FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Power of a Father’s Influence

with Dennis Rainey | October 21, 2013
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There is confusion today about the meaning of manhood. Dennis Rainey calls men to step up and be real men--strong, purposeful and spiritual. Hear Dennis tell how a father's influence can be the compass that points a boy to true masculinity.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • There is confusion today about the meaning of manhood. Dennis Rainey calls men to step up and be real men--strong, purposeful and spiritual. Hear Dennis tell how a father's influence can be the compass that points a boy to true masculinity.

  • 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 tells how a father’s influence can be the compass that points a boy to true masculinity.

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The Power of a Father’s Influence

With Dennis Rainey
October 21, 2013
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Bob:  I want you to imagine, for a minute, that you were starting on a journey; but you didn't know where you were going. For a lot of men, in our culture today, the journey toward manhood is like that. Here's Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: Men are confused. They don't have a vision and a picture of what we're called to step up to—I am absolutely convinced of that. We heap all this guilt on them—calling them to be men—and they never get a definition of what it is: “What is it you're calling me to?” “What are we supposed to step up to when we're 62?” “Where are you headed?” “Where am I headed?”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about what it means for a man to be a man and about how a man can know if he is headed in the right direction. Stay tuned.



And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I have heard you use a phrase that goes all the way back to when we first started FamilyLife Today. You have talked about speakers having what you call a life message. What do you mean by that exactly?

Dennis: I think that there are preachers—speakers, and, for that matter, laymen and women—who experience God doing a work in their lives around a topic or around a passage of Scripture. I think that work of God is so profound that they develop a life message around it.


You know, I've heard you speak, Bob, many times about the husband and the call of a husband to be a prophet, priest, and king. Wouldn't you say that's a life message for you?

Bob: I think, the way you describe it—that makes sense. You've talked about honoring your parents. That's one of the life messages that you've had in ministry; right?

Dennis: Right, right.

Bob: And I think what we're going to hear today would have to be classified as one of those life messages for you; don't you think?



Dennis: Well, it didn't start out that way. Quite frankly, it started out as just a chalk talk with the men, here at FamilyLife. We had some men, who needed to step up. [Laughter] We had a little meeting where I just called the men together. There weren't any women in the room. I just—you were there—you remember?

Bob: I remember, yes.

Dennis: It was pretty quiet in there because I had some steam shooting out of my ears.

Bob: You were scolding a little bit.


Dennis: I was; I was. There was good reason for that; but, more importantly, I was educating. I want to read what the Apostle Paul says. This is found in First Corinthians, Chapter 16, verses 13 and 14. If you'll open your Bibles to that passage—First Corinthians 16:13-14—and if you'll smell it [big sniff], it's the only place in my Bible that smells like—

Bob: Testosterone?



Dennis: —testosterone—real men. And there's a reason. Listen to these two verses: "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." I love this passage! I mean, it really is a cool passage because it has the tough side of a man but the tender side. It has a man standing firm, it has a man loving and, relationally, tender toward those he's called to lead.

Bob: And we've seen, in the culture, that men tend to swing back and forth between the soft, sensitive guy and the macho guy. The Bible is saying there are elements of both toughness and tenderness in authentic manhood. We need to embrace both sides and live them out, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God; right?

Dennis: You know, it is God who turns a boy into a man. It takes God to make a man a real man. Man was created to be indwelt by God.



We're not born that way. We have to come into a personal relationship with Him. It's Jesus Christ—when He invades our souls—and we invite Him to be our Savior, our Master, and our Redeemer—that He begins that process of taking the boy [ha, ha, ha] and turning the boy into a real man—who leads like a real man, loves like a real man but, most importantly, is God's man.

You know, there are a lot of female listeners, to our broadcast, who—this is what they long for in the opposite sex. They don't just want a man—they want a tough and tender man—a man whose heart is after God and a man who wants to be—well, who wants to allow Jesus Christ to live His life in and through him. That's what the Christian life is all about. I think that's what real masculinity is all about.



