I've heard from several men who identified with my September 4, 2014 article, "13 Characteristics of Men From Dysfunctional Homes." With his permission, here's what one man--let's call him Adam--wrote:
I was stunned, yet, not surprised. My dad was a violent alcoholic and drug addict. My family fled and went into hiding for several months before enduring a violent divorce. I kept it all together while growing up and through my 20s and early 30s. Now, I'm almost 40, married and have two toddler boys. I feel like I have no control while trying to move my life forward and provide for my family. It is frustrating being educated and very skilled, and yet not knowing how to fit the pieces together that are so ill-fitted to begin with.
Adam is a textbook case of a man who has never been discipled. When I asked him, "Are you in a small group with a few other men doing the Christian life together? What does your devotional life look like?" here's what he said:
I'm not in a small group. I've never thought about that. My devotional life is, spotty? I'm not reading daily, I'm often distracted with other things such as university, work, gym, errands, yard work, etc. When I do read, I spend a good amount of time reading, about an hour. I just keep reading, I don't even know if it's what I should be reading but I figure, I'm reading the Bible, so regardless it's good stuff.
I've been thinking about myself in the way your wrote in your article for about a year and half now. I've tried to analyze myself and admit what I think is wrong. But that is as far as I get. I don't even know if I'm right about myself, I just know something is off. I had to be the adult when I was five, six, seven, always. So, now that I'm an adult and parent, well, it's all coming out now. I don't talk to my wife about this. She has no idea what is even in my head. I just tell her what she wants to hear so I can do other things that need done.
How about you? Your childhood story may not be as extreme as Adam's, yet don't we all want to get it right now? But what if biblical manhood has never been exampled to you, so you are left to guess at how to be a godly man, husband, and father?
I can relate. My father was abandoned by his dad when he was two. He did the best he could, but he never got the help he needed. We became part of a church that did not understand the problem my father was trying to solve. He was such a good-hearted man, but our church did not have a vision to disciple men. As a result, his four boys suffered greatly: two high school dropouts, one death by heroin overdose, vocational dysfunction, alcoholism, and divorce. I don't want that to happen to you.
But I have great news! It's not that hard to get where you want to be. My life was radically transformed when my wife and I walked into a different church where there were some disciple making men who understood why I was there. They wanted to know, "What is the problem you are trying to solve?" And then they took action. They took me under their wings and discipled me into biblical manhood. You can have the same cycle-breaking experience. Here are four suggestions…
1. Make sure you are part of a church with "a disciple making culture." A disciple is someone "called" to live in Christ, "equipped" to live like Christ, and "sent" to live for Christ. It makes me sad to say this, but if you are already in a church that is not making disciples, you need to find a new church. Don't think you can reform your existing church. First, you are a discipleship rookie. Second, culture is set from the top down. Third, change takes time you don't have. Third, the risk is too great to your young family. You don't want to end up like my dad. You definitely want to belong to a church that believes in Christ's mission, "Go and make disciples."
2. Ask for someone to take you under their wing and disciple you (this could be one-on-one or in a small group). When a man is stuck, discipleship means finding out why and then helping him solve that problem. Becoming a disciple is God's designated way to release the power of the gospel on every problem you face. To be a disciple of Jesus is the highest honor to which you can aspire. No matter how you got into your current situation, the only solution is to disciple your way out.
3. Begin a daily routine of spending time with the Lord. Shoot for at least five days a week. Start small. Read one chapter in the New Testament. Say a prayer, perhaps the Lord's prayer or one of the several popular acrostics like ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Personally, I have never known a man whose life has changed in any significant way apart from the regular study of God's Word.
4. Begin making disciples, starting with your own family. There is no better way to personally grasp the truth of God than by calling others to salvation, equipping them with the Word, and sending them to love and serve others. And no ministry you ever have will be more important than the family God has blessed you with and entrusted to your care.
You can add to this short list of suggestions as you begin to mature spiritually. And others may have valuable suggestions as well. However, in the near-term I strongly urge you to focus on your own biblical manhood. Focus on your own relationship with Jesus. Become a disciple first. You can't give what you don't have. And don't rush into service ministries. Take care of your own family first. Then, when you begin to fill up in your relationship with Jesus, you will one day sense that you not only have enough Jesus for you and your family, but an overflow that you can give away to others. At that point, you can begin to disciple other men who are, at that point, like you used to be.
And remember, God loves you very much. He wants you to succeed. That's why he sent his Son Jesus.
Until every church disciples every man…