Approximate Reading Time: 16 Minutes
Soulcon Ministries is a digital men’s ministry that encourages Christian men to abandon the watered-down confines of lukewarm faith and instead go all-in for Jesus Christ physically, mentally and spiritually.
Soulcon was founded by US Navy veteran-turned fitness expert and personal trainer Cody Bobay after he saw the “couch potato” lives that your average, 21st Century guys – yes, even most evangelical men – practice on a regular basis in every area of their lives. To help encourage men to get into better physical and spiritual shape, Bobay authored Soulcon Challenge, a book that forms the foundation of a 42-day challenge of the same name that’s held multiple times throughout the year. In 2016, Bobay penned a “sequel” book for Soulcon Challenge graduates that offers a much tougher, Navy SEALs-type program titled Soulcon Warrior Elite.
And now fresh off the presses is the long-awaited third challenge book from Soulcon Operator. I was honored to be part of the amazing writing staff for this fantastic new volume, and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it!
Soulcon Executive Team members John Clark, Commander and CEO of Soulcon Ministries, and Michael Bodine, Lt. Commander of Ministry & Engagement, were gracious enough to sit down with me recently to discuss the new Soulcon Operator book, and what they hope to accomplish through it. Enjoy!
Scott Roberts: John and Michael, what is Soulcon Ministries all about?
John Clark: Soulcon Ministries is a men’s ministry that is now in all 50 states and 34 countries worldwide. We’ve had about 25,000 guys that have been involved in our program up to this point. We utilize a book called Soulcon Challenge written by our founder, Cody Bobay, to begin a journey of helping men to improve themselves and improve their walk with the Lord, and get them to get on track with our main mission, which is to save souls and win people to Christ.
Scott Roberts: Soulcon now has three books available for men: Soulcon Challenge, Soulcon Warrior Elite, and now the new Soulcon Operator. Can you guys go through them one by one, and describe the purpose of each one?
Michael Bodine: Sure. Soulcon Challenge is the first one, the original book written by Cody Bobay. It was designed to meet every man where they are, wherever they are when they show up, and take them on what I would say is a pretty unique approach to spiritual discipline that is three-pronged: body, mind, and spirit.
A lot of men come into it and want to focus on the physical side of it because many men come in and haven’t really truly focused on that part of their lives before. What we’ve found out through the Soulcon Challenge, when things start kind of melding together, is that everything is connected back to our spirit man and our relationship with Christ, even how we learn to take care better care of our physical bodies. So it’s a unique approach to spiritual discipline.
On top of the objectives of Soulcon Challenge, through the logistical, programmed part of the challenge, is a narrative that runs through the 6 weeks/42 days that the challenge lasts.
Soulcon Warrior Elite is essentially a “2.0” version of the Soulcon Challenge book for a guy that has successfully finished at least one regular Soulcon Challenge, and many have done Warrior Elite have finished multiple Soulcon Challenges before. Elite is definitely kicking things up a notch. Everything about it…the physical side is more intense, the spiritual side definitely invites you to dig ever more deeply in everything you learned and took on in a Soulcon Challenge.
Soulcon Warrior Elite is definitely as the title implies; it is up sometimes several more notches from before. While most men can get through Soulcon Challenge and feel like they’ve successfully finished and “graduated,” we’ve had many men take on the Elite program, gained a lot from it, but admittedly on their own that they did not graduate. It’s a tough program.
Scott Roberts: I can certainly attest to that!
Michael Bodine: And lastly, and I know we’re going to talk about Soulcon Operator more, but let me touch on it briefly here; this is our lifestyle book. It is designed for the man who has been through both challenges/books. Everything about it has several nods back to the other two challenges, especially the narrative.
I will not say it is more intense on the physical side because it is a maintenance book. Hopefully, for the man by the time he gets to Operator, he will not need something that’s amazingly intense on the physical side (but it’s got some good programs in the book on that). It focuses largely on leadership in the home as father and husband, and then leadership outside the home in church, in the community, and men’s ministry. It is for the man who wants to leave this earth leaving a gigantic spiritual legacy as an Operator.
John Clark: Scott, I like to sum it up by saying the Soulcon Challenge is to build the foundation for a special forces warrior in Christ. The Soulcon Warrior Elite goes more deeply into your identity in Christ, and also into some leadership things to try to develop what you built with the first book. And then this third book, Soulcon Operator, takes it full circle; in the first two books, [the narrative] takes place in a fictional training center, and this third book takes the narrative back home to show guys what they learned in the first two in their day-to-day life.
