Promise Keepers Revived
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Ken HarrisonKen is the chairman and CEO of Promise Keepers. Ken’s mission is to provide executive leadership and strategic direction to the ministry while inspiring men to be bold, humble and ambitious about their faith. He is the author of Rise of the Servant Kings: What the Bible Says about Being a Man, available wherever books are sold. He has been married to his wife for 29 years and they have three children.
Years ago, God used Promise Keepers to change the lives of innumerable men. Promise Keepers President and CEO Ken Harrison says God is about to do it again!
Promise Keepers Revived
Ken: There is an epidemic of the friendless American male. Men, right now—they spend so much time working at chasing the dollar, and they try to spend time with their kids, and they try to spend time with their wife—that they are literally not around any other men, who can call them on their junk; because men will see things in other men that their wife will never see.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Okay, Ann; here is a question. I want to ask you if you know of the pivotal moment in my life—an event—that changed me as a man.
Ann: Marrying me?
Dave: Yes, that was it—[Laughter]—marrying you.
That should be what I was thinking of, but I was actually thinking of—I think it was 1995 Promise Keepers at the Silver Dome, Pontiac, Michigan—something like
75/80 thousand men in an arena. I’m sitting in the end zone, actually, watching these men speak. It’s a place where I’ve been on that sideline—
Dave: —I added it up—over 2,000 Sundays on the sideline in the Silver Dome. Now, I’m in the end zone bleachers, where I never was during a football game. It was one of the most spectacular men’s events I’ve ever been a part of.
Ann: You know what I remember about that event?
Dave: You weren’t there; you don’t remember anything.
Ann: No; this is what I remember: I remember talking to all the wives, about a week after that event, because they were saying: “My husband is a different man,” and “I don’t even know what is happening, but I’m loving it.”
Ann: The thing was—it wasn’t just a one-time experience—it really changed a lot of men for their entire lives, and it affected their legacy.
Dave: We get, today, to find out the future of Promise Keepers because we have Ken Harrison, the president and CEO of Promise Keepers, who is going to let us know what’s going on and what’s going to happen in the future. So Ken, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Ken: Thank you, guys. It’s great to be on with you.
Dave: So I’m excited to talk about—I mean, that was a pivotal moment. I didn’t just go to one—you know, in Michigan—I went to Indianapolis, and we took/I think we took 3,000 men from our church—
Dave: —to one event. It was incredible what happened. As I was looking you up, Ken, and finding out—man, you’ve got an incredible resume.
Ann: Yes, Dave was reading it to me. He kept going on and on; you’ve done a lot of great things.
Dave: I mean, all the way to being a police officer, back in LA, in Watts. Talk about your journey to where you are today a little bit.
Ken: So my father had been a famous Los Angeles policeman. He was shot in the Watts riots in 1965—
Ken: —and retired us up to Oregon, where I grew up as a boy. Then I went back to Los Angeles and joined the LAPD. Then I was in the middle of all the Rodney King stuff, and I was a highly-decorated officer.
Ken: It was a very unique perspective, especially seeing what fatherlessness does to boys. I mean, it’s a very Christian culture—everyone goes to church—very family culture. But you see what happens when you’ve got about 10 percent of the boys that don’t have fathers: the mass violence, the shootings, the murders. My little eight square-miles division—we called them divisions in Los Angeles—we had 180 murders a year. I mean, you just think about the violence of that.
But after that—I left after all the Rodney King stuff—and got into business. God really blessed me: I was able to start a company, sell it, and then run a really giant international company; then retire at the old age of 45 in 2012. [Laughter]
Dave: Did you think, as you retired, that you were just, at 45, going to sort of walk into retirement mode? I mean, what happened?
Ken: Yes, I was doing what the world says that a good Christian man is supposed to do. I was going to be a good guy, and never cheat on my wife, not use four-letter words, not watch rated-R movies, and ski and hike for the rest of my life.
