Becoming a Proactive Father

with Robert Lewis | June 6, 2006

Today on the broadcast, author and pastor Robert Lewis prods fathers to get actively involved in the awesome responsibilities of fatherhood.

Today on the broadcast, author and pastor Robert Lewis prods fathers to get actively involved in the awesome responsibilities of fatherhood.

Becoming a Proactive Father

With Robert Lewis
|
June 06, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

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Bob: Dr. Robert Lewis, the author of the book, "Raising a Modern Day Knight," has helped a lot of dads raise their sons to understand and embrace biblical masculinity. 

Robert: We started out just simply sizing ourselves up as dads.  Every once in a while it's just good to throw out to your sons – "Hey, how are we doing?"  Then we begin to kind of shape up as a dad.  We begin to explore some of those areas that I think are critical in strategic fatherhood. 

Father: We're going to have a father-son adventure.  We're going to be climbing a mountain, hopefully.  It's going to be a fun experience.  Being a father is one of the greatest joys, thrills, of a man's life.  It's also one of the most sobering responsibilities.  When your son packs up and heads off to college, and seeing him with his luggage and his car leaving and driving out of sight, it's just a real sobering reality, asking yourself the question, as a dad, "Have I prepared him not just for college, but have I prepared him for manhood?"  I taught him early on – "Son, there's two things you can be sure of – that your dad loves you, and your dad is proud of you," and I think he knows that.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 6.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you ask your son, "How am I doing as a dad?"  What would he say?  We'll talk about that today.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  The other day Mary Ann and I were together at an event, and she turned to me, and she said, "I forgot to leave directions for Jimmy," who is our oldest son, she said, "He is supposed to go to the dentist, and he doesn't know how to get to the dentist office."

Dennis: Jimmy's 17, right?

Bob: Actually, he's going more by "James" these days than "Jimmy."  We're starting to make that change.

Dennis: "James" is now approaching 18.

Bob: Yeah, he's approaching 18.  The first thought I had was, "He's a big boy.  He can look up in the phone book, find out the address of the dentist office and go to Google maps or something, you know, and figure out how to get there."  But Mom had said she'd leave directions, and she hadn't done that, so I called his cell phone and gave him directions, and it occurred to me that unless you've had somebody suggest to you how to get somewhere, you're not really sure where to go.  And that's true, obviously, when you're talking about how to get to the dentist's office, but it's much more true about how to get to manhood and, hopefully, he's gotten a few pointers from me in that direction, so far, in his life and will continue to get those.

Dennis: That's right, and you've been influenced in your definition of manhood and guiding your son toward that definition by our guest on FamilyLife Today, Robert Lewis.  Robert, welcome back.

Robert: Thank you, Dennis, good to be back with you guys.

Dennis: Robert is pastor-at-large for Fellowship Bible Church here in Little Rock, Arkansas, a very influential church across the country.  He is the author of a number of books, but one specifically that we are looking at that is so relevant to James, as a young man.  It's called "Raising a Modern Day Knight."  He and his wife, Sherrod, have been married one year longer than Barbara and I have.  They go all the way back before the earth's crust hardened to 1971.  Barbara and I were married the next year, and we're good friends and just thrilled to have him back on the broadcast.

 Robert, as we talk about young men like James and boys who are growing up in homes today, it really is important for a father to know where he is taking them in terms of helping them grow up and into manhood.  That's really the mission of your ministry, right?

Robert: That is the mission, because I think that even in the best of homes with the best of dads, oftentimes what's missing is a core concept.  You've got dads who are spending time with their sons in sports programs, taking them on fishing trips, hugging their sons and all, and that's just great stuff.  But if you do all those things but you don't provide the core, then that son still leaves home with a vacuum, and that core revolves around the vision of what it really means to be a man and what those specific items are, those substantive items are that will make him a man.

Dennis: In this culture, if we don't provide that definition of manhood in our homes from a biblical basis with God at the center of what it means to be a real man, then we, in essence, pick our children up and toss them over the fence to the world to let the world define what a real man is.

Robert: That's right, because what happens is that hole has to be filled with something, and the world has definitions.  They are given through myriad of images that are being bombarded on them every day, and it would be good for your listeners just to watch the images of masculinity on a TV.  It's a dumbed-down adolescent view of masculinity.

Bob: It's really confusing, because all over the spectrum, and you'll see something, and you'll go, "You know, that resonates with me," and yet it's incomplete, or you'll see something else, and you'll go, "No, that's not what I want it to be."  But nobody is giving you the clear model of a biblically defined man – not in the media, certainly.

