Promise Keepers – Part 1

(January 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 3) 

While PK’s goal of developing godly men is commendable, the lover of truth will quickly realize that its approach is unbiblical.

It is altogether doubtful if modern day Christianity has ever seen anything like the men’s movement known as the Promise Keepers. Started in 1990 by Bill McCartney, head football coach at the University of Colorado, it has had unparalleled growth. The first major PK conference in 1991 drew 4200 men. By the summer of 1994 seven rallies were scattered throughout the country — each drawing as many as 60,000 Christian men. 1995 will see conferences in 12-14 cities with an expected 600,000 in total attendance. The four year old organization already has a staff of 120 and annual budget of $22 million. It has regional offices in 9 states and processes 5000 pieces of mail and 10,000 phone calls per day. In addition, local PK ministries and programs are springing up all over the country. PK’s stated mission “is to help promote spiritual revival in the homes, churches and communities of this nation. This will be accomplished by modeling, praying for and instructing all men to grow in Christ-like masculinity, enabling them to become ‘promise keepers’ to their wives who trust them, to their children who need them, and to the world which must be influenced by them” (Spring 1992 Men of Action). Could anyone argue with such noble goals? Yet we need to take a closer look.

As the name implies, Promise Keepers is built on the premise of promises. Men, who become active in the organization, commit themselves to keeping seven promises, and as we shall see many of these are very commendable. Here they are:

  1. A Promise Keeper must be committed to honor Jesus Christ through worship, prayer, and obedience to His Word.
  2. A PK is committed to practice spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity.
  3. A PK is committed to build strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.
  4. A PK is committed to support the mission of his church, by honoring and praying for his pastor and by actively giving his time and resources.
  5. A PK is committed to reach beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.
  6. A PK is committed to influence his world, being obedient to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matt 28:19,20).
  7. A PK is committed to pursue vital relationships with a few other men understanding that he needs his brothers to help keep his promises.

At first glance it would be difficult to fault these promises. But upon closer examination numerous unbiblical teachings and concepts are discerned. As a matter of fact, while many of the promises are scriptural, and others at least moral, we discover that the leadership of Promise Keepers have not gone to the Word for instruction on how to develop godliness. Rather, they have looked to extrabiblical sources and have attempted to dress them up in biblical garb.


Before we examine the PK movement in the light of Scripture, a few disclaimers might be in order. We in no way desire to stand in judgment on the motives and intentions of the leadership of PK. As far as we know, these are honest Christian men who desire to help other men grow in Christ. They have looked around our society and recognized a spiritual void in the lives of many who call themselves Christians. Then, to the best of their knowledge and abilities, they have attempted to fill that void. Only the Lord knows their hearts and we will leave that to Him. But, before the Lord, we have a responsibility to examine every movement, doctrine, or program against the revealed will of God as found in the Bible. Because something seems to be of God, does not make it so. Therefore, our mandate from God is to examine everything in light of the Scriptures. Obedience to this mandate often draws the fire of criticism, but we leave that with the Lord.


We could wrap our concerns about PK around: its ecumenical spirit; its charismatic emphasis; its psychological influence; and its disdain for doctrine.

While PK seems to have noble goals and concerns we find much that troubles us about the movement. We could wrap these concerns around four different issues: its ecumenical spirit; its charismatic emphasis; its psychological influence; and its disdain for doctrine.


As Promise #5 indicates, part of PK’s agenda is to break down denominational walls and barriers. Apparently denominational barriers are placed on the same level as racial ones, i.e. due to pure prejudice and ignorance. But that should not be the case. If what separates one believer from another is only a denominational label, then by all means ignore the label. But if individuals are part of a certain denomination because of their Scriptural beliefs, to ignore those beliefs can be extremely unwise. If, in order to have unity, we must overlook theological error, we do not have unity but something more like uniformity. Scripture never calls for unity at the sacrifice of truth. The blatancy of PK’s error in this regard is their willingness to join hands with the Roman Catholic church. Catholics are not only invited to come to the conferences, they are allowed into leadership. Bill McCartney said the following at the 1994 Promise Keepers’ regional conference held in Portland, Oregon,

“Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re a Baptist. Are you born in the Spirit of God? Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Pentecostal. Are you born in the Spirit? Now hear this! Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re a Roman Catholic. Are you born into the Spirit of God.”

But is the Catholic Church just another Christian denomination with a few unique aspects, or is it an apostate organization that teaches works salvation, extrabiblical revelation, the worship of idols, and dozens of other heresies? This type of ecumenicalism marks the spirit of the age, but it has never marked the spirit of the true church. Rather than joining hands with those who teach error we are called to expose them and their errors (Titus 1:9). Unity must always find its foundation in truth. But truth is not at the foundation of the unity of the Promise Keepers.


The Promise Keepers organization is absolutely inundated with charismatic leaders and speakers, as well as charismatic emphasis in virtually all that is said and done. Concerning leadership, it doesn’t take long to see the charismatic influence. The founder, Bill McCartney, as well as the current president, Randy Phillips are both affiliated with the Vineyard Movement (a denomination that is on the leading edge of the supposed third wave of charismatic revival that the Twentieth Century has experienced. The Vineyard Movement— also known as the “Powers and Wonders” movement, and “Power Evangelism”— is heavy into miracles and prophecies, frowns on being identified with the older Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. We will write more of this element within evangelical Christianity at a latter date). In addition, McCartney’s pastor, James Ryle, who claims to be a modern day prophet within the Vineyard Movement, is on the board of directors of PK. Ryle’s most well known prophecy concerned the singing group, the Beatles. At an Nov. 1990 Vineyard Harvest convention in Denver, Ryle claimed that God instructed him to reveal to the church that both the Beatles and their music were the result of a special anointing that was to bring about worldwide revival. Ryle asserted, “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘What you saw in the Beatles — the gifting and the sound that they had — was from Me. … It was My purpose to bring forth through music a worldwide revival that would usher in the move of My Spirit in bringing men and women to Christ.” The Beatles however rebelled against God’s purpose and the idea had to be sacked (apparently God’s will was thwarted by the Beatles and God has yet to come up with a plan “B”).

Other charismatic influences include Jack Hayford, well known Charismatic pastor and frequent speaker at PK rallies. Also in May, 1994, PK published its new magazine, New Man: For Men of Integrity. The magazine is being co-published by Stephen Stang, the founding editor of the hyper-charismatic magazine, Charisma.

Knowing Stang’s background, it should not surprise us to read the following in the April, 1994 issue of Charisma: “This high-quality magazine (PK’s) will feature practical articles designed to encourage and equip its readers to become godly men. It will be a lively publication for men of the ’90s, appealing to their interests, such as sports, hobbies and health. Like Promise Keepers, the magazine will cross ethnic and denominational boundaries to unite men in Jesus Christ — a magazine for any man who loves Jesus and is born of the Spirit —charismatic, evangelical, Protestant or Catholic.” (emphasis added) With charismatics already in leadership, in charge of major publications, and used as special speakers, it is rather obvious what direction PK is headed.


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