FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Defining the Search for Manhood

with Dennis Rainey | October 22, 2013
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There's something in a man that inspires him to be a warrior. Hear Dennis encourage men to give their sons a vision of manhood.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • There's something in a man that inspires him to be a warrior. Hear Dennis encourage men to give their sons a vision of manhood.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dennis encourage men to give their sons a vision of manhood.

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Defining the Search for Manhood

With Dennis Rainey
October 22, 2013
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Dennis: Boys start having urges toward the opposite sex. They get emotionally confused. They're having wide swings in emotions. They're rebelling against authority. We can clearly define what adolescence is all about. Adolescence is a self-absorbed time. It's a turbulent transitional time in life. I want to tell you something—if I could go to heaven and ask God a question—I don't know if it would be in my top 10, but it would definitely be in my top 25: “Why did You make adolescents?”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today forTuesday, October 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about what is going on as a boy moves through adolescence and how we can help him continue on the path to manhood. Stay tuned.



And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I don't know how many of our listeners realize this; but one of my jobs, here at FamilyLife, is to keep you up-to-speed with what is going on in culture and, particularly, in pop music; right?

Dennis: You might say that. [Laughter]

Bob: I have to kind of—

Dennis: I think any of our core listeners, who really hang onto FamilyLife Today, realize that music is much more than a hobby for you. It's a love.

Bob: There was a group out, a number of years ago, and you may have seen them. I think they did the national anthem for a playoff game or something—

Dennis: I can't wait.

Bob: You may have come across—


Dennis: The Who?

Bob: No, no, that's too long ago.

Dennis: Oh, okay.

Bob: This was a young—I think it was four or five guys—

Dennis: Gaither Trio.

Bob: No, no; the group was called Boyz II Men. Have you ever heard of them?

Dennis: Uh—

Bob: Yes, see, I didn't think so. There is actually a band—a group—a vocal group called Boyz II Men. Did you know that?

Dennis: Well, you've already established the fact that I didn't know that. Why do you want our listeners to doubly know I didn't know that?

Bob: I'm thinking that maybe these guys had heard your message that we’re featuring, this week, on FamilyLife Today. I'm just thinking maybe they got ahold of it, and that's how they decided to name the group; huh?

Dennis: We are calling boys to step up. We're calling them to take five steps in their lifetime—

Bob: Actually, you want them not to stop at manhood—not just to be boys to men. I guess if they'd heard the message, they'd be boys to patriarchs.

Dennis: No, no; don't tell them—don't tell them all the—well, we've got to tell them what all the five steps are.


The first step is that of being a boy; second step is that of being an adolescent; third step, manhood—actually, mature manhood; fourth step is mentor; and the fifth step is that of being a patriarch.

Bob: And you're not suggesting that all men will just naturally go through all five of these steps.

Dennis: No doubt about it.

Bob: It's possible—in fact, for men—and I think you mention it in the message today—it's possible for them to stall out on one of these steps and never get where God wants them to go.

Dennis: Yes, and this is really a biblical theme—this concept of stepping up. Although the phrase may not have been used in the Scripture, First Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 11, really points out that we do move from childhood to adulthood. Paul wrote, "When I was a child,"—now, listen to what he said—"When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child. When I became a man, I did away with childish things."


So what Paul was actually saying there, "When I stepped up to mature manhood, I turned my back upon childish, adolescent, boyhood things that I may have done when I was less mature." That's what we're trying to do in this message—is give men a clear sense of direction—not only to mature manhood—but beyond it to those two additional steps, which I believe give purpose, and dignity, and nobility to a man's life.

Bob: We're going to hear Part Two of this message. In fact, you were presenting this to the men who speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences. I remember those guys being challenged, exhorted, and encouraged. I think it helps guys to have a picture—to have someone say: "Here is where we ought to be going. Here is how we ought to be moving."

Dennis: Yes, in fact, you may hear me refer to some of these men, by name, in this message.

Bob: Right. This is Part Two of Dennis's message on “Stepping Up to Manhood”.


