FamilyLife Today® Podcast

What is a Father?

with RV Brown | June 2, 2009
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What words would you use to describe a father--faithful, hard-working, strong? On today's broadcast, evangelist RV Brown, author of the book Step Up to the Plate, Dad!, talks enthusiastically to Dennis Rainey about what it means to be a father.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What words would you use to describe a father--faithful, hard-working, strong? On today's broadcast, evangelist RV Brown, author of the book Step Up to the Plate, Dad!, talks enthusiastically to Dennis Rainey about what it means to be a father.

  • 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.

What words would you use to describe a father–faithful, hard-working, strong?

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What is a Father?

With RV Brown
June 02, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Bo:Have you had any "fussin'" going on in your marriage?  You know what I

mean by "fussin'," right? Our guest today, RV Brown, has had some fussin' in his marriage, and he's found a way to deal with it.

RV:In my bedroom, there are two foldout chairs.  I put them in my room, they were in

there three or four days, and my wife said, "Why did you put the chair in?" I said, "You can't fuss at me until you get in this chair.  You can't disagree with me until we get in this chair. So we're going to bed, we sit in these chairs, then you won't fuss and fuss.  How long can you fuss looking at somebody's face?"  So we pray together, we get in the chairs, and we pray.  We talk about it, because we've got to spend that time. That's what I do in my bedroom, there are two foldout chairs right beside my bed. That's where we pray.

Bo:This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 2nd.  Our host is the President of

FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you want to have a strong marriage and a strong family, step up, and start praying.  Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You played sports in high school, right?

Denni: I did.  I have a few letters on my high school letter jacket.

Bo:Basketball, baseball …

Denni:… baseball and track.

Bo:Yeah?  And you had coaches in all of those, right?


Bo:And why do you need a coach when you're playing high school sports?

Why can't you just go out there and do it?

Denni:Well, you need training, you need someone to kind of keep you in line at that age, certainly.

Bo:Yes, yes.

Denni: And help you to pull together as a team, because, generally, individuals don't make great teams, they make great individuals.

Bo:Mm-hm.  Now, when you became a father for the first time, did you have a coach?


Bo:You had your own dad you could look back to, right?

Denni: I had a great example in him.

Bo:Yeah, but you didn't have anybody coming alongside you and coaching you through being a dad, right?

Denni:No, I sure didn't.  In fact, honestly, Bob, when we started FamilyLife in

1976, I knew there were two commitments in life I would not naturally be great at – number one was being a husband, and number two was being a father.  And so, frankly, I wanted to start FamilyLife to become a better student of the Scriptures and to be around those who would sharpen me and help shape me as a man, husband, and a father.

Bo:Well, we've got a coach in the studio today, and everyone who is a dad is going to get a little dad coaching from Coach Brown, right?

Denni:Coach Brown is going to take us to the chalkboard.  RV Brown joins us again.

RV:It's good to be here again.


Denni:RV, welcome back.


RV:It's good to be back.


Denni:RV is the President of Outreach to America's Youth.  He is a youth evangelist, he is an author, a speaker, and he is passionate. You'll know that by the time this broadcast is over – he is passionate about fathers being effective in their assignment in life.  And he's written a book called StepUptothe Plate,Dad!and I have you ask you, right at the start, what does being a father mean to you? What is the essence of being a father?

RV:The essence of being a father is being a leader, a lover, and compassionate, having children and raising children. And just telling other people that this is the way God intended for it to be, and our assignment as daddies is to lead the family; to be responsible for a wife; be responsible for our children and their well-being and knowing about Christ. That's what, to me, a real daddy is – a responsibility. Having children don't make you a man.

Responsibility is what makes you a man. That's what I tell these kids in school – being responsible, you know, "Well, I've got to take care of my baby," "No, you've got to take care of your family." Wait and have your children in the home with you.  I don't have kids strung out all over the country, and that's what some men think, especially in my community.  Some people think having kids all over the community makes you a man. That doesn't – that makes you a fool, because

you can't be a daddy to those kids.