Robert: That's right.  And so what you end up with is, like, you end up without a roadmap and, you know, like I said, in the best of homes a son might really feel loved and affirmed and all that, and that's wonderful stuff, but if he doesn't have a roadmap, a clear masculine roadmap …

Bob: … doesn't have directions to get from here to there …

Robert: That's right, and what he's going to do is he's going to inevitably choose some dead ends that are going to leave hurts and wounds in his life, addictions, and things that he spends the second half of his masculine life trying to recover from rather than being a difference-maker.  And what I want to do is help dads be proactive fathers who build in that substantive core around which they can wrap their love and presence and fun but then send a son out who then builds a healthy first stage of life and then becomes a difference-maker in the second stage.

Bob: When I called my son to give him directions to the dentist's office the other day, the only reason that I could do that is because I've been to the dentist's office myself.  I've been down that road, so I knew how to point him in that direction because I'd been there first.  And if a dad is going to point his son in the right direction, there are a lot of dads who need to figure out how to go there first before they can figure out how to point their sons there, right?

Robert: That's exactly right.  I remember, year ago I had a group of parents in a room and it was for another class, but I just asked them some questions.  I asked this question, I said, "How many of you all attend your sons' sports events?"  And a lot of hands went up in the room, you know, "We're proud that they do that.  I mentioned, "How many of you help your son with his homework, and he can come to you with his homework?"  And a lot of hands went up, and then I asked this question – "How many of you all have told your son what it means to be a man?"  Not any hands went up. 

 I asked the question – "How many of you have taught your son what's the masculine role of a man in marriage?"  No hands went up.  "How many of you all have taught your son what should be some of the masculine expressions of a boy in a dating relationship?"  No hands went up.  That's what I call "core" stuff.  And without that core stuff, boys are lost, and they're guessing, and let me tell you, boys guess wrong most of the time.

Dennis: Yes, because they're going to be left to choose from the world.

Robert: That's right.

Dennis: But the Scripture is not silent on this, it really isn't.  It really declares what manhood is.  I love a command that Paul gave the church at Corinth, and 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.  It says, "Be watchful.  Stand firm in the faith.  Act like men.  Be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love."

 When you see that command, Robert, to act like men, that's real clear. The problem for most men, though, as they pull up on their screen of their own hearts, they're not sure what that is, and the picture they pull up is a collage – maybe some from their spiritual roots from the church but a lot of stuff from the world.  Can you give us a clear, biblical picture of what manhood is all about?  What that core is all about?

Robert: Well, that's what we labor in, and I think rightfully so as a church.  I think all the churches, really, should be laboring in helping men know what that succinct definition is and for years I've given my life to bringing that to crystal clarity.  And so we brought it together by bringing the first Adam of Genesis and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, together and compared their lives because they've had more influence over masculinity than any two men in human history and just looked at their lives as men, and then out of that spilled what I think is a succinct definition off of which you can play the rest of life.  And that is that a real man is one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, primarily for God's Word, God's work, and God's woman; he leads courageously and the whole time he does that he is expecting God's greater reward; that this direction is the right direction.

 Now, we have to unpack each one of those phrases, but that is a place that a man can go and say, "This is what it means to be a man, and now I'm going to develop applications and illustrations off of that."  But without having some definition like that, a man has no definition, and no definition means zero, and that's how men oftentimes act – a zero.

Dennis: Yeah, right.

Robert: And that's what women complain about.

Dennis: And it drives women crazy.

Robert: It drives them absolutely nuts, because they see no initiative from a lot of men today, especially in the more responsible things of social and spiritual areas. 

Dennis: I'm going to say something – my daughters, as they've gone to college in the last decade, that's one of their biggest complaints about young men in college, is there's a number of young men coming out of this culture who are passive.

Robert: We call them "soft males."  They're supposed to be men, but their characteristics are much more passive.  They are called soft males, and we're breeding a whole generation of either violent males – two extremes – either violent males or soft males, and both of those are just simply symptoms of a lack of vision.

Bob: I know you saw Terence Moore's article where he referred to them as either barbarians or wimps, and that really is the picture – it's either men who are directing their masculine energy toward barbaric, adolescent, even sub-adolescent, juvenile, activities, or it's guys who are just ignoring that masculine energy and sitting down with the remote and – in fact, I've often looked at guys today with the Xbox 360, the Nintendo – you know, guys can spend hours.  Girls don't spend hours playing Nintendo or Xbox but guys do.

