I’ve remained a fan of Promise Keepers during its 25-year run of hosting national men’s conferences in stadiums and arenas, beginning with the first event in Boulder, Colo. back in 1990. At the time, I attended the same church as PK Founder and University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, and went to my first conference in 1991 at the invitation of a roommate who today is one of a handful of close male friends and co-author of the coach’s book, Sold Out.
Weeks in advance of the conference at CU‘s Folsom Field, I listened continuously to a PK worship CD, singing my praise to Jesus and eagerly anticipating a packed-out stadium of Jesus-loving men who desired to be better husbands and fathers, as well as men who would turn to Him in desperation and repentance for the first time.
As reporters for a daily newspaper, my roommate and myself along with a group of his high school buddies walked with thousands of others past media representatives and some gay men protesting the event because Coach McCartney had publicly called homosexuality an abomination of Almighty God. Others took time to invite the men to the conference.
Though not sold out, the first PK event at Folsom Field exceeded my expectations and deepened my love for Jesus; it also fostered a desire to connect with other men who loved Him. The following year, nearly all of the 50,000 seats inside the stadium were filled with rabid, sweaty, Jesus-praising men. In the years that followed, I traveled with PK to Denver’s Mile High Stadium and Pepsi Center where Bible teachers like Jack Hayford, Joseph Garlington,Wellington Boone and other great men of God challenged hundreds of thousands of men to follow hard after Jesus.
The growth was exponential, spreading to stadiums across the United States. PK organizers say the ministry has impacted six million men. Franklin Graham, the son of the Reverend Billy Graham, acknowledges that PK has impacted the lives of more men than has his father’s evangelistic crusades.
That fact piqued the curiosity of national and international media. Time Magazine and other publications featured PK on their front-page covers in 1997 when 1.4 million men assembled on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for Stand in the Gap, a day of united prayer, repentance and worship.
PK and its sister ministry, One Message, are again bracing for an onslaught of favorable media coverage in the fall of 2014; this time with the addition of social media, Internet blogs, online magazines and ministry websites as the two groups host an unprecedented event in the Holy Land.
More than stand in the gap on behalf of the nation, PK and One Message hope to close the gap between Christians and Messianic Jewish believers this year. In Israel, the ministries hope to unite at least 1,000 pastors, thousands more believers, and a virtual audience of 10 million people watching by Internet, television, radio and satellite, according to PK President and CEO Dr. Raleigh Washington.
McCartney, Washington, PK staff and others recently hosted a press conference during which they announced plans for the Jesus Reigns 2014 Israel Event and Tour. Organizers met in New Jersey, home of New York Times best-selling author, pastor and Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and his church and ministry, the Jerusalem and Beth Israel Worship Centers. The Harbinger, Cahn’s non-fiction account of God’s judgment on Israel and parallels to events in the U.S., has remained atop the top sellers list more than two years since its publication.
“The event is (partly) designed to expose more Christians to the historic origins of their faith,” Cahn told The Star-Ledger in Wayne, NJ. “The church has been cut off from its roots,” the pastor and rabbi says.
More than directing Christians to the Hebraic roots of their faith, PK and One Message hope to achieve the ambitious goal of helping fulfill Jesus’ prayer in John’s Gospel for unity among believers. To accomplish their mission, the two ministries will unite 500 U.S. pastors and 500 others from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America with thousands more Christian pilgrims in the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem.
“Imagine a movement of God’s people so vast that every government, every media outlet, every person connected to modern communication was aware that tens - maybe even hundreds of thousands - of believers were gathered together in Israel where our faith was born, boldly proclaiming that our faith is not in governments, or any man-made institution, but in Jesus Christ,” PK organizers say
With millions - maybe 10 million or more - of people watching simulcasts online and through social media, satellite and network broadcasts, PK believes the event could be both “catalytic and historic” as one of the most significant Christian events of all time, launching what could be the great revival prophesied by the Apostle Paul and affirmed by revivalist preachers C.H. Spurgeon, Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody and others.
“When this (unity) happens, we believe the greatest revival the world has ever experienced will take place, preparing the way for the return of Jesus, the Messiah,” PK organizers say.
I hope they’re right. Like McCartney, I’ve moved from the church we shared during PK’s early days to one that demonstrates love for Israel by supporting Christian missionaries and humanitarian efforts there, including those to orthodox and Messianic Jews and Arab Palestinians. A Jew who observes Judaism is regularly welcomed to speak from the pulpit of my church where, he says, Israel finds some of its best friends.
I believe that, like PK’s first stadium event, Jesus Reigns 2014 holds great potential for personal revival in the lives of Christians and, as important, a worldwide recognition that Jesus was sent by God. This, according to the Bible, is the result when Gentile and Jewish believers - both men and women - unite as one.
As for women, they are invited to join men from every race, nationality and continent for a seven- or 10-day tours of Israel, coinciding with the one-day Jesus Reigns event on Sept 17 at Gehenna in the Valley of Hinnom. In the Old Testament, Gehenna is noted as a gateway to hell because Israel’s pagan neighbors burned their children in sacrifices to the god of fire, Cahn told The Star-Ledger. In literal and figurative ways, they will be storming the gates of hell to lift souls to heaven, Cahn says.
“We’re calling believers from around the world to stand together as one and demonstrate to the world that Jesus reigns,” McCartney says.
One Message, which launched in 2012, is as global in reach as PK and holds to three, unifying principles: Obeying the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit; caring for and supporting outreach efforts to the poor in Israel and elsewhere; and standing in solidarity with Messianic Jewish believers and the nation of Israel.
Like the conferences I attended in the 1990s, PK will host five regional events in 2014, designed to encourage a new generation of men in becoming better husbands and fathers. Citing tremendous response to its events in 2012 and 2013, PK says more than half the men who attend its conferences are under 30 years of age. PK also offers statistics that reveal 93 percent of families will follow husbands and fathers back to church, versus 17 percent of families that go to a place of worship with wives and mothers. They quote Dr. Tony Evans who says, “As the man goes, so goes the world.”
Beginning in Florida at the Titus Harvest Dome, PK will host events in Peoria, Ill; in the Southeast at the HPC Arena; in the Mountain Region at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo.; and in New England at the New Life Church at Mountain Ride. Like the Jesus 2014 Israel event, PK hopes to publicize its conferences on social media. The ministry also plans to produce a weekly podcast, a smart-phone application, and a YouVersion Bible reading program, as well as utilize a community of writers that will produce content for PK’s social media presence.
I, like PK organizers, believe the organization’s best days are ahead, and I agree with the ministry’s goal of uniting Gentile and Messianic Jews in Israel and around the globe. Revival hopes began 65 years ago when the state of Israel - a nation that ceased to exist 2,000 years before - was reborn in a day, organizers point out.
Like millions of others plugged into the Internet and other media, I will be watching live streaming coverage on Sept 17 when pastors and those they lead - Gentile believers and Messianic Jews - storm the gates of hell in the Valley of Hinnom. That will indeed change the world.