Denni:Yes, and where you're starting is with God, who is the builder of your home. Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who have built it," and you're saying for a father to truly engage in this responsibility, he needs to begin by acknowledging God's place …

RV:… in his heart first.

Denni: That's right – in his heart.

RV:In his heart first.

Denni: But then praying over his kids that He'll become real to them as well.

RV:Right, and then have that time where you take your kids out and just talk to your kids. When my kids were young – and this is going to probably blow most guys – I would take my kids out one weekend a month, just me and the kids. We wouldn't tell my wife where we were going, she didn't know where we were

going.  I'd leave her home. She had a weekend off, and we would get in the car, and I would drive out to the Interstate, and I'd say, "Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta, Birmingham – which way do you all want to go?" "Let's go to Birmingham." We'd go to Birmingham for the weekend. I'd call my wife, "We made it, we're okay," click.  She wouldn't even know where we was for Friday night to Sunday – just me and the kids, and that's in that book. That's what I did – while my kids were babies, I took them off.

That one little spell in the book, my daughter forgot to bring her rollers, so I left them in the hotel, because there was a grocery store right across the street. So I locked the door, I said, "I'll be right across the street."  I opened their window, I said, "When I go down you can see me." So I went into Kroger's came back with a brown paper bag.  I stripped it in little strips, because I saw my sister and them

– that's how they rolled their hair. We didn't have no rollers, so they had a brown paper bag, so I twisted it up, parted my daughter's hair, and rolled it up and tied

it. She said, "Daddy, what are you doing?"  I said, "I'm rolling your hair, girl, because we didn't have rollers."

Denni:Hold it, you used a paper sack?

RV:Yeah, a brown paper bag …

Denni:… and made little …


RV:… twisties.  You stripped about two inches wide, stripped it, and you twisted

it so it was long enough to tie, like the big old grocery bags?  And I pulled my daughter's hair out, wrapped it around that thing and tied it all over her head.

Denni: I'm sure she was really pleased with this.

RV:And remember "The Little Rascals?" That's what Buckwheat had in his head.


And I rolled my daughter, and she said, "Oh, Dad, I can't believe you're doing that." I said, "When you get up in the morning, you're going to have some of the most beautiful curls you've ever had," and that story is in the book. And when she got up the next morning, I took them curls out of there, and she had them little bouncy curls, she could not believe.

Bo:How old was your daughter at this time?

RV:Summer probably six.

Bo:Six years old.

Denni:You can get away with it when they're six.


Denni: I was thinking, if she was 16, you'd have been in big trouble.

RV:Right. Well, she would have known to bring her rollers. But, see, that's what I'm saying – daddies have to defend that.  I made sure that one weekend a month, while they were little, always came with me. My son has been traveling with me since he's been six years old.  Today he's my driver. Today he takes care of me, because I've been having problems driving.  So he drives me around. He takes care of my books, takes care of my speaking, he's always been around his dad.

Bo:Why did you take the kids off for the weekend?

RV:Because I wanted Mama to have time to herself. Because when I started my

ministry, I was gone in and out a lot, so I made sure one weekend a month, I had them to myself, and I mean, I acted a fool. We never – because they wanted to go camping.  I said, "No, I'm not camping in the woods because a snake is going bite me," so our camp was in the hotel. I would take the mattress off the bed, the box spring, and stand them up, put them across, and made a tent, and we slept on the floor in the hotel. This is camping – it's called a Holiday Inn, this is camping.  Because no snake was going to bite me, you know, but I made a tent

in the hotel.

Bo:And you got back in time for church on Sunday?

RV:No, no, no, I had church with my kids. When me and my son travel, like the last two weeks we've been off, and then Sundays we've been traveling somewhere else, and we didn't get a chance to go – I have church with my son.

Bo:What does that look like?