Scott Roberts: Cody Bobay had written the first two books. How did Soulcon Operator come about?
John Clark: It actually came from a conversation that occurred at Michael Bodine’s church, during one of the events where we [the Soulcon Executive Team] first kind of all met together. Cody was there to speak. We were all sitting around a table in his, I guess you would call it, “green room” before he went out to speak, and we were talking about several different things. I had explained to Cody the difference between a special forces soldier and a special forces operator. We all went, “well, that’s kinda neat; we ought to use that term one day!”
That was kind of what the genesis of it was. But mainly it was [around the time] when Cody went on a different deployment, meaning when he went on to the production side of Christian entertainment [with Gibborim Studios], and he tasked me with being the CEO of Soulcon Ministries.
Sometime around that time…I usually let the guys here decide which challenge I’m going to do; if they decide to do Warrior Elite, I’m doing that with them. If a bunch of them are doing the first Soulcon Challenge, then I’ll do the first one with them. Anyways, I ended up doing a Warrior Elite, and I hadn’t done one probably since the very first Warrior Elite challenge, and I realized how many times in the book it references the next “chapter,” or the next installment of the book series.
At the time, Cody had planned on a third book, but he simply wasn’t able to do that with his schedule and the things he’s trying to do with his new venture. I told Cody, “we need a third book.” And he said, “well, write the third book!” [laughs]
I said, “I’m already filling huge shoes, and you want me to be a writer as well?” But I did take it very seriously, and I planned how the book was going to go. But then as I prayed, and I really felt like I needed to pray as I went into that situation. I prayed and prayed, and I kept getting, “do not do this yourself.”
I’m not trying to figure out why God said that, but as it turned out that we were able to surface a bunch of excellent, highly-talented Soulcon brothers who had a heart for what we were trying to do, who had backgrounds in all the different things we were trying to teach through the new book, and we got that team together. And, wow! Just an amazing job and an amazing process.
Scott Roberts: You had mentioned a couple of terms, “Special Forces Soldier” and “Special Forces Operator.” What are the differences between the two, and how does it relate to the book, Soulcon Operator?
John Clark: When I was in the U.S. Marine Corps, and I’m giving away my age now, but I was in 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, which was considered to be Marine Special Forces. It’s now called MARSOC [Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command]; the Reconnaissance units don’t even exist anymore. When I got into the unit, it was a very tough process; selection tests [that last] multiple days, and classes that are extremely difficult. You earn your way to get there.
And when I started my basic training within the unit, I started noticing guys around the unit that looked different. I figured that I had “made it.” I thought, you know, “I’m here; I’m good to go; I’m a recon Marine.”
One day I got up the courage to ask one of the sergeants, “who are those guys?” He replied, “Well, they’re operators.” I said, “oh, wow…how do I get to be an operator?” He said, “you don’t get to be an operator. You become an operator.”
[An operator] is a guy who is a trusted commodity. It’s a guy who you don’t have to chase him down to get him to go exercise, to get him to go train, and to stay on point. He’s a professional, exceptional, and an accepted team member…someone who you can trust to have your back. They just take the idea of being…you know, soldiers are amazing. Special forces soldiers are even more amazing in their own right; they tend to have a job that supports soldiers. But then you go to the level of being an operator…that’s kind of a title within a title…and I think it really encompasses what we were shooting for as far as the concept of the Christian special forces warrior: the person that goes above and beyond in their walk with Christ, to be prepared for whatever the Lord needs us to do.
After the first two excellent books, we just found it time to bring it full circle and to show how it could become a sustainable lifestyle.
Scott Roberts: Let’s talk about the Soulcon Operator book a little bit more. What are some of the topics that men can uncover as they dive into the 42-day devotional in this book?
Michael Bodine: I would say the first half, give or take, is heavy, heavy, heavy on marriage. Because if as a married man we are not properly, Biblically leading our home, everything starts and ends there. What goes on under our roofs should be top priority, after our relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to lead our family and leading our bride properly. So a large chunk at the front of the book is marriage.
There are some parts that deal with parenting. Not as much [as marriage], but there are parts that talk about our roles as fathers.
Then, it transitions to a lot about leadership. As men, we are not called or feel like being that out-front leader. However, when we are obedient and involved in ministries outside of our home, in our churches, hopefully, in our communities and local bodies, stepping up is just part of that obedience. It’s being a vibrant part of whatever that is. So, there’s a lot of leadership of men’s ministry involved in the book that I think men are going to get a lot out of.
