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Promise Keepers vs. the Lord's Church

By Dan Flournoy

religion, articles, christianity

Promise Keepers is an inter­denominational men's movement begun by Bill McCartney, former head football coach at the University of Colorado. It is reported that he, along with Dave Wardell, organized this movement as a means of motivating men to be better husbands and fathers.

Large rallies are being held across the country attracting an average of 50 thousand men. A few of our brethren have begun to promote PK, perhaps without considering what is involved. Please give careful consideration to some salient facts.

First, speakers at these PK meetings are all from various denominations (Raise the Standard, PK brochure for 1995, p. 16). Therefore, the meetings are denominational in nature, and the teachers are false teachers. They teach salvation by faith only, the impossibility of falling from grace, the millennial reign of Christ, and that the church is nonessential. In addition to their annual 13 meetings, PK conducts special "Clergy Conferences for Men." Regarding this, their brochure states:

Promise Keepers believe this special Clergy Conference for Men ... may serve as a catalyst for a supernatural move of God's Spirit across our land. This gathering will offer men in pastoral ministry a unique occasion to gather in a focused, corporate environment to pursue biblical unity in the body of Christ. This conference will also address issues specific to men. It is our fervent prayer at Promise Keepers that you will join your brothers for this powerful time of worship, fellowship and prayer. Together we will surrender to His will and seek His strategy for toppling the walls dividing the Church (Fan into Flame, 1996 PK Clergy Conference brochure, p. 4).

Promise Keepers is unbiblical regarding the nature and organization of the Lord's church. PK teaches a "pastor system" of church organization which is contrary to the New Testament pattern of a plurality of elders overseeing a local congregation (1 Tim. 3:1­7; Titus 1:5­12). The truth regarding how to be saved and the nature of the church is not preached by PK.

The only biblical "strategy for toppling the walls dividing the Church" is to give up denominational names, creeds, titles, false doctrines and take the

Bible as the only rule of faith and practice.

Second, PK has a creed entitled "Seven Promises of Promise Keepers" (Raise the Standard, PK brochure, 1995, p. 16). It is a Calvinistic creed teaching one cannot be obedient to the Word of God except by the power of the Holy Spirit exerted separate from the gospel.

PK teaches the false doctrine of "unity in diversity," (that is, we all agree not to take any doctrinal stand on anything). Those who join PK must disregard plain Bible teaching about fellowship with those who do not preach or practice the truth (2 John 9­11).

Third, PK is in direct opposition to the Lord's church. It seeks to supplant the church for which Jesus died. When one obeys the gospel, he is added to the church, the body of Christ (Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13). Christians owe their allegiance to Christ as the head of the body and to the church for which he died. PK seeks to draw away disciples into a separate organization guided by the doctrines of men.

Fourth, those who attend PK meetings sing, stomp, and clap to the beat of instrumental music (Lore B. Postelwait, Christian Chronicle, Aug. 1995, pp. 14­15). Such behavior violates Jesus' instruction to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Peter pointed out that false teachers often use religion for personal gain: "And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Peter 2:1­3). Each man attending a PK meeting is charged $55. There are 13 rallies each year with an average of 50,000 men at each rally. This comes to a $35,750,000! Add the sale of PK caps, lapel pens, T­shirts, tapes, videos, and books ("Men of Action," PK Newsletter, April 1995, p. 12). The PK Clergy Conference requires a $95 registration fee. PK is big business!

Promoters of PK argue that this denominational men's movement "is fulfilling one of the most needed missions in America today. It is waking up husbands and fathers to their moral and ethical responsibilities within the home" (Howard Norton, Christian Chronicle, Sept. 1995, p. 18). As if the church could not do this. If the church, teaching the inspired Word of God cannot make us perfect in the sight of the Lord, then the church is a big mistake (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:16­17).

Fifth, it is argued that PK is a wake­up call from God. Another writer put it this way, "I believe God has raised up Promise Keepers as an act of­love and mercy for our beleaguered nation" (Tom Bost, Christian Chronicle, Oct. 1995, p. 2). Another PK promoter, Michael O'Donnell, associate professor at Abilene Christian University, and executive director of the Southwest Center for Fathering said:

I think this is God's agenda. Go back to Malachi 4:5­6. It is a prophesy saying that we will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their fathers. If that does not occur, God says he will strike the land with a curse. We need to ask the question: 'Is our land cursed?' I think the answer is yes (Michael O'Donnell, Christian Chronicle, Aug. 1995, p. 14).

