FamilyLife Today® Podcast

What It Means to Be God’s Man

with Todd Wagner | January 9, 2014
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"What is the essence of manhood and womanhood? Pastor Todd Wagner wanted to teach his sons and daughters about the true nature of masculinity and femininity, but he couldn't find a good working definition his children would understand, so he sat down and wrote his own. Wagner teaches on the five S's of being a man, beginning with, ""Step Up.""?"

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • "What is the essence of manhood and womanhood? Pastor Todd Wagner wanted to teach his sons and daughters about the true nature of masculinity and femininity, but he couldn't find a good working definition his children would understand, so he sat down and wrote his own. Wagner teaches on the five S's of being a man, beginning with, ""Step Up.""?"

  • 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.

“Pastor Todd Wagner wanted to teach his sons and daughters about the true nature of masculinity and femininity. Wagner teaches on the five S’s of being a man, beginning with, “”Step Up.””�”

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What It Means to Be God’s Man

With Todd Wagner
January 09, 2014
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Pastor Todd Wagner today about what he’s doing to teach his sons about how to be godly young men and how he is teaching his daughters to be godly young ladies.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m a little concerned about whether I’ll have any opportunity to say anything else the rest of today’s—[Laughter]

Dennis: You know, I’m glad you admitted that—off the bat, Bob—because I was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to say anything. [Laughter]

Todd: Oh, no!

Dennis: We’ve already admitted that our guest here is not low on energy.

Bob: Or passion.

Dennis: No! Todd Wagner joins us on FamilyLife Today. Todd, welcome to the broadcast.

Todd: It is a privilege to be here. I’ve been blessed by FamilyLife ministries for a long time—by you two gentlemen—and thanks for having me.

Bob: Glad to have you.

Dennis: Todd is the founding pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas. He and his wife have been wed since 1991. They have three boys and three daughters. Todd is passionate about marriage, family, and raising the next generation.


You’re so passionate about it—you sat down, one day—and you decided you were going to kind of carve out what it meant to raise a son into a man and raise a daughter into a young lady.

Bob: Yes, what was the context for this list that you put together?

Todd: Well, here is where—really, where it came from. I sat down one day; and I thought: “Okay, what am I doing? I’ve been given the stewardship of these six kids.” Children are a gift from the Lord; alright? “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so, are the children of one’s youth.”

So, I’m not a professional archer or anything; but I do know that arrows can be a source of great blessing or they can be used for destruction. If these are my arrows, and I’m His warrior, I better do what I’m supposed to do with them. I better be skilled in the way that I launch them.

I was reading, one time, in First Corinthians 16. There is that little verse there—verse 13 and 14—where it says, “Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men.


“Be strong.” “Let everything you do be done in love” is how it finishes. I thought to myself, “Okay, what does a man act like?”

If you really want to create silence, in a room full of men, you ask them to define manhood. A lot of guys don’t know how to do that. I think our friend, Robert Lewis, has done a great job of pointing out that problem. Most men don’t know what it is to be a man, and here I am supposed to raise them. So, I needed just a working definition of how to create a godly man. I thought: “I’ve got three girls. I better do it for what it means act like a godly woman. I can’t just keep saying, ‘Proverbs 31,’ my whole life.”

Bob: Right.

Todd: “I better give them some handles”—right?—“to climb that wall that is the Proverbs 31 wall.” So, I just sat down, and—just to make it easy for me to memorize—I came up with five S’s for what it is to be a godly man and five S’s for what it means to be a godly gal.

Bob: So, this was kind of personal. You weren’t putting a message together to preach to church. This was you, as a daddy, figuring, “I better have my blueprints put together.”

Todd: Yes, that’s all it was. It was nothing I was trying to create for anybody else. What I would say, even to folks who listen today: “If there is something here useful, be encouraged by it. But if anything, just come up with something better.


Stand on the shoulders of what I’ve done.”

Dennis: Yes, that’s really the point here. Barbara and I sat down, and we wrote down a list of 25 things we wanted to teach our kids. Now, it wasn’t around defining manhood or womanhood. It was just character qualities that we wanted to embed in their souls and their lives.

Bob: And you need to know that that list of 25, then, became 37; then, it became 42.

Dennis: Then, it was over 50; okay? I have people come up; and they say, “Would you share that list with me?” And I go, “Uh-uh.”

Todd: Yes.

Dennis: And the reason I don’t is—I say, “Go back to the source”—

Todd: Yes.

