From a Boy to a Man
Boys play house. Men build them." Pastor and entrepreneur Joe Pellegrino tells how his life and legacy changed for the better after giving his heart to the Lord. Pellegrino agrees that sexual purity for young men is important, but a man also needs to be pure in character. It's only then that a man can find and pursue his purpose in life.
About the Guest
Boys play house. Men build them.” Joe Pellegrino agrees that sexual purity for young men is important, but a man also needs to be pure in character. It’s then that a man can find his purpose in life.
From a Boy to a Man
Bob: Joe Pellegrino has a burden to see men assume the responsibility for passing on a legacy of faith to the next generation.
Joe: If we’re raising the next generation, and we’re pouring into them, how awesome is that?! Have you ever thought of that? You may not think of yourself as a teacher / you may not think of yourself as a leader; but as long as God has gifted you with these children, you are both! And you’re going to teach with your words; you’re going to teach with your actions; and you’re going to teach when you don’t even know you’re teaching.
Make sure you know who you are, and that you lead yourself well, so that you can lead your family well. That will spill over into the church and into the community, and that’s where transformation happens.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 23rd. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to explore what it looks like to be a legacy-minded man today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. There’s a little testosterone aroma in the studio today. Have you noticed that?
Dennis: You think? I wish our guest had some passion! [Laughter]
Dennis: Joe Pellegrino joins us. Joe is the founder of Legacy Minded Men. He’s the father of three and has written a book called Transformed: Seven Pillars of a Legacy Minded Man.
You’re talking about, really, men with a mission / men on purpose—God’s purpose for their lives. Earlier, we talked about how a legacy-minded man begins as a man of prayer. Secondly, he moves to having a persona—
Dennis: —that is who God created him to be—a man of the right attitude and character.
This third area of a legacy-minded man is very important.
Joe: It’s called purity. Purity maintains unbroken relationship with God as your leader. You know, when we hear the word, “purity,” we think of sexual purity. Of course, that’s always key, especially for men, but there are other types of purity as well.
I’m going to illustrate two of them for you.
Number one: when I went to college, my father’s sex talk that I got was, “Be careful.” I wasn’t; I was a fool! What would have happened if I was led down a different path?—if I had been given words of encouragement and affirmation, understanding who I really was and what I was created to do? It would have been great.
I want to share another story about purity—that’s your sexual reign—but—
Dennis: Before you go on—
Dennis: —I just want to say a word here. The past few months have been known by the #MeToo.
Dennis: This is where Christianity has an answer for some of the anger the world feels when men have acted and behaved as boys—
Dennis: —and have taken advantage of women. Jesus Christ transforms a boy, who doesn’t know how to control his passions.
Joe: Yes; yes.
Dennis: He transforms him when he submits to Jesus Christ.
Dennis: And he turns those passions into respect and admiration of women.
Dennis: And he protects women.
Bob: Well, let me just make sure; because you said, “Jesus Christ transforms a man’s passions.” There have been Christian men, who have acted like fools.
Dennis: Of course; unfortunately!
Dennis: Yes; we’re all a step away. King David acted like a fool!
Bob: Yes; so it begins with the transformation in Christ, but a man’s got to walk in a manner worthy in order to live up to that which he’s been called to.
Joe: We live in a world, right now, where we have too many boys. Let’s face it: boys play house; men build them. We have to recognize that there is a time to grow up, and to get out, and to do what we’re called to do! Unfortunately—the generation that’s being raised—they don’t know how to do it—
Joe: —or they’re not doing it: “It’s more important to be friends with our children than to discipline them and love them.”
Bob: You had a second illustration on purity you wanted to share with us, though.
Joe: Yes; just purity in general—purity of character. This is a powerful story that I had to go through. I sound really bad with it, but it’s the truth.
When I first spoke about my faith was 1995. A gentleman named Dave Swanson asked me to speak for a group of seventy 70-year-olds, and I did. I was told: “You go and pray first before you speak”; and I did. I prayed, and wow!—there was not one “ah” /not one “um”—it was awesome! The guys were patting me on the back, “Keep talking, brother.” I’m, “Okay; good,”—that was a Friday.
