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Promise Keepers: Stand in the Gap

*Editor’s Note: David Roadcup was one of the founding architects of Promise Keepers. In this series, David shares some of the amazing things God did through the movement. 

In mid-1995, Promise Keepers president Randy Phillips began discussing the idea of a great gathering of men in Washington, D.C. This day would be a special day of God’s men coming together to seek His face, to be in His presence, and to do business with Him in a powerful way.

Our Purpose

Our purpose in calling the men of our country together for this Sacred Assembly was to come before the Lord in repentance. We asked that men come prepared to repent for their personal sins, for the sins of the church, and the sins of our nation. Our Stand in the Gap materials stated our purpose:

“To gather a diverse multitude of men in the name of Jesus Christ to confess personal and collective sin, so that we may present to the Lord, godly men on their knees in humility, then on their feet in unity, reconciled and poised for revival and spiritual awakening.”

We were praying for a million plus men to join us on the Mall in D.C. We felt the potential to reach this goal was a reality, given the momentum that Promise Keepers had at that time. We began to share this idea, calling it the “Million Man March.” Such a great name! Little did we know that in the ensuing months ahead, the name would be hijacked by another group, attempting a large men’s gathering in our nation’s Capitol, as well.

The concept of the Sacred Assembly came from the book of 2 Chronicles 15, where Israel came before the Lord to repent of sin and in humility, seek His face. We were also leaning into 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a historical text that very much could apply to us today:

“And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

We were calling men from every race and color, every social and economic background, from every corner of our nation to come together for this day of humility before the King.

The Planning

Extensive planning went into this gargantuan event! From planning the program to filing for the permits with the National Parks Service for permission to use the Mall, to renting the staging and sound system and securing the Port-O-Johns, the planning was extreme. We rented every Jumbotron in the US that was available plus two from Europe. They were set up down the Mall so that men could see what was happening on stage. There were also the meals, security, and a multitude of other things that went into our preparation. We gave ourselves over two and a half years to plan to make this event happen. The date was eventually set for Saturday, October 4, 1994.

There was spiritual preparation, as well. We knew that, as leaders, we needed to beseech the Lord to be in this event, commit it to Him, and ask Him to empower everything that was going to happen.

This would be done through calling our Leadership Team, Board, and friends to prayer and fasting. For the next thirty months leading up to the event, we each made a commitment to fast either one meal a day, two meals a day, or one twenty-four hour period each week. Bill Bright with Campus Crusade for Christ challenged many of us to do a 40-day fast to prepare. I remember that Bill McCartney did a 40-day fast which I know was extremely hard on him physically. One of our vice presidents, Tom Fortson, decided to do a partial fast for the 40-day period. He told our team that he would be omitting coffee, meat, desserts and bread from his daily diet for 40 days, which he successfully did.

Two and a half years later, planning was completed and details were in order. We set out for D.C. in October of 1994, expectant and in prayer, looking forward to a tremendous experience together with a million brothers in Christ.

The Fruit

That Saturday morning, the day dawned very warm. This was unique in light of the fact that it was October. We started at noon and the heat was formidable. The temperature soared into the 90s. We had people passing out due to the heat, including a US Senator. We did have E.M.T.’s on duty and an ambulance took him to the hospital for treatment. All through the day, we encouraged the men to drink water frequently.

Security was an important component to the day. Bill McCartney and our board chairman Phil Porter had received a large number of death threats. They were told that if we brought P.K. to D.C. that Bill and Phil would both be killed. We found out that quite a few of the guards responsible for protecting our President and other top leaders were Christians and members of P.K.! Eleven of their men were off work on the day of our event, and they volunteered to provide security services for Coach Mac and Bro. Porter.

At seven in the morning, I was in the lobby of the hotel where we were all staying. I remember two black SUVs plus several motorcycles pulling up outside of the hotel. Several imposing men entered the hotel lobby, collected Coach Mac and his family, entered the vehicles and departed.

We had excellent security for our key people all during the day. Such a God thing!

Just prior to the program starting, reporters on the Press Tower called to a few of us on the ground to come up and take pictures. I am including a couple of these at the bottom of this blog. It was truly a sight to behold. Men all around on both sides and in front of us as far as one could see! A breathtaking sight!

The program for the day included worship, preaching, announcements, and videos, all arranged around our theme. It was an awesome, Spirit-filled day. Together, we did the following:

  • We challenged men with powerful, biblical messages to confront any personal sin they might have in their lives. We asked each one to do a “spiritual housecleaning.” Calling each man to heartfelt repentance and obedience, we asked men to deeply and authentically repent of their sins.
  • We also asked the men to repent for the sins of the church. Departure from biblical doctrine, disunity, and moral failures plagued the church, then and now. We repented of those sins on behalf of the church and implored the Lord to forgive His body.
  • We also had a time of repentance as we prayed for our nation. In the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14, we prayed for the forgiveness of the heinous sins of our nation. We asked the Lord to forgive our national sins, heal our land, and be the God who reigns over our country.
  • After each message, there was a time of prayer for each attendee to interact with the Lord about what had been preached.
My most vivid memory during the day took place when we were in a time of personal repentance.

We were asked by the speaker to prostrate ourselves on the ground, take the picture of our families out of our wallet, hold the picture before us, and pray directly for our wives, children, and grandchildren. Such a powerful image of men, many of them weeping, prostrate, looking at the picture of their families and lifting them up in prayer. It was a moving and awesome experience! This experience deeply impacted those who were in attendance.

We had prayed fervently for the Lord to spawn a national revival as a result of the Sacred Assembly. That did not happen. But over a million and a half men spent an impactful day, connected to the Lord and to each other, experiencing personal transformation. It was a day that we would all never forget.

This is the seventh installment in our series on the Promise Keepers by one of PK’s founding members, David Roadcup. Here are the other articles in the series: 

  • Part 1: “Promise Keepers: The Beginning” 
  • Part 2: “The First Promise Keepers Event: Witnessing the Power of God” 
  • Part 3: “Promise Keepers and the Power of Prayer” 
  • Part 4: “The Promise Keepers and Spiritual Warfare” 
  • Part 5: “Promise Keepers & Stories of Changed Lives” 
  • Part 6: “Promise Keepers: The Night We Encouraged Our Pastors” 
  • Part 8: “Revival: God Could Do It Again.” 
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