Dennis: —“the source material, which is the Bible, and figure out what you want to pass on to your son / your daughter, and send a message to the next generation.”

Todd: That’s exactly what we hope every mom and dad does because, again, they are warriors. They have unique arrows. They are different than mine. All six of mine are different; but at the end of the day, we do know that God expects us to be good stewards of them.


The goal here is not that they would learn what you came up with / what I came up with—the goal is that they would just go, “I’m given a stewardship to craft this gift of God into what He wants them to be.” So, yes, these are just pegs. Robert Lewis has done a good job with what he has done to try and create a modern-day knight. Dennis, your stuff—there is lots of stuff out there—but I will say this, “People are, sometimes, frozen because they don’t think they are going to have the perfect thing to do.”

What I would tell you—and I love this expression—“Folks that changed the world simply start, and they start simply.” But too many people—they don’t do anything! They never simply start because they’re not sure they are going to do it exactly right. So, we’ve got to get busy and give it a shot. You are right, Dennis, the Book is already there. I mean, just pay a little attention and be intentional.

Bob: You started with a presupposition that there was going to be a different list for boys than there was for girls. There are some people today who would say, “Wait, wait, wait, Todd, shouldn’t we just raise our kids to be godly kids—why a different list?”

Todd: Well, yes, I would just say: “Let’s just go back to the Designer. He seemed to make us different; okay?”


I think, a lot of times, in our effort to really talk about the dignity of woman—which we have to do—women are equal—they are not the same. God does not want young women to grow up to be godly husbands, and He doesn’t want men to grow up to be godly wives. So, there is a role— not a rank— that men have. There is a role—not a rank—that women have. So, I need to make sure that I prepare them to be and encourage them to be what God created them to be. You are right. It always amazes me that we are trying to make something that is different the same, or we confuse sameness with equality.

Dennis: Again, go back to the source material, Genesis, Chapter 1. It says: “Male and female created He them. In the image of God He created them.”

Todd: That’s right.

Dennis: If God went out of His way to define man and woman as being different to represent His image, then, shouldn’t we, as parents, celebrate what it means to be a young lady / celebrate what it means to be a man, and teach them how to relate to one another?

Todd: Absolutely.


Dennis: Now, you chose a true biblical term for the first one for young men. [Laughter]

Bob: Here is why you say that—

Dennis: No, no, no!

Bob: —because the term you—

Dennis: No, no, no! Just tell the audience—[Laughter]

Bob: —true biblical term.

Todd: Some of this is trying to make Dennis look good; isn’t it?

Dennis: [Laughter]

Bob: That’s what it’s designed for. [Laughter] What’s the term you chose for the first one?

Dennis: For boys; yes. 

Todd: Step up.

Bob: Oh! Where have we heard that before; huh? [Laughter]

Dennis: I didn’t know that, Bob!

Bob: Yes, you—there is a book called Stepping Up.

Todd: Yes, there is.

Bob: There is a video series called Stepping Up. So, you guys are thinking on the same terms here.

Todd: Well, and again, it’s because we’ve got the same source material. Let that be an encouragement to men that are out there; okay? I’ve learned so much that I’ve forgotten where I’ve learned it. And so, the old statement—right?—is: “Creativity is forgetting where you heard it.”

Bob: Yes.

Todd: So, there is nothing in here—you’re going to see a lot that is borrowed. You’re going to see some stuff that—again, if you are familiar with Raising a Modern-Day Knight—some of this same terminology Robert used. So, it wasn’t like I was some creative genius. I was just, again, intentional—going to the source material, going to other men that have gone to the source material, taking something that worked for me—


and by the way, not that made sense to me—something, that was biblical, that worked for me.

Dennis: Right.

Todd: So, I didn’t start from scratch.

Dennis: So, what does it mean for a young man to become a man, in terms of stepping up? How would you define that? Just coach us, as fathers, in how to impart this to our sons or our grandsons.

Todd: Well, so glad you asked that because, again, this is the problem. The reason we don’t have a lot of godly young men is because we don’t have a lot of dads who are stepping up and being the dads that God wants them to be. I just define stepping up this way—lead, initiate, be a man of action, assume it’s your job / your moment, hate apathy, reject passivity.

So, with a son, I just said: “Hey, you just can’t assume somebody else is going to do something. God created you to do.”

Bob: You take responsibility for what’s there. If somebody’s not taking responsibility, a man steps in and says, “I’ll do it;” right?