Robert: That's right.

Bob: What's going – why are guys vegging out in front of the Xbox and girls aren't?

Robert: Again, I honestly believe it's a lack of vision.  I mean, people say, "No, it's other things."  I think it's a lack of vision.  They don't know how to define themselves, and as we said on the previous broadcast, the masculine spirit is filled with undefined energies only, and if they're poured out in life without focus, then they spread to extremes, and on one extreme is the violent male, and on the other extreme is the passive, soft male, and the more those numbers rise in the culture, they are only symptomatic of a lack of focus.

Dennis: As I was listening to you talk about it, Robert, it's interesting that we've kind of come full circle in all of our research, because we spent the better part of two or three decades kind of erasing the father from the picture and kind of diminishing his importance in terms of the next generation of young men.

Bob: Back to Murphy Brown saying, "Don't need one," right?

Dennis: Exactly.

Robert: And yet here we are – and, of course, that's just the foolishness of the world, but here we are with "Newsweek" cover story, "The Boy Crisis," and you open it up, and you're reading about the need to educate boys and all this, and right in the midst of that you have the head of the Department of Education making the statement that the greatest predictor of success – and you're expecting her to say, "Education," but she says the greatest predictor of success for a boy is to have a man in his life.

Dennis: And, see, in this culture, that's a controversial statement.  What a crisis that we're living in today in our nation that someone who makes that statement where 30 years ago we would have all agreed with that statement, but today you make that statement and people go, "Man, you're just trying to take us back to 'Leave it Beaver.'  You're trying to create this stereotype situation where we put women in their place."  That is not at all the case here.  What we're calling young men out of is, as Bob was talking about, the barbaric behavior or being a wimp and calling them to biblical manhood where they're responsible to love, to care, to lead, to guide, to initiate, and not be selfish young men.

Robert: That's exactly right.  Well, I think the statistics of the world have changed, and so if you're sitting there as a sociologist or an academic researcher, and you're looking at the fact that 33 percent more women graduate from college than men, I would tend to want to be a little alarmed, because that has profound implications not only for society but for a democracy.  Because imagine a world – imagine a country like America 20 years from now.  If you had 50 percent more females graduating from college than men, and imagine what that country will feel like standing up against a country like Communist China?  Then it gets real serious.

Bob: Mm-hm, and that's a complete flip from where we were 50 years ago.

Robert: That's right.

Bob: And, again, we're not saying "Let's go back to where we were 50 years ago," we're simply saying, "What is it that's causing men who used to aggressively pursue a goal like college education" …

Robert: … to drop out?  What is that?

Bob: They're playing Nintendo.

Robert: That's exactly right, and if we think we can exist as a society with men on the sideline being passive – that's why I brought up Communist China – we live in a dangerous global world, and you have aggressive men.  You can say they're barbarians or whatever you want to say, but we're living in a world that's dangerous.  And if America's men are on the sideline playing Nintendo and looking for a mother/wife, I’m just telling you, we're in trouble.

Dennis: Robert, I see a renaissance occurring today around what you're talking about – the spiritual community, the Christian community, seems to be awakening to its need to create a core, a biblical core, for young men and young women.  However, at the same time, there are some good pockets that many of which are starting men's fraternities, and men are studying this, men are engaging around this, there are also a number of churches that seem to be rejecting any kind of core distinctive between men and women, and they are rushing to this homogenized, unisex approach where there is no distinction between men and women.  Speak to that, if you would, for just a moment.

Robert: Well, I think a lot of the theology of that followed the culture rather than set the culture.  And so what we went in, we went to a more androgynous culture in the '60s, '70s, and '80s and, interestingly enough, theology followed that where we moved to this more egalitarian approach, which, really, ultimately, has met sameness.  But I would invite anyone of any theological perspective just simply to open the first chapter of Genesis, when God made man, general, male and female, and just simply ask this question – why did He make us different?  Because we are different, and yet nothing in society wants to define that differentness, and I think that's a dangerous thing, when God started the human race with differentness as His first creative act for humanity. 