Saturday, I got a call from Mr. Swanson—he says, “Joe, your cousin, the pastor—I have a cancellation for Yankees chapel. Would love for you to see if you can get him to speak.” I said, “Sure.” I called him up; he ends up on a camping trip—so I told Dave this. Dave says: “You know what? You did such a great job Friday. Why don’t you do the Yankees tomorrow?” I said: “What! Are you kidding me?! I’m not doing…”—now, I knew the Yankees; because my first book was called Safe at Home about Christian baseball players; so I had known all of these guys, but to do church for them?!
Dennis: Now, wait a second! You had been speaking the day before to—how old were they?
Joe: Seventy 70-year-olds. [Laughter] Is that a problem?! [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m just picturing the contrast here.
Bob: —between that and then the Yankees!
Dennis: The New York Yankees; yes!
Bob: —the 28-year-old baseball players!
Dennis: So how did you do?
Joe: Dave did not take “No,” for an answer; he picked me up. Here’s the interesting part—he would always take a visiting player to breakfast in New York City. This one was Tim Hulett, second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. He brought Tim to breakfast with us.
We were talking; and Timmy’s telling him: “One day, Joe, my wife and children are sitting on the front lawn. My wife is reading a magazine; my kids are playing when my wife hears the screech of tires. She puts her magazine down. In horror, she sees our six-year-old son lying in front of a car, dead.”
Joe: He ends up by telling me this—he said, “Joe, I know I’m going to see him again.”
We get in the car; we go to Yankee Stadium. I’m still—you know, in this: “Wow! This is unbelievable.” They put me in—and this was the old Yankee Stadium, guys, so there were three locker rooms: Yankees, visitors, and an umpires’ room. I’m in the umpires’ room. I did exactly what I did on Friday—I went in the bathroom and I prayed. I said, “Lord, take me over.” The Baltimore Orioles—eight of them came in—same message as Friday. It was awesome!
I had 15 minutes between the Orioles and the Yankees. What did I do? Did I go in that bathroom again and pray? No; I started walking around in circles, thinking: “I’m really good; really good. I’m better than my pastor.” By the time I finished patting myself on the back, the door flies open. I’ll never forget—Willie Randolph is the first one—he is like, “What are you doing here, man?!” I said, “Oh, I’m preaching today!” I am thinking to myself: “Man! Are you going to be blessed!”—I didn’t say it out loud—but that’s what I was thinking.
Seventeen Yankees—and one of my boyhood idols, Don Mattingly, sitting directly across from me—Dave Swanson introduces me: “…a local businessman…” blah-blah-blah. I opened my mouth, guys—nothing comes out. I forgot everything I was going to say. To make matters worse, I was doing the “homina”/”homina” [stuttering and unable to speak clearly] thing. I started telling a story about how I met Mr. Swanson; and I may have—well, taken a little bit of an extreme—
Bob: —embellished the story?
Joe: Just a little bit; just a little bit!—so much so that Dave actually said, “That wasn’t true.”
Dennis: —in front of the Yankees?!
Joe: I tell people, “If you want be humbled, be called a liar while doing chapel for the New York Yankees.” [Laughter] These are purity issues, guys—
Joe: —because when we lose identity / we lose who we are, we can sway to the left or to the right.
We talk countlessly about how purity—sexual purity is so important—but there are other types of purity. We need to be pure in spirit—that’s a very difficult thing—and that’s why we need to surround ourselves with men, who are going to hold us accountable and teach us the right way.
Bob: So, if you had five minutes, as a father with a son, and you could talk to your son about purity of character and about sexual purity, what kind of a charge would you give him?
Joe: I would tell him that: “In Proverbs 14:12, it says, ‘There is a way that seems right to a man; but in the end, it leads to death.’ Know, without a doubt, what you believe; why you believe it; and what the Word of God says. You can never, ever go wrong.”
Dennis: So tell me what that looks like with your adult sons, because it’s one thing to charge a young lad, who’s about to go through adolescence or already is a teenager—
Joe: Yes; yes.