Then, in 2014, I was praying, and really seeking the Lord—just filled with the Spirit—you know those moments, when you have those mountaintop moments with the Lord, where He just/the Father is just right there. All of a sudden, He came to me and said, “Ken, I did not put you through everything I did, and teach you everything I did, so you could ski and hike for the rest of your life.” I said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” He said, “Are you willing to be as ambitious for My kingdom as you were for your kingdom?” It took me two hours to wrestle through that. I said, “Whatever you want,” and Promise Keepers dropped out of the sky.
Dave: Well, here is a question, Ken. Now, you’re the president and CEO of Promise Keepers. Some of our listeners may not even know the journey or the history of Promise Keepers. Walk us through that really briefly—like: “When did it start?” “Why are we where we are today?”
Ken: It was an unbelievable thing. Coach Bill McCartney started it in 1990, and it exploded. It was such a movement of the Spirit that they were selling out—as you were alluding to, Dave—NFL stadiums all over America from basically ’92 to about ’98.
It all came to a climax in 2000—excuse me, 1997—1.4 million men went to the Mall; everyone calls it the Million Man March. It actually was called Stand in the Gap—biggest event in the history of Washington, DC—if you walk into the Park Police Headquarters today, there was a picture of that. There was a picture of it, because it was the biggest moment; but also, because it was the greatest moment. Then, after that, Promise Keepers descended pretty quickly.
I believe God, right now—He is not trying to raise Promise Keepers again—He is trying to raise a movement of men; Promise Keepers is simply the vehicle for which He is doing it. This time—Promise Keepers had one amazing thing—there is story after story, like you told, Dave, of guys, who went to an event, and came home, and fell on our knees in front of their wife and said, “I’m so sorry”; and unbelievably changed lives. I could tell you guys just beautiful, amazing things of letters I’ve gotten from elderly women about how their husbands were transformed.
But the problem with it was, once people left the Silver Dome, they were ready to charge hell with a bucket of water. When they got to hell, they didn’t know what to do with the bucket; because there was no ability for discipleship. So many great changed lives came from that; but the movement itself didn’t change America and the world as much as it could have, because we didn’t have the ability to disciple. We tried to funnel them into the local churches.
Today, that has changed. We had a virtual event last summer, because we were shut down because of COVID. We had 1.2 million people watch that virtual event in 84 countries.
Ken: This summer, July 16 and 17, we are going to be at the other silver and blue stadium. [Laughter] We will be at Dallas Cowboys Stadium, July 16 and 17. That gathering is going to be American men coming together to worship Christ. Imagine the testimony that is going to be to the whole world. We’ll be simulcasting this all over the world—military bases all over the world, churches all over the world—it’s going to be an incredible thing; I’m telling you.
This time, when guys leave, we’ve got an app. It’s a really good app. We’ve already got tens of thousands of guys on it, talking to each other. They can speak in different languages. If you want to talk to somebody in Ukraine, you can type it in English; and he sees it in Ukrainian. Then, when he types, it goes back to you.
Ken: So guys are sharing with each other. The entire idea is: seeing an event is great; but getting men into discipleship groups and into friendship groups, that’s the ticket this time around. I think that’s what the Lord is bringing together.
Dave: Yes, I think, as you said, the next step—out of a Promise Keepers event or, really, out of any event—is huge. I remember listening to Larry Crabb—Dr. Larry Crabb, who has since gone to be with the Lord—at a Promise Keepers event back in the ‘90s. It was sort of interesting—because he got up there—and he said, “This is awesome! Isn’t it?”—you know, 70,000 men—“Yes!” “You’re going to go home and be the most amazing man ever! Right?!” “Yes!” “You’re going to be a better husband!” “Yes!” Everybody is cheering; then he just looks at them and he goes, “No, you’re not.” [Laughter] The whole place is like, “What are you doing right now?! This is not what you say.”
But his point was: “Unless you take the next step, and get in community with other men, and get discipled,—
Dave: —“and follow up on this, it will just be one great moment that will be gone in six weeks. Your wife and your kids will be frustrated, because they saw something start but never finish.”
I think what you’re talking about—the next step in the community—I know I’m in a group chat with like 15 other NFL quarterbacks that I’ve been involved in with my years with the chaplaincy with the Lions. That daily text, back and forth, Scripture sharing, what’s going on in each of our lives—sharpening/iron sharpening iron—is literally life changing.