[Previously Recorded Message]

Dennis: Well, let's talk about boyhood. What characterizes boyhood? Well, I believe there are four basics in raising boys. I believe these are all anchored in Scripture. I think this is the essence of biblical parenting. I believe they need an identity; secondly, they need to build relationships; third, I believe they need character. They need to know what's right and what's wrong and how to be obedient to it. And, fourth, I believe the essence of Scripture—that fills out what children need today—is they need a mission.

They need a reason for existence. Think about it for a second—identity, relationships, character, mission—the entire Scripture—that is the essence of biblical parenting. Why? It's the Great Commandment: Love God—your identity—who you are in Jesus Christ. Love your neighbor—that's relationships.


The Great Commission is obedience—that's character. The Great Commission is our mission—it is our task.

If you can give me a way to break the essence of the Bible down any simpler, I'd like to have it because I need it as simple as possible because I'm a pretty simple person. Identity, relationships, character, and mission—you've got to have those because that's going to become important during our last step.

I believe boys need help. They have to be trained in all those. They need to know who they are. They need to know how to love—how to resolve conflict. They need to learn how to say, “Yes,” to what's right and how to say, “No,” to what's wrong with temptation. They need to be spanked. Boys need to be taught how to step forward and have a mission in life. They need a task—they need a purpose for life. And where do they get that? They get that from their parents. That means the parents need to know those same four things, biblically, and know where they're raising them.


Now, what else characterizes us when we're boys? Foolishness, childishness—it's what Paul was speaking about in First Corinthians 13—you guys know what it is—I don't need to define it for you. It's all the behavior that is so despicable. They're dirty, they're loud, they're noisy, they're rebellious—all those issues of a child. If you allow them to grow up and just become who they become, they become a barbarian. That's what's happening in our culture today, by the way.

But we are born, and we begin this process of boyhood. If we have the proper authorities in our lives, that stepping up from boyhood to the next step becomes a lot easier; but the problem is those authorities are not clearly in our lives. We've got a lot of older men who are confused. So, what happens to boys today? They're confused. They don't know what they're called to step up to. So, what happens to these boys? They get absolutely ambushed or, as my dad used to say, "bushwhacked" by adolescence, which is the next step.


Now, how long has the human race been going through adolescence?—since the beginning of time. There are no surprises in adolescence. Boys start having urges toward the opposite sex. They get emotionally confused. They're having wide swings in emotions. They're rebelling against authority. We can clearly define what adolescence is all about. It's a turbulent, transitional time in life. I want to tell you something—if I could go to heaven and ask God a question—I don't know if it would be in my top 10, but it would definitely be in my top 25: “Why did You make adolescents?”

It is also a transitional phase between total dependence, in boyhood, to this step beyond it—up here—of total independence from parents. This boy—who is right here—who is part boy and part man—is on this transitional step, struggling between dependence and independence.


That's what makes this struggle so tough on them and what makes it so tough on us, as parents. It's also a time of blame, of irresponsibility, of denial, of pride, of rebellion, of selfishness, of an identity crisis. It is the time of being driven by your feelings with emotional upheaval. What might be described of some of you—certainly of me, when I grew up—was a lack of control.

When I was a teenager, one morning I was angry at my mom because she was getting me out of bed to go to study hall. I didn't want to get up. I didn't really try to hit her, but I took a swing at my mom. Fortunately, I missed. I'm going to tell you something. I was 18 years old, but my dad should have whipped my tail. He didn't. It was very cold between my mom and me for a couple of days. It wasn't until I wrote her a tribute, years later, that I apologized for that incident.


Adolescence is a self-absorbed time. Now, that's key that you get that definition because you're going to see the next steps up demand that we move away from that step—self-absorption. That's what men are hanging onto today.

I want to give you a picture of what should happen. This is a picture. There was a boy—when he graduated from high school—when he stepped from adolescence to an older step and began to step up—that boy was given a little card by his dad. That card, he said, shaped his entire life. On one side of the card was written his father's seven-point creed. On the other side of the card, his dad had written down a poem by the Reverend Henry van Dyke. The poem read:


 Four things a man must learn to do,

 If he would make his life more true;

 To think without confusion clearly;

 To love his fellow man sincerely;

 To act from honest motives purely;

 To trust in God in heaven securely."

