The Promise Keepers men’s ministry movement is alive and well, as almost 4,000 men from southern Ontario and parts of northern New York state attended Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum this past fall for a two-day Draw the Line men’s conference.

A cast of speakers including media personality Michael Coren, former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player and Hall of Fame inductee Mike Gartner, as well as counsellor Chuck Borsellino, spoke on topics including Success in the 21st Century, Choosing Between God and Your Job, and The Key to a Successful Family.

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“The overall theme was: how to be a man of success and significance,” said Kirk Giles, vice-president of conferences and events for Promise Keepers Canada. “We challenged and equipped men in various areas.”

Another focus was on emphasizing the importance of a man’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and how to improve that relationship. “We also looked at various aspects of a man’s life, especially his relationship with his wife and children,” said Giles.

An extended session of praise and worship music highlighted the opening night’s events, followed up with a concert by the band Lost Coin the next day. Several skits that illustrated certain points were also staged throughout the conference.

“The event was very good,” said conference attendee Louis Peixoto of Stoney Creek, Ont. “There was unity among the Christians. A lot of people raised their hands, singing and crying … You could just be yourself.”

Peixoto, who attended with his teenage son Ryan, said Borsellino’s talk was very relevant because part of it dealt with the perils and “rules” of teenage dating, and the role fathers have in supervising it.

Other parts of the talk concerned materialism and the challenges men face in leading a Christian lifestyle in today’s social and moral climate. “It was very encouraging,” said Peixoto.

Through PK’s Joseph Project, the conference provided financial assistance to several southern Ontario aid projects, including Mission Services, Out of the Cold and Generation Now (in Hamilton) and the Niagara Life Centre and Open Arms Mission (in Welland).

Also, through the Community Impact Project, conference attendees were asked to donate an item that would make a practical difference in the lives of people in the local community. The Hamilton event had been preceded by several smaller Ontario gatherings, including a prayer meeting in Grimsby and evangelism training sessions in Welland, Oakville and Hamilton.

Promise Keepers Canada had other Draw the Line national men’s conferences in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Sept. 29, Halifax Oct. 19-20 and Winnipeg Nov. 9-10. It also held Building Men of Integrity gatherings in Abbotsford, B.C., Chatham, Ont. and Penticton, B.C. Upcoming Building Men of Integrity events will take place in Morden, Man. Jan. 18-19 and St. Thomas, Ont. Feb. 22-23.

Meanwhile, Building Men of Purity and Holiness conferences took place in Kingston, Ont. on Aug. 20, Windsor, Ont. on Aug. 25, Medicine Hat, Alta. Sept. 28-29 and Grand Prairie, Alta. Nov. 23-24.

While the vision of Promise Keepers Canada is “to challenge every Canadian man to discover the incredible life quest that God has for him as revealed by the life of Christ and the Holy Scriptures,” a key focus is battling the scourge of pornography.

That is the basis of what the Building Men of Purity and Holiness conferences are about. They advise men and boys about why God created sex, how He wants humans to live as sexual beings, how fathers can pass on a legacy of purity to their children and how one can be free from sexual bondages and strongholds.

South of the border, Promise Keepers U.S.A. staged a special “Passage” conference for young men 13-17 in Columbus, Oh. on Dec. 15. Speakers included Coach Bill McCartney and Josh McDowell, with music from Jars of Clay. Meanwhile, 16 “Storm the Gates” conferences are so far planned for 2002, in cities including Rochester, N.Y., Cleveland, Oh., and Grand Rapids, Mich.

Promise Keepers is dedicated to igniting and uniting men to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ through the effective communication of “The 7 Promises.” The organization was founded on March 20, 1990, when the head football coach for the University of Colorado, Bill McCartney, and his friend Dave Wardell, were on a three-hour car ride to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.

They discussed the idea of filling a stadium with Christian men and, later that year, 72 men began to fast and pray about the concept of thousands of men coming together for the purpose of Christian discipleship.

In July 1991, 4,200 men gathered for the first Promise Keepers conference at the University of Colorado basketball arena. The organization marked its 10th anniversary in 2000, having ministered to more than 3.5 million men through 98 stadium and arena conferences.

Included in that number are hundreds of thousands of men who participated in “Stand in the Gap – A Sacred Assembly” on Oct. 4, 1997.

That was a massive gathering on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. marked by a day of personal repentance and prayer. The event was patterned after biblical accounts of how the nation of Israel was called to gather for days of fasting, prayer, confession and repentance of sin because it had wandered away from God.

Promise Keepers’ official statement on life and related issues states that: “Promise Keepers realizes that when men are convicted with the truth of God, they will become men of action and conviction. One of these truths is to respect the sanctity of life and defend the defenceless. Those in the womb are some of the most defenceless of all human beings.

“As an organization, we firmly believe God has called us to stay the course that He has set for us: to be a Christ-centred ministry dedicated to uniting men through vital relationships to become godly influences in their world. As such, we desire and pray for a generation of men of action, conviction, and integrity.