Mark Batterson: I’m in a room with 500 guys a year or two ago, and I ask them how many of them were discipled by their father. And three hands went up.
Jim Daly: Three out of 500?
Mark: Three out of 500.
Mark: Houston, we have a problem.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well that’s Mark Batterson. And he joins us again today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim: John, last time we started a great program on what it means to be a man. God intrinsically put in men a desire to become a man of character and virtue. It’s in us, I think, in our spiritual DNA. And as we grow into God’s design, they also become not only better men, but also better husbands and fathers. I know most of you wives are going, “Amen. Thank you, Jim, for talking about that.” Well today, we’re going to specifically address how we can raise sons to be godly men and hopefully spark in men that idea that there’s more to manhood than maybe what they have seen. Here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you to thrive as a dad, as a husband. And that’s why we’re here, in part, and we have a lot of resources available online to help you do that.
and other encouragement. The first half of this conversation last time, Jim, was really inspirational. I wanna encourage you as a listener to get a copy on CD or to download it or listen on our mobile app. That’s a great way to take it with you as you go. Those resources are all at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And Mark Batterson is the senior pastor of National Community Church. That is in Washington D.C. And he and his wife Lora live on Capitol Hill with their three children. And as I said, his book is called,.
Jim: Mark, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Mark: Well, excited about round two.
Jim: Round two, here we go. Ding, ding. Hey, we ended our conversation last time talking about men who demonstrated virtues. Such as raw passion and moral courage. Let’s recap that for the listener who’s joining us today and what it means to play the man.
Mark: Well, I think playing the man is tough love. Playing the man is childlike wonder. I think play the man is raw passion and true grit and clear vision and moral courage. It’s - it’s these biblical virtues. And let’s be honest, I think women need clear vision and raw passion and moral courage. So it’s not like these are just simply for men. But what I’m doing is calling out men to step up, to step in. And I think that in many ways, we’ve fallen short, in part, because manhood has largely been devalued in our culture. And so again, it’s something...
Mark: ...we need to celebrate and cultivate.
Jim: And as John mentioned, you applied people in history that really exemplified attributes or virtues, that you see as biblical manhood. And y
Jim: Because I - I’ve read the biography of Teddy Roosevelt. I really enjoyed it. He was a man’s man.
Mark: Oh, he was. And one of my favorites. He - in fact, 1912, he’s campaigning in Milwaukee, and he’s shot at - point-blank range, a bullet in his chest, and he gets up, and he says, “I cannot make a long speech, because I’ve just been shot.”
Mark: By the time he’s done, he’s standing in a pool of his own blood. And I’m thinking to myself, “If he hadn’t been shot, how long would he have spoken?”
John: Yeah, that was his short...
Jim: No kidding. It must have been his two-hour speech that he condensed.
Jim: But that’s almost crazy, though. But that’s kind of the pioneer spirit of that era.
Mark: It is. And of course, you know, he did so many things - from exploring the Amazon to, you know, being a hero in war. He rode a moose. I - who does that?
But - but my point in the book...
Jim: Childlike wonder.
Mark: My point in the book is that childlike wonder. While he was president, he read 500 books a year. So he was a gentleman and a scholar.
Mark: And someone that was - had a holy curiosity, is what I like to call it.
Jim: And is your point that we’re just missing that kind of manhood today, or we don’t have enough men steppin’ up like that? That - you could say he was a unique individual - that you only get one of those, ever.
Mark: Well, yeah. But I think what I’m trying to talk about in the book is, you know, the Apostle Paul says, “Put childish ways behind you.” And let’s be honest, there are a lot of men who are really boys, who haven’t fully grown up. So let’s put childish ways behind us. But Jesus said that “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” And so that’s a unique character trait, I think of manhood - this childlike wonder towards life. And I think it’s exemplified by Teddy Roosevelt.
Jim: Well it’s good. And that was kind of the essence of the program last time - talking about Louis Zamperini or John Muir. We didn’t get to John Wesley Powell - your example of true grit. Why is Powell deserving of that description: true grit?
Mark: Well, the first one to traverse the Colorado River, go all the way through the Grand Canyon. It was unmapped at the time. But here’s the amazing thing: he did it with one arm. He lost an arm in the Civil War. And so here’s a guy who can’t even row the boat.
Mark: And he is leading. He didn’t let what he couldn’t do keep him from doing what he could. And really, an example of manhood that’s pretty inspiring.
Jim: That’s the man of Lake Powell.
Mark: Yes. Yes.
Jim: I mean, that’s it. You had Andrew Jackson in there for clear vision.
