Local Promise Keepers group is working toward unity

Saturday, February 19, 2005

When the dozen men gather on Saturday mornings for a weekly Bible study, no one is concerned about where the others attend church or what programs they're involved in there.

"That's not even brought up," said Marc Harris, a Promise Keeper Bible study member in Jackson.

In an era when churches divide over small things, PromiseKeepers of the Heartland wants to return the focus to a single thing: a relationship with Jesus Christ.

To steer people toward that, a rally with Joe White, founder and president of Kanakuk Kamps, is planned for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Osage Community Centre. There are no tickets or registration required.

"We just want people to show up," said organizer Kent Reese.

Because of the prominence of the featured speaker, organizers are expecting about 1,400 to 1,600 people next Saturday evening including men, students and spouses.

"I think the purpose behind this and anything we do is that it's all under a flag of unity," Harris said.

Unity has become the theme for PromiseKeepers of the Heartland. Of the seven promises in the organization's creed, promise No. 6 talks about "reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity."

Dozens of churches have been invited and Reese wants people "to leave with a sense of unity and have that vision as far as being transformed as a person."

Promise Keepers offers men a chance at accountability in their faith relationship. The organization was founded in 1990 as a discipleship program for men who wanted help with spiritual maturity.

Reese said the accountability and sharing found at small group studies helps men with their everyday challenges. "Men want to have a way to come together and share their burdens, especially when they have a crisis in life." Having a core group of friends like those in small group studies "makes them more comfortable" when talking about problems.

Promise Keepers gives men a chance to let "their shield down and refuel," Reese said.

Often the Bible studies and fellowship events allow men to develop mentoring relationships, he said.

As Promise Keepers flourished in the mid-1990s, the group began emphasizing small group studies and accountability partners. Large rallies are held each year centered on a particular theme.

A national Promise Keepers rally is planned in St. Louis in late July and Joe White will be one of the speakers for "Awakening."

As the work of Promise Keepers has changed over the past decade or so, the national organization is ready to shift from a "movement" to a mission.

"It's time to get out of the arena and into the marketplace," president Tom Fortson said last year when the group reorganized. "Our stand is not political; it's moral. We are calling Christian men to change society by living under biblical authority and teaching others to do the same."

And that's exactly why Harris enjoys meeting with his Bible study group each week. "It's a bonding-type experience," he said. "We have a driven purpose to see more unity in the body of Christ, no matter what your denomination is."

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

WANT TO GO?

* What: Promise Keepers of the Heartland rally with Joe White

* When: 7 p.m. Feb. 26

* Where: Osage Community Centre, Cape Girardeau

Admission: Free

Christian researcher George Barna conducted a survey of Christian men and their awareness of Promise Keepers during 2004. His research found that only 13 percent of respondents thought spiritual matters were a top challenge. Other concerns were money/career and family children.

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