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Promise Keepers: The Beginning

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. – Col. 1:28-29

I was one of the founding leaders of the Promise Keepers Men’s Movement of the 1990s.

It was truly one of the most exciting and stretching experiences of my fifty-three years of ministry service to the body of Christ. I was invited to pen this series to share with our readers the history of this movement, its impact and influence on the men of America (and other countries), and what I learned and experienced as we saw the mighty hand of God move in the lives of the men of America.

This is how things began for me:

In August of 1988, I moved from my Vice President role at Cincinnati Christian University to Boulder, Colorado to become the Lead Minister at Boulder Valley Christian Church. As we arrived, several of the men of the congregation invited me to attend a popular interdenominational men’s prayer breakfast which was held each Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. at the Boulder Country Club.

The first Friday after the invitations, I arrived at the country club at 6:30 a.m. to find the parking lot full. I entered the banquet room, got coffee, and took a seat at a round table up front. The room was filled with 150+ men who seemed to really enjoy the fellowship and time together. I introduced myself to the man on my right. “Hi, my name is David Roadcup. I am new in town and the new Pastor at Boulder Valley Christian Church.”

The man on my right said, “Welcome to our fellowship. My name is Bill McCartney.”

At that point, I did not know that Bill was the Head Coach of the football program at the University of Colorado in our city. I also did not know where this meeting would take us.

If you were a pastor and attended the breakfast regularly, you were asked to join the rotation of speakers who provided the fifteen minute devotion at the weekly breakfasts. I began speaking in the rotation and Bill would graciously speak to me about what he had received from my messages. We made a connection through those brief visits.

This began a relationship with Bill that led to a phone call a year later.

Coach Mac and one of his close friends, David Wardell, had traveled together to fulfill a speaking engagement on Coach Mac’s schedule. As they drove, they sang and prayed together.

During this trip, Bill shared with David that he thought the Lord was leading him to begin an outreach to men.

David encouraged Bill to pursue what he thought the Lord had revealed to him. They would work on this project together.

Immediately after this trip, two men called me to share Bill’s vision. He believed that the Lord was leading him to begin a men’s ministry that called men to do a couple of focused things.

First, to be true to the promises they made at their baptisms—promises of a life committed to integrity, purity, loyalty and obedience to Jesus.

The second was a promise to be the most biblical husbands and fathers they could be.

Devoted husbands who loved their wives as Christ loved the church . . . and to love their wives as they loved themselves. Husbands who would raise their children to walk in faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. We were to restore the spiritual identity of the sons of God.

Bill felt he knew what the Lord was leading him to do. He just was not sure how to make this happen. The phone call was an invitation to meet with Bill, David and several other leaders to discuss the vision that these brothers had shared in together.

Our meeting was held at a Perkins Pancake House in Boulder. It was the fall of 1989. Eight of us gathered, had breakfast, and listened to Bill and David as they shared their vision.

Bill told us that he dreamed of the day when the stadium his team played in on Saturday afternoons would be filled with men seeking the Lord.

They asked us if we had any input into how this kind of a ministry could be launched. Being ministers, we told him that we knew the basics of how to create this kind of a gathering. We also shared our hearts about the need to call men to a faithful commitment to Christ. Bill asked for our help and we prayed a prayer of unity and dedication to move forward.

The men at this meeting eventually formed the first Board of Directors for P.K.

That original group served together for many years, adding new members as others rotated off the board. I served on the Board for eleven years, the last five as Board Vice-Chair.

Our first action was to invite a group of men to a meeting where we introduced the idea that would become Promise Keepers.

We decided to call men in our networks to a meeting that would take place at the church where I preached, Boulder Valley Christian Church. This first informational meeting took place in July of 1990. Seventy-two men gathered for dinner, worship, and to hear about this new Men’s Ministry. (This meeting became known as “The Meeting of 72.”)

After a worship time, Coach Mac shared his heart about calling men to keep their promises. Bill was an excellent motivational speaker. His presentation was powerful and visionary. It was such a needed ministry for all of our churches.

In addition, the Lord’s powerful presence was there that night.

It was palatable. We all left the meeting, committed to moving forward with the vision of inviting men to come to a meeting where they would be challenged to get more serious than they had ever been before about knowing, loving, and following Jesus.

In the following weeks, our “Board” number grew to ten men. We began planning our end of July 1991 event, the date Bill requested. We issued invitations to the men of Colorado and the immediate adjoining states. Bill and his coaching staff had the entire month of July off each year. The first of August, summer practices began and Bill requested that we have the mass meeting the weekend before his season officially began.

We met and decided to lease Folsum Field, the football stadium at the University of Colorado for the last weekend of July. The date was set. We planned all fall and winter long, arranging worship leaders, speakers and a myriad of thousands of details which we, as the board, handled ourselves.

We labored in the details of putting together a meeting that would see 55,000 men come together in the name of Christ.

As we planned and prayed, little did we know what the Lord had in store long-term.

The tens of thousands of men who would come to Christ and the myriads who would recommit their lives to Jesus in NFL stadiums around the country were waiting for us. We were excited and had great anticipation concerning what the Lord would do. Our anticipation grew as the last weekend of July, 1991 approached.

This is the first 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 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 7: “Promise Keepers: Stand in the Gap” 
  • Part 8: “Revival: God Could Do It Again.”
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