Where Have All the Mentors Gone?
About the Guest
Kent Evans, co-founder of Manhood Journey, discusses the impact his friend's father, John, had on him when he was young. Kent talks about the letter John wrote to him in college and how it influenced him to seriously consider putting his faith in Christ.
Kent Evans discusses the impact his friend’s father, John, had on him when he was young. Kent talks about the letter John wrote to him that influenced him to consider putting his faith in Christ.
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?
Bob: It’s tough to go on a journey without a GPS / tough to navigate where you are trying to get to without a map. That’s true in life as well as in travels. Here’s Kent Evans.
Kent: Ask yourself, “What is the difference between being a boy and a man?” If you can answer that question, you are way ahead; because, if you understand the difference between a boy and being a man, you at least have the target on the horizon—you can at least see where you are going. But if I don’t know where I am and I don’t know where I’m going, then, I’m hopeless. I think that’s where we find a lot of guys today.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. As dads, we need to play a role in providing a map for our sons to know where they’re headed on their journey to manhood; and we need to know where we are headed as well. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, I’m going to try this out—see if you can tell me what I’m thinking of by this; okay? [Squeaky voice] “Aw, a wise guy?” Does that make you think of anything? What does that bring to mind immediately? [Squeaky voice] “Aw, a wise guy; huh?”
Dennis: I’ve heard it somewhere, but I’m not calling it up right now. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s The Three Stooges. That’s The Three Stooges.
Kent: Curly—that’s Curly.
Bob: He knows! [Laughter]
Dennis: Curly; huh? [Laughter] Well, we have a wise guy—[Knock, knock, knock]
Bob: There we go!
Dennis: There we go! [Laughter] We have a wise guy with us. Kent Evans joins us on FamilyLife Today. Kent, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Kent: My pleasure, Dennis. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: Kent is the cofounder of The Manhood Journey, a ministry that helps fathers and mentors build the next generation of godly men. He and his wife have been married for 20 years, and they have four sons.
You’ve got a natural opportunity to mentor young men built into your family; right?
Kent: You’ve got it. I’ve got to get it right at home; don’t I?
Dennis: You do. He’s authored a book by the title of Bob’s introduction here.
Bob: And we should just say, for our listeners—because some of them are impressed that you didn’t recognize The Three Stooges right away—I think this shows you have more class than Kent or I have. [Laughter]
Dennis: No; it just shows—
Dennis: —I just wasn’t calling it up. That would have been who I would have guessed—
Dennis: —but I thought, “No; that’s not right.
Bob: “I’m not going to say The Three Stooges.”
Dennis: “Something doesn’t sound right about that.”
Dennis: Kent’s book is subtitled Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You. And Kent, you began your book by talking about how you believe this idea of mentoring is a lost art today. What do you think has happened here?
Kent: I think part of it is the human condition; right? It’s pride—plain and simple. We don’t want to ask for help, and I think that’s pretty consistent across men. But I think the other piece of it is—ours has become a culture of arguing and screaming at each other when we disagree.
I think that really puts a barrier in between us and those guys who could possibly help us.
Dennis: And I think there is also a generation of men who feel like they don’t have anything to say to a younger generation.
Kent: And probably a generation that feels like they have nothing to hear, who don’t want to hear anything either.
Dennis: You came from an interesting background yourself. Early in your book, you mention your family broke up when you were a teenager.
Dennis: That impacted you and your own teach-ability—your own desire to be mentored / to be discipled by older men. Explain what happened to you.
Kent: Yes; like a lot of guys, who go through those kinds of situations with their family, I was angry—super angry / confused. I went to a counselor, who—I was not a believer at the time—turns out he was. I didn’t know that. But I went to this counselor; and he said, “Hey, I understand that you are angry; but what you cannot do is— you cannot become the un-something.” And I just remember that statement rattling in my head. I said, “What do you mean, Weldon?”
He said, “Your brain doesn’t know what to do with: ‘I will never be like my dad,” or “…my mom,” or “…my uncle.’” He’s like: “Your brain can’t do that.”
Dennis: That’s the un-something.