Mark: Yeah. Well, here’s a guy - a little known story that, how he got the name, “Old Hickory,” that his troops were badly battled. I believe they were in Georgia, needed to get back to Tennessee. And the first person to put one of those wounded soldiers on his horse was the general himself. And he walked - I want to say it’s something like 500 miles that he walked on foot - the general, from that battlefield back home. And I think, in doing that, modeled something for the men that followed him. “Hey, here’s a guy that I can follow. Here’s someone that has that Christ-like servant’s heart.”
, your great book. Now, let’s focus on how that applies to us today. Tell us about how you got the idea to create a vision for your family. I mean, that comes down to it - the visionary. What were some of the events that led to creating that document for your family?
Mark: Yeah. I think there was a moment where I realized that I had more vision for the church that I was pastoring than the family that God had called me to lead.
Jim: And guys could put anything in there - more vision for my business...
Mark: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: ...More vision for my vocation. We tend to do that. We look externally.
Mark: Yeah. And you know, here I am, like, kind of your typical, driven personality that’s performance-oriented and you know, I think, doing good things. But I remember this moment, Jim, where I’m walking through an airport, and I hardly even remember what time zone I’m in, because I’m here, there and everywhere. And I’m preaching the gospel, but there’s just this emptiness inside. And I realize that I may be putting my family on the altar of ministry. And I just don’t believe God’s called me to do that. I believe that my chief function is to be a - a husband to my wife and a father to my children. And so there was just this moment where, at the end of the day, I want to be famous in my home.
Mark: And it’s hard to be famous in your home if you aren’t home. And so I have a little definition of success. It’s when those who know you best respect you most.
Jim: That’s good.
Mark: And that’s my wife and my kids.
, that I wrote, there is a story I captured in there - was - really caught my attention. It was a youth pastor, young guy, who had a family, had a little daughter, maybe 4 years old. And he was busy with doing youth pasturing. And he was between events and came home and quickly showered and said to his little 4-year-old girl, “Hon, I’m sorry. But tonight I’ve got to go out and teach teenagers about Jesus.” And she said to him - talk about an amazing statement - she said to him, “That’s great, Daddy. When are you going to stay home and teach me about Jesus?”
Jim: He quit that pastorate job, took a job at GM that was 8-5 - just put on the assembly line. And he just said, “I’ll get back to ministry when my daughter is 18.”
Jim: And he poured into her life. What a dad.
Jim: There’s an example...
Jim: ...Of putting the priorities right.
Jim: And he could still be a minister in that environment. God could still use him on the assembly line at GM. But what an amazing commitment to his little girl who’s saying, “Daddy, be my daddy.”
Jim: “Teach me about Jesus.”
Mark: You know, Jim, we think about revival as something that needs to happen in America, or in our culture. But here I am at Focus on the Family. And the truth is, I think revival starts in the home, and it’s why last note of the Old Testament - that God would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. And then, if I quiz the average pastor - and I’m a pastor - um, and said, “What was John the Baptist’s message?” You know, most of them would say, “Repent and be baptized,” and that’s true. But there’s another little piece of that puzzle where he says that “I’ve come to turn the hearts of the father to the children.” Now isn’t that interesting?
Mark: Last note of the Old Testament, first note of the New Testament. I think God’s kingdom is gonna come. His will is gonna be done. If we could just focus on the family, and...
Jim: Yeah. We always appreciate that.
Mark: And here’s how I like to say it, Jim. You know, it’s a - I love youth pastors, but it’s not their job to disciple my kids. That’s my job. And I’ll take the tag-team. I’ll take all the help I can get. But at the end of the day, it’s my job to disciple my kids.
Jim: That’s the support team around you. Let me press you for the practical ways that has worked in your family.
Jim: I mean, as you’ve done this vision-casting with them, what have you seen?
Mark: Yeah. Well, this is so fun for me, because I consider it one of the most important things I’ve ever done - more important than writing a book or pastoring a church. Before my oldest son’s 13th birthday, I decided that I would create a discipleship covenant. And we went camping, and I put it on parchment paper and tried to make it pretty official. And I created a mental challenge, spiritual challenge, and physical challenge. And if you want, we can kinda dive into some of that. But then it began a year of discipleship. And I said “If - if you fulfill this covenant, at the end of it, we will do a rite of passage.” And I can tell you what I did with both of my sons. But it - it really, I believe, is one of the most important things I’ve done in terms of discipling my own sons.
Jim: Yeah. No, that is good. Explain the five practical ways to create a family vision. I mean...
Mark: Yeah. So...
Jim: ...I like the concept, and we can fill in the blanks and do things uniquely.
Mark: Yes. Yup.
Jim: But what are the five basic components?
Mark: Well, I mean, it starts with prayer. I mean, let’s pray into this. And then, I think you do your homework. Let’s learn. So, I started studying what other dads had done, what other cultures had done, in terms of discipling. And then, you know, I think you take a little vision retreat. I had this formula - change of pace plus change of place equals change of perspective.
