On the broadcast today, Ron Jenson, author of the book Taking the Lead, talks with Dennis Rainey about the qualities every leader should possess--team orientation and personal discipline.
On the broadcast today, Ron Jenson, author of the book Taking the Lead, talks with Dennis Rainey about the qualities every leader should possess--team orientation and personal discipline.
Ron: So often today guys are like a passage in Hebrews that says you cannot eat meat or solid food because your senses have not been trained to discern right from wrong. As guys, we simply haven't taken the word of God, built it into our life, turned it into godly habits by putting off the old man, putting on the new man, and as a result we're wimps, we're spiritual wimps.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Before you step up to take the lead as the man in your home, you better make sure you're spiritually fit.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. We want to talk this week about men being men. I've heard some guys call that "manning up," and we've got a guy who is a friend of yours, who is going to help us do that this week.
Dennis: Ron Jenson joins us on FamilyLife Today. Ron, welcome to the broadcast.
Ron: Great to be with you, Dennis.
Dennis: We're going to talk about something that Ron and I – well, we go way back on this subject. Ron and I, along with his wife Mary, along with my wife Barbara, have all vacationed together with our kids, and, you know, it's really a great friend, isn't it, Ron, that can bring your two children along with our six.
Ron: Oh, it's a scary and exciting thing.
Dennis: And can still be friends later on after you've done that. But Ron and I raised our families together, and have spoken at Weekend to Remember conferences. Ron has written a book called "Taking the Lead," and that's why I've asked him to come in today and have a little conversation about what it means for men to be godly leaders. If there's anyone really qualified to speak on this, it's Ron. He is America's life coach, he's written 11 books, he was the co-developer of nine praise-and-worship tapes along with Dr. Bill Bright, and, as I've mentioned, he and his wife Mary do have two adult children – Molly and Matt.
Ron, a number of years ago there was a book written called "Passive Men, Wild Women." And the premise of the book was that passive men were driving women wild. That's still true today, even though that book was written nearly 30 years ago.
Ron: Absolutely right. In fact, I'm not sure that it's not worse today than it was then. I think we've gotten into this whole passive male syndrome, and one of the great motivations behind my writing this book was I honestly believe that the passive male is probably the greatest sociological sin of our day because, if you think about it, when a male doesn't step up and take the lead in the home, in ministry, and in the marketplace, particularly godly men who step up and take the lead, the net effect is that we just have an incredible leadership void.
Now, women have often stepped up and taken the lead and often because men haven't stepped up, and I think it's time the guys start to step up again.
Dennis: You and I are passionate about this subject. We've had a lot of conversations, and we really kind of fight for the soapbox sometimes about this. But you mentioned a statement there that I want our listeners to make sure they catch. You said you believe that men not stepping up and assuming their rightful and their responsible place as leaders is the number-one sociological problem in our nation?
Ron: I think it is, because I think everything else, at the end of the day, rises and falls on leadership, and when you don't have leadership, you have all sorts of chaos and problems, and men, for all sorts of reasons, I think because this idea of there not being a difference between men and women, the androgynous concept, I think, because of the fact that women have stepped up in some cases, partly because of the woman's movement a number of years ago and partly, as a result, habits have been formed, guys have withdrawn, and they haven't come back and stepped back up. So whether it's in the marketplace or in the church or in the home, I think women are off and leading much more than men, too often to their credit, by the way, but guys need to step up, and they're not doing it, and so I wanted to give them a pattern so they can understand what a good godly leader was.
I think one reason they don't step up is they don't know what it looks like to be a leader and don't even want to use the word "leader." So I wanted to give them a pattern of what it really means to be a godly leader.
Dennis: You know, I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, as I was reflecting upon your book, as I read it, I thought about the men who had impacted my life as a young man growing up, and it's really an interesting building process to kind of look back and see the bricks that your father has laid in your life.
Where did you first learn what it was like to be a godly man?
Ron: Well, I learned first from my father. Now, my father, when I was growing up as a kid, did not have an incredibly strong faith base, but he represented godly principles – everything from the work ethic to being tender to being many of the qualities that are exactly talked about in this particular book in this whole process that we've developed.
But then I also had someone pour his life into me when I was young – a young life leader when I was back in high school, but even before that, when I was a little kid I was a little hood. You know a lot of my story, and I was getting in a lot of trouble, and I almost flunked kindergarten when I was a little kid. I don't know how you flunk kindergarten.
Dennis: Flunked kindergarten?
Ron: It takes a special skill. They said I was socially maladjusted, which really means …
Dennis: You were a troublemaker.
