FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Taking the Journey Up the Steps to Manhood

with Dennis Rainey | October 23, 2013
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Dennis Rainey talks about the four steps that need to be applied to help a boy develop into a man.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dennis Rainey talks about the four steps that need to be applied to help a boy develop into a man.

  • 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 Rainey talks about the four steps that need to be applied to help a boy develop into a man.

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Taking the Journey Up the Steps to Manhood

With Dennis Rainey
October 23, 2013
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Bob: Titus, Chapter 2, gives older men an assignment. They are to teach younger men how to become men. We are to mentor younger men. Here is Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: Do you know what the number one reason men don't become mentors? They don't think they have anything to share to the next generation. Why?—because they failed. The enemy is whispering in their ears the greatest lie of all time: "You're disqualified through your failure."

It's our responsibility, I believe, as older men—to give power, give charge and commission them—to live the rest of their days becoming God's mentor for future generations.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today forWednesday, October 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. No matter how old you are, there are younger men you could be pointing in the direction of manhood—if you are ready to step up. Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Most guys, who are on the journey to manhood, figure that when you get to mature manhood, you're there—you've arrived. That's where you're supposed to live out your days as a mature man; right?

Dennis: Right.

Bob: You don't agree?

Dennis: I don't. I think there's an additional goal that God has for us, if we look in the Scriptures, that really gives meaning and purpose to all of those mistakes we made, as men, and all the hard lessons we learned, growing up into mature manhood. I think these last two steps, Bob, are the real payoff in life and are part of what really gives a man, as he finishes his own race, the sense of honor, and value, and esteem, and nobility to true manhood.


Bob: You called these the last two steps—and we've been hearing a message, this week, where you talk about the five steps toward manhood and beyond—mature manhood and beyond. These are steps that, as you've already explained this week, represent the masculine journey. Yet, men don't necessarily step all the way up. We can straddle steps, and we can—

Dennis: We get stuck on steps.

Bob: Right. And you've already talked about boyhood being the first step; and then, adolescence being the second step. The third step is mature manhood. As we already heard—again, you can straddle that one and sometimes act like an adolescent and sometimes act like a mature man. I see guys, my age and older, who sometimes act like adolescents. I can fall into that trap anytime; right?


Dennis: No doubt about it.  All you've got to do is go to an NFL football game to see some folks straddling some steps. [Laughter]

Bob: But when you go beyond manhood—mature manhood—you're saying the fourth step and the fifth step really ought to be something we aspire to—aim for, work toward—right?

Dennis: Absolutely. I'm not going to give them to you now because I want you to hear them in context; but I believe these last two steps really are—after you become a mature man—the payoff steps that bring a lot of life to younger men, on the lower steps, as they're stepping up.

Bob:  Alright. Well, let's hear what Step 4 is as we listen to Part Three of your message on “Stepping Up to Manhood”.

[Previously Recorded Message]



Dennis: The fourth step of a man is that of being a mentor. Second Timothy 2:2 reminds us that we are to teach these things, which we have heard from others, and to pass them on to other people, who will be able to entrust them to still yet others. It's the generational relay race—it's the passing on of truth.

Bob and I had a guy in the studio that was a piece of the puzzle of this for me. His name was Harold Davis. I think some of you have probably heard me talk about Harold. Harold was an associate pastor, part-time, in Champaign, Illinois, but also had a mentoring ministry for African-American youth—for boys. He called boys to step up.

When he was in the studio, he was talking about mentors. Harold Davis is recruiting African-American men to become mentors for the boys so that these guys will step out of their circumstances and step up, purposely, to manhood. He made this statement—he said, "Dennis, when there are not older men—older men—stepping down into the lives of boys—calling them to step up—that generation of youth disintegrates."


Think of our culture. What's happening to our nation? What if there was a generation of men, who had the mantle of being mentors—who were purposed to step into the lives of the next generation of boys, and teenagers, and men—calling them to step up? What would happen to our nation? What if we could just assemble those men and give them that mission?

I'm telling you—I think we could see the family reformation that we've prayed and talked about. It would become a reality in one generation. It can happen, but the job description needs to be clear. Men need to be stepping from manhood toward being a mentor—and beginning to look around, saying, “I’ve got stuff to pass along and pull other guys up with me.”