Dennis: —but it’s another thing to have an adult son, who’s facing the issues today.
Dennis: They’re coming at him, left and right, because of this little screen they carry around in their pockets.
Joe: Yes, sir. With my youngest son, we have Covenant Eyes on everything he has. He’s accountable to me; and he has asked, himself, to be accountable to me.
Bob: And you’re accountable to him too; right?
Joe: I’m accountable to everybody. Anybody that asks me a question will get an answer.
Joe: It’ essential.
My older son is somebody that I’ll need to share this story [about]. It’s really a powerful story of redemption, and it will speak to your point. My son was eight years old. I would take him to the side of the house, and I would teach him how to play baseball. The deal was: “If you hit the ball over my head, I’m going to buy you that pirate Lego® ship you’ve always wanted,” which was expensive for me.
The long-and-short is—he never hit the ball over my head—or so I say. For years, he would always say, ‘You never got me that pirate Lego ship.”
And I would say, “You never hit the ball over my head.” When he was 23- or 24-years-old—I forget now—we were moving him down from New Jersey to Jacksonville Chapel to take his first job. I am driving him down there. We are very similar; so, a lot of times, we butt heads.
Joe: We love each other to death, but we butt heads! As we were driving down there, we were doing a little bit of that. We get to his apartment; and I said: “Let’s go to Walmart®. We’ll get you some stuff for the place.”
As God would have it, as I walked through Walmart, somehow, I found myself in the Lego aisle. I saw the new version of the pirate Lego ship. [Laughter] God clearly spoke to me—not in an audible voice—but He just shook me to my foundation. He said, “Buy that.” That was November of 2013, I believe. I left the next day—I got off the plane; I went to Walmart; I bought it; I wrapped it; I took a piece of Legacy Minded Men stationery and I wrote these words—and I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t remember the actual words—but it said: “Dear Joey, forgive me for the tardiness of this note; for I have watched so many homeruns hit in your life. [Laughter] I love you!” I wrapped it all up.
When we gave our gifts out at Christmas, we gave them out as a family. I said: “Joe, here’s one more; but it’s from me to you. You can’t open it up; you have to open up the card first.” He opened up the card; he threw his head back and he said—he put his hand on the box—he said, “I know what’s in here.” [Laughter]
You see, I still believe he never hit the ball over my head; but it doesn’t matter. He felt that he did, and he felt that his dad wronged him. We need to step up to the plate and right a wrong, even if you don’t think you’re wrong; because legacy is at risk here. You want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing, even if it makes you look bad.
Dennis: And know this—there isn’t a young man of any age—and I’m talking about whether he’s 16, 17, or 70—who doesn’t need to hear: “Son, you hit a homerun!
Joe: Yes, sir; absolutely!
Dennis: “I’m proud of you.”
Dennis: Young men need to be approved—
Dennis: —and need the affirmation of a father.
Joe: Yes; they do!
Bob: —with a foundation of a relationship in Christ—
Bob: —with prayer as a part of your life, with an understanding that “This is who God has called me to be / has made me to be.”
Bob: And then a commitment to purity—not just sexual purity—but purity of character. Now, you’re ready to tackle your purpose; aren’t you?
Joe: Amen! Now, we’re on purpose; and this is my—I love purpose, because I believe—
Dennis: I want to just challenge our listeners: “Buckle up your seatbelts—
Bob: That’s right!
Dennis: —“because he really wants to preach this one.” [Laughter]
Joe: I believe there are two types of purposes. I believe purpose number one is a general purpose, which is found in Matthew, Chapter 28, verses 19 and 20, which we all know is the Great Commission: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That is a general purpose, no matter who you are—man or woman—if you are in Christ, that’s what you’re called to do!
So when people say, “I don’t know what my purpose is,”—okay; maybe you don’t know what your specific purpose is, but you certainly know what your general purpose is. Let’s not hide behind the fact that we don’t have a purpose. You all have a purpose / general purpose: “You get out there, and you share the gospel with people, and you disciple them. You don’t just share and walk away; you disciple them.”