Mark: And so take some time. This is the important stuff. And let’s find the margin to get a vision for our marriages and for our children. And then I think, you write down the - the vision, and it needs to be perfect the first time.
Mark: No, it doesn’t. It’s a rough draft, and it’s gonna change over time. And then you rewrite the vision. And over time, what you have is a vision statement for your family and something that can help guide you.
Jim: What does it sound like? Give us an example.
Mark: Well, for us, we came up with four family values - for example: humility, generosity, gratitude, and courage. And so, if there’s anything that’s gonna define what it means to be a Batterson, I want it to be those four things. And then what you do is you just, in the course of life - the rhythm of week in and week out - you find opportunities to cultivate gratitude and to model generosity and to show courage and to just operate in that spirit of humility.
- what would be an example in your marriage where you had to play the man? You know, something - parenting, you can kinda control that environment to some degree with your kids. It’s a little more difficult with your spouse.
Jim: So give us an example of how this has played out with your marriage.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I’ll be very transparent. There was a moment where I’m traveling here, there and everywhere, and my wife, who is a person of more integrity than anybody I’ve ever met, is kind and beautiful, and she says to me, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” And that was the moment where I realized that I needed to put some boundaries in place to guard my family, to make sure that my family was first. And so we made some changes. I said, “I’m not gonna travel more than 12 overnight speaking trips. And I’m not gonna be gone more than one night a week. I’ve got to be helping my kids with homework. I’ve got to be coaching their teams.” Like, I’ve got to be invested in my family. And you start just kind of re-prioritizing. And one of the things that we do is we do an annual retreat. And it helps us revisit the vision. And so we’re looking at calendar and budget, but we’re also looking at a verse for the year and - and we’re revisiting, “Hey, how are we doing on our values?” And I don’t want this to sound like we have it all figured out. We do not. And often, there needs to be a re-clarifying of that vision, because life happens.
Jim: Right. And time - over time, you refine, you refine, you refine. I appreciate that...
Jim: ...Because I think that’s - makes it a little easier for us others to get engaged with that.
Mark: Yeah. But instead of living reactively to kind of whatever’s happening in life, you’re making proactive decisions about what’s important to you and how you’re gonna invest your time and money and energy.
. Now we’ve got that and a CD or download of our conversation, yesterday and today, at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or if you have questions, give us a call - 800-232-6459.
Jim: Mark, you mentioned the discipleship with your sons. I do want to come back to that, because I think there’s some great practical advice, and then we’ll go to the rite of passage. But how did you see your boys change during that year? And how did you change as their dad?
Mark: Well, I think it showed them that they’re a huge priority in my life. We did a weekly FSM - father-son meeting.
Jim: Yeah, ‘cause you’re done.
Mark: ...with my youngest son - because I’m done.
Jim: Good for you.
Mark: ...We’ll bike 100 miles. Yeah.
Jim: Man, that is outstanding. For the dad listening to you that’s going, “Man, I didn’t get that modeled for me,” and I would just say, don’t use that as a crutch. That may be true, but you’re a different person than your father, who may never have done this with you. But to their point, how do I really get started? I think I can feel this a little bit. You know, there’s times where I feel like I’ve received an A on the dad report card, but other times maybe a D or an F, because I haven’t been as intuitive, I haven’t been - I wasn’t present, I didn’t know what I wasn’t doing properly. I mean, I didn’t have...
Jim: ...A father. I was an orphan kid.
Jim: And I feel, at times, I’m just trying to do this by the seat of my pants.
Mark: Yes. And that’s where - let me say this - I’m so grateful I have a wonderful father. I also have spiritual fathers. And those spiritual fathers have spoken into my life in a way that it’s not based on biology. And so, this is like a team effort right here. And I think the critical thing I want to keep saying is don’t beat yourself up about mistakes you’ve made. In fact, by the way, I have this little theory that all of us are going to feel like we failed on some level as dads, but God gives us a second chance, and it’s called being a grandfather...
Jim: Sure. One of the creative things you did, which, again, I like doing this, because you’re action-oriented, you’re doing something with your boys - in this regard, you took them to Theodore Roosevelt Island. And uh...
Jim: ...You know, why did you do that? How did you pick it out? And what occurred there?