Bob: You talk about five steps on a man's journey. We'll talk about that before we're done here today; but we ought to have listeners, here—the introductory remarks you made to this message—now, they should know the group that's hearing this particular message—

Dennis: This was not just any group of men I was speaking to. This was the male half of the speaker team that speaks for the Weekend to Remember®. You'd think—you know—even having the privilege of speaking to this group of—well, they're my associates, my colleagues, my partners in ministry—yours, too, Bob.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: So there was—I don't know, 55/60 men. Not all were in attendance at the speaker's retreat—that we have on an annual basis. I decided I would share what had, then, become a little bit of a life message around stepping up to manhood and share with these guys some of the principles around that. You're going to hear me allude to that as we get started in this message.

Bob: Well, here it is—this is Part One of Dennis's message on “Stepping up to Manhood”.



[Previously Recorded Audio]


Dennis: The subject of manhood and being a man is all over our culture. Flying in here, I read an article by Michael Douglas. In this article, they talked to him about some of the roles he played in life. The Delta Sky magazine held a quote by Michael Douglas that said, "Men are confused."  That is an understatement.

There is little doubt as to why men are confused. At one of our staff meetings—that we had with FamilyLife a couple years back—the staff meeting was about over. I was about to pronounce the benediction of the staff meeting being over. All of a sudden, in the back of the staff meeting, one of the young men in our ministry grabbed a microphone—began to walk down the aisle to the front. When he got to the second row—he had a microphone in his hand—he knelt to one knee. He grabbed a young lady's hand—the hand that he had free—looked her in the eyes—and with the microphone, live—he said, "Will you be my wife?"


And the whole staff—our staff, about 350 staff members—totally stunned by this proposal—was for just an instant silent—dead silent. Then, they erupted in applause as Jim Whitmore asked his friend to become his wife and fiancée. He went on to say, "I want to leave a different legacy than what I was given." 

I could tell by the way he said that there was something more behind that statement than what he had unpacked in that staff meeting. I said, "Jim, would you explain to me what you meant by that?" So he wrote me this letter—which is three pages, single-spaced. I'm not going to bore you with all of it, but I just want to read you a section of it:

I have never known the real meaning of family. My legacy is that of divorce, addictions, and passivity.



 As I grew up, I knew that I wanted more out of life than I was getting. I saw other families that were happy and normal. I told myself that's the kind of father and husband I wanted to be.

Every couple of years, a new stepmother would come into my life. They all tried to be nice to me; but after seeing the first five or six come and go, I knew that they wouldn't be around long. They were nice, but I couldn't get close to them because I knew they would be traded in for a newer model by my dad. The last one was number 15, I think. It lasted six weeks.

Listen to this quote. He said, "It's always easier to get a divorce than to deal with issues.” 

It's no wonder men are confused. It reminds me a bit of the story of a young monk who appeared one day ready for work. He, as a young monk, began to look over some of the copies that had been translated by previous monks.



He said, "You know, you're making a mistake."  He said: "You're doing your translating and your copying from a copy. You need to be doing your translating from the original."

And he found an error or two in the midst of it.

They sent the senior monk downstairs into the cellar to go look at the originals and to compare some of the original work. The guy was gone for hours. Finally, the other monks, upstairs, began to be concerned about the old monk. A couple of them went down in this very sacred spot. As they began to move down the cellar, they could hear quiet sobbing. The guy was weeping.

Finally, they found him there with candles all around the scroll that he was reading. They said: "What's wrong?  What's wrong?"  Finally, he composed himself, raised his head from the tablets, and looked up. He said, "The word is ‘celebrate’." [Laughter]



Some of you guys will get that a little later in the morning!

I think men have been confused, like that monk, because we haven't had people painting the way for how we ought to become men. You know, in football, you hear the commentators talk about stepping up their game. You'll hear them talk about a golfer who is stepping up his game. In basketball, men are said to step up their game when they turn on the heat, defensively, and they completely turn a game around.

Well, I think today is a time for you and me to step up and to call the men that we lead, in the ministries that we lead, to step up. To kind of set the context for this, pull out your Bibles. I want you to look at three passages just very, very quickly. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this; but there is a theme of stepping up in the Scripture, I believe, calling us to maturity—to grow. They're very familiar passages.