And then, number two is a specific purpose, which I believe is found in Ephesians, Chapter 2, verse 10, which says, “We are Christ’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That’s right! The God of creation actually thought of you during creation/before creation! He created you for a specific purpose—a unique purpose!
I don’t want to ever hear that you were “built for nothing.” You were built for success, because you were built for purpose. Your life really resides on three things: knowing Christ as your Savior; and then understanding what He has for you; and, not only understanding it, but putting it into action. A man who knows what he’s supposed to do and doesn’t do it is just wasting his life!
Bob: If I had asked you, at 25 years old, “What’s your purpose?” What would you have told me?—do you know?
Joe: I probably would have said, “I’m going to be a millionaire,” because that’s all I cared about—I didn’t care who I stepped on; I didn’t care what I would have done. Would I have recognized that as purpose?—no; I probably wouldn’t have.
Bob: At what point did you start to go, “God made me for something, and I’m beginning to understand what my purpose is”?
Joe: It was Legacy Minded Men. My wife and I were operating a ministry called The Faith Foundation, and we were doing a program called Adopt a Child. What that was—was, in Passaic County, New Jersey, we worked with the local division of Youth and Family Services to identify all the children who were abused. We wanted to provide gifts for them. We owned a newspaper at the time; so on the front page of the paper, we would say, “Adopt a Child for the Christmas Season.” We would provide them with the name of the child, their age, their sex, and what their Christmas wish was; and then we would have somebody adopt them for the season. They never actually met them—they would simply wrap the gifts, wrap the gifts, and label the gifts. And every Saturday, from eight o’clock in the morning until noon, we would have cars bringing the gifts.
Well, in year one, we did 56 children; in year two, 600; in year three, 900; in year four, it was 1500; 1900; 2100; 2500. In the year 2000, my wife and I were named “Volunteers of the Year” in the state of New Jersey. Yet, in the fall of 2008, I just had this tugging that: “Yes, this is good; but this is not great. This is good, but this is not eternal.” I felt God calling me to men—calling me to true purpose.
I always say: “You have to trade something good for something that’s great—your purpose. And when you do, you’re going to tick off some people; but the reality is—that’s where God wants you.” I don’t think we can recognize the sheer power of making a decision like that; because you see, guys, I’m not only the President of Legacy Minded Men, I’m also its best customer. [Laughter] I needed this more than anybody else. I needed the accountability; I needed godly men who were going to love on me enough to tell me the truth.
I’m so tired of hearing how wonderful I am and the pats on the back. I want truth, because I know I’m imperfect; I know that I need direction. I screw up in different areas. By the way, my children and my wife are very good at pointing those things out, which I appreciate. [Laughter]
Joe: That’s where purpose was really introduced to me—approximately ten years ago.
Dennis: Bob raised the issue, when we were talking about purity—that even followers of Christ fail.
Joe: Oh, yes!
Dennis: As you talk about purpose, men with purpose can sometimes fail.
Dennis: And they have to deal with disappointment. You actually had a time in your life when you had to face disappointment around a job change—a career dream that you had.
Joe: Yes; we owned a newspaper—called it a newspaper. I wanted to just do my dream company, which was a multi-media company. Back in 1998, multi-media was taking advantage of this new thing called the internet.
Joe: We started the company—raised $1.3 million effortlessly, because it was tech-stock time. People were literally writing: “Here’s a blank check! Just fill it out!” It was just amazing! I was, I think, 36 years old at the time. One of the New York Yankees—one of the most famous New York Yankees—was our spokesman and one of the owners. It was exciting—what was happening.
Yet, in the fall—I’m sorry—in the spring of 2000, after all these accolades and all of these write-ups—and actually, we had just done a big business show, where we flew this Yankee in and had 500 business people—we broadcasted part of it live on WFAN Sports Radio, which was the big sports radio station in New York—just being written up as a marketing genius. Unfortunately, guys, I started believing what was being written. About a month later, we purchased a company on a stock deal; and the company was bankrupt. I lost everything—every penny—but there was about $200,000—we don’t remember—I say, in the book, “$200,000”—I think it was a little more than that—“in corporate debt that was going to flow into corporate bankruptcy.”