It’s great to hear that you are, not just doing an event, you are doing a life-changing transformation movement, really; right?
Ken: Yes; I’ll tell you: there is an epidemic of the friendless American male. Pornography is crushing our country—it’s destroying women and children; it’s destroying men—but the victims are women and children. So much of that comes from friendlessness and loneliness.
We’ve got to get guys into what we are calling Fire Teams—it’s a Marine Corps term—it’s four men. We’re saying, “We need to get you together,”—not four guys—“but four guys, with common interests, so that you’ll be friends.” If you’re a golfer, get together with three other golfers—hunters, fishers, skiers; it won’t matter—if you’re a reader, then get together with those guys. Then come together, through the Promise Keepers app, in your local church. All of this has to be built through a local church with local pastors, but you need to have friends.
I would even say to women watching this: a lot of times, guys can be selfish—so I am not trying to justify selfishness—but I’m saying, a lot of times, a guy wants to go do something with his friends, or go golfing, or something. A wife feels, “I’d rather have you not.” Let me tell you—you need a husband that has friends—you want to make sure they are right friends, of course.
But men, right now—spend so much time working at chasing the dollar, and then trying to spend enough time with their kids, and trying to spend enough time with their wives—that they literally are not around any other men, who can call them on their junk; because men will see things in other men that their wife will never see.
Guys make relationship by doing stuff together, not by having lunch. Right now, our culture, society, and the church are built for women—it’s not a bad thing—but we go to church; we sit down; we socialize; we go home. Men, you—I can go to lunch, Dave, with you for 20 years every week; and we won’t be friends—we’ll talk, but we aren’t friends.
Ken: But when we—when we go hunting, and you miss that buck; or we go skiing, and you have a wreck; and your yard sale, and your stuff goes all over, and I start making fun of you, and I’m laughing my head off—now, we’re friends. [Laughter] Now, there is a vulnerability, where we go have some hot chocolate after the ski day; and there is a closeness there.
Men have to get together and do. That’s why those Promise Keepers things were so monumental—because you had 80,000 guys—and you’re going, “Wow! The singing,”—all these deep voices singing Amazing Grace—“I’m not alone. All these guys are seeking Jesus, just like I am.” All the classes go away; all the races go away; all the denominations and all the divisions—you remember—guys are crying and hugging each other. There is a whole/all those walls of those macho things, that we have up, come down; and there is that vulnerability for a while. What we’ve got to do is keep that going in relationships through the local church.
Dave: Ken, what you are saying is so true. I know this from thousands of other men, but I personally know it in my own life. I remember exactly that feeling, sitting in that stadium, singing with thousands/tens of thousands of other men, looking around, and feeling what you just said: “I’m not alone. There are not just a few men; there are tens of thousands of men that are after Jesus, like I am, and we’re together.” I’ll never forget.
Here is the other amazing thing. I can literally remember the message that Dr. Joe Stowell gave—and I’m sitting, again, back there in the end zone, where I am a young father—now, my three sons are married; and we have grandkids—but they were ten/maybe eleven years old; three sons at home. I’m sitting there, and Joe tells the story about his front yard. I’ll never forget this; he goes:
“You know, I care a lot about my front yard; I take care of it. I don’t hire a lawn service; I do it myself. I want my front yard to be the best yard in the neighborhood. You know what? It was; it was perfect. I spent hours manicuring that yard.”
He goes, “One day, I had to do a funeral for a 16-year-old boy in my church.” He says, “I’m driving back home from that funeral, and I’m pulling up to my house. I look at my front yard; and I think, ‘Yes, it’s the best yard in the neighborhood. Who cares?!’”
He says, “The only thing I didn’t like about my front yard was there was a basketball hoop that my kids wanted on the driveway, and it was an eyesore; but it was there because my kids wanted it; right?” He says he goes upstairs to his son’s bedroom; and he says, “Hey, dude, you want to go play some hoops?” He goes, “No, Dad, I’ve got homework. I can’t do it right now.”