Kent: That’s the un-something. And I said, “So, what’s the antidote?” He said: “Find guys who have something you want—better marriage, better finances, better golf game—I don’t care. Learn how to learn from other men.” That’s what he told me.
Dennis: So, was your dad absent from your life at that point?
Kent: No; not absent. In fact, he was quite engaged on what I would call a mechanical level. In other words, he coached my baseball teams / he took me to soccer practice. In many respects, he provided for our family. In many respects, he was a good dad in terms of the mechanics. Spiritually—nothing; right? And that was the challenge—I had a void in my heart, spiritually, that I was looking to find the solution for.
Dennis: So, what had made you angry?
Kent: You know, I guess I had a paradigm of what a family was supposed to look like—Mom and Dad are happy / they are together. Now, all of a sudden, I don’t have that anymore. I was a good student, you know, in high school—
—got good grades and all that—and I went to college and almost flunked out. I just was angry. I’m not entirely sure I know why, Dennis.
Dennis: You know, it’s interesting that he didn’t focus you inwardly on what the cause of your anger was. He focused you outwardly toward other men and other relationships that he knew would make you grow, as a young man. I think that—speaking of a wise guy—that’s profound wisdom to give a teenager because a lot of teenage guys, I think, are angry. They’re experiencing all kinds of emotions that they don’t understand. It does them good to be focused outside their own lives and have other men rubbing off on them.
Kent: Well, sometimes, you hear something and it resonates with you; right? You find out later why it resonated with you. In my case, the reason I think Weldon’s advice resonated with me so much is because it’s basically the gospel in one small statement. That is, as I’ve walked through my walk with Christ, it’s the process of becoming focused on other people. It’s the process of becoming less selfish / less about me.
Even marriage; right?—I’ve got to die to myself and learn how to serve my wife as Jesus served the church. So, I think his advice resonated with me so much because, deep down, I was missing something spiritually; and he had put his finger on it.
Dennis: You’re really talking about what Paul exhorted Timothy to do in his second epistle called 2 Timothy. He said, “And what you have heard from me,”—Timothy—“in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” So, what he was saying to Timothy is: “Remember what I taught you? I taught you things that you need to be passing on to others. You need to be a mentor. You need to be discipling other men in your life.”
Kent: Yes, I think in 1 Peter 4, when it says, “Whatever gift you’ve been given, use that gift”—basically—“to bless other people.” And that’s part of what Paul is saying to Timothy: “Part of this stuff—this stuff I’ve taught you is not really yours. You are a steward of this for a season.
“Give it to other men. Find other men to entrust it to.”
Bob: So, apart from a counselor who helped you with anger issues, who was another person that started pointing you in a direction where your life has ended up today?
Kent: Yes; I remember growing up with a good friend named Dave. Dave’s dad, John, was the first guy—in college, Dave’s dad sent me a note/ a letter, handwritten, back in the old days, when you needed a sheet of paper, and a stamp, and an envelope to get something to somebody. I opened this letter in college—I was not a believer—and this letter was about finding God.
It was John thanking me for being Dave’s friend and, then, using that entre to tell me that I need to continue to grow. It was awesome. I remember going back and thinking, “I didn’t even ask for this guy; but he stepped into my life, sent me a letter / thanked me for being his son’s best friend.” That was probably the first push toward this mentoring relationship that I can remember.
Bob: It was not off-putting to you that he was trying to talk to you about God?
Kent: No; I mean, I grew up in a context where I knew there was a God—I knew there was right and wrong—I just didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. I wasn’t anti-God—I just didn’t really know who He was.
Dennis: So, what would you say—you know, Bob was talking about guys who don’t know what they’re aiming for in life—where they are headed / what their purpose is—what would you say to a young man who is at that place right now? Maybe, he is listening to this broadcast. Maybe, we’re talking to his mother, or his father, or his grandfather—and you’ve got those in his life—or maybe, it’s him, listening, who needs the help and needs your counsel and your advice. What would you say to him?
Kent: The first thing I would say is: “Ask yourself:”—and this is a question I ask myself over and over again—“’What is the difference between being a boy and a man?’” And if you can answer that question, you are way ahead; because, if you understand the difference between being a boy and being a man, you at least have the target on the horizon—you can at least see where you are going.