RV:Oh, that's awesome to have church with your son, and I'm sitting there with my son and I, we're in the hotel, driving back home last weekend, and I had, and I taught him out of Psalms 31:1 where David says, "O Lord, I love you, and let me never be ashamed of you.  Deliver me in your righteousness."  So that's what I taught him out of Psalms 31 just last Sunday morning, just he and I having Bible study together, see?  So it's daddy, you do it, because my daddy couldn't read and write, but he taught us how to pray, and Mama taught us how to memorize Scriptures. 

When I became saved, those Scriptures just came alive. That's why I love my Bible so much.

Bo:I was looking at your Bible.


Denni: It looks a little worn.


Bo:Where'd you get that Bible?


RV:I got it in 1980.


Bo:Back when you first became a Christian.


Bo:And did you just get it yourself, did somebody give it to you?

RV:Somebody gave it to me, and I've been reading out of it, and it's falling apart.

I hate to see a pretty Bible. That means it's not well read. See, I read my Bible every – I don't remember in 29 years how many days I've missed – I can count them on probably 10 toes and 10 fingers how many times I'm missing to read my Bible, because I know the value of having that Word implanted in your heart and your mind. Because every day I drive out of my yard, Satan is sitting on my mailbox. He's not coming in my house, because the blood of Jesus is talked about in my house.  In Ezekiel 22:37, "I sought for a man that would build a hedge around his family," but when you're praying, you know what you believe, Satan can't come in your house, see?  So we've got to build that hedge, so the men have to pray. Daddy leads – not as a dictator – but as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Bo:I want you to imagine, for a second, that we had 10 new dads in the studio with us, and they didn't have your dad growing up.  Maybe they didn't have any dad growing up, and they say, "RV, I want to be a good dad. Where do I start?"

RV:I would read something to them like this – in Proverbs 1:8, He said, "My son, hear the instruction of a father. Forsake not the law of their mother." I would take it to the very basic, and I would start with don't forsake your wife.  You know Jesus Christ as your Savior, so He – see, I divorced my wife November 22nd.  Married and remarried my wife all in one minute, because my wife was number one in my life, so Jesus said, "I won't have nobody be number one but me," so I made my wife number 2, and Jesus became number 1 all within 30 seconds.


RV:Okay, so I would teach them, now that you're saved, here is the first thing I'd do –do not forsake your wife.  Don't forsake the responsibility of taking care of your wife. The first thing you do is you spend time talking to your wife. You take your wife out on a date.  You spend that quality time with her before you have children. Talk to your wife.

My wife grew up without her dad. So she doesn't understand a family. When

she started being around my family, she thought we were all getting ready to fight because we all talked loud at each other. She said, [unintelligible].  I said, "No, that's the way we talk," see? So I would teach them, first of all, love your wife by spending time with her.

The second thing I would tell those young men is that never put your business before your wife – Jesus, wife, business. Then when children come along – Jesus, wife, children, then your business. That's God's order.  If you want the favor of God on your life, then I would take them to Proverbs 18:22 – when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing, and here is the key – find favor with God, you find favor with God.  You want to favor God on your business, so you take care of your wife and your children.  Spend time with them, teach them and develop them.

And the next thing I would tell them, when you lay down beside your wife, hold her hand and pray with her. See, most men don't want to pray with their wife, because they're afraid of what the wife might know about.  So when you hold her hand, you begin to pray because now you've become one together. You want to win the battle in your home, young man, pray with your wife.  Most men won't pray with their wife, they're afraid to pray. Why are you afraid to pray with the woman that loves you?

And then I would tell them – in my bedroom, there's two foldout chairs. I put them in my room, they were in there three or four days, and my wife said, "Why did you put the chairs in?" I said, "You can't fuss at me until you get in this chair. You can't disagree with me until we get in this chair.  So we're going to bed, we sit in these chairs, then you want to fuss and fuss.  How long can you fuss looking at somebody's face?"  So we pray together, we get in the chairs, and we pray. We talk about it, because we've got to spend that time. That's what I do in my bedroom, there's two foldout chairs right beside my bed. That's where we pray, and you connect with your wife through prayer and touch.