Mark: Well, it’s this beautiful little island off of - right across from Georgetown, so kind of right where I live - I live on Capitol Hill. And I thought, you know, it’s a nice kind of natural setting. We had grown-up taking the kids on hikes there. And so, I thought we’re gonna do this special event at the end of this year of discipleship. And I invited their uncles to come. And - and by the way, it could be an uncle, it could be a - just a guy that maybe your son looks up to. And I surprised my boys. And these uncles had just kind of prepared speeches and gifts that symbolized what - what they were calling him to, kind of inviting him into that circle of manhood, so to speak. And just this incredible rite of passage. Because here’s the problem: in our culture, what is it? How do boys know they’re men? You know, maybe it’s the license when they’re 16, or you know, unfortunately, I think for a lot of people in our culture that 21 drinking age. I mean, come on, we’ve got to do better than that.
Mark: And so I just chose 13. I think it could be younger if your kids are mature enough. It could be older. In fact, it’s never too late to do it. And so that’s what I chose - just this kind of rite of passage at Roosevelt Island, by the way, followed by a steak dinner.
Jim: I love it. That is good. For the mom listening who wants to see her husband investing this way in her sons, I’m sure there’s a longing in many moms’ hearts, that they’re just not seeing that. And they would hope that a dad would step up. They might be praying silently for that. How can they move their husband a little further along in this way and do it in a way that doesn’t damage the relationship?
Mark: Yeah. Well, you know, that motivation has to come, on some level, from the inside out. And so I believe in the power of prayer. I think you start praying that God would birth that in their hearts, that God would turn the heart of that father to their children.
Mark: I think you find ways to encourage it. “Hey, if you guys want to go camping this weekend, I’ll hold down the fort.” You know, let...
Jim: Yeah, right.
Mark: ...let them begin to kind of bond in that way. You know, I know a few people are dropping this book or audio book on their husbands. Do it in a way that’s not, you know...
Jim: “Something you might want to listen to.”
Mark: But - and so you - you kind of speak that word of encouragement.
Jim: How about for the single mom...
Jim: ...Single-parent mom, who’s struggling to be everything?
Jim: I mean, she’s already got such a burden.
Jim: I know there’s single-parent dads, as well.
Jim: And I’m assuming you’re gonna play the man in that role.
Jim: But for the mom who doesn’t have that regular infusion of manhood...
Jim: ...Especially into her boys’ lives...
Jim: ...What can she do?
Mark: I love that question. You know, I’m a pastor, and so here’s what I believe - God’s given us two families, a biological family, but He’s given us a spiritual family; it’s called the church. And I think it’s the church that needs to rally around. I bet that there are some men with enough maturity and love and wisdom, that maybe they don’t have a biological son. We’ve got to find ways to help those men step into that role of being a spiritual father. I just think that’s something that needs to be celebrated and championed in our culture. You know, Paul said, “I have 1,000 teachers, but not many spiritual fathers.” This is a unique capacity. We need more men to step into that role to help raise up that next generation and pass that baton of faith.
Jim: Man, this is good. The timing is perfect for me, Mark, because I’m about to take my boys up to the Boundary Waters and spend a little time with them up in that rather remote area. I’ve never been up there. I’m scared to death.
Jim: That’s godly character...
Jim: ...Even if they don’t know God. Isn’t that true?
Mark: Yes, it is. And I might just share one last thought, Jim, that if all else fails - you know, I certainly shared discipleship, covenant, rite of passage, the trips that I took with my sons - some logistics and mechanics. But you know, at the end of the day, can I just tell you my father’s heart is that my children would hear what the father spoke over Jesus at the baptism. He said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Mark: At the end of the day, our children need to hear those words.
Mark: They need to have that blessing. And so we’re gonna make some mistakes, but let’s make sure that they know that you are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, who’s not perfect...
Mark: ...Just like their mom and dad, but in whom I am well-pleased.
, because I think it has some of the wonderful insights that will make you a better husband and a better father. And that’s our goal here at Focus on the Family. If you can make a donation of any amount, we will send you, as our way of saying thank you, a copy of Mark’s book.
John: Make that donation and if you can, make it a monthly pledge when you’re at our website. We’d really appreciate that. Those monthly gifts on an ongoing basis really sustain us here and allow us to do ministry every day. And if you’re in a spot, you just can’t pledge on a monthly basis, do send a generous one-time gift of any amount. Either way, we’ll send a copy of Mark’s book to you as our thank you gift. Do that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Mark: Yeah, well the good news is it’s never too late, and His grace covers a multitude of sin. He’s the God who brings reconciliation. He’s the God of second chances. And so here’s what I believe - start praying for that son. Maybe even just with complete transparency, admit the mistakes that you made. That might even be the first step to kind of bring that reconciliation. And I tell you what - there’s still a longing in that child for a father’s blessing, for a father’s love. And you do that now - you step up and begin to do that now - and I believe it can change that circumstance and bring healing and bring wholeness.
Jim: Boy, that’s well-said, Mark. Thanks for being with us.
Mark: Ah, it’s a joy. Thank you.
John: And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family today. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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