Promise Keepers planner has big plans for men

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Sometimes there is nothing quite like thousands of men gathered in a sporting venue cheering about the coaches' calls from the field of play.

On Sept. 7 and 8, Southern California men will get just that opportunity when Promise Keepers brings back its popular conference schedule to the Viejas Arena at San Diego State University. During the two-day event, the all-male audience will be asked to respond to a variety of play calls by an impressive list of national "coaches": Greg Stier, "Called Out"; Bob Beltz, "A Call to Duty"; Tony Evans, "A Call to Lead"; Sam Rodriguez, "A Call to Action"; Raleigh Washington, "A Call to Courage"; and local Pastor Miles McPherson, "A Call to Nobility."

Among those with a front row seat will be John Lough, the assistant conference director, who has assisted with about four dozen PK events over the years. In the early days of the ministry, Lough, then a national salesman, would often arrange his business trips to coincide with regional PK events.

Years later, his heart was emboldened that the ministry was trying to revive the model that made Promise Keepers a national sensation in the 1990s after its founding by Bill McCartney, then-head coach of the Buffaloes at the University of Colorado, Boulder. On May 20, McCartney was named founder and chairman emeritus of the organization he had launched after the ministry vision emerged on a trip with his friend Dave Wardell.

"They were driving across to a Campus Crusade for Christ event, and that's when they had that vision of filling the stadiums with men praising God and falling on their face and praying for revival and worshipping God in a big stadium event. It took off from there."

Over the years, the ministry struggled with financial difficulties and at one point the entire staff was laid off, with operations being handled by an all-volunteer team. About five years ago, McCartney came out of retirement to return to the ministry. Lough said he's eagerly awaiting the ministry's revival.

"When I was at a PK event God showed me—I was sitting up towards the top—and He told me to look down toward these men and He goes, 'That's your ministry, you are being called to serve men.'"

For the next few months, Lough will be doing just that, driving down to San Diego for weekly planning meetings from his Moreno Valley home.

"I see a calling on me to get this thing straight, to get it right and fulfill the ministry God has called them to do," said Lough, who has also worked with the Harvest Crusades, hosted by his home church Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. "God is calling them out right now."

Lough, the co-owner of a commercial produce company, said he is so committed to the process because he believes the time is ripe for men, especially Christian men, to recapture their God-given roles to lead their families and their communities. The first step, he said, is wrestling with sin.

"When it comes to Promise Keepers I know we are coming to the altar to deal, and we're going to get things straight," Lough said.

"That night at the altar call they are dealing with it. The next morning after they have slept on it, they are going to deal with more issues. We're going to have the support afterwards to deal with those issues and get them in Bible-believing churches with a good, vibrant men's ministry. They are going to serve their pastor, be better husbands, be better workers and community leaders."

The overall goal to get it straight, he said, is not limited to unbelievers.

"The condition of the men at the churches are that the guys have 'been there, done that.' The kids are the same way; they see their dads not following through and not doing the things they are called to do."

Repentance, he said, is the only way to change a culture that's run amok with values that run contrary to God's Word.

"There are no firm standards anymore," Lough said. "As long as we don't have firm standards or biblical beliefs it's always going to happen again. Nobody is going to take responsibility for what happens."

In advance of the event, Lough said the planning team is calling on the men to fast and pray every Thursday between now and the event "so that they can get in tune with the spiritual side of it, fasting and opening themselves up to God and what he's going to do," he said.

The cost of the event is $59, but a savings of $20 per person is available for Christian Examiner readers by mentioning code 0912-CENW during registration. For more information, visit www.promisekeepers.org/events or call 1-866-776-6473.