My wife was not – her daddy left her when she was five years old, so she don't understand that.  When I first met her, she didn't understand how to huggin' and kissin' and once she stopped. So I had to teach her, this is what a man supposed – this is how God intended me to love you.  So it took me seven years to convince her that I loved her.


Denni: I've got to ask you at that point – your dad lived to be 103. Did you see him and hugging and kissing your mom when he was 100?

RV:All the time – I always said, "Why do you keep chasing, Mama, Daddy?

Why don't you leave Mama alone?" But that's the way I saw him do it.  And gentleness – now, I’m a rough guy.  My wife, she'll tell you it's hard to live with me because I'm so intense. But I love and yet still I'm firm.  I love, yet still I'm firm.

Denni:Now, let's move now to the children now and talk about how we can continue instructing these fathers. You mentioned the word "firmness."  You had a rule in your house, even as your kids left home, that if they didn't go to …

RV:… church, they didn't eat. We would not feed them when they were living outside my home, because I'm in the ministry full-time.  I'm not going to take God's money and buy food for you that you didn't come in the house to worship God. So if you don't come to church, you can't come home and eat with us.

Denni:You're talking about when they're adults.

RV:When they're adults – my son is 23 years old.

Denni:Has that ever happened? Has he ever skipped church and then showed up for Sunday lunch?

RV:Yeah, at 22 years old.

Denni:What happened?

RV:I closed the door – he came to the door, "I want something to eat," I looked and saw him, closed the door in his face and locked it. I went back to the table and ate.

Bo:What did your son say?

RV:Oh, he laughs about it. The kids have to know that when you say something, you mean it. And what most parents do today, we want to be the kids’ friend. I don't want my kids to be my friend. I'm their parent. They're not supposed to be my friend. They're supposed to respect me as their dad, and most parents want their kids to be their friends. I don't want to be. I want them to be my children, and I'm their dad, as their leader. And I'm guilty – I take everything and teach from it.

Some kids will say, "Dad, okay, don't teach me that right now," because every time something happens, I used that as an instance and a chance to show him what God can do through this.

Bo:You know, what you're saying just triggered something with me.  I was thinking about the fact that I grew up with a dad and we, frankly, didn't have much of a relationship growing up.  Dad was busy at work, and so I was just kind of detached from my dad. And I think when I got married, I thought, "You know, I'm not going to do that way.  I'm going to have a relationship with my kids.  I'm going to be a friend to my kids."  And I think, somewhere along the way, I missed the other half of the equation.

RV:Right, and, see, at that point I tell the parent, tell daddies, "If your daddy did not spend time with you, why are you not spending time with your kids? You know how it hurt to not have your daddy at home, why would you walk off and leave your wife?"  So you understand pain when you go to your friend's house, and he hug and kiss on his daddy, and your daddy is not there, so why would you put a child, why would you want to have a child outside of your marriage? Why do you want to have children all over this community?  You can't hug them and kiss them, so those kids will grow up angry.  That's why they're in jail and especially in my community, practically every jail in America is 65 to 80% African-American. Why? Because daddy is not there.  So I'm telling you men that are daddies, it's your responsibility to teach your children, to love your children, to talk to your children.  How do you talk to your children? Open your mouth, and if you don't know how to do it, go to a Weekend to Remember and learn how to remember how to love your wife.

See? And when you do that, get training.  Most men think, "Well, I know everything."  No, you don't. I've been married 29 years.  I've been reading this Bible 28 years and six months, and I still don't know it all, and I'll never to the point – when you get to the point where you think you know it all, you just failed.

Bo:Do you think there are dads today who are afraid of being a dad?

