Updated March 26, 1997
NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP(About Promise Keepers)
by Charles Dailey
My earliest awareness of the role of God in my little universe was a bedtime poem taught by my mother. It went:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
This lay-me-down rhyme was theologically loose. Line two implies that security with the Lord is by request. And worse, line four is an early version of a sinner's prayer. It doesn't say a thing about repentance while baptism is omitted entirely.
But this prayer did some important things for me. It taught me that God was. Beyond that, it taught me that God was all powerful and everywhere.
Through these simple lines I learned to trust in the God who was always there. Probably other children learned in some better way, but this story is a personal testimony, not an analysis of the best methods.
As I grew up, I learned more about God and even corrected my earliest views of His dealings with mankind. The four liner was a beginning and I have built on it since then.
I have never repudiated the little poem. I have never denounced my mother for teaching it to me. That was her understanding at that point in life and it gave me a start. Later, we both learned what God wanted us to do and obeyed His Word.
As I married and had a family, neither Lois nor myself ever taught the four lines to our children. We had more accurate knowledge of the ways of the Lord. Had someone insisted that our children learn the limerick, we would either have objected or made a mild refutation and pointed in better directions.
The lesson that I draw from this relates to some of the current religious fads that sweep the country. Today it is Promise Keepers, yesterday it was Billy Graham in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Before that, it was Bill Gothard and Basic Youth Conflicts.
For many a person, one of these will be their first introduction to the reality and presence of God. Many men are taking a second look at their promises of life through Promise Keepers. America will be a better place and so will some of the homes that make up America. For a few, these meetings will be a step toward a fuller knowledge of God.
Leading the local church to involvement with this program is another story. Promise number six of the seven Promises requires that we embrace all people in the movement without questioning their salvation. It states, "A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of Biblical unity." The assumption is that we are allowing denominational barriers to divide us and that what we must do is to reach across them. The Promise Keepers also produced a press release to clarify this and here is a relevant portion: "Our unity and common labor are a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to break down racial and denominational divisions." In my understanding, we cannot begin talking of unity until we are one in Christ.
M. H. Reynolds, Editor of Foundation Magazine, puts it this way:Should anyone doubt the fact that the Promise Keepers movement seeks an unbiblical unity, just read the words of its founder, Coach Bill McCartney, as found on pages 160, 161 of Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper: "Now, I don't mean to suggest that all cultural differences and denominational distinctives are going to disappear. But what I know is that Almighty God wants to bring Christian men together regardless of their ethnic origin, denominational background, or style of worship. There's only one criterion for this kind of unity: to love Jesus and be born of the Spirit of God. Can we look one another in the eye -- black, white, red, brown, yellow, Baptist, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Catholic [emphasis ours], and so on -- and get together on this common ground: 'We believe in salvation through Christ alone, and we have made Him the Lord of our lives'? Is that not the central, unifying reality of our existence? And if it is, can we not focus on that and call each other brothers instead of always emphasizing our differences? Men, we have to get together on this!"This assumption, that we are presently united, forces me to be silent and assume Promise Keepers are all saved by whatever route they have chosen (or fallen into). So the most important question that a person must ever face is put off limits by this Promise Number six. From my standpoint, I must be either be dishonest or conclude that repentance and baptism for the right reason are not important to God. That would be a repudiation of all that I stand for. Promise Keepers says we cannot talk about the very central issue of Christianity and focuses on interpersonal relationships instead.
In this statement, McCartney's contradictory words should be noted concerning the necessity of believing in salvation through Christ alone -- and then including Roman Catholics as "brothers" in spite of the fact that they do not believe in salvation through Christ alone, adding sacraments and good works as requirements for salvation.
Following the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, the standard instruction by the inspired speakers and writers in the New Testament was to believe in Christ, repent of sin and be immersed in the name of Christ. Is this new movement teaching this?
Quoting once more from M. H. Reynolds:How could a pastor say "No, we cannot..." to men returning from a Promise Keepers conference who promise the pastor they will support him, work with him, and pray for him as never before? How can he deal with these undoubtedly well-meaning, yet misled, men within his own church who are now exerting pressure upon him to fall into line with the program? Imagine the faithful pastor's dilemma! Up until now he could herald a warning against Romanism, liberalism, ecumenism, charismatic delusion and the like without reservation. But now he has men within his own flock who are introducing the people to all of the above and more under the attractive packaging -- Promise Keepers!When I was a child, I prayed about going to sleep. As an adult, I need to pray to stay awake.