You know, I’m in Little Rock. If I wanted to get home, I know I’ve got to go east.
Kent: That’s because I kind of know where Louisville is from here. But if I don’t know where I am and I don’t know where I’m going, then, I’m hopeless. I think that’s where we find a lot of guys today.
Bob: So, a young man, who says: “Okay; the difference between a boy and a man—well, society kind of defines that for you. You can vote when you’re a man. You can go to war. You can drink. We’ve got these markers—you can drive a car. So, somewhere between 16 and 21, it just happens.” If somebody offered that as a definition, what would you say to him?
Kent: Well, I would say, like any other definition that we let culture give us, it’s not going to probably be a biblical definition. There are some mechanical things about being a man—you go through puberty / you can start a family—there are things you can do; right?
But the difference is—God is the first Father, and God gave us a picture of what fatherhood is to look like. Whether you are a dad or not isn’t the point.
The point is—that is the picture of manhood—it’s sacrificial; it is service to others; it’s love—it’s those things. That’s what being a man is all about.
Bob: If our listeners are interested, they can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got a video clip up there where we went on the street and asked people the question that you raise: “When does a boy become a man?” It was very interesting—we asked men and women, all ages, all backgrounds.
Dennis: I mean, every kind of background.
Bob: Yes; some of the answers—
Dennis: People ought to really go online and watch this, because it’s fascinating. And listen to what they say and what they don’t say.
Bob: Yes; the clip is up at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’re talking to Kent Evans who has written a book called Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You.
Dennis: Kent, you actually developed a little exercise for men to do, who were thinking about what we are talking about here—about finding their purpose / finding out who they want to be.
You use a sheet of paper, and you ask them to do one thing on one side of the paper and something else on the other. Explain what you do.
Kent: Yes; a lot of times, we talk—even as young men or boys, we talked about: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I was at dinner with some friends last night in Little Rock. I was asking their son, a young boy, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But that’s really, probably, the wrong question. The question is, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
So, for me, the left side of the paper is for you to figure out: “What are the things you want to exemplify as a person? Well, how would you want people to describe you? What kind of character traits would you want them to have?” And you take that left side of that paper and write those down: “Do you want to be honest, and forthright, and disciplined?”—or exercise: “Do you want to be physically fit?”—whatever those things are. Then, on the right side of the paper: “Can you show me what you are doing today to get any closer to those things?”
And for me, when I was in my early 20s, the whole sheet was blank. I had nothing on the left side / nothing on the right side; right? I had no clue of who I wanted to be when I grew up, and I was doing nothing to get anywhere close to it.
Dennis: And what I would say to a mom and dad, who are raising a son / a teenage son: “You need to realize a lot of teenage young men don’t know who they are. They don’t know what they want to become. That’s why they’ve got you as parents.
Dennis: “That’s why the assignment has been given to you to shape the soul, and the life, and the character of the young man that’s been given to you.” By the way, the same thing applies to young ladies as well.
Kent: Yes; and I would say: “Oftentimes, we get into our 30s or 40s—we start having kids—and we think: ‘Man, I can’t teach these kids how to go through the teen years. I did such a lousy job of it.’” That’s pride / that’s ego. Man, if you’re a mom or a dad, and you are in your 30s or 40s or 50s, and you feel like you can’t raise your kids because you did it wrong, you’ve left out room for the gospel. You’ve left the gospel completely out of the story.
Dennis: That’s exactly right. Yes; and I would say to you: “You’re believing a lie.”
Dennis: I would say to guys, especially, who don’t feel like they can speak into the lives of their sons because of their own failures: “Your failures may be the greatest lessons you’ve learned to be able to pass onto your sons.” And it’s not like you’re going to pollute the stream with your failures, especially if you talk about the redemption of how God used it and use it as a warning.
This morning, I read pieces of Proverbs 5-7. It’s a passage of Scripture where it is a father saying, “Listen, my son, for I give you sound advice.” He’s warning a young man about the woman of the street / about the next door neighbor who is seductive. He’s warning him about the consequences of what will happen there.