The first one is Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 14. Paul writes: "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to"—what?—“grow up”—step up, as men—“in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."

We are called to maturity. If you're going to move to maturity, as a man, a man has to step up.


Another passage of Scripture: First Corinthians 13. Again, this is a real familiar one to you guys—not reminding you of anything profound here. It really describes my life. First Corinthians 13, verse 11: "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,"— when I stepped up from childhood—"I did away with"—what? —"childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I have been fully known.  But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

I ran across a quote that's just a great quote about stepping out of childhood. This guy wrote: "Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children,”— 



“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.” Said it many, many times—God—I made the mistake of thinking God gave us six kids so we could help them grow up. He gave us six children to help "moi" grow up—me grow up. We are to step away from childhood and step into adulthood.

Finally, the last passage of Scripture is in the same book—First Corinthians. Turn over a couple of pages to First Corinthians, Chapter 16, verses 13 and 14: "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."  Be men—act like it—step up—be the man—play the man.



Well, we had a little come-to-Jesus-meeting, as Crawford calls them, with our staff. I had, in my notes, these steps—that I had created in my notes—about what I believe were five steps every man should take, as we step up to maturity. In God's sovereignty, I began the message, just where I started it with you guys.

I said: "You know, guys, I want to speak to you, as a man, just man to man. It's not a matter of an authority speaking to you about something. I just want to plead with you, heart to heart."  Behind me was enough stairs to illustrate the very point I was making. The whole thing was kind of hatched—from my notes to the stair steps. I began to speak from this. It has kind of emerged into an illustration that I find men really connect with because they are in the process of stepping up. Some of them are stuck between steps.


They're ready to step up, but they don't know what to step up to. Michael Douglas said it: "Men are confused."  They don't have a vision and a picture of what we're calling them to step up to. I'm absolutely convinced of that. We heap all this guilt on them—calling them to be men. They never get a definition of what it is: “What is it you're calling me to?” “What are we supposed to step up to when we're 62?” “Where are you headed?”  “Where am I headed?”  Who painted the picture for you—anybody?  Did your dad step into your life and said, "Son, here is where we're going."?  Anybody have a dad who did that?

It's like we have to apologize for being a man; but you know what?  It doesn't have to be so.



So, I began to speak to men. We taught a series for men about becoming a man, who knows how to love his wife. We started with about 450 men and ended with 600, coming out at 6:00 in the morning. I think part of why they kept coming was that, each session, we tried to have a man come and stand upon the step where he was—where he had been—and tell about a decision he had made to step up.

Guys were coming and giving testimonies from the stair steps, telling what they were stepping up to. I'm telling you, guys, it was just cool. It was cool because guys were catching a picture of stepping up to maturity, ultimately, and becoming obedient to Jesus Christ. We can begin to just formulate a band of men who can say: "You know what?  We're going to define this together. We're going to revolutionize the Christian community together by giving men something they can step up to”—listen to me—“without apologizing.”




Bob: Well, we've listened to Part One of a message from Dennis Rainey on “Stepping up”. In fact, I wish our listeners could see what was there, that morning, as you were presenting this material to the men who speak at the Weekend to Remember  marriage conferences. You had actual stair steps, with the steps to manhood listed on the stair steps; right?

Dennis: All five of the steps were there. At different points, I would stand on different steps, talking to them about each step—actually, had stairs built. Each of the five steps was labeled with a name. I actually gave the message, standing on the stairs, talking about stepping up because I think it is a metaphor—a picture—that resonates with men. We talk about it all the time—as I just mentioned in the message—I refer to men and sports—stepping up—stepping up their game.



It's only a natural illustration to be able to list these five steps as a visual for men to get in their minds what it looks like to step up.

Bob: And you actually cover up, on the stairs—what each of the five steps is. One at a time, you kind of pull off the cover and show that the first step a man is on—is boyhood; right?

Dennis: Right. Then, I uncover the next step, which is adolescence—one of the most curious steps that, I think, God ever made for a young man. I have a few questions for God when I get to heaven about this step. Adolescence is supposed to give way to the next step, which is mature manhood. It's not just manhood—it's mature manhood. I'd have to say that's kind of a new insight I had just the other day, Bob, when I was looking at Ephesians, Chapter 4. It talks about becoming the mature man, and it's not just becoming a man.