Todd: That’s right.

Dennis: Yes.

Todd: And be a man of action is the—this is what we’re talking about, Dennis. I’m going to keep going back to this. Dads, who are listening / moms, who are listening—


“Do something.” Great men believe that what’s impossible for men is possible for God. God wants me to overcome. I mean, that is—and He wants me to step up and do what I can as I follow His way, and His will, and trust the outcome to Him.

But I just don’t want my sons to be passive. I don’t want them to be individuals that make excuses for why they can’t be something that they were created to be.

Dennis: Before we came in the studio, I just received a letter from a boy. I have no idea how old he is—has to be 13 or 14 years old, just looking from the handwriting and kind of the grammar that he was using. But he had just been through the Stepping Up video series with his dad and a bunch of other dads and their sons. He was reflecting on what he had learned—not just from the video—but the time of sharing, where the men kind of circle up. They begin to interact, as men, around what they’ve seen, and what they’ve heard, and how they process it, as men or as younger men.


It was just a cute letter to receive from—here is a boy who is emerging into manhood. I just wrote him a note back; and I said: “You just need to know. You did one of the finest things you can do, as a young man, by going through that material with your daddy because you need to have him rub off on you.” That’s what the Book of Proverbs is all about.

Todd: That’s what it is.

Dennis: It’s a daddy who was giving wise sayings to his son. He said, “Listen, my son, for I give you sound teachings,”—sound advice / sound counsel. And that’s what you are saying, here, in calling dads to step up and call their sons to step up.

Bob: Well, and it leads to the second thing because, not only do you call young men to step up, but you call them to speak out.

Todd: That’s right. Part of the step up is just personal responsibility— personal opportunity and accountability—but then, I say, “Listen, part of the reason you’ve got to step up and be the man that God wants you to be is that God wants men to lead in their culture.” We were talking, earlier, as a group of guys—



about how the church, itself, is called to be salt and light. When the church is not salty, and does not give off a lot of light, we shouldn’t be surprised to see that there is decay and darkness in our land.

One of the ways we lead is with words. So, the second one, after step up, is to speak out—which is to just acknowledge that silence in the midst of sin is a sin.

Dennis: Illustrate that with something that one of your sons did as they were growing up.

Bob: Or something that they saw you do. How did they see you model that?

Todd: Yes, so, what I try and do a lot of times—right now, there is a little organization at their high school. It’s called Iron Sharpens Iron—that a young man started because he really wanted there to be a group of men in high school that began to commune together—to encourage each other. Well, this thing has drifted over the years. It’s become just another organization. So, we were just talking yesterday, in fact, about how, right now, Iron Sharpens Iron is not exactly made up of men that are sharpening each other at all. So, it’s more a little bit like cottonwood sharpening cottonwood. [Laughter]


That group is made up of guys whose lives are not exhibiting what it was that this organization was initially set up to do.

Rather than bemoan that fact, I said, “This is your opportunity to love your friends.” One of the verses that—you know, with each of these, I gave them verses to memorize that would lead out on that. I just was reminding them: “When we speak out faithfully about what’s going on, what’s God’s Word say? ‘Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.’”

Bob: That takes courage—especially, high school kids going to stand up and say, “I’m going to confront you about what’s going on in your life.” That’s bold for anybody!.

Todd: Yes, absolutely. So, we—so, I try to even teach them how to do it. You know, one of the things they learn, underneath speaking out, is how you do it—is to do it with gentleness—first,  looking to yourself, “lest you too be tempted”—out of Galatians.

Bob: Right; right.

Todd: So, I try. I teach them to speak out and how to speak out—winsomely, seasoned with salt, as it were—

Dennis: Yes.


Todd: —like it says in Colossians. So, speaking out is in terms of loving a friend and helping that friend see that our lives are consistent with what we want; but speaking out also has to do with speaking up for the rights of the needy and the unfortunate—that somebody, whether the kids are being bullied—

There was a situation where some kids were hurt in a small group that my son was in, where he did not step up. He wasn’t, maybe, part of the bullying; but because he didn’t step up and stop it—he sat passively. He didn’t speak out and say, “Hey, guys, we all think that’s funny; but we wouldn’t want somebody to be teasing us that way, right now.” And because he didn’t do that—he didn’t step up / he didn’t speak out—there was a lack of leadership—and there was some real pain and hurt.

Dennis: You also talk about young men standing strong. When you read that passage that you quoted, earlier, from First Corinthians 16, where it talks about acting like men—

Todd: Yes, sir.