This is not optional stuff we’re talking about here. You may not feel equipped, as a father, to do this—or as a grandfather—to speak into your grandkids’ lives. It doesn’t matter if you feel equipped. You’ve got to press in.
Sometimes, you’ll find that God will give you the words even before your mouth opens. You take a breath, and you go, “Help me, God.” I told a parent the other day—I said, “God loves the prayer of a helpless parent.”
Kent: Oh man!
Dennis: When you’re helpless, He shows up. And that’s what families need today. They need people dependent upon Him, who are attempting to do their assignment.
Kent: And I’ve got to resist the urge—I don’t know if you did this, Dennis, when your kids were younger—but I have to resist the urge to parent from, basically, from myself: “Hey, boys, this is how you do it. Let me tell you how to do it. This is Dad telling you how to do it.” Even if you are an engaged father / even if you want to be an engaged father, I can’t parent from myself.
All I can do, as a parent, is connect them to God. I can say, “Look, Dad’s going to blow it.” Just a couple of weeks ago, I was so angry with one of my kids—I yelled at him, and I got in his face. It was wrong / it was sinful. I went to him after; and I said: “Jonathan, Dad was wrong.
“I should not have yelled at you like that. I should not have gotten in your face. It was inappropriate. Will you forgive me?” He said, “Sure.”
Then, I said: “God’s never going to treat you like that. That’s not how God operates. I’m not a perfect example of God the Father. Don’t let my failings cloud your judgment of Him.” And for me, that’s the beauty of—it takes all the pressure out of parenting when you have that—where you can turn your failures into a discussion about the gospel!
Dennis: We get many letters—Bob, you know—here at FamilyLife Today. I read one the other day that was just complaining that all we did was talk about our perfect families. And I kind of wonder which broadcast they’re listening to.
Kent: Is that why you guys had me in?—to fix that problem? [Laughter]
Dennis: No; you’re just a continuation of the story because—as you talk about yelling at your kids, and getting angry, and pitching a fit, and having to apologize—I thought, “How many times did I do that?” I don’t know that I could count all the times. I remember a few that are really etched in my memory that I’m really sad about—really sorry about—
—but I attempted to use them to show my son what it looks like for a man to admit he’s blown it and ask for forgiveness.
Bob: And that’s so important because I think, in our day, we have a tendency to see the normal Christian life as a perpetual mess. [Laughter] There are some who would say, “Look, you know, being a Christian—it’s messy.” I think we have to recognize that if you are walking with Christ, it’s not that there is never a mess. There are messes all the time, but those messes get better over time.
Dennis: There is hope!
Bob: There is hope. There’s victory over stuff. I would say to a person: “If it’s just one perpetual mess after another, then, maybe, you need to go back and reexamine the foundation of the walk you have; because Jesus didn’t come so that He’d just be your friend in the mess. He came to lead you out of the mess.”
Kent: We did a game, for our family, over a couple of years. It was—
—I was trying to get a word out of my vocabulary that was not a God-honoring—
Bob: Not an edifying word.
Kent: —not an edifying word. So, what I did is—with my boys, we made a deal—every time Dad said the word, whoever said it first / told me first, got a dollar. Now, I’ve got to tell you—that hurt the family budget for a season; but—[Laughter]
Bob: Boys got wealthy in the process?
Kent: —my kid has a car. [Laughter] I don’t know what happened there—[Laughter]—but what did happen over time, to your point, Bob, is that the dollars got less frequent.
Kent: Right?—because I had invited my kids into the circle of accountability and said: “Look, guys, this is not okay for Dad to do. So, help me hear it when I say it,” because I said it so often that I forgot I was saying it!
Kent: And they helped me and got rich in the process.
Dennis: Yes. And you’re just reminding me, Kent, of something I’ve said, who knows how many times, here on FamilyLife Today—but you’ve just got to underscore it here: “God didn’t give me and Barbara six kids so that we could just help them grow up.
“He gave us six kids to finish the process of helping us to grow up.”