That boy—who was given that card that shaped his life—Coach John Wooden, UCLA, holds the record for most national championships—a dynasty way beyond it. He had a dad who called him up—who called him to step up in his life.

There is a next step. It's very simple—a very simple step—it's manhood. And for a definition of this, I go back to a guy who used to speak on our speaker team. Robert Lewis has given the best definition of manhood.


That definition is: "Reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously, and expect a greater reward." I would like to edit that definition slightly. I would add one component that it needs—"Loves sacrificially." I believe those five things of—rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility, loving sacrificially, leading courageously, and expecting a greater reward—are the essence of a man, who has stepped up.

Now, for a man to step from adolescence to manhood means that he has to reject some of the passivity and laziness that a boy and an adolescent can have, down on these steps.


How many of you were passive as teenagers with your parents? I was. I rejected what they had to say—my parents—many times, and I was lazy. When I got married, I had to decide whether I was going to become a real man or whether I was going to stay in boyhood and adolescence. So, when I got married, there was a sense in which what naturally occurred in my life—for me—what caused me to turn from adolescent lusts, selfishness, pride, rebellion, et cetera—was a woman who called me to step up.

Now, I've got to confess to you that for the first few years of our marriage, I would have to say I straddled these two steps. I was not fully turning and facing upward toward the next step.


I would have to say I was part teenager and part man—part teenager in that I wanted my way—part teenager in still being passive, not caring for my wife's needs, but being lazy on Saturday. You’ve heard me to describe myself as a giant amoeba on Saturday—turning on the TV, watching the "Game of the Week"—feeling like that was my right, as "a man".

I believe our churches and our ministries are full of young men who are just like I was. They are young men who have one foot on adolescence and one foot on manhood. They have not turned from the lust, the selfishness, the passivity, the rebellion of the teenage years to become what God called them to be.


When I was sharing this material, a guy who runs Asher Auto Salvage—his name is Pod Bowie—he runs a junkyard. Pod came to me; and he said, "Two times this week, Dennis, I stepped up from being a teenager to being a man." He said, "Can you believe it? I'm 63 years old, and I'm still struggling with being an adolescent;" and he grinned. But did you hear what he had to say? "Two times this week I stepped away from being a teenager”—from being childish, from being immature—“and I stepped up to being a man." That imagery helped him assume responsibility and become God's man for what he was doing.

One of the men, when we led Men's Fraternity, one of the mornings, came and stood on this adolescent step. He said: "For a number of years I treated my wife like she was a possession. It ultimately ended in a divorce with two sons who were left in the wake of that divorce." He said, "But God has convicted me of my selfishness and my sin."


He said: "Tomorrow night, we're getting remarried. I'm stepping up, to not only become the man, but I'm also stepping up to something greater." I'll share that with you, in a minute. That audience of men applauded that guy.

I think just having those three steps outlined for men today provide incredible direction. The last two steps, I believe, are the crowning glory for men. If we can lock our radar on these things, and if we can begin to get them firmly in our mind that this is our call—this is where we're to be headed as we run the race—then it's going to be a whole lot more purposeful. We're going to impact a lot more people in the process.

That guy—who said he had been a teenager—was remarrying his wife—they were going to get remarried—they were moving back in—said,


"I'm stepping up to become the mentor my boys need me to be to help them step to maturity." He had this biggest grin on his face—about 35/36 years old. It was like, "Finally, I understand what I'm supposed to do, as a man."


Bob: Well, we've been listening to Part Two of a message on the progress we ought to be making as males—I almost said, "as men"; but it says "males"—

Dennis: It is as males.

Bob: —on the way to manhood and beyond; right?

Dennis: It is. In fact, one quote that Truett Cathy, who is the founder of Chick-fil-A®—who made a statement that really summarizes these first three steps, Bob—he said, "I would rather build boys than mend men."


His point is—better for a boy to be headed on the step in the right direction, facing upwards—knowing where he's going and building him toward manhood—than to mend men, who are males with one foot, as I was just saying, one foot on the manhood step and another foot on the adolescent step.

Bob: And, you know, I think that is the "Aha!" in this part of this message. I think the first time I heard you give it—and we were sitting with other guys on staff—and you had this picture. You could look around; and you could see guys thinking: "I'm straddling the steps here. Sometimes, I act like an adolescent; sometimes, I act like a real man."