Dennis: —there is a challenge in there to be strong.

Todd: You bet.

Dennis: Let all that you do be done in love. How do you train a boy to stand strong in this culture?


Todd: Well, I think what you can do is give them a vision for greatness. One of the things that I want my son to know is that: “Listen, if you are going to lead, leadership is going to cost you. And we follow somebody who stepped up for our sin. We follow somebody who spoke out against corruption and dead religion.” When He was criticized, challenged, and attacked, He stood strong. He understood He lived for a greater reward—something more than Himself. He understood why He was here. He didn’t look to be celebrated right here.

So, I just tell them to stand strong. “Don’t give in when you are challenged, attacked, or criticized.” But if you step up and you speak out in our culture—you two gentlemen have been at the forefront of this. You know that people are going to say that you’re bigoted, you’re intolerant, and you’re unloving. If you’re somebody that doesn’t want those labels even cast at you, then, you’ll go, “Okay, I learn to be silent now.”

Bob: Right.

Dennis: Right.

Todd: So, I just say, “You just need to understand people are not going to always praise you—


because you say and do the right thing.” I try and tell them: “When you are criticized—if it’s true, then, you need to change. You need to seek forgiveness / make amends; but if it’s not true, then, just brace yourself and do your job.” 

Bob: I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Book of Philippians, over the last couple of months. In Philippians 1:27, Paul is talking to the church about what it looks like to walk or to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. The first thing he says is: “Stand firm.” Standing firm is a foundation for what living a life worthy of the gospel is going to look like.

He says that in Chapter 1; and then, he unpacks it. And you get to Chapter 4, verse 1; and he says, “So, finally, my brothers, stand firm.” This whole issue of being anchored in truth / anchored in character—this is something that we didn’t just make this up. This is something that is bedrock to our faith.

Todd: You know, I’ll say this to you guys. One of the things you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up; and they don’t ever give you: “I want to be polite.”


“I want to be a good citizen.” “I want to be a faithful person who never misses a Sunday.” Of course, they don’t say that; right? They want to be great. They have super heroes—firemen, rescuers, Navy SEALs. What I try to share with them is that: “Look, even the heroes that you follow—these are men that they don’t ever back down. You don’t see Batman backing down. You don’t see Superman backing down. And you certainly don’t see Jesus backing down. Godly men never back down.”

There is a great verse in Jeremiah. It’s one of the ones they memorize, underneath this, where it says that God is talking to Jeremiah. He says, “I have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze.” I love sports. I’ve been around sports and involved with sports. We talk about the steel curtain. We talk about great linebackers. You give them a vision for what men are—on some little fleeting arena like sports. Imagine being that in all of life? 

Bob: The last two items that you’ve got on your list are the same for both young men and young women; aren’t they?

Todd: Yes.

Bob: Unpack both of those for us.


Todd: Yes, that’s because, no matter, what you do—as a young man or young woman—you better make sure that you realize you’ve always got something to learn—no matter how much you step up, no matter how much you speak up, no matter how much you stand strong. We’ve got to stay humble and be vigilant against pride.

I really try and define humility for them—which is not—not believing you are gifted—but it’s like a definition I read a long time ago. I think maybe C.S. Lewis is the one who came up with this one—but: “Don’t think less of yourself. Think of yourself less.” So, just remember that people are going to sharpen you the rest of your life—that anything you do that’s great is not done because you are essentially great but because of Christ working in you. You’re a cracked pot—an earthen vessel.

So, yes, “Stay humble” is number four. Number five is: “Serve the King”—to live for that greater reward. Live for His kingdom, and His glory, and His righteousness.

Dennis: And I like it that you are attacking the issue of pride because this is where guys—and I know girls / young ladies can get caught off guard by their ego, as well—


but it seems that men struggle more with the pride issue than women do. How did you instruct your sons to deal with the pride issue as they became men?

Todd: Well, you know, Dennis, it is a constant issue that I hopefully will model before them. I mean, the legacy we leave, ultimately, is the life that we live before our kids. So, I’m just always trying to, myself, clothe myself in humility. I talk to them specifically about how their dad doesn’t live in isolation. No matter how great you are, God wants you to live in community with other men that speak strongly into your life. My kids know—my kids know the men that speaking into me.