Ultimately, a lot of the objectives center around being that lifestyle guide, where this should be an everyday thing – until we leave this earth, this should be an everyday thing – where we chase after the heart of God by being that ultimate leader in every way that we can.
Scott Roberts: Can men go through the Soulcon Operator book concurrently with one of the other Soulcon Challenges? I know in the past that you’ve suggested that men not go through Soulcon Challenge and Soulcon Warrior Elite at the same time, so could you clarify this a bit?
Michael Bodine: I would say that Elite should always be an “only” thing because it’s that intense. But I’m actually planning with a few Soulcon veterans myself to go through Soulcon Operator pretty soon the same time as Soulcon Challenge. I think for a guy – and there have been many who have done 10 or 12 Soulcon Challenges – without a lot of headache and chaos should be able to do both the regular Challenge, and even be able to help take the lead in Operator at the same time.
The great thing about Operator being a lifestyle book is that it adopts a lot of the same disciplines in some of the same ways (with maybe some twists) as Soulcon Challenge and Elite. We have many men that have already started Operator now, and have many that are saying, “when Soulcon Challenge Uniform kicks off [on January 20, 2020], I’m gonna be helping to lead guys [in doing Operator] too at the same time. A great, big part of Operator is leading other men.
So yes, definitely, you can do these concurrently.
John Clark: Now, if you’re asking for someone who is just starting with Soulcon, I would definitely suggest you do the first two books one at a time before you tackle Operator. You may be a little lost in the story narrative that goes back to the other two books because you’re gonna kick yourself before you read the first two. [laughs]
Michael Bodine: And Scott, you as a fellow writer, I think it’s important that we point out that there are so many nuances to the story in Operator that are just a huge gift to the reader because they’ve been through Challenge and Elite. I can’t imagine jumping right into it and reading Operator…you know, somewhere down the road we might have a guy who would try to do that, and I think that would be a mistake because when we wrote the book, it was about a continuation of the story of the characters, as well as the challenges and the lifestyle, we’ve grown to love. Definitely, I’ll second what John said.
John Clark: And Scott, can I add one thing? When it comes to the Operator book, bridging the gap after the second book…Warrior Elite, the second book, promises a marriage book, Soulcon Marriage. Thinking about the process of the third book, we realized that a marriage book wasn’t exactly going to reach every guy that we’ve got. Now, every guy I know is either already married or planning to be married at some time, and there’s a lot of other stuff in this book for guys that are single and may not be ready to get married yet. There is a thing in here that kind of goes deeply into the Proverbs 31 woman. I for one, having read the book through, wish I had at least a day of this training before I got married; I’m pretty sure that my wife agrees. [laughs]
Scott Roberts: [Laughs] I know what you mean.
One of the unique aspects about Operator is that you hold the other two challenges at specific times throughout the year. Operator, on the other hand, is more flexible when men can begin it, where if they got the book today, they could technically start doing the Operator challenge tomorrow. Was this designed or planned in a way where the “self-sufficient” leadership attitude of a military operator was carried over into the way guys would go through the Soulcon Operator book? And would they still be able to form unofficial groups online, such as Facebook groups, Marco Polo video groups, and so on?
Michael Bodine: Yes. It’s been a learning curve since we’ve rolled this out. But with Operator being a book geared to the guy who already knows what we do, how we do it, and why we do it, there isn’t a gigantic need for date-specific where they might be “Operator #1″, “Operator #2, ” and “#3,” and so on. It can be done one-on-one. We have provided a Facebook page for a community side of Operator and for guys to plan. Every guy I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks who is taking it on or planning to take it on is saying, “yes, I’m doing Operator with four other guys” or “me and five other guys from my church.”
So again, because they’ve already been on this cycle of all these other challenges, we preach lead-in and foster true biblical accountability, these guys already know how this works; it’s old hat. They’ll be like, “I’m going to do this challenge; who wants to do this with me?” We’re seeing that activity all over our Operator page.
Yes, this can be done at any time. They can go this alone. However, we’re seeing guys just wanting to go through it with other brothers. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
Scott Roberts: Soulcon Ministries and the challenges are definitely geared for and written for men. How much, if any, could the wives of those brothers undergoing Soulcon Operator get involved?