I knew people that put that money in, who were going to lose this money. I was urged to go bankrupt, personally, but I didn’t think it was biblical. My wife and I said, “No; we’re going to deal with this.” But corporately, I didn’t have any say—I only owned 31 percent of the company. I went home to my wife and I said: “Beth Ann, this $200,000-plus debt is going to flow into corporate bankruptcy. These people are going to lose their money. I want to take it on personally.”
Now, you have to understand—I just hit her with the fact that we just lost our company, our jobs, everything! Every penny, literally—not one penny I had in the bank. She didn’t even blink her eye—she said, “Absolutely!” That led me down a difficult path; I really had to humble myself—took jobs / whatever I had to do to put food on the table.
As a matter of fact, guys, when we moved last year to Vera Beach, Florida—and I had to go through that attic and clean everything out—I kept every tax return from my first tax return.
I started looking at the tax returns of those two years. I looked at the number on it, and I looked at how much I needed to make to pay my mortgage—wasn’t even close. You know those things that bend your mind?—because the only thing you can say is, “Thank You, Jesus?”—that’s what it was like!
By God’s grace, several years later, I was able to build another company—sell half of it—and take that money and pay those people off. I know they were shocked that they ever saw that money again, but we felt it was important. And you know something? I could not have done Legacy Minded Men unless my back was against the wall, and what came out of me was the real me—and taking on that responsibility and saying, “I’m going to do the hard thing.” Even though I could have easily walked away from it, I had to do the hard thing. That’s why, I believe, God has raised us up.
Bob: Joe, there’s a guy listening, undoubtedly, who is thinking: “This talk about purpose seems like it’s for a different kind of man than me. I’m a husband; I’m a dad; I go to work; I do my life—I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
“This noble purpose—start a ministry; do big things—I’m just an average guy!”
Joe: So: “Average guy, lead yourself well. Everything starts there. If you have children/you have a wife, you be the best husband/the best father you possibly can be. That is purpose and purpose alone! If we’re raising the next generation, and we’re pouring into them, how awesome is that?! Have you ever thought of that? You may not think of yourself as a teacher / you may not think of yourself as a leader; but as long as God has gifted you with these children, you are both! And you’re going to teach with your words; you’re going to teach with your actions; and you’re going to teach when you don’t even know you’re teaching; so make sure you know who you are and that you lead yourself well, so that you can lead your family well. That will spill over into the church / into the community, and that’s where transformation happens.
Dennis: In the front of my Bible, you can see what I’ve got. It’s a picture of Chuck Colson, and it’s the funeral program that was at the Washington Cathedral.
Here’s what—that average Joe we’re talking about—who doesn’t feel like he’s anybody special—here’s what Colson would say to him—it’s on this program: “Remain at your post and do your duty for the glory of God in His Kingdom.”
Joe: Yes; amen!
Dennis: And his life verse follows: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” For the man who wants to be all that God created him to be, he’s got to die.
Dennis: He has to sacrifice himself and say, “Not my will, but Your will, God.”
I don’t know what men, who are listening to this broadcast, are facing—maybe some forks in the road / a key obstacle. God calls men to step up, and to follow Christ, and to sacrifice on His behalf.
Bob: And a great way to know where to go and where to head, as a man, is to get a copy of Joe’s book: Transformed: 7 Pillars of a Legacy Minded Man.
Joe talks about what we’ve talked about this week: prayer, your persona—who you really are—purity, your purpose, your priorities, persevering, and how power is unleashed as you live out who it is God’s called you to be. Get a copy of Joe’s book, Transformed: 7 Pillars of a Legacy Minded Man. If you’re getting together with a group of guys, regularly, to go through books like this, in addition to getting Joe’s book, check out FamilyLife®’s Stepping Up® video series for men. It’s a ten-part series designed to challenge men to think more deeply about the assignment God has given us to be godly men.
All the information about the book, Transformed, and the Stepping Up book and video series are available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call if you’d like to order these resources. Our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329—
—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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I want to thank our engineer today, 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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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