You know what is the number one reason men don’t become mentors? They don’t think they have anything to share to the next generation. Why?—because they failed. They don’t realize it was their failures that made them the men that they are today. The enemy is whispering in their ears the greatest lie of all time: “You’re disqualified through your failure.” It’s our responsibility, I believe, as older men, to give charge—place the mantle, put our hands on them and commission them to live the rest of their days—if nothing less than becoming God’s mentor for future generations. What a privilege! I want to pour my life out and give it away. So do you. It’s what we all want to do.

It doesn’t all fall into place until you put the last step up there. When you see the last step, it’s kind of like: “I’ve got it! Now, I know where I’m going.”


For me, I have to tell you, I’m changing the way I’m relating to my extended family. Barbara and I just had a meal with Michael and Ashley to talk about family relationships. When I had this meal, I was clearly stepping—at least a toe—up here.

Now, the interesting thing about this step, guys, is that the word I am about to put up here is an absolutely dirty word, in our culture—to use the term screams of sexism—"patriarch". Well, I don't have all this hammered out, but I'm going to give you three things that I think a patriarch is.

Number 1, he is a generational connector. This has to do with relationships. When I had my little toe kind of up on this step—I'm just kind of easing up here, kind of testing out my balance—the other night, over dinner. Michael and Ashley were there at the table.


We were talking about intra-family relationships. It wasn't that they were becoming nitpickers—it wasn't that another single person was—it was just the beginnings of beginning to see this little family unit that, so far, had been able to kind of grow up.

We'd all maintained relationship; but I'm beginning to see that, unless I do something—I don't know what that is, exactly—but unless I, as the patriarch of my family, which I—if I live long enough, I will become that—but I am to give the lubricant that keeps the relationships going. Why? Because if I don't, what's going to happen, guys? We teach it at our conference.  What's the natural direction of our relationships? Isolation—it's going to occur in extended family.

Biblically, a patriarch was not a domineering, high-control press-it-down—not in the sense of the Bible. He was a gentle influencer—a calling of that— a wooing of those under his stead—a shepherd.


But, you see, the culture has made it so evil to be a patriarch—so authoritative—that they've robbed us. They've robbed you and me, as men, of one of the greatest privileges of dignity. What a holy calling, guys, to be heading there! Well, the first thing I think we're to be is a generational connector.

A second thing we're to be is a generational protector. You do that with truth—spiritual wheel alignments—coming alongside the whole family/a family member with a reminder of the truth of Scripture. Again, it's not the harsh correction—not that we'd do that anyway—but it’s again, that gentle shepherd, who is prodding and encouraging the sheep in the right direction. You and I, guys, I believe, as we move into this stage, have to learn what it means to protect our family from evil.

Listen to me, guys—I do not believe it means doing nothing.


Most Christian men have so abdicated, at this step. They had nothing to say up here. Why?—because they weren't a protector, when they were a man, raising their children. How can you protect up here if you didn't begin here? The idea is that we train men to protect their children, here, so that by the time we've stepped up to here: “Yes, we can protect our family. We can step up here, and we can be a generational protector.”  I think it's one of the most courageous calls of men today.

I took another little step in being a patriarch, on the plane, coming in here. I sat in my seat, on the flight we finally did make. I began to watch CNN, in flight, show a pornographic music video to all of its captive audience. I've only done this one other time; but I got out of my seat, and I rang my call button first. I go:


"No, I'm not interested in having 12 other people, in the general vicinity, hear my little message. I'm going to go talk to the chief steward or stewardess, whoever it is."

I went up in first class. I said, "Who is in charge of the plane?" She said, "I am." I said: "You know, I've just got to tell you. I've only done this one other time. I'm not angry. I just think we're losing our decency, as a nation. We're losing all sense of conscience." I said: "I just watched a video you guys had. I know you guys hadn't seen it because, if you'd seen it, you wouldn't show it." I said: "I don't know if you're a mom or not, but you wouldn't dare want your children to see what that audience had to see for the last seven minutes—this interview with this guy promoting his music video. It was obscene, by anyone's standards."

She graciously took my name, and my seat number, and the complaint.