Bob: Yes, you can become a man—just by the years passing—physically, chronologically—but a mature man is somebody who grows into it. There are a lot of guys who have reached the age, chronologically, who haven't reached maturity.

Dennis: That's exactly right, and that's what we're called to. And the next two steps, of course, I think, are the ones that add nobility and great favor to a man's life. The fourth step is being a mentor. The fifth step is being a patriarch. You're going to hear me talk about, this week, really, how our culture degrades being a patriarch and how there is very little nobility in this step. Yet, it's a step that's clearly seen in the Bible. It brings such distinction to old age.

It's interesting—I'm not old, but I can see this coming. You know, my eyesight isn't quite as good—my hearing, my memory. Some of the things you begin—as you age and get a little older, they're not quite as sharp as they were in your 30s.



Well, what's going to happen as we get older if we don't have this step?  In my opinion, it's a God-ordained step that just brings enormous esteem, value, and honor to a man with gray hair or, maybe, no hair [Laughter]—just a man who is pursuing Christ, and has become a great influencer, and a protector, and a connector in his culture.

Bob: You know, since you first presented this message, you have written a book called Stepping Up; and we have also put together some video resources. There is a Stepping Upten-week study that guys can go through. There’s also a Stepping Up one-day video event that—so far, this year—we’ve seen more than 30,000 guys go through that one-day Stepping Up event. There have been more than 1,400 of those events hosted in churches and communities, all across the country.



I was talking with our team, earlier today. They have a real burden to see men gripped with this message. We have found that the day before the Super Bowl is an opportunity day for getting men together, and engaging with men, and challenging them to step up. In fact, last year, we had hundreds of Stepping Up one-day events on the day before the Super Bowl. We called it Super Saturday.

One of the guys on our team was saying: “You know, at the Super Bowl, this year, there will be 82,566 people at the game, in the stadium. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were 86,000+ men—the day before the game—who were going through a Stepping Up Super Saturday one-day event?”

We thought we should come to our listeners because, honestly, any guy can host one of these events.



Here’s all you need to do: You have to say: “I think this message is important. I’m willing to go to my pastor, or to a group of friends, and say, ‘I’ll step up and host the day if you’ll help me get guys out for that event.’”

We’re so committed to trying to make this happen that if a guy is willing to step out and say, “I’ll host the event,” we will send you the Stepping Up one-day event kit, free. Now, let me explain to you how this works because, again, any guy can do this. It just has to be a guy who says, “This is important, and I want to see men step up.”

First, you go to, or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY this week. You say: “I want to take men through the one-day Super Saturday Stepping Up event. We’ll host that at our church on the day before the Super Bowl.” Second, you can either download or we will mail to you a certificate that you can exchange for the Stepping Up one-day event kit.



All you have to do is round up, at least, ten guys who are willing to go through the day with you. We’d love to see you get dozens of guys / hundreds of guys in your community out for this event; but if you’ll get, at least, ten guys, who’ll go through the day with you—once you’ve got those ten guys lined up. You call to order manuals for them, and you can cash in your certificate for the event kit, at that point. It’s that simple.

If you have any questions about the Stepping Up event, there’s information on the website at We have a coaching team that’s available to answer any questions you have—to walk you through the process of hosting one of these events. All you have to do is call 1-800-FL-TODAY; and say, “I need help on a Stepping Up event.” We’ll get you hooked up with some coaches who can answer any questions you have; alright?

So we pray about doing that—we would love to see tens of thousands of guys—more guys going through the Stepping Up one-day Super Saturday event than in the stadium, the next day, watching the football game. How about helping us make that happen?



Go to for more information, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Let’s see if we can’t work together to call men to step up, in the new year, on the day before the Super Bowl; alright?

Now, let me encourage you to join us back here again tomorrow. We’re going to hear Part Two of Dennis Rainey’s message: “Calling Men to Step Up to Courageous Manhood and Beyond”. That comes up tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.

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.

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

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