Thousands are expected to assemble for the Christian men's ministry Promise Keepers' annual conference next week for a gathering that will emphasize the building of healthy marriages and relationships.
Held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on July 16-17, organizers say the two-day event aims to provide attendees with the tools to be the "men Christ intended them to be."
One of the scheduled keynote speakers is bestselling author Dr. Les Parrott. The psychologist, who co-created eHarmony Marriage with his wife and co-founded the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University, told The Christian Post that the Promises Keepers movement founded in 1990 is primed for the season.
In a phone interview, Parrott said research shows that many men lead rather lonely lives since they don't cultivate relationships as well as they might.
"This gathering is kind of a stake in the ground that says, 'Hey, we're coming together, and we're investing in an authentic relationship with God, with humility.' And not only that, but this is a gathering that crosses generations, denominations, racial divides," he said. "It is a humble effort to just come together before God and say, 'We want to be the men You created us to be.'"
Social scientists are aware of the persistent problem of male loneliness as extensive research reveals that many men do not have a social network of close friendships, he noted.
"When we look at the indices of emotional health and even longevity, physical health and so forth, this a vital thing, to have those relationships that are authentic connections where you can just relax and be connected to a friend," he explained.
"So often, a man becomes driven in his identity by what he does, that is the work, the job. Men can get particularly focused on that, and I've even had friends who will say that if we're going to be friends, we've got to work together on something. It's an interesting phenomenon."
Other featured speakers will include prominent Hispanic evangelical leader the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, televangelist James Robison, New York City megachurch Pastor A.R. Bernard, Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris, Dallas Cowboys chaplain Jonathan Evans and bestselling author Nick Vujicic.
The entire team of speakers, Promise Keepers staff and board, have prayed every Monday.
During those Zoom prayer meetings, the word from the Lord that Parrot hears most consistently is "humility."
"This is not a political gathering. This is not a gathering that has any social agenda that you might read about in the news," he assured. "This is a gathering that is coming to the foot of the cross with humility, saying, 'I want to be the best man I can be. I want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.'"
The conference aims to show that men are not alone in this pursuit and can do this together — shoulder to shoulder.
When asked if Christian men are struggling to find manly Christian role models to aspire to be like, he stressed that Promise Keepers is for all kinds of men.
The psychologist said that when he travels to speak in churches, he will sometimes see announcements for men's events posted above the urinals in the restrooms. He warned that they are couched in hypermasculine stereotypes and presume that every man likes motorcycles and hunting.
"What that does is make you feel, say, if you're a computer nerd who is not into hunting or sports," you cannot participate in men's ministry? But "you don't have to be a huge football fan or a guy who came back from a hunting trip in Alaska to be a part of this movement."
"It's a movement within the hearts of men. It's not one-size-fits-all. We've been very conscientious about that," Parrott said.
Parrott is one of the first speakers for the conference and plans to focus on building and sustaining healthy marriages.
He and his wife have a "big, hairy audacious goal" to "see the divorce rate reduced in local churches by a third in our lifetime."
"How do we not just make sure we cross the finish line in our marriage but that we also have the kind of relationship that is God-honoring and what it was meant to be. This is one of the most fulfilling relationships we have on this planet. It's God-given. It's ordained."
Parrott hopes the men will leave the home of the Dallas Cowboys inspired to rise higher and honor the women in their lives.
Parrott's relationship assessment tool, Better Love, is a customized roadmap that provides the next steps for building a healthy marriage, which will be presented to the men who attend the event.