And now there's these two huge theological perspectives today of egalitarianism and complementarianism and your audience may or may not know what those things mean, but there are some who would say an egalitarian position is there really are no differences between male and female.  That both defies common sense, it now defies everything we've seen in science, as well as everything we've seen in the Scripture at the very beginning, and we've just got to look at that and say – even if I'm an egalitarian – what would I say to my son a man is?  And if we have nothing to say, what we leave in that son is nothing.  And I’m going to tell you, I've worked with men now for almost 40 years and specifically with male ministry for the last 20 years, and I have been inside the hearts of men over and over again at intimate levels most of your listeners will never go to and, I can tell you, when there's a void in there, there's trouble.

What we have to impart into those hearts is vision and at the core of that vision from the church should be what it means to be a man.  And if we can get that across, I think everyone benefits, and it doesn't take away from the equality of woman as an equal creature, created creature before God.  What it does, it complements her and allows her to be everything she was meant to be, and she likes it because now she has a counterpart who knows who he is and knows where he's going.  And if I hear one cry from women today, regardless of their perspective – and I'm talking about feminist as well as strong egalitarians – is they want men, they just don't know how to define it.

Let us bring the Scriptures to bear and define it with a vision that creates noble men that all women like.

Dennis: And not creating men who take advantage of women.

Robert: Absolutely.  No one is saying that.

Dennis: No, but what we are talking about here is a sexual identity that is anchored in the Scripture and in, really, the creation story.  If you pull back, and you look when a baby is born, what is the first question that we ask …

Robert: … that's exactly right …

Dennis: … about a baby?  What is it?  It's a boy; it's a girl.  And for the rest of that baby's life, whether he is a boy or she is a girl, the question is – what does that mean? 

Robert: That's exactly right.

Dennis: What does that mean to be a boy who grows into manhood, and what does it mean to be a girl?

Robert: The first thing that shapes our identity is our gender.  And that's just replaying Genesis 1 over and over and over again in every human being.  That's how we start, and that's our perspective for the rest of our life set by God.  And if we don't go in there and define that in healthy ways, it allows that to express itself in a way that builds a healthy society, then we're lost as a society.

Bob: And, ideally, it's going to be a dad who is going to help a son define that as he's developing at different stages.  Ideally, it's going to start with a young man who understands it himself, and as he becomes a father can immediately begin to implement this.  It's not impossible for a guy in his 40s with teenage sons to begin to interact around this, but he is digging himself out of a hole to do it, isn't he?

Robert: It's never too late, but if we were going to design it well, by the way a son grows healthy, we would put a man in his life early on who would give him a vision of what it's going to mean when he becomes an adult.

Bob: Well, when you put the video curriculum together, you and Dennis were doing this "Raising a Modern Day Knight" video curriculum, I know you were envisioning guys in their 20s and in their 30s who are new dads getting this picture and then being ready to launch it.  When you wrote "Raising a Modern Day Knight," that was the same vision you had.

Robert: That's right, because when I wrote "Modern Day Knight," I was a young dad with young sons, and that's where I got all the feedback was from young dads who were connecting with that young dad experience.  When Dennis and I did the video curriculum, the video curriculum is specifically targeted to dads with preteen sons – sons between six and 12 years old, because those dads are – first of all, they're excited about being a dad.  They want to know what it means.  They haven't made a lot of mistakes now.  They've just got this young son who follows them around wanting to lap up everything that they'll give them, and what I want to do is deposit into those young dads' lives the substance, the core, that they can then give to that young son early on and then continue to play off of it as long as that son is under their care so that they can launch – when that son drives off to college, that dad can smile inside that he has deposited vision.

 It's not a hard thing, but if he's left his son with vision, he has given him the secret to that son's success.

Bob: Of course, we've got the video curriculum in our FamilyLife Resource Center and, again, it's ideal for young dads to get together, go through together, and sharpen iron on this subject together.  We also have copies of your book "Raising a Modern Day Knight," and any of our listeners who don't have that book, it's a wonderful book.  You can go online at FamilyLife.com.  On our home page, you'll see a red button in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get more information about the video curriculum that you can use with other dads about the book, "Raising a Modern Day Knight." 

 There is also information on the book you've written called "Rocking the Roles," that is an excellent book for husbands and wives to understand what God has called each of us to in a marriage relationship and, in fact, any of our listeners who don't have a copy of your book "Raising a Modern Day Knight" – if they want to get that book together with "Rocking the Roles," we'll send, at no additional cost, the CD audio of our conversation this week on this subject.

 Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button in the middle of the screen.  That will take you right to the page where you can get more information about all of these resources or, if you'd prefer, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and ask any questions you have.  Again, the number is 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

 Tomorrow we want to continue unpacking what it means to be a man according to the Scriptures.  We hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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