Dennis: If you listen to the culture, the culture is going to encourage men to put one foot on that adolescent step and one foot on the mature man step. But what the Gospel does—what Jesus Christ does, what the cross does—


at the top of all five steps, is He calls us to turn our backs and become a real, mature man by, really, denying those lusts of the flesh—those things which trip a man up and really can destroy his life.

And I have to believe, Bob—right now—we're probably speaking to a man who is straddling the steps. I wish right now this was TV. I wish I could look at you and just smile and say: "Come on up! Step on up! Turn your back on pornography, adultery, lying, cheating, and stealing—on your selfish life. You're never going to get there with your body straddling those two steps. Turn fully and face your Savior. He is the One who makes mature men out of boys and adolescents."

And I have to tell you—it's not that you arrive, by the way.


I wish I could promise every man listening and every wife who is married to him that, once they make the turn to the cross of Christ and they face upwards, they'll never again step back on the adolescent or the boyhood step.

Bob: You and I both know that's not true.

Dennis: I'm telling you—I can walk out of here today and do it myself. The flesh is not getting any sweeter. It really isn't, but you know what? Our Savior is the One who invites us to a life that is noble—that has divine purpose—that was made, by God, to honor Him. What a privilege—to live for Him in an era and a day that desperately needs mature men who follow Christ.

Bob: And of course, reality is—mature men, who follow Christ, don’t just happen on their own. It takes some intentionality, and some coaching, and some training. You have provided that for guys in the book that you have written called Stepping Up.




We’ve put together some video resources. There’s a ten-week study guys can go through that’s a video-assisted study that takes them through the material.

There’s also a one-day event for men. It’s a video event that we’ve seen more than 30,000 guys go through, over the last six months—more than 1,400 events hosted in cities, all across the country. And what we’ve found is that the day before the Super Bowl turns out to be a great day to try to rally men together and to give them a charge to step up and to be godly men.

Think about it. There are going to be 82,566 people in the stadium, watching the Super Bowl, this year in New York. What if there were tens of thousands of guys, the day before, who were huddled up with other guys, going through a one-day equipping day, learning how to step up, as men? That’s what we’ve tried to design with this one-day Stepping Up video event.


We’re hoping that guys, who are listening right now—because any guy can take the lead on this—any guy can say: “I think we ought to do this. I’ll step up and make it happen.” Go to your pastor and say: “Could we host this? I’ll do the work. You just help me get the word out, and you support it. We’ll get guys together in the church, and we’ll go through this material on the day before the Super Bowl. We’ll have our own ‘Super Saturday’ event—call guys to step up to courageous manhood.”

If you will do that—if you will be the guy who will step up and say, “I will make this happen in our church or in our community—I’ll take the lead on this,” we’ll partner with you by making the Stepping Up video event kit free to you. Here’s how it works—you go to our website,, and you download, right now, a certificate that you can redeem later for the Stepping Up video event kit. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask us to send the certificate to you.


This offer is good this week only. So, if you want to take advantage of it, you have to call, right now, or go online, right now, at Once you get the certificate, you start rounding up guys. As soon as you have, at least, ten guys, you call us or go online and order the manuals for those guys. You’ll be able to redeem your certificate, at that point, to get the video kit free; alright? Of course, if you have more guys coming and you need more manuals, you can order those from us, as well. But be a part of what God is doing in the lives of men through this Stepping Up video resource; okay? Go to for more information.

If you have any questions, we can answer a lot of those for you online. We also have a coaching team that is available. They’ll answer any questions you have. They’ll help you make your event a success. You can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “Okay, I’m in. Help me out here.” We’ll walk you through everything you need to do to make this one-day event a huge success in your community or in your church.


Call 1-800-FL-TODAY, or go online and find out more about how you can participate in the Stepping Up Super Saturday one-day event. Let’s kick off the New Year by kicking it into gear with the guys in your community; alright?

Now, tomorrow, we are going to hear the conclusion of Dennis’s message—challenging men to step up to manhood and go farther—go beyond. That comes up tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.

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

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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