Michael Bodine: Yes, all of our books are written for men because we’re a men’s ministry, but we’ve felt it important for Operator because it focuses so much on marriage and family leadership for us to incorporate so many of those daily objectives the invitation to do them with your wife. Without giving anything away, some of the narrative in Operator includes so much of the whole family, especially the wives…and maybe even an appearance by Mrs. Bugsly.
It definitely invites them without it being a specific book for women. It definitely invites the leader of the home, the man, to take on and encourage his wife in several parts of it.
John Clark: It’s kind of like the last question that you asked. I mean, guys have always been able to buy the other two books, and start them when they feel like it. We just highly recommend that you do them as a group. We facilitate that through our end of the ministry. They could buy the books in any order, and do them whenever they want, but it would be better if they did it the way we suggest. And we’ve always suggested that men, while we do have parts for team-only, the meal prep is not for teams-only, the exercise isn’t for teams only.
This applies to women as well. There’s a lot of different things that we’ve suggested guys do, and one is to bring their spouses in on the challenges and not make it be some big “secret” they’re doing off to the side. So Operator is definitely going to make some large steps in that area.
Scott Roberts: Excellent. So what does the future hold for Soulcon? Have you thought of any ideas for a fourth book or what the next steps may be, or are you just waiting for God to lead you guys regarding this?
John Clark: I’m certain that there will be another book. We haven’t come to a decision on what that’s going to be. I would like it to be where a man could join the community, start doing challenges, and then be able to have a library they could use with their entire family. So maybe something like that happens in the future.
The main thing right now that we’re focusing on is paying for the new book. You know, we kind of went out a little bit out on a limb, and we didn’t do a big preorder and all that stuff. We just wanted to get it out there. And Scott, I think you as a member of the writing team was just as excited about getting it out there as quickly as we could. [laughs]
We are going to merchandise a bit behind the Operator book. We’re going to come up with a shirt, we’re gonna have a dog tag, we’re gonna have all of that. Right now though, we’re slowing ticking away at having the book paid for, and then we’ll be a little more flexible on future plans.
Scott Roberts: What are the many different ways men can connect with Soulcon?
Michael Bodine: The Soulcon App for starters, available on both the iPhone and Android. I think more and more people are catching on with this, because we’re seeing the activity, like guys sharing from that, guys commenting on our pages about the app…Our app is amazing. Now, I say that from the standpoint that it is full of awesome stuff. First off, all of our content is member-based. Just regular guys like ourselves – and not seminary, pulpit preachers (although we do have some of those) – providing content. So all of the content is provided by our members.
There are so many discipleship resources! Even if a guy is not presently taking on a challenge, or isn’t sure about taking on a challenge yet, they can find so many great resources in the app. There are links to all of our teachings, daily devotionals, and old Global Men’s Gatherings videos. And if you are doing a challenge, the app has so many resources that you can use right there in your house: meal plans, workout plans, you name it.
So the first big way to connect with Soulcon, since we all have these nearby [holds up smartphone] is the app.
John Clark: Next, there is http://www.soulcon.com, which is a good way to direct people who are maybe not aware of Soulcon, that kind of gives them a breakdown and a path to follow of what we’re all about. It’s a little bit more informative in that regard instead of getting on an app and trying to find your way around it, and not knowing the amount of amazing amount of content on the app.
We have stepped out because, to be honest with you, there are quite a few men who aren’t interested in being on Facebook, and we have started an initiative to make an email-based group as we are doing challenges. So the guys who aren’t joining us on Facebook can join up through email and get the same support, or similar support, that they normally would.
We also have the YouVersion Bible App devotional for Soulcon both in English and in Spanish. We had the original Soulcon Challenge book translated into Spanish for the ebook last year.
There are tons of different ways of getting access.
Scott Roberts: Any final things you wish to say about Soulcon?
John Clark: We are just very, very thankful as a ministry. We have seen some tremendous growth. We have taken some big strides and have seen some large changes this past year in 2019. Going into 2020, we are very excited and very motivated, and this is what we’re calling “The Year of the Warrior.” We’re actually going through revisiting everything we’ve done up until now as far as policy, procedure, or anything that we do, and make sure that it is completely and 100% focused on the guy out there on the street, the “Bob Smith” in Delaware who is out there trying to save souls and be a special forces warrior for Christ. We’re making sure that he knows that we’re 100% about him, his development, empowering him, and give him the tools he needs to be successful.
You can purchase the Soulcon books online:
Men, for more information on Soulcon Ministries in general, go to http://www.soulcon.com