Promise Keepers

One-Church Dictatorship Revisited

By Thomas Williamson



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Frank Mead's "Handbook of Denominations" (9th edition, 1990) states that the Baptist Missionary Association of America rejects the concept of "one-church dictatorship" as unscriptural.

In the context of BMA history, one-church dictatorship refers to any attempt by a prominent church or preacher to take control of other churches or infringe upon their independence.

The BMA split from the American Baptist Association in 1950 because it was perceived, rightly or wrongly, that ABA leader Ben Bogard was attempting to establish one-church dictatorship over the associational churches. BMA leader D. N. Jackson loudly declaimed against the system of one-church control that he blamed on Bogard. (See John Duggar's excellent book "The BMA of America, 1950-1986" published by Baptist Publishing House for $10.00.)

All this, of course, is ancient history. I am not sure if Bogard was a real threat or just a bogeyman. I am sure that the ABA movement of today is not an enemy or threat. The ABA churches and preachers are our allies and co-workers in the work of evangelizing the world.

We can learn a lesson, however, concerning our duty to beware of any new leader that may come along and try to take over our BMA churches and destroy their independence.

Such a man is Bill McCartney, founder and president of Promise Keepers, a nationally known ecumenical Christian men's organization noted for its large stadium rallies. He has more power and influence over the churches than Ben Bogard ever dreamed of.

In preparation for his 1996 Pastor's Gathering in Atlanta, McCartney told a Detroit rally on April 29, 1995: "Our clergy are divided…there is no unity of command… There is tremendous division in our clergy… If a guy (pastor) says he doesn't want to go (to the Promise Keepers Clergy Conference) he needs to be able to tell us why." (Source, Sword of the Lord, May 31, 1996.)

I doubt that Ben Bogard ever made such a blatant statement of intent to take over the churches and establish one-church dictatorship. I am sure that our BMA founding fathers would have been outraged if he had said such a thing.

At the same Detroit rally, McCartney made this statement: "Now listen to me, men. February 12, 13 and 14 to me is not a coincidence that it comes over Valentine's Day. I think we're going to have another St. Valentine's Day massacre. I think almighty God is going to rip open the hearts of our leaders. I think He is going to tear them open. And I think he's going to put them back together as one. One leadership. We've got to have one leadership, one leadership only." (Source, Christian News, September 11, 1995.)

I believe the noble founders of the BMA would have run for the exits had they heard anybody in the ABA or anywhere else make such an open declaration of intent to take control of the thousands of churches from dozens of denominations, including Baptist, that were represented in his Atlanta clergy meeting. No doubt about it, this is one-church dictatorship revisited, or perhaps we should say, "one-para-church-ecumenical-organization dictatorship."

McCartney and his fellow Promise Keepers leadership regard themselves as prophets who receive direct revelations from God, so it is no wonder that they want to take over your church.

Consistent with Vineyard doctrine, McCartney, when addressing Promise Keepers rallies, often gives what he claims are direct revelations from God. Thousands of men thus subject themselves to the teaching of a man claiming to speak on behalf of the Almighty, when Scripture is clear God is not giving new revelation in this age." (Source, Midwest Today, via Christian News, June 24, 1996.)

McCartney's pastor, James Ryle, is on the Board of Directors of PK, and in 1990 he revealed that God had sent the rock group Beatles to start a religious revival; "The Lord has appointed me as a lookout and shown me some things that I want to show you… The Lord spoke to me and said, 'What you saw in the Beatles - the gifting and the sound that they had - was from me… It was my purpose to bring forth through music a worldwide revival that would usher in the move of my Spirit in bringing men and women to Christ…'" (Source, Christian News, April 1, 1996.) Maybe this explains the reports of ear-splitting rock music at Promise Keepers meetings. It's never too late for revival, so strike up the band.

Men who attend PK come away with a deep sense of blind loyalty to this anti-scriptural organization. They do not hesitate to criticize local churches and associations, including the BMA, for their alleged ineffectiveness. But to them, PK is above criticism, and they will quickly attack anyone who questions or finds fault with it. PK has become the end in itself, not the means to the end (building strong fathers, etc.).

The pastor whose men attend PK risks finding himself unable to take a stand against the ecumenical movement or other errors promoted by PK without running into opposition from the PK "point men" in his congregation. The PK agenda has been quite loudly, openly stated and screamed at PK stadium meetings: "Break Down the Walls," "Let the Walls Come down" -- the walls of division between Protestant and Catholic, between fundamentalists and charismatics, between Baptist and Pedobaptists (those who sprinkle babies).

That is the real message and purpose of PK. It seems like a shame to expose Baptist men to these ecumenical brainwashing sessions just so they can get a pep talk on how to be a good husband and dad. Any Baptist pastor ought to be able to teach his men what the Bible says about family life, without having them pay $60 plus lodging and travel expenses to go hear the uncertain sound of the trumpet at PK.

Yes, there are some good things done and taught at PK, but that is beside the point. I could write a book on all the good that is taught and practiced by Catholics, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., but these religious movements are false nonetheless.

Our BMA doctrinal statement reads that each church "is responsible to keep herself from those who hold doctrines or practices contrary to Holy Scripture." We must keep ourselves from PK with its call for Protestant-Catholic ecumenical unity and its false continuing revelations. Everything that God has spoken for our men's guidance is already within the covers of their Bibles. They do not need a new revelation from Coach McCartney.

It is time to remind ourselves of a few basic truths. The Law of God forbids idolatry. The Roman Catholic Church teaches and practices idolatry, and cannot be accepted as a true Christian communion. PK is demanding and promoting unity between evangelical Christians and Catholics. PK leader Jack Hayford has taught, in the book "Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper" that the idolatrous sacrifice of the mass is an act of redeeming Christian worship.

On top of all this, consider that the PK leadership has proclaimed its intention to bring all participating churches under one centralized control, emanating from PK headquarters. It is time to put two and two together, and realize that we cannot participate in PK, regardless of the perceived benefits.

Let us not give up the cherished independence of the local church, for which our BMA forefathers stood, to take on the yoke of bondage to PK. The Lord's Churches belong to the Lord, and His people. We do not believe in or accept dictatorial control of His church -- not by the pastor, nor by the board of deacons, nor by prominent and wealthy members, nor from denominational headquarters, but especially not from an ecumenical para-church organization like PK.

None of this is meant to condemn or be critical of any churches or pastors who may have participated in PK. Most of us, including the author of this article, have made mistakes and have gotten involved with causes that we later realized to be unworthy or our support.

Let the PK men scheme and scream for the walls of separation to come down between true and false churches, and for the One World Church to be built, if that is what they wish. Meanwhile, we in the BMA need to keep a few promises of our own. We need to promise not to surrender our churches to any domineering outside movement, and to be faithful to the rallying cry "No One-Church Dictatorship!" Maybe we can rent our own stadium and shout our slogan together a few dozen times.

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