RV:Yes, I think that's the key. That's why so many men walk away from their homes. See, I don't believe in dating.  I don't believe in this dating stuff. I don't believe in letting these kids date. My kids don't date.

Bo:What do you mean?

RV:They don't go out on no dates.

Bo:So what do they do?

RV:They go out with us. We go to movies together, we pop popcorn, we watch

DVDs together.


RV:See, when you start dating, and I tell these kids in schools, you start dating in junior high school like some parents let them do – "Well, they're just going to the movies together." All right, by the time they get out of high school, they've dated at least 15 or 20 guys and girls.  So when they get married, and as soon as they have a problem, they walk away from it. Why?  Because they walk away from [unintelligible], it's so easy to walk away.  But if you're not dating, and you're walking away from so many of these guys, you won't have that in your cells to walk away.  So I don't believe in dating.  

I said, "Dads, you date your daughter," like I did. I open the door for my daughter, I pull the chair out for my daughter, I talk to my daughter, I said, when I date my daughter, I say, 'I ain't got my hands on you. I'm not trying to feel you.' This is the way a young man should treat you – not put his hands all over you.  I said, 'The first time a young man puts his hands all over you, you call me. I'll come and get him, and I'll take care of him when I get there.'" See what I'm saying?  So my daughter is 21 years old, still ain't dating nobody.

Denni:Has she ever called you?

RV:No, because she ain't gone on a date.

Bo:Now, if some man shows up, she's 21 and wants to take her out …

RV:He's got to come through me first.


Denni:What are you going to say to him?


RV:I'm going to take him out.


Denni:What do you mean, take him out?  That could mean several things.

RV:No, not me – me and him goes out and has a cup of coffee together, and I want him to tell me, "What's your plan?  Are you planning on going to college? What is your plan?  What is your plan for my daughter's life after you all get married? And if you can't give me a plan tonight" …

Bo:After we get married?  He says, "I'm just wanting to take your daughter out."

RV:But I'm saying, you know, I'm telling you, he's got to have a plan to show me what he's going before he can even date my daughter.  You can't just – see, we let kids go out with just anybody.  See, when you let kids go out with just anybody, you're letting Satan just come into your home. But I'm serious about my children. I'm serious about relationship with dad and his children, because that's what God said.  Deuteronomy 6:7 said "Teach them unto their children."  When you sit in your house, when you lay down, when you get up and you walk about, teach

them what?  How to love God first; how to have a passion for God's Word, see? So I want them to know that this is what it's going to take. Knowing God, a passion for His Word, and a passion for prayer.

Bo:Have you ever been worried that being so strict with your children would cause them to rebel?

RV:No, because I have passion with them, because I love them, and they know I mean business.  I love them to death.  I love my children.  Now, [unintelligible] kids are going to do things. They're going to make mistakes, but they know they can always come home and find daddy's arms, you know, and whenever they go through it, come home and talk to daddy.  Don't go through your problems by yourself.

See, like my wife had to go through everything by herself because she didn't have nobody to talk to but her mom, and you know how that is, because she's the oldest of six.  So she struggled with a lot of things.  But because of her struggles, it makes me love her more.

Bo:We've already heard you say this week that a lot of what you are as a dad is because of your dad.


Bo:And you have an assignment for our guest related to his dad, right?

Denni: I do. We've asked you a lot of hard questions as we've talked to you, and I have a challenging assignment to give you that I'm going to ask you to finish the broadcast up here in just a minute. So I'm going to give you a couple of minutes to think about this, but what I'm going to do is I'm going to seat your daddy right here at the end of the table, and I'm going to ask you to give him a tribute, a verbal tribute, for what he meant to you as a man, as a husband, and as a father. Do you think you can do that?


Bo:While you are thinking about that, let me let our listeners know how they can get a copy of your book, StepUpto the Plate,Dad!which is an exhortation for all of us as fathers – a good reminder of the things that your dad taught you and the

things that you're challenging other men to live out in our relationships with our

children and as the leaders in our families.

