Encouraging Men to be Godly Men (Nov-Dec 1997)

By Matt Dabbs

by Rubel Shelly
November – December, 1997

29Maybe I’m missing something. But has anybody else caught the humor of the National Organization for Women – an all-female organization whose mission is to promote female causes – criticizing Promise Keepers for its all-male membership?

Maybe I’m missing something. But writers keep expressing their fear of a “hidden political agenda” for Promise Keepers. All PK events are noticeably apolitical in nature, and political groups – left, right, or center – are not authorized to distribute literature or to work the crowd on behalf of their causes. People who do so anyway are asked to stop.

Maybe I’m still missing something. But several Church of Christ preachers are speaking against Promise Keepers, and some Church of Christ elders have made it clear that they do not want men from their churches attending PK events.

Promise Keepers is not a necessary part of faithful spiritual life for Christian men. It is not central to my life in the way my local church is, though I have attended three rallies (Atlanta, Memphis, and Washington) and have been blessed by them. For the life of me, though, I can’t see any good reason to oppose the movement. Or to reinvent the wheel by creating a Church of Christ version of it.

Could Promise Keepers possibly be one of those “fruitless deeds of darkness” which Christians are supposed to avoid? (cf. Ephesians 5:11). To make such a claim would be quite a stretch in misusing the Word of God! PK events call men to love Jesus Christ, obey the Word of God, live morally upright lives, and seek racial reconciliation.

Many of the speeches I have heard at Promise Keeper rallies have sounded very much like vintage sermons from a hundred years ago in the Restoration Movement. They have decried denominational division and the building of walls among believers in Christ. They have called for Christians to come together in Jesus by seeking unity based on the truth of the Holy Bible. Max Lucado, Tony Evans, Chuck Colson, Bill McCartney, Wellington Boone – all have pleaded for the unity of Christians that our <i.rhetoric says we want. I cannot begrudge their making the plea. After all, the Church of Christ long ago lost its credibility for making it.

The call to unity sounded by Promise Keepers is nothing like the ecumenical movement of the 1960s. That ill-fated effort called people together under an organizational umbrella, without regard to doctrinal soundness. What is being said in stadiums and arenas by PK spokesmen is biblical and strong. The goal is not organizational union but deep personal faith that transcends denominational polity and goma for the sake of salvation in Christ Jesus.

[One of the neatest and saddest stories from the Atlanta Conference was the reaction of two Assemblies of God pastors behind me to Max’s call for the unity of the Body of Christ. As the whistles and cheers from a prolonged standing ovation began to subside, one said to the other, “Isn’t that just like God! Calling for the unity of believers through a Church of Christ preacher!” Ouch, how I wish they hadn’t seen humor in it. They were, of course, dead right in their reaction.]

“But they don’t say everything that needs to be said about baptism!” protests someone. That’s right. Neither do they say everything Christians from other traditions want said about spiritual gifts or eschatology. I haven’t heard everything I think needs to be said to this generation about some basic issues in Christian apologetics. And I’d certainly like more teaching to be done by someone on the deeper issues of Christian ethics and social responsibility. But aren’t these criticisms unfair?

Promise Keepers isn’t the church. It is a parachurch ministry calling men to Jesus, Scripture, and their families. It encourages those same men to seek out a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church. It will be the responsibility of those churches to build on the repentance and faith commitments of men who have attended PK events. Mature brothers from my church and yours can help do additional teaching some of these newcomers to Christ need. We can supply more biblical data on baptism, discipleship, and body life. We can help dysfunctional families with prayer, counsel, and support. We can answer questions. We can link babes with nurturing churches and caring brothers.

The idea that we can help build on the foundation laid by the preaching of Christ at Promise Keeper events presumes something. It assumes that we are there. It presumes that we are able to affirm as much as has been said about Jesus. It assumes that we share the goal of Coach McCartney and others to call men of this generation to Jesus.

I have never heard PK offered as a substitute for the local church. To the contrary, I have heard men urged to find a church that will nurture them in Christ. And I have never heard a Promise Keepers spokesman suggest that what someone takes with him from a weekend event is all he will need in his spiritual life. The promises made on one of these spiritual retreat weekends are carried out back at home with the support of churches that honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because I have only Jesus to serve and not a sectarian agenda to pursue, I can affirm the exaltation of my Lord at a Promise Keepers gathering, Franklin Graham crusade, or Christian music concert. I can be grateful for every positive thing said and done to promote holiness and to call people to the Word of God. Within those contexts, I can live my own distinctive convictions, share anything I believe to be from Christ with others, and be open to receiving new insights the Holy Spirit may offer through another follower of Christ.

Afraid of Promise Keepers? Aloof from its call to spiritual renewal. Opposed to it because of deficiencies in it? Hardly! I thank God for what he is doing through Promise Keepers and pray for him to keep its focus on Jesus.

I remember an exchange between jesus and John in Mark 9:38-40. John wanted to close down an operation that was doing holy tings because its leader was not “one of us.” Jesus rebuked John for his narrow arrogance and articulated his attitude toward such movements. “Whoever is not against us is for us,” he said. Why should we have John’s attitude toward Promise Keepers rather than Jesus’?

All of us have promises to keep, and I am grateful for every encouragement the Lord provides us for doing so. At the present moment, some of the strongest and most positive encouragement coming my way is from Promise Keepers. I praise God for it and encourage you to experience it in your life.

The Seven Promises

The seven commitments Promise Keepers asks a man to make …

  • Honor Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Pursue vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises.
  • Practice spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.
  • Build strong marriages and families through love, protection, and biblical values.
  • Support the mission of his church by honoring and praying for his pastor and by actively giving his time and resources.
  • Reach beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.
  • Influence his world, being obedient to the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . [and] Love your neighbor as yourself”) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”).

Wineskins Magazine

Rubel Shelly

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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