ARLINGTON The Promise Keepers organization returned to live events this summer, hosting large gatherings of men at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington July 16-17. Speakers included Dallas Cowboys chaplain Jonathan Evans, motivational speaker and disability advocate Nic Vujicic, and pastors Samuel Rodriguez and Robert Morris.
Founded in 1990 by Bill McCartney, who at the time was head football coach at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the organization began as a means of calling men to biblical leadership in the home and social sphere. Sporadic events at stadiums throughout the 1990s built to what was arguably the organization’s peak in fall 1997, when hundreds of thousands of men flocked to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for an event called “Stand in the Gap.”
The organization dwindled over the last two decades until it was resurrected in 2018 under the leadership of Ken Harrison, a former Los Angeles police officer who works as the CEO of WaterStone, a Christian donor-advised fund. Under Harrison, the relaunched Promise Keepers planned to hold their first in-person event in decades last year until the pandemic interrupted those plans and the event was moved online.
According to the “About Us” section of the Promise Keepers website, over seven million men have been reached through its national conferences.
“Today, we’re on the move again,” the website reads. “Under the new leadership of Ken Harrison, we’re praying for massive revival and transformation in our nation by 2025. You’re invited to join with us. More than ever, America needs a revival of godly men. Our nation faces problems that can only be overcome when men of integrity — promise-keeping men — fulfill their destinies as godly husbands, fathers, and leaders. Promise Keepers is here today to reunite, rebuild, re-imagine, and inspire the hearts of men.”
Harrison, chairman of the board of Promise Keepers, welcomed the nearly 30,000 men on Friday night and told them that teams had been praying over the stadium every Saturday for more than six months in preparation for the event.
“None of us deserve to be here, so let’s just behave like men who are saved by grace,” Harrison told the crowd. “No matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are, no matter how bad you’ve screwed up, we are not here to give you a five-step program to being a better you. We are here to give you the one-step program: believe in Jesus Christ and repent of your sins.”
In addition to the men present at AT&T Stadium, Harrison announced that 70,000 prisoners were watching the event livestream along with people from across the United States and 22 countries.
Jonathan Evans and Nic Vujicic
The first preacher Friday evening was Jonathan Evans, son of local pastor Tony Evans. A former NFL player, Evans also serves as the chaplain for both the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks.
“We live in a generation of boys that are being raised to be men just like their mothers, because 70 percent of them in the African-American community and 40 percent in the Anglo community don’t even have fathers,” Evans said.
“Jesus spent his whole life submitting to the will of his Father. So if we’re supposed to be men who are following Christ, we ought to submit as he did,” he added.
Evans particularly challenged men to be leaders in their homes, taking up the mantle of spiritual leadership and being present for their wives and children, even when it is inconvenient.
“Our culture is suffering because of the man’s unwillingness to suffer,” Evans added. “But when I look at Christ I see that he suffered, especially when he hung on the cross. So it seems to me that suffering is the job description given to man from the boss.”
Later Friday evening, Nick Vujicic encouraged the attendees to live lives of faith in a God who is the ultimate promise keeper.
“When I was a kid, I thought I’d never get married, never have kids,” Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs, told the crowd. “Can I just say that when you give your broken pieces to the Lord, he can do beautiful things with broken pieces much better than you?”
Vujicic challenged the notion that the greatest thing a father can do for his children is to provide for them the things that he never had growing up.
“Before you know it, you’re old. And you’re going to look back at your life and think, wow, I sacrificed my entire life so that my children can have the opportunities I never got, but I realize now as a grandpa that my kids needed me more than opportunity,” he said.
“When you read Philippians 4:13, it’s not about succeeding. It’s not about dreaming. It’s about enduring.
“I want you to know right now that in your life right now, God sees you. God hears you. He knows your tears, he knows your fears,” Vujicic said. “Don’t give up on God. God will not give up on you. He may not take a thorn from your side, but his grace is sufficient for you. That’s the promise of God, and my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the promise keeper. Even when I fail, God is faithful.”
Fathers team with Compassion
Phillip, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who works on staff at a local DFW church, attended Promise Keepers with his 13-year-old son.
“My first Promise Keepers was in Miami, Florida. When I first went, Luis Palau was one of the speakers. I enjoyed it tonight because I resonated a lot with Jonathan and Tony Evans’ story as a first-generation Christian,” Philip said. “I didn’t grow up with a dad who was a believer, and we kind of grew up on the streets in Miami. Going to Promise Keepers is how I got firmly rooted into godly fatherhood, learning how to be a Christian as a young Chinese boy. So now that I’ve seen it and I know it, I wanted my son to experience it.
“I had such a connection with the men in my life that went to Promise Keepers, so now I want my son to experience what I’ve experienced. I want my son to see godly men.”
Promise Keepers partnered with the nonprofit organization Compassion, encouraging the men to not only step up within their own families and communities, but also to engage with Compassion to support children throughout the world through sponsorship opportunities. The July event focused on the nation of Kenya, giving those in attendance the opportunity to sponsor a Kenyan child over the weekend and provide educational and spiritual help to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it.
The organization plans to continue holding stadium events in the coming years while encouraging men to plug into smaller, more intimate groups for discipleship and accountability throughout the year.