We've got copies of the book, StepUpto thePlate,Dad!in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our website, There is information there about RV’s book.

There are also other resources for fathers, like a couple of books that I found very helpful when my children were younger. One book is called Howto be Your LittleMan'sDad, and the other is called Howto be Your Daughter's Daddy, and these are books with very practical suggestions for things fathers can do to connect heart-to-heart with their sons and with their daughters and, often, as dads, we feel a little clumsy doing that. We're just not sure how to spend time with them doing things that they like to do, and these books give us lots of suggestions, lots of ideas for things we can do to spend time with our children.

Again, you'll find more information about these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center online at Or when you call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can get the resources you need and well have them sent to you.

Let me quickly say a word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today by making a donation from time to time.  We are listener supported and here at FamilyLife this has been a challenging year for us as it has been for many families. We recognize that so we appreciate those who do make the effort to either go online at and make a donation there or who call us toll free at 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation by telephone.

This month when you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of

FamilyLife Today, we have a thank you gift we’d like to send you. It’s a book

called, TheChristianHusband.  It gives a job description for us as men about our most important assignment in our family.  Loving our wives well.  You can request a copy of the book, The ChristianHusbandwhen you donate online. Simply write the word “husband” in the key code box that you find on the online donation form or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation by phone and ask for the book, TheChristian Husband.  We’re happy to send it out to you and we do so much appreciate your support of this ministry.  It means a lot to us.

Well, Dennis, this has been a good coaching session.

Denni: It has been a good coaching session for dads and husbands and men, in general. I mean, if men aren't stepping up after hearing this, then I don't know if they ever will.  RV Brown has been our guest, and we've asked you a lot of hard questions, RV, but just a few moments ago I asked you to consider seating your dad at the end of the table here. He lived to be 103 years old.  You were one of 17 children. He had a profound influence in your life, he is in heaven right now. Undoubtedly, he can hear this.  Can you give him a tribute?


Denni:Just speak to him in first person.  His name was Willie "Fish" Brown.

What did you call him?


RV:Daddy Fish.


Denni:Daddy Fish?


RV:Daddy Fish, Daddy Fish, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, first of all, for loving my mama and then, secondly, for loving me and kissing me and rubbing my little round head, telling me to go to school and everything was going to be okay.

And then, Dad, I want to thank you for taking me fishing.  July the 6th, 1959, for the first time.  Today my son fished.  I took him to the same spot, Daddy, and we stood there until he caught a fish. And, Dad, I wanted to tell you what an awesome leader you was, with no education, Dad, you taught me, you educated me how to love, how to appreciate you, Dad.  Not only how to appreciate you but to enjoy my life today because of what you did and how you loved me, Dad.  And I wish I could hug you today, Dad, but I know you're sitting where you can see everything that your son is doing now.

When I look at your picture and Mama's picture over my head in my easy chair, I always look at it and say, "Daddy, am I doing okay?"  Am I loving my wife the way you loved my mom?

Thank you for teaching me how to farm and to take care of other people and share whatever I've got with other people, Dad.  I'm the kind of man I am today because of who you are, Dad. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for being who you are, and you live to this day inside of me, Dad.

Every day I wake up, I see you, Dad. I see you, I see your smile, I see the way you walk, and I see the way you talk to people.  It's the same thing, Dad, it's happening all over again because of what you did, Dad.  Willie Fish, you're a special man. Willie Fish, you're a godly man. Even though you couldn't read, you taught me how to love through the Word of God and not only you couldn't read it, but you explained it me.

Father. Dad, thank you for being my dad.  I wouldn't want nobody else to be my dad but you, Dad. Thank you for loving Mama, thank you for the leadership and the authority in which you raised us in. Thank you for the discipline. Dad, I love you and one day I'll spend eternity with you.  Thanks, Dad.

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

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