Ron: Mm-hm. I got in fights. Now, I got in fights because I had a poor self-concept, and I had a poor self-concept because I was a fat little boy. My nickname growing up was "Jelly Belly Jenson." How would you like to live with that? When I was 10 years old, I weighed 140 pounds; 20 pounds too much to play peewee football. So I don't know how you have to lose weight to play football. I guess they thought I would squish the kids, but I had to lose 20 pounds to play peewee football, and the kids always made fun of me, and they laughed at me, and so I got in fights. But I made it through kindergarten, then I made it through every grade in elementary school, but I passed every one on condition. I think the condition was that I wouldn't come back, but it was on condition. I was a "D" student all the way through grade school.
Dennis: Now, you went on to become the president of an international Christian graduate university, didn't you?
Ron: I did.
Dennis: I just want some of our moms to hear this, because they need to hear.
Ron: There is hope, there is hope.
Dennis: There is hope, there is a God, and He sometimes redeems.
Ron: That's right, He does, and it took two things in my case – all the way through grade school I was getting D's, and my brother brought me my fourth-grade report card from Mr. Kono [sp] about two years ago when I had eight courses – all D's, one D minus, one C minus, but for effort for all eight I can an "E" for Excellent, which was as good as you could get. Now, think of what that says to a little kid. It says, "Ron is really stupid, but he's maximizing his potential." That was kind of my view of life.
Dennis: So were there some men, then, in those years who began to step into your life and believe in you as a young man?
Ron: Yes. Two things happened – one is a friend invited me to go to a church camp, I went, heard the Gospel for the first time, gave my life to Jesus – that was, of course, dramatic, but I came back – when I came back – a gentleman in the community started to meet with me and a few others. He was following up on the retreat, and he taught us things for 12 weeks; I remember, 12 weeks. And not only did he teach us things, but he would always find something among the five or six of us to encourage.
So one week he would say to me, "Ronny, you talked a lot. Now, what do you have to say isn't all that good, but you've got some verbal skills and one day you might become a speaker." I thought, "Cool." And the next week he would say, "Ronny, kids follow you. Now, son, you're not going in the right direction, but you've got some leadership skills and one day you might become a leader." And I thought, "Cool." After 12 weeks of doing this, he just found something to compliment, and during that process, my life started to change. I knew the Lord, and then someone came alongside of me that poured a little bit of their life into me for a short time. I lost a lot of weight, started playing sports, and I went on and went from fights to student body president that year. I went from D's to A's in one quarter. Now, was I smarter? No. Was I a greater athlete? No. Was I a better leader? Not really. What I was was motivated because some guy …
Dennis: … believed in you.
Ron: Believed in me.
Dennis: And, you know, those words sink deep into the heart of a little boy who needs somebody to verbally and physically put their arms around him and say "You know what? You can make a difference." And that's what you're trying to do in your book, "Taking the Lead." You're trying to put your arms around men and encourage them to become the man God called them to be, and you outline your entire book from Paul's letter to the church at Thessalonica – 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2 – in fact, I want to read just about five or six verses that your book really comes from. It's verses 7 through 12, and Paul writes in here – in fact, Ron, you had no way of knowing this, but this is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, too, because it really talks about the tough and the tender side of being a man. And I think if there's ever been a need today to show men the courageous side but also the tender, gentle side, it's today. Men need a good picture of that. Let me read this.
Paul writes, "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to a burden to any of you, we proclaim to you the Gospel of God. You are witnesses and so is God how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behave toward you believers. Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children so that you may walk in a manner worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."
Now, Ron, you take that passage of Scripture, and you list 10 core qualities for effective male leadership, and we're only going to talk about a couple of these today but just real quickly – and folks can get these on our Internet site, if they'd like to go to FamilyLife.com to get a glimpse at all 10 of these if you'd like to see it. But I'd like to ask you, Ron, to just share with our listeners those 10 qualities to give them an overview of where we're going.
Ron: Well, here are the 10 – one is team orientation – that means I need you and you need me. The second one is a disciplined life – you've got to have a disciplined life. We proved to be a certain kind of person. Gentle spirit is a third one – that's a great one. It talks about a nursing mother. Fond affection is another one. Paul said "We love you so much." Effective communication – Paul said we imparted to you the Gospel in such a way that it took. And then personal openness – we imparted to you not only the Gospel but our very own lives, our souls. And then servant leadership – we work night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you. And then – hard work. We worked night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you. And then nine is being a godly model; and then 10 is caring confrontation. It's where they're exhorting and encouraging and imploring people to walk worthy of the Gospel.
Dennis: Let's go back to the first one – team orientation. You had a conversation with a couple of softball players, is that right, about what it meant to be a team player? You thought you'd get a good definition of what it meant to be a team player from them, but you didn't quite get there, did you?