I did my best to just be a moral citizen of America and not be a raving lunatic Christian, which some people are. You know, they walk up there with their Bible, thumping people; and that's not the way to do it. Do you know what a patriarch does?  I believe, when he steps up here—I believe he begins to protect, not only his own family, but he protects the community's families. He protects the nation's families. Why? Who is going to do it if he doesn't? Are you with me? We are fighting an invisible war.

And, you know, you don't always see the ground you're recovering. The ground we recover is in the ground of the human heart. You can't plant a flag in it. I just finished a great book—that I would commend to you—called Flags of our Fathers. It's the story of the six men, and their legacies, who planted the flag on top of Iwo Jima. You know, some days, I just want to plant a flag on top of a volcano in a hill that I took from a bunch of stinking enemies and recaptured it. 


Maybe, someday, God will give me the privilege of going to a skyscraper in Hollywood and planting a flag out there—you know, saying: "You stinkin' evil-producing bunch of slime. We're taking over this thing." But you and I both know the chances of that happening are slim to none. The way we'll take over is by planting the flag in hearts, and families, and homes, one at a time—one at a time.

We are called to be the connectors. We are called to be the protectors; and we are called, thirdly, to be small "d,"—I believe we are called to be generational directors. It's not pointing the finger. It's a high-influence—it's a salt-and-light way of living—but there is a direction. There is a visionary, at the top of the heap, setting a direction for this family—this family unit.


Well, do you see what we've got here? We have a picture of how a man moves through life, with a vision, up here, on this step. Now, the good part about this group, right here, is—there are guys, in our midst, who have already started stepping into this. There is going to be pain in this. It’s not glorious. It’s not always the planting the flag of the great victory. Sometimes, it’s picking up the rubble; but I believe He’s called us to this, guys.

I’ll close with this illustration. Then, we’ll just spend some time talking. I wanted to end our Men's Fraternity time by asking two men, who were clearly on this step, to come and speak because I don’t belong—giving a testimony on that, at all. But I need some older men to show me what it looks like. So, we had two guys come, both in their 70s. One of them may have been in his 80s.

A guy, who had retired from Timex, came and, figuratively, stood on that step. We didn't have them go up there and stand because we were afraid, at that age, they might fall off and hurt themselves.


He brought in a symbol of what it meant for him to be the patriarch. He brought in—do you remember this? Were you there?  He brought in a file of letters that he has written his sons, his daughters, and his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law on their birthdays and anniversaries, each of them, for the past ten years. There was a copy of every letter he has written to those kids—reminding them of truth, letters of belief, letters to call them up to godliness and to maturity. As long as I live, I'll never forget an elder in our church—godly man—just stacking those letters. There had to be six—five to six inches high—ten years' worth of deposits.

Then, we introduced the guy some of you in here know because he's been used by God in a mighty way—it's Dr. Carl Wenger.


White-haired Carl— surgeon, lives in the same house that he's had for the past 30/40 years. He and his wife Lib started Bible Study Fellowship in Arkansas—brought it there—built a conference center. Here is a layman who has made an incredible impact to our community. He said, "I'm not sure what a patriarch is." He said, "But I know this"—this is what I'll never forget—he said, "God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines. That's the story of my life—a life of grace. He uses broken people—crooked, bent, bruised—battered sticks to draw straight lines in the lives of wives and children, generations to come.”




Bob: Well, once again, we've been listening to Part Three of a message that we've heard, all this week, from Dennis Rainey on “Stepping Up to Manhood”. I guess my question is: “Do you think every man can decide for himself to be a patriarch, or is that something that those around you have to decide you are or you aren't?”

Dennis: That's a good question. I think it's a combination of both, Bob. A patriarch doesn't get his authority by declaring himself one, but he gets his authority by people recognizing him as one. But to get that recognition means you have to act like one. So, have I talked in a circle or what here?

But the bottom line for men is—as you've listened to us talk about stepping up to manhood, whether it's the boyhood/adolescent step, mature manhood step, mentor, or patriarch—the question for every man listening, right now, is: “What step are you standing on, and which way are you facing?


Are you facing down, sideways, or up? What is the step you're standing on; and what is the next step you need to take, as a man?”

