By Charley Jones
With voices, responsibilities, and people screaming for your attention, the last bits of your energy to intentionally give yourself to your family can easily disappear. Whether it be in the home, in the church, in the government, or in a small group of friends, men have consistently proven that we struggle as leaders.
Passing from childhood to manhood and then often becoming a husband and possibly a father, men may find themselves without warning or training suddenly looked to as a provider of direction and strength. Many men arrive at this place feeling less than adequate or simply unaware of how to function in their roles in leadership and relationships. Too many men were failed of good examples and are therefore positioned to repeat this negative downward spiral. Boys who grow up to be men have not been fathered. In one way or another, the components needed to form strong male leadership are often missing.
It doesn’t take much to see this reality exemplified. Many men pressure women to get abortions, while many others simply do not show up in their own kids’ lives. Within our nation, 85 percent of all youth in prison grew up in a fatherless home, 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes, and 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. The Journal of Family Psychology reported: “In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement.” Many more fathers struggle to keep the authority, give their kids total involvement, or provide all the tools they really wanted to pass on to their own flesh and blood.
But why this phenomenon? What is it that we men cannot grasp?
When we look at how the world defines a man or a woman, or even further that gender may not matter at all, confusion is pervading the next generation’s minds and is setting them up for a huge fall. The authority and position of a man is being challenged. “What is a man?” they may ask. GQ, one of the largest men’s magazines, only gives advice on style or what to wear. When young men are looking to be something, they need someone godly to look to. Even if we do not have younger kids in our own family, the next generation is missing positive godly role models and needs our help!
We must define what it means to be a man in this generation. I believe it will be one of the keys to counter such things as abortion, gender confusion, divorce, sexual promiscuity, and the like. Furthermore, we must also regain what a godly man is and what it takes to develop one or become one. Throughout the book of wisdom, Proverbs has more to say about the father-son relationship than anything else. The book emphasizes that a father is responsible to teach his kids.
When we look in Scripture we have many more men who show us aspects of what not to do. We can find comfort in knowing that other men too have had failures, but our hope comes from our Lord Jesus. He has shown us the way to follow as well as to lead.
Jesus did not cower at walking alongside others. He called to them, “Follow me.” He took them to his side to experience life as he followed his Father. Life with Jesus was not necessarily easy or always fun, and often fear or danger was involved. Jesus’ leadership and teaching exemplifies the Old Testament duty for a father to teach his kids the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:7). His followers didn’t understand everything he did or said. But Jesus was intentional in talking about things with them. Even when they reasoned among themselves, Jesus stayed aware of their conversations and addressed their confusion (Matthew 16:5-12; Mark 4:10-20).
There is grace here for us: we do not have to understand everything or be perfect in order to pass on something good. Paul told Timothy, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Every good leader is first a good follower. When we follow Christ, we are able to take others on that same road. What you have learned of him you are able to pass on as wisdom. At some point the one you are leading may come to the same maturity, in which case you will gain a comrade and journey together.
The majority of us have had more than enough teaching and plenty of Bible reading, yet little fruit that we have passed on to others. Though we may be strong in opinions and lively in discussion, many of us have lacked intentionality to invest in the lives of youth. Programs and men’s groups alone will not cure this epidemic; it will cost real time, real effort, and real commitment. But history lies in the hands of those who pray and give. Give yourself to the betterment of someone else.
You may not feel as if you have much to give or would know what to do—the truth is not many of us feel such confidence. But I encourage you—if you have walked with God, if you have mistakes and successes, if you have studied his Word, if you have prayed—you are prepared. Share these things. We need men who know and live in the character of God, who have been apprehended by the life of the Spirit and are not looking back. This is the call—get him and give him. Whatever it takes.
Do not wait for an opportunity; it may not come. Go out and take opportunities to pour into younger guys. Find opportunities to keep growing deeper, progressing one step at a time, learning to get comfortable and trust one another. Share your hearts, your hurts, and your joys.
Even if you are only in your twenties, find some teens and younger college guys—they do want and need you. Others of you may be dealing with condemnation that you have not poured out to others for many years. Whatever you have done or have not done, it is never too late. Maybe you feel you have nothing to give; throw this off and become vulnerable. At the end of our lives let’s strive to stand before Jesus and know that we have given it all, that we laid down our lives, recognizing that we were his to deal with and use however he wishes.
Men in the church: step up! Do the uncomfortable thing and get involved in the lives of younger men or kids. What do we have to lose? Nothing that’s not worth losing already, especially if we are to pray and labor for young men’s lives. It may be awkward at first to pursue this mentoring process, but trust the Lord to break through and give you the connection he has in mind.
Charley Jones and his family live in Colorado Springs and work with international missions and refugee care.