Fathers today are coming up short with their sons at three critical points

We have failed to deliver to our sons a clear, inspiring, biblically grounded definition of manhood.

Most fathers lack a directional process that calls their sons to embrace the manhood they should be able to define.

A third shortcoming involves the loss of ceremony.  How many dads today think of formally commemorating their son’s progress or passage into manhood?  There is no place in our culture where boys are initiated consciously into manhood.

Every son needs from his father vision, direction, and solid answers to questions such as:

What is a man?

What are a man’s responsibilities?

What does a man believe?

How does a man behave?

What should a man try to achieve?

Definition of manhood: 4 key principles

A real man rejects passivity: real manhood begins with a decision to reject social and spiritual passivity when nothing is the more comfortable and natural option.

A real man accepts responsibility: Knights were given 3 responsibilities; a will to obey, a work to do and a woman to love.

A real man leads courageously: leadership demands that men have the courage to master their passions and bridle themselves with the principle of truth.

A real man expects the greater reward: what kept Jesus in the race?  What internal motivation carried Jesus to the cross?  The anticipation of joy!  Great reward.  It was the joy set before Him that allowed Christ to finish strong.  Every man needs to have this same eternal perspective if he is to succeed.

Men assume social responsibility most naturally and effectively when

It is clear to them that the primary responsibility for the well-being of others rests on them and that others are relying on them, and

When they have been trained from an early age by the men in their lives to recognize and assume that responsibility faithfully.

A Modern Day Knight Code of Conduct:

A will to obey (God’s will)

A work to do (according to his own unique design)

A woman to love

Ten Biblical Ideas:

Loyalty: For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

Servant-Leadership: Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. (Matthew 20:26-27)

Kindness: What is desirable in a man is his kindness. (Proverbs 19:22)

Humility: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Purity: Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Honesty: Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25)

Self-discipline: Have nothing to do with worldly fables…On the other hand, discipline yourselves for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Excellence: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Integrity: He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.  (Proverbs 10:9)

Perseverance: Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  (Galatians 6:9)

It is imperative that we help our sons identify their gifts at an early age, so they can maximize their abilities.  Proverbs 22:6 gives us some insight into this important area: Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.  The phrase “in the way he should go” does not refer to some prescribed path that every person should follow.  In the Hebrew language, the phrase is better rendered, “according to his way.”  And the Hebrew word for “way” is Derek, which literally means “bent” and refers to a unique inner design or direction.

The typical young male in our society invests his time and energy in a bevy of self-centered activities—his career, his pleasures, his possessions—all the while believing they will matter beyond the moment.  But sometime later in life, often in the late 30’s or early 40’s, he discovers a sobering reality: He’s won the battle but lost the war.  The glory of material prosperity and corporate success loses its charm, and he feels nothing but a gnawing question of “What else is there?”

Conventional vision of manhood:

First, and perhaps most importantly, it paints a one-dimensional picture, equating manhood with a “position”.

Second, because a man’s identity arises from his work, his value is earned; therefore, he becomes highly competitive.

Third, in this vision of manhood, success is the goal—often at the expense of one’s marriage, one’s children, and meaningful, close relationships.

Fourth, the reward of conventional manhood is power, chiefly in the marketplace.

And finally, if a man becomes successful in this plan, he enjoys personal wealth and affluence.

The problem with this conventional model of manhood is not that it is wrong, but that it is incomplete.  In three simple but profound words, what is missing is a transcendent cause.

Transcendent cause: it is a mission that lifts us beyond ourselves, a passion that stirs us to self-sacrifice and causes us to contribute to the larger community.  A transcendent cause is not something we do in addition to everything else; instead, it is the one factor that motivates everything else we do.  Put in simple terms, we want our lives to count for something important.

People of high well-being find meaning in an involvement with something beyond themselves: a work, an idea, other people, a social objective.

Man will lay down his life for his country, his society, his family.  He will choose to throw himself on a grenade to save his comrades; he is capable of the highest generosity and self-sacrifice.  But he has to feel and believe that what he is doing is truly heroic, timeless and supremely meaningful.

What are the characteristics of a transcendent cause: truly heroic, timeless and supremely meaningful.

When we teach children to concern themselves first and foremost with their own self, we not only encourage self-centeredness but also fail to present a more inspiring and developmentally constructive alternative: that they should concern themselves about things beyond the self and above the self.  We fail, that is, to convey to them a sense that there are other important things in life beyond their own individual circumstances and feelings.

Jesus Christ satisfies the threefold criteria of a transcendent cause:

Jesus Christ is truly heroic

Jesus Christ is timeless

Jesus Christ is supremely meaningful

Ceremony should be one of the crown jewels for helping a boy become a man.  In many cultures throughout history, a teenage boy has been taken through some type of ritual to mark his official passage into manhood.  I believe one of the great tragedies of Western culture today is the absence of this type of ceremony.

We need celebrations like this today to mark the passages from adolescence to manhood.  Boys need manhood ceremonies that will live on in their memory—elaborate occasions that will “spike” forever the defining moments of the passage to modern-day knighthood.

What makes a good ceremony?

First, memorable ceremonies are costly.

Second, memorable ceremonies ascribe value.

Third, memorable ceremonies employ symbols.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, memorable ceremonies empower a life with vision.

Commemorating key passages in a boy’s life:

Puberty: that great transition at the start of adolescence when a boy’s body wreaks havoc with his mind.

High school graduation: when, for the first time, a young man experiences unbridled freedom.

College graduation: when a man must face the world and begin to provide for himself.

Marriage: when a man assumes responsibility for a wife and the leadership of a family.

Common characteristics of a great ceremony:

Employ the element of surprise

Make the ceremony intensely spiritual

Incorporate symbols to mark the moment

Include a blessing from Dad

Involve other men

Dad, if your boy is to become a man, you must enlist the community.  This is imperative for three reasons:

First, if a father’s presence is weighty, the presence of other men is weightier still.

Second, enlisting the community of men results in a depth of friendship that the lonely never experience.

Third, the community of men expands a son’s spiritual and moral resources.

Boys tend to be heavily involved emotionally with their fathers as role models, even though they may spend more time with their mothers, sisters and peers.  Boys look to their fathers for clues as to how to act out their male roles, and specifically, later on, their roles as fathers.

Dad, if you are going to raise a Modern-Day Knight, there is no substitute for your personal character and integrity!  By it your son becomes advantaged, empowered, and inspired.

Good fathers exhort and encourage and implore their sons; great fathers drive home these messages with their own spiritual, moral, and social integrity.  Sons observe Dad in the rough and tumble of life.  They watch what he watches on television; they observe how he treats their mom.

Action items:

Settle upon a manhood definition that you and your son can pursue together.

Team up with some dads and create a manhood weekend for your sons.

Teach your son about relating to women, both socially and sexually.

Teach your son generosity.  Show him what you give to the church monthly.  Explain why you do this.

Teach him that he, like you, should tithe a portion of his time, money, and talents to others.

Share your faith with your son.

Pray with your son on a regular basis.  Let him sense your heart before God.

Participate in your son’s baptism.

Let your son see you serve God.

Take a family missions trip.