Bob: We are already hearing from guys, this week, who are calling in saying: “Here’s how I’m going to step up. I’m going to get guys together; and we’re going to do the one-day Stepping Up video event that FamilyLife has put together,” because you wrote a book on Stepping Up. We have a ten-week video series, for men, on Stepping Up.

On the Saturday, before the Super Bowl, we have just found that’s a great day to rally men together and take them through material like this—that calls them to engage—that calls them to step up.This week, we’ve been saying to the men, who listen to FamilyLife Today: “Why don’t you take the lead and make this happen in your community or in your church?”


If you’ll do that—if you’ll partner with us in this—we’ll send the video event kit to you for free; alright?

So, here’s how it works. A guy goes, online, at; or he calls 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you go online, you can download a certificate to get the video event kit. By the way, this download is only good this week. So, you have to do it today. Or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’ll mail the certificate out to you; but again, you have to do it this week to take advantage of this offer.

Once you get the certificate, you start getting guys together. Go to your pastor. Say: “Can we host this at the church? I’ll rally the men together. I’ll get the word out.” Do you need any help in promoting your event? We have a coaching team that’s here to help you. We have online resources designed to help you. We’ll partner with you, again, to make this thing a success. Once you have, at least, ten guys lined up for the event—and we’re hoping you’ll get 30, or 40, or 50—whatever you can do in your community.


We hope you get a lot of guys. Once you have, at least, ten, call to order the manuals for those guys. You can include your certificate with the order—and the DVDs—the event kit, comes free; okay?

Go to for more information. If you want to see some video clips from the event, you can see those, online, at Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and just say: “I’m in. I’m going to help make the one-day Super Saturday event happen in our community / in our church.” We’ll send you the certificate for the free kit, answer any questions you have about how to host this event, and help you make it a great event for the men in your community and in your church. Go to for more information; or call if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.


Now, before we’re all done here, I was thinking back to your 50th birthday, Dennis, when your whole family came in for a party, here at FamilyLife. There was one member of the family who we couldn’t get to be here. We had to connect with him by phone, and we captured his telephone call. I think it's the kind of reward that—

Dennis: Yes. Just to be able to hear these kinds of words, one time, from any of your children—well, it is the reward of a mature man.

Bob: The reward of stepping up; isn't it?  Here's that phone call, on your 50th birthday.

[Previously Recorded]

Bob: You know, we did pretty good. We got Ashley and Michael over here from Memphis. We got Samuel down here from Fayetteville—in a windy, rainy drive down the pig trail last night, arriving at our house at 2 in the morning. But we couldn't arrange for a direct transcontinental flight from Talun to get Benjamin here.


The best we could do was to get him here by telephone, and he should be on the line with us. Benjamin, are you there?

Benjamin: I'm here. [Applause]

Bob: What time is it in Talun?

Benjamin: It's 5:15.

Bob: Five-fifteen—you're ready for dinner; huh?

Benjamin: Hardly!

Bob: [Laughter] Well, you know what today is; don't you?

Benjamin: Yes, I heard the rumor.

Bob: What have you been thinking about today as you've reflected on your dad's 50th?

Benjamin: Man, I've been—and I apologize for the start of the conversation. I've been crying for the past five minutes. [Emotion in voice]

Dad, I think I'm looking at the same picture you guys are. I guess it's still up. It's you and me at the cross.


As I reflected on that, there's one thing that stood out to me was that, Dad, no matter what we've done in the 22 years of my life, the cross has been central to everything. You've been a trailblazer by showing us the way—by showing us that the cross was everything to you, and it should be everything to us.

And so—I don’t know how many of you know this—but that's why I'm here. This won't mean a whole lot to everybody else there; but when I left this summer, we just had a big going-away at the airport. You know, I consider myself to be a pretty big guy—pretty strong—but even as big as I am and as tough as I appear to be, that was a hard day to leave. I wrote about it in my journal.

I said: "Yesterday was really an amazing day, leaving Little Rock. Wow!


I never really thought I would be so scared—so not wanting to leave—but when I hugged Dad, it was as if the whole world could attack me, and I would be safe." Dad, that's how it's been my whole life. Nothing mattered, at that point, to me, when I was hugging you. I just want to thank you for being my dad and for showing me the way.

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

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