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Promise Keepers Cancels Summer Event Designed to Resurrect Powerful Men’s Ministry

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The announcement came last year. Colorado businessman Ken Harrison would resurrect Promise Keepers by taking it back to its roots: mass gatherings of men, starting with a gathering of 80,000 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas this summer. 

Even after the coronavirus forced a national lockdown, Harrison remained determined.

“I want to reassure you right now that we’re planning on being at AT&T July 31 and August 1,” said Harrison, PK’s CEO, in an April statement. “We have people coming from 47 different states and several countries as far away as Zimbabwe and Norway.  We don’t know what’s going to come from all of this – the virus. We do know, though, that we don’t let our lives be ruled by fear.” 

But the organization recently changed course, announcing that this year’s event will be virtual-only in a statement on its website: “Promise Keepers 2020 Event Goes Virtual and Moves AT&T Stadium Event to 2021.”

“As the leadership and board of Promise Keepers contemplated how best to minister to men during this time of unprecedented need, we heeded the admonition of the Word to seek wise counsel,” said Harrison, the author of Rise of the Servant Kings: What the Bible Says About Being a Man.

“The consensus of these experts is to focus on reaching men through virtual events this summer and move the event to 2021. And as we poured over their recommendations in prayer, we became certain that God was calling us to this strategy.” 

PK President Vance Day said he sees a silver lining in the change.

Moving our stadium event to 2021 and switching to a global virtual event this year will result in MORE ministry to MORE men in MORE places,” wrote Day. “It will allow us to do a state-of-the-art virtual experience on July 31 and August 1, and open up the opportunity to host dozens of webinars and Facebook Live events with hundreds of amazing speakers all through the summer. Moving to virtual gives us an ‘online stadium’ with limitless attendance, viewable by men from around the planet.”

Men who have already purchased tickets will be given  access to the 2020 virtual conference as well as an extra ticket to the 2021 event, which may or may not be at AT&T.

Those interested in the virtual event can now register for the livestream or sign up their church to host the simulcast. Both digital options are being offered free, with a suggested donation.

Promise Keepers began after University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney saying he experienced a divine vision showing thousands of men worshipping together and confessing their sins to one another.

During the 1990s, PK gathered some seven million men at its events at football stadiums and in the nation’s capital. The ministry inspired a Christian men’s movement that would influence men’s ministries in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, and many other denominations, and it spawned a brief male surge in the typically female-dominated Christian publishing industry.

But the ministry’s income vanished after McCartney talked with evangelist Billy Graham and announced in 1997 that future PK events would be free. The ministry’s $100 million budget and hundreds of employees likewise vanished soon thereafter. 

Changing this summer’s live event to a virtual event is a disappointment to Harrison, the CEO of Springs-based WaterStone, who had wanted to resurrect the original PK experience: “The feeling they had when they joined voices with 70,000 other men to sing songs like ‘Amazing Grace.’” 

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.