He goes, “That kid had asked me every day to play hoops; and most of the time, I said, ‘Hey, later, I’ve got to work on the yard.’” He goes, “I walk out of my son’s bedroom, and I said to myself, ‘I missed it! I missed it for a front yard.’”
You know, he was saying, “Men, you’ve got a short window. Don’t miss—because of things that are important—but they are not as important.” Here I am; I am sitting there. This is 30-some years ago; it literally changed my life! It was like that moment, sitting in an arena with thousands of other men, going, “God’s talking to me right now about my role as a dad,” was life changing.
Thinking that that went away—but now, Ken, you are bringing Promise Keepers back—those kind of moments that I experienced are going to be times a million.
Ann: Let me ask something, because I know a lot of women are listening. We don’t want to nag our husbands; we don’t want to bug them; but every one of us thinks, “I want my husband to do this.” I get teary as you guys are talking about this because we, as women—we long for this—because the man that you are talking about isn’t a domineering, heavy-handed leader; he is leading by serving. Every woman longs for her husband/the fathers to really be connected to their children. Coach us, as women, and wives: “How do we get our guys interested in this?”
Ken: There is/it’s actually funny. Do you know that 45 percent of the tickets that were sold in the ‘90s were bought by women? [Laughter]
Ann: I’m not surprised. [Laughter]
Ken: AT&T Stadium/Dallas Cowboys Stadium, where it’s going to be July 16 and 17, is right next to Wet ‘N’ Wild Six Flags amusement park and the Texas Rangers’ baseball stadium. This is a great man trip: it’s a great trip for guys to take with their friends/for guys to take with their sons.
I would say, “Wives, buy tickets and say, ‘Honey, I know that this is going to be expensive; but I want you to go to Dallas and be with those guys. I want you to take a man trip. I want you to take our sons,” “…I want you to go with your friends,” “…I want you to take some guys who maybe you would never think to take.”
There is something in a man that so wants to be respected by his wife. He so wants to have her look at him the way she did when they were dating/when they were first married. So many men have lost it, and they don’t know how to get it back. When they don’t know how to get it back, they begin to act like children. I can’t tell you the value of you building your husband up.
You may think, “Well, my husband this,” or “My husband that.” Tell him how much you love him and how much it would mean to you if he would go to this; because I’m telling you: he will come out of there a changed man. He won’t just come out of there a changed man from that moment, but we’re going to get him friends in his local community that are godly men. We’re going to tell him where there are godly churches.
Your sons/right now, in our culture, they see so few examples of what a real man is. Jesus Christ was the ultimate real man. What was Jesus Christ like? Well, the Bible says that: “Men, love your wives like Christ loved the church.” How does Christ love the church, which is His bride?—He gave His life for her. We want to tell the men: “If you were a humble leader, were willing to give up your life for your wife and your kids, they will respond in kind.”
You talk about being respected—you talk about a woman, who feels cherished and secure, knowing that her husband has her best interests in place—I’m telling you that’s a woman, who says, “Baby, go play golf with your friends. I can’t wait for you to come back, because I trust you; I love you; I feel like I’m one with you.”
We can get there; this is not that hard. But that voice is always in our head: “You’re not good enough, man,” “You’ve had bad thoughts,” “You looked at pornography,” “Who do you think you are? You are worthless!” That man is hearing that all the time. Women, don’t reiterate that voice in his head for him; tell him he can be a better man, but only through the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
If he gets around men, who will tell him who he is—remind him of his identity—little boys don’t grow up hoping they can have the best lawn in the neighborhood; little boys dream about doing great things. That’s what that preacher was talking about. He lost who he was as a man, and he needed to be reminded of who he was as a man. I hope it wasn’t too late for that kid, who is probably now 40.
Dave: No, his sons have actually turned out to be great men.
I know that/Ann, to sort of answer your question: I thought of, years ago, there was a guy in our church that I was just getting to know a little bit, playing basketball. We were connecting, and he was just new in his faith. He said to his wife, “I want to get a motorcycle.” She was like, “You’re not getting a motorcycle. That’s the dumbest thing. They are dangerous”—blah, blah, blah. He kept asking her.