Ron: No, it was interesting. I watched these softball players come into a restaurant, actually, and they were all buddy-buddy, and they had just been out playing softball, and there were part of this incredible team. I mean, they appreciated one another, they needed one another, they functioned together. Many of those softball players like the games you and I used to go watch all the time in the summer. Well, I started talking to these guys about teamness and guys needing one another, and these guys actually came back and said, "Oh, no, we don't need one another" – talking about being rough and tough – but their very actions denied their behaviors, and their behavior was we love being part of a team, it's exciting being part of a team. The first baseman needs the right fielder and vice-versa, and we need this for ourselves. We feel good about ourselves. We feel more fulfilled when we're part of that.
So the whole mindset today among guys is that we don't need others or others don't need us, one of the two, and we need to blaster that because, interestingly enough, this book was written not by Paul but by Paul and Timothy and Sylvanus. I so often hear Christian guys say – or other men – "Hey, God didn't call me to be a leader," and I go, "Of course, He did." They say, "It's not my personality," and I go, "Well, look at this text. Paul was a rough, tough guy. He was a very aggressive leader. Timothy was a timid teacher. Sylvanus was more of an administrative type, but the three of them together as a team poured their life into Thessalonians and, as a result they created the healthiest church we know about in the New Testament."
Dennis: Okay, so the first aspect of becoming a godly man is a team orientation. You speak of a second aspect of leadership; that's discipline. You're really talking about self-sacrifice here, aren't you?
Ron: Yes, I am, and constantly self-sacrificing. And, by the way, those both are implicit. Paul says "We were." That's where I get team orientation "we." When, if you go through 1 Thessalonians and circle "us," "we" or "us," routinely, it says that they worked as a team, and that's obvious here. And then he says "we were." It means there was a pattern of life that was consistent. In 1 Timothy 4:7 Paul says, "Discipline yourself" or "gymnastics" yourself for the purpose of godliness. The [unintelligible] father said "First we make our habits then our habits make us," and point here is we need to develop constant self-sacrifice, and we need to develop good, godly habits in our relationships with people, and these guys did that as they fleshed out the other eight qualities we talk about here, and discipline is a tough thing. It was driven home to me years ago. I was going through a Sears near my home in Philadelphia, and I was with a friend, and we're walking along, and I was just saying a few things, and my friend got within about a foot of my face and spit in my face. Now, this is a true story.
Dennis: On purpose he spit in your face?
Ron: I presume so, yes. I took off my glasses, and I wiped my glasses, wiped my face and didn't say anything. We were in the middle of Sears in the Main Line of Philadelphia, an upscale part of the world, and we walked along a little further, no response from this person, but this time this guy got about six inches from my face in the middle of Sears and spit in my face again – true story.
Well, I was starting to get a little bit peeved, as you can imagine, but I didn't say anything. I was waiting for something to be said; nothing was being said. Went a little bit further – a third time this guy got right in my face and spit in my face.
Dennis: I think I know who the person was.
Ron: And you know what I did? I didn't do anything. You know why? It was my six-month-old baby boy Matt.
Dennis: I was starting to get that.
Ron: So when people are thinking, of course, you know, this is disgusting. I mean, adult coming and spitting in your face, which I led you to believe, you go, "That's terrible," because adults have been disciplined not to do that, but when I said it was my baby boy, well, they phhhhhew, all the time. So we think there's nothing of that, but the point is this – so often today guys are like the passage in Hebrews that says, "You cannot eat meat or solid food because your senses have not been trained to discern right from wrong. As guys we simply haven't taken the word of God, built it into our life, turned it into godly habits by putting off the old man, putting on the new man and, as a result, we're wimps. We're spiritual wimps. We're not able to step up because we don't have the framework of godly discipline – these kinds of principles in our lives.
So I would say to any guy listening to this – think about those areas of your life where you're still acting like a baby. Put it off, put on a new man. That's why the Holy Spirit came, to give us the power to do that.
Dennis: You know, I was reflecting, as you were talking about when I was first married with Barbara, and some of the areas I had to learn to be disciplined in just real quickly, and this is a very quick summary. I could make it very long here at the end of the broadcast, but I won't do that.
One was media choices. My wife couldn't handle scary movies, and so she asked me to be disciplined about the choices of media that I watched on TV, the movies I took her to, or the movies that we rented, and I had to learn self-discipline to protect her.
Another one was my sex drive. Just because you're married doesn't mean that, as a man, your wife is fair game. A woman was designed by God to be respected; to be nourished; to be cherished; to be cared for. She is not an object of affection; she is your partner. I had to learn, as a man, that I had to throttle my desires at that point.