And what you’re talking about—your accountability—and you joked about your kid being able to purchase a car because of how many dollar bills you had to toss in the kitty—that kind of accountability—that’s healthy! That gets a man out of his habits, and out of his laziness, and just being able to say whatever he thinks and feels at the moment, and realizes he’s a model. He has been given, by God, to be a model to his sons and daughters to love his wife as Christ loved the church.
And I’m going to tell you—if you’re going to do that right / if you’re going to be the kind of parent and dad that’s needed today in this culture, it is going to cost you something. It’s going to cost you a whole lot more than a buck. It’s going to cost you denial of self.
Kent: That’s right; and I think we’ve lost that a bit in the church—especially, is the ability to lovingly and in a caring manner rebuke our brothers when they are out of line.
I can think of a story when a guy pulled me aside and just said: “Kent, you’ve been avoiding me. You’ve been avoiding me because you owe me something, and you haven’t gotten it to me. And you know what? As a business guy, I’m disappointed because you’re not delivering; but as a brother, I’m especially disappointed. I expected better.”
I remember just thinking: “Oh! That hurts. That hurts.” But that kind of accountability—he did that out of love. He didn’t scream at me, or cuss at me, or raise his voice. He just said, “Kent, you need to do this better.” And that kind of accountability has helped me become a more responsible and more accountable adult.
Bob: And that’s what’s at the heart of your book, which is men in the lives of other men, being honest, being transparent, and being appropriately intrusive into one another’s lives. The only way we’re going to get where we want to go, spiritually, is if we’re doing that with one another. If we are trying to say: “I’m just going to handle this myself and take care of this. I’ll do my best,” we’re just going to wind up stuck.
We need other guys to help us get unstuck.
Dennis: We do. That’s really the strength, I think, of relationships among men, where they challenge each other to step up. Pardon me for using that phrase, but that’s why I wrote the book—to get men relating with other men about stepping up and calling them up around the steps that it takes to move through life. You move from boyhood to adolescence, adolescence to manhood, manhood to mentor—what we’re talking about here. Then, if you really live out the mentor step, over time, you will become a sage or a patriarch.
Unfortunately, that word, patriarch, has all kinds of excess baggage attached to it. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good word. It is a good word when lived out by a man who is following Christ.
Bob: It’s hard for me to imagine there are guys listening to FamilyLife Today who don’t have a copy of your book and haven’t read it already or haven’t gone through the video series.
But I meet guys all the time and I’ll say: “Have you heard about Dennis’s book? Have you gone through our Stepping Up® video series?” And it’s like they are hearing about it for the first time.
So, let me just say—the ten-session video series that we’ve put together—based on the book that Dennis wrote called Stepping Up—these are great resources to help provide coaching and wisdom for younger men / for older men—for all of us on our journey to be the kind of men God has called us to be as husbands, as dads, and as men in the marketplace, as men in the church world. You can get more information about Dennis Rainey’s book, Stepping Up, and about the Stepping Up video series when you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
And you’ll get information about the great book Kent Evans has written as well. It’s called Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You. That’s what we’ve been saying here today.
It’s so important to have relationships with other guys who can point you in the right direction, because their experience and their understanding of God’s Word come together to give you the help you are looking for. Again, Kent Evans book is called Wise Guys. You can order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order any of these resources at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
You know, I think about the video resource we’ve created / I think about the conversation we’ve had here today—everything we do at FamilyLife is made possible because we’ve got folks, who listen to this program, who believe in this mission and who want to join with us to see what the Bible has to say about marriage and family. That message—they want to see it expanded.
We live in a culture where the message is actually being marginalized / it’s being reduced. People are saying, “Stop saying things like that about marriage or about family.”
And we appreciate those of you who believe, as we do, that this is not a time to be silent. This is a time to be speaking up; and we’ve been doing that for 25 years, here on FamilyLife Today. And we’re grateful to those of you who have joined with us to make this possible through your financial support of the ministry.
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Resurrection Eggs are our thank-you gift when you make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today and request the Resurrection Eggs. Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; the zip code is 72223.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to continue our conversation with Kent Evans about the need all of us have to have iron-sharpeners in our lives—people who will help us acquire and cultivate wisdom. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be here 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.
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