We recently had the chance to catch up with Ken Harrison, chief executive officer of Promise Keepers. We talked about the history of Promise Keepers, authentic manhood and the importance of voting.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Talk a little bit about what God has been doing with Promise Keepers.
I was a Los Angeles policeman back earlier in the ‘90s. I became very successful in business, sold my company and had retired in 2012. In 2014, the Lord came to me in a really vivid way as I was praying in my closet. I find that God really speaks to us when we just really seek him with everything in us. And as I was seeking him with everything in me, all of a sudden...he said, “Ken, I did not put you through all I did and teach you all I did so you could ski and hike for the rest of your life,” which was my plan: finish raising my kids and ski and hike for the rest of my life.
And I said, “Well look, what do you want me to do?” He said, “Are you willing to be as ambitious for my kingdom as you were for your kingdom?” And it came with the stern warning of, "Be careful of your answer...it's going to cost you your life.” I said, “I don't know.” I said, “Lord, I'm tired, and I'm tired of firing people and being sued, and I ran a huge company and I just don't wanna lead people anymore.” And the Lord said, “That's okay, but you missed my full blessing.”
So I wrestled with him for a couple of hours because I understood I had two choices, and the inevitable choice was laying down my life and saying all my comfort will go away and that I'll end up in the trenches for the rest of my life. And that's of course the road I chose. ...When I said, “Lord, yeah I will,” all I heard from him was, “I'll tell you what I have for you when you're ready.” That was it. For two-and-a-half more years, I waited.
When Promise Keepers was dropped into my lap, I was not in any way ready for or thinking about the conversation that God and I had had two-and-a-half years earlier. I just wanted to close it, clean it up and move on. ...I scheduled a board meeting for 10 o'clock in the morning on a Friday, like Jan. 27, 2018, I think it was, and I got a text from somebody the night before: “I have to meet you tomorrow morning before that board meeting.”
So I met him at a coffee shop that I never go to 40 miles north of where our offices are, and he convinced me to keep Promise Keepers open. While he was convincing me, though, I was like, “Lord, this is going to be a nightmare to do. This is going to be so much work, and if this is really from you I really need supernatural affirmation because three hours from now, Promise Keepers ceases to exist.”
Just then, the president of Waterstone Foundation walked into that coffee shop 40 miles from his home and our office, in the coffee shop I never go to, and I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “Well, I have a meeting, and this is weird...What are you doing here?” And I said, “Gosh would you guys talk about what we've been talking about?” And so after that person I met with talked to John, John looked at me and said, “It sounds like the Lord's telling you not to close Promise Keepers.” I said, “Lord, thank you so much for that supernatural affirmation, that's not a normal thing.” So I jumped in the car, and that's when God downloaded the whole plan about how to relaunch Promise Keepers, about how we needed to do not massive amounts of stadium events per year but one stadium event a year, and that a simulcast was a key part of the plan: one event per year to gather [men] together, simulcasting it globally, centering on Dallas.
I called the board when I got back down to the office and said, “Hey, not only are we not shutting it down, we have this huge vision that we're gonna do.” ...We've seen a lot of stuff like that where God is about his business. He's doing something amazing.
You shared a video of My Faith Votes during your virtual event and encouraged people to go vote. I know you got peppered with some questions about getting political. ...How do you respond to that?
The word “political” has been changed dramatically. It's leadership. We have leadership within government which involves, in America, politics. But we merge those words together so that Christians get confused: “Oh, I don't want to be political.” Great, don't be political: get involved in leadership though.
One of the things we've been calling people to do is get involved at the most local level we can, because we're giving this country away. Not in the Senate and the Congress...We're losing with school boards because these kids that are coming up today don't even understand basic civics.
We're saying if you feel helpless, don’t just vote and don’t just vote in an educated manner, but also get involved in your local government, not politics. Run for city council, run for the county commission, and for heaven's sake, run for the school board. Both of you, husband and wife, run for the school board and start paying attention to what they are teaching our kids.
I'm so glad that you mentioned the local level because everyone right now is focused on this singular presidential election, but there's a hundred thousand elections happening in November, and many of them are at the local level. We need to care a lot more about issues of civics, issues of history, knowing that people know the truth about our Nation. Your app is something that's really helping men engage with each other and in their communities and includes resources from My Faith Votes. Speak to that a little bit and what you're trying to do through this tool.
The engagement has been awesome already; we're really, really pleased. ...On that app you have something for a new believer, if you just became a Christian: “What do I do? How do I get started?” It's on there! There are also chat rooms where guys can ask other guys questions like, “Hey, what do I do about this? or “I find myself in that situation” or “Hey, I just moved to Wichita, Kansas, do you guys know of a good church?”
We've had some pastors give us sermons that they and we love, so we put them on there. If you're driving down the street and go, “Man, I really, really want to learn something about the Lord,” you can go on there and find some great content. Every day, there's a video devotional from well-known guys who are just doing a five-minute preach-their-heart-out-to-you in an intense way because the idea is guys are jumping in their car and then hit that little devotional and they can get five minutes of really great Bible teaching to start their day or end their day or whatever the case may be.
What do you think makes an authentic man?
In my book, Rise of the Servant Kings, I talk about what it means to be a man, and one of the hallmarks of being a man is being responsible for what is in your sphere. ...If there are things wrong in your marriage, then what you need to do first is look and say, “What's wrong in me in this marriage? How do I need to change to make this marriage better?” [If] there's something wrong with your kids: “What do I need to change to make my kids better?” ...But what a man doesn't do is say, “What's wrong with her in our marriage? What's wrong with those kids in our marriage?” because a man understands that he's responsible for his household.
When we see things wrong in our spirit, we say, “What am I going to do to fix that?” not “What is somebody else going to do?” or not “Whose fault is it?”
I was asked in a TV interview once, “If you had a candidate who with whom you disagreed on everything, and yet he was pro-life — he was willing to to save the lives of the unborn — and you also had a candidate who agreed with you on everything —every political issue that you're passionate about — but he was pro-abortion, who would you vote for?” And I said, “The one who would save babies.” He said, “How can you say that?” and I said, “Because if I take every issue there is politically and I stack them up, they don't even come close to the murder of the unborn.” And he didn't have anything left to say about that. I'm really passionate about the unborn, and we at Promise Keepers — by the way, we're not taking that issue on from a political standpoint — we're taking it on from a responsibility standpoint.
We're responsible for our family, we're responsible for their learning, responsible for their spiritual health, and we don't get to give that away to somebody else.
Let's come before the Lord in prayer, petitioning him, studying his Scripture and understanding that part of the lie that we've gotten as Americans is that we're supposed to do whatever we can to make ourselves as comfortable as we can at every moment. God says, “No, you want to grow in me? Lay down your rights to yourself, pick up your cross — your torture instrument — and follow me, because that's the way to joy.” The narrow road is how we have joy as human beings because that's where growth is.
What are some last thoughts that you want to share?
Vote smartly, get involved in local office when you can and know God's Word and stand up for your families, men and women out there. Don't give up guys, keep fighting. We need every believer out there standing up for truth, standing up for what's right and standing up for justice.
Watch the full interview on My Faith Votes’ YouTube channel.
Click here to visit the My Faith Votes Voting Assistance Center.
My Faith Votes is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square. Gov. Mike Huckabee serves as the organization’s honorary national chairman.