for you too.
Free the People,
Co-Founder & CEO, Exodus