I’ll tell you this. Someone asked me one time, “What’s the best thing that you do to lead your wife?” I said, “I tell her who she can go to when I’m less of man than I want to be.” I tell our kids, “Whenever there is an issue that they think I’m not parenting well / leading well, that I want to be a great dad and I need help.” So, they know the men to call and say: “Hey, would you sit down with my dad and me as we work through this? I think he’s being too hard on me in this,” or, “I think this is unreasonable.”


I say, “Listen, I want to be coached, as a dad.” I try and model that for them—and just show them that: “Listen, I need others to help me. I’ve got to get the log out of my own eye.” So, I seek their forgiveness when I make a mistake.

Dennis: And it really fits with this last one you talked about, just a few moments ago, “Serve the King.” Our surrender to the King, ultimately, deals with our arrogance / our pride and helps us rightly evaluate ourselves as the men or women that God has made us.

Really, my challenge to the listener, at this point, is to take Todd’s list and steal one of them—okay?—and begin to craft your own list of five, ten—maybe, it is more; alright? But where are you going to start? Just pick one of these and say: “You know what? When they come home from school today or as we spend the weekend together, we’re going to talk about “Stepping Up”,—


or “Speaking Out”, or “Standing Strong”, or “Staying Humble”, or “Serving the King”. Pick one of those five.

Todd: That’s a great thing to do, Dennis. They can—we’ll even put this on your website. Folks can go there and download this. There are verses under each one. What is great about these are they are intentionally short so that, on the way to school, you can talk about it—rehearse.

I will laugh about this with them. Sometimes, it can be very mundane. My kids know that there are five of them. So, we’ve kind of—“Step Up” is one. “Speak Out” is two. So, sometimes, I will just look at them, across the room; and I’ll just hold up, most often, four fingers: “Stay Humble.” [Laughter]

You know, this can be even silly like some of—my, now, fourth-grader was having success at a particular game—was standing up and just doing some kind of dance over everybody. I just kind of looked at him, with four fingers, and held them up. He kind of just melted back into his chair. [Laughter] So: “Stay humble over there, or I’ll get involved.” Anyhow, they are intentionally short so they can be rehearsed and reviewed continually.

Dennis: And get back in the Book where you get these instructions—


Todd: Amen.

Dennis: —and find your marching orders from the Scriptures because, if there has ever been a time when parents needed to be in this Book and be hearing from God personally as they raise kids, it’s today.

Bob: You talk about the dad who had taken his son through the Stepping Up video series. I’m thinking about what’s coming up a little more than three weeks from now. On the day before the Super Bowl®, we’ve got guys gathering in churches, all across the country—hundreds of locations—where there is going to be a Stepping Up one-day video event for men. We’re calling it Super Saturday.

Guys are gathering with other guys to go through four sessions—people like Dennis Rainey, and Crawford Loritts, and Robert Lewis, and Matt Chandler, Voddie Baucham, other guys who are coaching us on how we can step up and be the men God’s called us to be. You can go to You can click on the link for men—Stepping Up there—


and find out where there is going to be one of these events in your community and plan to join the guys that day. Even if it’s at another church, I know they’d love to have you come out and join their event. Again, go to and click on the link for men Stepping Up to find out where this is happening in your community.

If it’s not happening in your community, a couple of options: You could host an event. You can still get a kit. There’s still time to rally guys together and for all of you to get together in your church or wherever you’d like to do this and go through the one-day Stepping Up Super Saturday event.

Or you can do this on your own. We’ve come up with the Stepping Up in-home edition.

Here’s how it works. You can go to Click the link for men Stepping Up. You order a manual for that weekend. Along with the manual, you will get an access code. This will give you access to the video series, online. It will be available that weekend only—you can go through the material on your own, you can go through it with your sons in your living room, you can get a group of guys together and order in pizza and all of you go through it together, and then, watch the football game on Sunday night together if you want to do that. Make this a Stepping Up weekend. Just do it at home if that’s easiest for you.

Find out more about the Stepping Up in-home edition when you go to and click on the link that says men Stepping Up. See how you can go through this material in your own living room—again, our website, You have any questions? Call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’ve got coaches available who can answer any questions that you have and help make your event the best possible event it can be—again, call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about what Todd Wagner is doing with his daughters to raise them to embrace godly womanhood and the five key things he is teaching his girls. By the way, if you are interested in these five things that we have talked about today, you can download all five of them—for both boys and girls—from our website at Just go there and click on the link. You’ll find the information available there—again, at Tomorrow, we talk about coaching your girls to be godly young women. Hope you can join us.

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 will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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