And one last one was anger, my temper. I just had to learn, you know what? I can't always say everything I'm thinking; that a godly man, as he leads and loves his wife and later his children, is going to have plenty of opportunities to get angry, and there are some men that are listening right now who have a real problem, Ron, with their temper. They don't know what to do with it. Can you give them a real quick rundown that you could apply to any bad habit of how they can begin to replace a bad habit, like temper, with self-control and relating to your spouse with dignity and with respect.
Ron: Yes, I do. I've got a HABIT acrostic. It's very simple – H is I need to have a plan; I need to know what issue in my life I need to put off, put on. So if I've got a bad habit of anger, inappropriate anger – anger is good if it's directed the right way. I need to put off the inappropriate anger, put on the right focus of that anger – understand why I'm angry and then direct it the right way but not be abusive or not be passive and hide it.
"A" is I need to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work within me. God's part is to give us the gut desire and the power to do His pleasure. Our job is to work it out. So we need to discipline ourselves, depending upon the Spirit of God and the Word of God to motivate us and others.
And then "B" is we need to build an accountability system internally. Journaling is a good thing to do. Writing down my progress or saying to a friend, "Hey, I'm having a problem with anger inappropriately. I'm yelling at my wife, I'm losing my cool. Ask me how I’m doing on dealing with that" and have an accountability system.
And then "I" is internalize the Word of God. I think we've really lost this skill – meditating on the Word. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. So if I am angry, I need to go to the Scripture. It says "Be angry and sin not," or I need to say "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath," or I need to go to Ephesians 4, the 28th, that says "Let him who speaks speak on the edification that he might meet the need of the moment," and so on and so forth. But I need to internalize the Word of God, memorize it and meditate on it.
And then "T" – I need to train, train, train, train. I need to practice over and over again discipline, just like a gymnast disciplines is the way we become godly through the power of the Spirit. The fact of the matter is we will mess up routinely, and we ought fail fast, fail often, fail forward, I like to say. It's okay, as long as we learn from it, but that takes training, perseverance, not quitting, patience – all of that. That's all part of it.
Dennis: And you know what? The interesting thing is, for us as men, God, through His Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus Christ desires to gain entrance into our soul as a man. And He wants to turn our problems into gold mines, he really does. He desires to make us men who are trophies of His grace so that we can lead and love our wives and shepherd our children and then be leaders in the workplace.
Bob: You know, I think so many times, too, a guy will think of leadership as kind of a motivational thing, you know, where you just say "Gung-ho, come on, follow me, let's go," and they don't stop to think about the fact that our character is an integral part of who we are as leaders, both in the home and in the marketplace, leaders in church. Leadership really is tied to the kinds of character issues we've been talking about today, and that's what's at the heart of the curriculum, Ron, that you created called "Taking the Lead." It's a CD and a DVD and a workbook and a book for men to go through with other men so that we can cultivate the qualities, the godly qualities of leadership that God is calling us to as men.
We've got copies of the "Taking the Lead" study kit in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and our listeners may want to go to our website, FamilyLife.com, for more information about how they can get this resource. In fact, it may be something that men will want to get multiple copies of and go through with other guys, again, an accountability group or in a small group setting with men or in a Sunday school class. It focuses on the core qualities of leadership taken from the Scriptures, lived out by Paul and Timothy and Sylvanus – qualities like we've talked about today but also including things like hard work, personal openness, effective communication, having a real affecting for one another – all of these are things that are essential parts of real leadership.
Again, the title of the study kit is "Taking the Lead" by Dr. Ron Jenson. You'll find more information about it on our website at FamilyLife.com. When you get to the home page there is a button in the middle that says "Go," and if you click on that button, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information about this resource. You can order online if you'd like, or you can call 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we will get this resource sent out to you.
And we need to say a special word of thanks, Dennis, to those folks who, over the past several weeks, have contacted us to help us take advantage of the matching gift opportunity that has been made available to us during the month of May. We also want to be quick to thank those folks who stand with us month in and month out as Legacy Partners. Really, in every city where FamilyLife Today is heard, there are, on average, 10 families who have stepped up and said, "We can help provide the monthly support necessary to keep FamilyLife Today on the air in our community and in cities all across the country," and it's that committed core of families that provides us with the financial foundation for this ministry.
And so we appreciate not only those of you who have responded to us during May with a matching gift opportunity, but also those of you who stand with us each month as Legacy Partners. We appreciate your financial support, and if you'd like more information on becoming a Legacy Partner and joining with the other families who support this ministry in your community. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and you'll find information available there or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and, again, we appreciate your support.
Tomorrow, Dr. Ron Jenson is back with us. We're going to continue looking at leadership principles for all of us, as men, in the marketplace and in the home. I 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 next time 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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