Promise Keepers commanded national attention when it drew a crowd estimated at more than one million men to the nation’s capitol for a day of prayer in October — the largest reported religious gathering in U.S. history. But while many saw the “Stand in the Gap” rally as the organization’s ultimate achievement, Promise Keepers President Randy Phillips says the best is yet to come.
“In my mind the most important event in the history of Promise Keepers is coming up, with these nine pastor’s conferences scheduled for January through March,” he says.
“It will be our best attempt to provide resources and encourage pastors in their call and role. Those two months of meetings are as significant an advance of the movement as we’ve had. The long-term impact through leaders is where we’ll really see generational change, not just momentary change.”
Phillips says the meetings will give pastors the resources they need to develop significant men’s ministries, and will “give some personal challenge of what it means to be a leader of men in his own life.”
The pastors’ conferences will be held Jan. 15-March 12, 1998, in Philadelphia, Denver, Portland (Ore.), San Diego, Nashville, Charlotte, Dallas, St. Petersburg (Fla.) and Indianapolis.
The San Diego conference will be at the San Diego Sports Arena. The event is free, but registration is required by calling 1-800-888-7595.
In addition to a series of special meetings for pastors, future plans for Promise Keepers include an expansion to other nations around the world. There are already six Promise Keepers ministries in nations other than the U.S. (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain and Germany), and men in another 11 countries are building relationships with Promise Keepers with the goal of beginning national ministries.
In these cases, Promise Keepers works to develop a relationship with respected leaders within a nation, share the organization’s vision, then give the national leaders the freedom to present that vision in a cultural context that is appropriate for the country. “Our responsibility is to help with the training, then release them for ministry,” explains Phillips. “You can’t contextualize the message for somebody else — they have to do it themselves.” Once leaders in a nation have grasped the vision, they will communicate it to pastors, who in turn will focus on individual men, Phillips notes.
The highlight of 1997 for Promise Keepers was obviously “Stand in the Gap.” Phillips notes, “It’s just a blessing to know that we have the privilege of being part of something that had such a significant impact, not just for the men in D.C., but also for the many more who read about it and watched it. The impact through secular media around the world was unbelievable. I thought Jesus was really honored that day around the globe. But it still all comes back to the individual guy.”
Phillips shares one “individual guy” story he heard after “Stand in the Gap,” about a volunteer who joined a group of businessmen from California as they were praying, saw one of them pray to accept Christ, then watched as the man pulled out his cellular phone to call his wife at home and say, “I’ve just made the two most important decisions of my life. Thank you for praying for me. I’ve just accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. And the second decision, if you’ll have me back, I want to come back and be the husband and father that you and the kids deserve.”
That kind of individual experience is at the heart of Promise Keepers ongoing influence, says Phillips. “I believe so many men now see the importance of prayer and repentance — not as an event, but as a lifestyle — that was going on with a multitude of men around the country. Their own lives have changed, how they approach the Lord, their willingness to confess and not hide, their willingness to ask for forgiveness and experience forgiveness, experiencing the grace of God that enables you to overcome areas of sin and struggle that you’ve previously felt powerless over — that kind of thing has significant impact over the long term.”
Promise Keepers will be changing its emphasis a little in 1998, focusing on evangelism and renewal in its 37 stadium events. Because the group will be trying to attract unsaved men to its rallies, it is eliminating the admission price for the events — a decision that fits better with the ministry’s vision than with its financial situation.
“Humanly speaking, this will put us on a week-to-week basis,” Phillips admits.
“We literally have no financial reserves, and we are being helped from week to week by men and women who are choosing to contribute. We’re going to be taking it a week at a time. We know full well that only God’s provision will see us through the year.”
— Staff & E.P. News reports