Promise Keepers to retool 2006 conferences

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DENVER, Colo. — Promise Keepers, the international men's ministry founded by Coach Bill McCartney, is retooling its 2006 stadium events to better reach men for Jesus Christ and to empower them to serve their churches.

The new format is being rolled out during 19 conferences nationwide, including the Oct. 20 and 21 event at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. This year's conference theme is "Unleashed—Releasing the Raw Power of Your Heart."

Officials anticipate that 170,000 men will attend the conferences, where they will be encouraged to discover their potential, find a pathway to optimize that potential, and move in that direction with a few other like-minded friends.

Based in Denver, PK has directly reached more than five million men since its founding in 1990.

In advance of the conferences, a panel of leading thinkers and strategists on men's ministry outlined their thoughts earlier this spring on changes churches must make to ebb continuing membership loss.

In addition to Dr. Thomas S. Fortson, president and chief executive officer of Promise Keepers, the forum included Stan Perea, HIS Ministries; James Ryle, TruthWorks Ministries; and Alvin Simpkins, Emmanuel Christian Center. They shared their thoughts on why men are leaving traditional congregations and how churches can correct this disturbing trend.

"There is a disconnect between men's deepest wants and needs and the churches that need men so badly," Fortson said.

In the face of mounting evidence that men in particular are exercising spirituality away from the traditional church, Fortson explained Promise Keepers' position.

"We find ourselves in the middle of this question—inspiring men to go deeper and loving our pastors who shepherd the communities of faith," Fortson said.

Ryle, a founding PK board member, said that times are changing and that the biggest mistake the church can make is not to so itself.

"The people who are leaving the church aren't leaving God, truth, Scripture, or community—they are just leaving the game."

Ryle argued that the church has become too institutional in a culture that is starving for what is real, relevant and significant.

Simpkins leads a growing congregation in Denver where 40 percent of the membership is men. Although sympathetic to the difficulties pastors face in reaching men, he said he believes that Christian leaders should demand more from the men in their congregations.

"You demand much, and your men respond enthusiastically," he said, noting that he gathers men from his congregation at 5:30 a.m. every Monday morning for prayer and discussion on issues that matter.

The critical question is going to have to transition from 'how to get men to the church' to 'how to get men to become the church,' Ryle said.

Perea agreed.

"You must reach men for Christ and then set them free to transform the community—whether they come to church on Sunday or whether they don't," the ministry leader said.

In his opening remarks, Fortson acknowledged the importance of the church.

"Jesus loves his church, his people, wherever they are," he said. "And we believe that He is drawing them together, but, perhaps, in some new and surprising ways."

Speakers for the L.A. conference will be Reggie Dabbs, Bob Reccord, Joseph Garlington, Kenneth Ulmer and Erwin McManus.

Music will be provided by The Katrinas, with drama by Awaken.

Admission for the event is $89 for men and $69 for youth.

For more information, visit promisekeepers.org.