Then, one day, she says to him, “Hey, Chris, let me ask you something. If you get a motorcycle, are you going to ride with Dave Wilson?” He goes, “Yes; Dave asked me to go riding with him. He rides his motorcycle.” She said, “Go get the bike!” [Laughter]
You know, her thought was: “If my husband can be around other men, who are going to help him grow to be a godly man, husband, and dad, let’s do it.” Chris and I started hanging out. That’s what’s going to happen!—that’s what I would say to the wives: “You buy a ticket; you get your husband down, July 16 and 17, to Promise Keepers in Texas, it’s going to change his life.”
I know this—after that Promise Keepers event in the early ‘90s for me—I sat down with the Word of God and said, “Okay, I don’t think I know what a godly man is.” I didn’t have a dad; I didn’t have a vision for it. I developed what I called “The Four Pillars of Manhood” so men in our church would know, “Okay, this is what a boy is; but this is what a man is, and a husband, and a dad.” It became a mantra for our church. It’s like, “Are you a R-E-A-L man?”—R-E-A-L—just took the word, real. It literally changed something in our church; because men started to say, “Okay, I have a vision for what manhood is, and the only way I can get there is I need other men.” Men don’t become men without men—
Ken: That’s right.
Dave: —you know? Promise Keepers—God bless you, Ken, for resurrecting this!—because it’s, not only going to change our churches, I think it’s going to change our country.
Dave: So thanks, Ken, for doing that. This is an exciting day.
Ann: It’s so exciting, and I would really encourage all the women, like: “Let’s be praying.” I would love it if we would just take a day to fast until dinner because I know that the spiritual warfare that will be going on about this is going to be great. For us, as women, let’s support our men by praying, and really encouraging our men, and reminding them of who they are and who God has called them to be.
Ken: One last thing for the women out there, too, is: we are also simulcasting this all over the world.
Ken: If you are like, “Well, hey, we can’t afford to get to Texas”; but you can go to your local pastor and say, “Get the simulcast. Have our men there.”
Also, for all the women, you’re going to be able now to see what’s happening in the stadium. A lot of women are like, “I want to see what’s going on.” You will actually now be able to log in and watch the event, too. We’re going to tell men what they’ve been needing to hear for a long time that—sometimes, a pastor in a mixed crowd can’t say—we’re going to be saying.
Ken: Looking at porn—
Ken: —repent—those kinds of things.
Dave: There is something unique—I’ve seen it over and over—that happens/that God does when men are with men.
Dave: Not saying the other doesn’t matter—or women with women—there is just something that happens—it’s hard to describe—when God gets men alone together and addresses where they are and where He wants to take them. It’s a beautiful, challenging moment that changes a man’s soul.
Ken: It is.
Ann: Ken, thanks for saying, “Yes,” to God’s call. Way to go!
Dave: Yes; can’t wait to see what happens.
Bob: The 2021 Promise Keepers men’s conference is happening in July at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, July 16-17, great lineup of speakers. We’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You may want to plan a road trip/go with guys, and be at the stadium for the event.
There is also going to be a simulcast of the event if you want to do your own Promise Keepers event in your church. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out more about the live event and the simulcast: the Promise Keepers Men’s Conference,
July 16-17, in Arlington, Texas. Again, the link is on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, we are really excited about the release of Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents, and about how well it’s doing/how many people are saying, “This is the book we’ve been looking for on parenting, because we certainly fit the title. We are not perfect parents; and we want to figure out how we can do the best job we can, given our own imperfections.”
We are making Dave and Ann’s book available this week to FamilyLife Today listeners, who can help advance the ministry of FamilyLife. If you want to see more people affected, more often, by what they hear on FamilyLife Today, or what’s available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com—more people connecting with us at the events that we host, or through the resources we create—you make all of that possible anytime you make a donation. This week, when you make a donation, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Make sure you ask for your copy of the book, No Perfect Parents, when you get in touch with us; and thanks for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us on Monday when Ray and Robyn McKelvy will be here to talk about the things we need to put off in our marriages—things we need to get rid of/do away with—to make our marriages even stronger. Hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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