The “Promises” And Antidotes
Promise Keepers began with 72 men under the leadership of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney in 1990. McCartney and the others were members of the Vineyard denomination, a Pentecostal group led by Rev. John Wimber, a faith healer with serious health problems. Wimber and C. Peter Wagner taught the infamous “Signs and Wonders” course in Church Growth at Fuller Seminary, promoting phony miracles as a way to get people to attend church.
McCartney and his associates quickly made their Promise Keepers group inter-denominational, with a goal of filling football stadiums. In 1995 they claimed a total attendance of over 700,000 men, according to a report on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.
Promise Keepers began as a men’s group and continues to grow as an ecumenical men’s group holding rallies with nationally known speakers, such as James Dobson and Charles Swindoll. The glue which binds the Promise Keepers together is a network of small prayer groups which serves as a multi-denominational church.
The prayer group which sets itself up as a church within a church is the product of Pietism, which began with Philip Spener, called the first union theologian by Otto Heick.(1) Pentecostals use prayer groups to teach people how to “pray in tongues, dance in the spirit, and be slain in the spirit,” all features of Satan worship in Africa. They also volunteer to invade non-Pentecostal prayer groups to teach people how to be real Christians, by their definition.
Prayer and lay-led Bible study groups have become popular due to the constant promotion of them in the Church Growth Movement. Their model church is Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, which is devoid of crosses outside and in the worship area. Willow Creek is playing a major role in Promise Keepers.
A Promise Keeper must make seven promises, which are a mixture of fine sentiments and alarming oaths. Some of the obvious problems are:
1) He binds himself to participate in a cell group and place himself under the spiritual authority of that group. In effect the cell group becomes his church, his pastor and elders. Their only qualification is that they are also Promise Keeprs.
2) He commits himself to praying for his pastor and working in his church, but nothing is said about the pastor or church being faithful to the Scriptures.
3) He acknowledges “denominational barriers,” an interesting choice of words, but is willing to cross denominational and racial lines at least once a month. This is a combination of racial justice and Third Wave Pentecostalism. Mixing a social justice goal and a religious goal in the same promise is mischievous. Expect the Promise Keepers to add more political causes to their ecumenical agenda.
The CLC places faithfulness to the Scriptures and the Confessions over the dramatic rush of filling football stadiums. The United States has seen decades of ecumenical revivals under Billy Graham, without apparent effect. Graham’s ecumenism was followed by Fuller Seminary’s Church Growth Movement, which is threatening to dominate WELS and LC-MS thinking while reducing their membership and attendance.
If pastors and lay leaders read Luther, Chemnitz, the Book of Concord, Walther, and Pieper, they will be encouraged to trust in the efficacy of God’s Word and discouraged from joining the Enthusiasts.
In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning from the first fall to the end of the world, its poison having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power, life, and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the Papacy and Mahomet. Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments.(2)
God Himself is The Promise Keeper.
— Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
1. History of Christian Thought, 2 vols., Philadelphia, Fortress
2. Smalcald Articles, VIII. Confession, 9-10. Concordia Triglotta, p.
497. Tappert, p. 313.