O'Donnell misrepresents Malachi 4:5­6. It is not a prophesy that "we" will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their fathers. Rather it is a prophecy regarding the coming of John the baptizer (figuratively referred to as Elijah). Part of his work of preparing the way for the Messiah

would be to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their fathers (Luke 1:17). The misapplication of Scripture to justify fellowship with error is a trademark of apostasy.

The idea that God is behind the PK movement accuses God of endorsing false teachers. This is like saying that God has raised up the Pope to speak out on the abortion evil.

Chuck Swindoll, president of Dallas Theological Seminary and a PK speaker, teaches the direct operation of the Holy Spirit and Dispensational Millennialism, as well as other false doctrines. He teaches that the church is non­essential and that the Lord's kingdom has been postponed until some future time.

Greg Laurie, a PK speaker, preaches salvation by faith alone and teaches people to say "the sinners prayer" to be saved:

Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose again. Receive, through prayer, Jesus Christ into your heart and life. Pray something like this from the sincerity of your heart: I believe You died for my sins and then rose from the grave. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I receive You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen. Then tell a believing friend and a pastor about your commitment (Greg Laurie, New Believer's Growth Book, Riverside, California: Harvest Ministries, 1985, p. 8).

Imagine the apostle John publishing this in the church bulletin at Ephesus:

Attention Men! The Gnostics are holding a giant rally on "How to Keep Your Promises" next week in the great stadium in Ephesus. Here is what you need to do: First, pray that the Spirit of God would powerfully reveal Jesus Christ to every man who comes to the stadium that day. Second, invite and travel with not only your friends and family but with men from different ethnic and denominational heritages. (Ask some of your friends from the circumcision party to come along.) Let us together seize the privilege that God is extending to us, that He might transform us in a way that ignites revival in this land" (Taken directly from the PK brochure with a few obvious changes).

John's attitude toward false teachers is:

Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works (2 John 9­11).

PK and those in the church who support it believe in a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. They believe that PK "may serve as a catalyst for a supernatural move of God's Spirit across our land." They believe that "this is God's agenda" and that "God has raised up Promise Keepers."

No one opposes men becoming better fathers and husbands. However, it is not necessary for Christians to join with denominational error to achieve the end of promoting fatherhood.

There a difference between reading a denominational commentary and actively participating in and endorsing a denominational worship service. One preacher and editor said in defense of PK:

Our religious libraries in Christian universities and preacher training schools would be woefully short of good materials if the only books on the shelves were those written by our scholars. What preacher would deny having been blessed by the religious writings of men like Barnes, Clarke, Hastings, Lenski, Barclay, Dobson, Colson, Stott, Bruce, or Henry? We readily agree that some of their writings were wrong, but so much of what they wrote was right that we must not neglect their insights (Howard Norton, Christian Chronicle, Oct. 1995, p. 20).

One should know the difference between reading a commentary written by. a false teacher and promoting a denominational meeting where false teachers present their heresy to the unsuspecting, and engaging in sinful worship. Does brother Howard really think that consulting a commentary equates to singing religious songs to the sound of the piano, guitars, drums, and flutes. If he does, he should never read from another commentary written by a false teacher, or he should cease his opposition to the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship and praise of God. He set this dilemma for himself.

It is argued by brothers who endorse PK that the real problem is with "us" not "them." We in the churches of Christ have a problem because we have not sufficiently equipped our people to distinguish "bones from fish."

The very purpose of the Christian ministry is to equip God's people to thrive and survive in a real world that is saturated with imperfect concepts and ideologies. Elders and preachers cannot begin to know all the false teachings and influences suffered by their members on a daily basis. The leaders' task is to provide spiritual education so that when no elder or preacher is around, church members will know how to separate the fish from the bones (Howard Norton, Christian Chronicle, Oct. 1995).

The problem is not whether brethren can distinguish between fish and bones, between truth and error. Some can; some cannot. The problem lies with brethren who insist on bringing denominational error into the church of our Lord. It lies with those who uphold false teachers and promote their causes.

For years our brethren have conducted seminars, lectureships, and workshops on marriage, the family, and the roles of men and women in the church. Preachers and elders have conducted men's leadership classes, and volumes have been written regarding the need for male spiritual leadership. To suggest that the church has done nothing in the area of male leadership is wrong.

Promise Keepers is an inter­denominational organization promoting denominational doctrines in the name of helping men keep their commitments. Those who promote PK in the name of tolerance are promoting damnable heresies.

Remember Jesus' warning: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15).


Published February 1996