Promise Keepers (PK), the men’s ministry that blossomed in the 1990s as a vehicle to call men to be better husbands, fathers and servants in the church, is back. Its massive stadium events accommodated hundreds of thousands of men in just a few short years, culminating in a Washington Mall event attended by an estimated one million men in 1997. Biblical manhood was the focus, and now, as then, the message is often misunderstood in the secular world and media.
I attended one of the events 25 years ago and I’m glad to see that PK is back.
It was late May 1995 when I and several other men from my church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, made the 200-mile trip up I-95 to Washington, D.C., for a two-day PK event at RFK stadium. 52,000 men (no women allowed!) gathered to sing together, pray and hear exhortations to become the men God intended for us to be. We confessed our sins to one another; we asked forgiveness from our brothers of color for our racially problematic past; and we joined our voices together in worship in what can only be described as a one-of-a-kind experience. One of the unofficial slogans of the event became “Real Men Sing Real Loud” and I’m sure there were t-shirts with that slogan that made it home with us.
Coach Bill McCartney from the University of Colorado was one of the original founders of PK, and he and many other well-known names and authors spoke, from evangelist Luis Palau to Dr. Tony Evans to Pastor Jack Hayward.
Today the organization is headed up by Ken Harrison as Chairman and CEO and Judge Vance Day as President, and a host of other team members, pastors and advisers. The vision of PK is much the same now as it was when the organization was founded – creating a movement of men who know their identity, purpose and destiny in Christ.
The strategy of using stadiums to allow men to gather together returns as well. The major difference between the 1990s version and today is that PK intends to hold only one event per year, rather than several. And in 2020 it was a virtual conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was held July 31-August 1 and featured some of the same speakers who were there the first time around, including Luis Palau and Dr. Tony Evans.
PK’s message is still being criticized by feminists who misinterpret the group’s call for men to be the spiritual leaders in the home as a license to mistreat wives and women in general, and for women to be submissive.
PK’s Harrison was asked about that criticism, and replied, “We’re really calling men to be humble, proactive leaders in their homes,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s my role to tell women how they should be. That is for their pastor and other people.”
The men’s ministry is continuing its emphasis on racial reconciliation. As promise #6 of the “7 Promises” that men pledge to make real in their own lives, reads, “A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.”
Promise Keepers is returning to its roots, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
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