The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 5

The Real Men's Club, Volume 1

In the final message of this series, Todd discusses the importance - and general lack of - mentors for men, and stresses the importance of being in authentic community with people who know you.

Todd WagnerOct 28, 2004

In This Series (5)
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 5
Todd WagnerOct 28, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 4
Todd WagnerOct 21, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 3
Todd WagnerOct 14, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 2
Todd WagnerOct 7, 2004
The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 1
Todd WagnerSep 30, 2004

Good morning. I want to start by saying that today I'm happy for Fred Hale. Anybody know who Fred Hale is? Yeah. A couple of you guys know. Fred Hale is the oldest living person, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. He's a 113-year-old guy. He was 27 the last time the Red Sox won a World Series. Think about that. I read this article yesterday, and the guy said, "Let me tell you, Babe Ruth was a great pitcher. We never should have traded him." I'm going, "Who talks in first person like he saw Babe Ruth pitch?"

Fred Hale is a guy who first got national notoriety about seven years ago when The Guinness Book of World Records recognized him as the world's oldest licensed driver at 107. Some folks in Boston were driving by his house one day not long after that and saw him on his roof shoveling snow off his roof. It says Fred watches the first few innings of every Red Sox game with his 84-year-old son, Fred Junior, before he retires for the evening. I love it. So I hope Fred wakes up happy this morning. Somebody ought to be.

What's great is here's this guy who's 113, and he's still watching ball with his son, forming a relationship. We're talking a lot in here about the things that mark us, and certainly sports are one of the great things fathers and sons bond over, but we want to make it really clear that a real man is not somebody who obtains athletic success, who has sexual conquest, or is professionally successful. A real man is something far more than that.

I love sports because of what it creates, what it builds into men, but it's always a means to an end and not an end in itself. The way they've rushed themselves into our society is amazing in terms of how it becomes a lot of times, "This is what makes you a man: when you're successful in the athletic arena," or when you're successful in the way men compete later in life, which is to see who can score the most attractive woman or the most number of women or the most amount of cash flow.

That's the way our world tells us that we, as men, are going to make our mark, and it's not the way we want to make our mark. I'm a huge fan of being excellent at whatever you do, whether that be athletically or professionally, but ultimately, that doesn't make you a man. We're going to wrap up today, and we're going to talk about one thing that's available to all of us that can help us take some of that ground we want to take so we can act like real men.

I had a great week, one of those hopefully life-changing memories for my kids and me. In 1967, I went to my first World Series. It was with my dad in St. Louis when they beat the Red Sox that particular year. This year, I got to throw my kids in the car Monday, and we drove to St. Louis. Their first World Series was watching one game with the Red Sox with me, and it was a lot of fun forming that memory.

What was great was not the memory of the Red Sox and the Cardinals. What was great was the 10 hours in the car ride up there. I left them there. We had tickets for tonight to go again, and I flew back to be here. I'm going to fly up there now and just pick them up and have 10 more great hours in the car just building into them.

You think about how many of you guys would love 10 hours with your hero, which is what I am to my kids right now, just alone with somebody who's going to be excited about sharing time with you, talking about life with you, celebrating a memory with you, and how much you'd pay for something like that. Well, that's what we're going to talk about today that is going to help us be the men the Lord wants us to be. We're going to start by watching this fun little clip.


Sam Gilula: Good morning. Does Frank Barone live here?

Robert Barone: What did he do?

Sam: Nothing. I'm just an old friend.

Ray Barone: Friend?

Sam: Are you his family?

Robert: Who wants to know?

Ray: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. He's our father. I'm Ray. This is Robert.

Sam: Well, my name is Sam Gilula. I haven't seen Mr. Barone in about 25 years. He's a great man, your father.

Ray: Did you say Frank Barone?

Sam: Yeah. When I was a teenager, I used to work after school at the same company as your father. He was a real mentor to me.

Robert: Mentor?

Ray: You sure you don't mean tormentor?

[End of video]

Yeah. That's right. Look at this little statement. Men have lost their design for greatness. In other words, we've forgotten what it is that makes us essentially great, and we've been duped into believing it's something else, typically associated with performance in an arena that the world can look at and applaud. Society mocks us in terms of what our role ultimately is because they see those who carried the responsibility of men in the past becoming either abusive or passive in their leadership.

Fathers don't often model it for young men, so they don't know what a man is supposed to be. Mothers either enable or control us to the point that they don't ask us to step up and be men or they tell us we shouldn't be anything like the men they know in their lives. Our own hearts deceive us and tell us being a man is something else. Men get what they want no matter what it does to other people or men run away from things because they're scared or fearful. We talked a lot about that last week, and everything I've said so far is what we've talked about each of the four weeks we've been together.

Then there's the last one. Too few men have men who are concerned for them and who really celebrate them, who cheer for them. Think about what most of our lives look like. When you are young, there are systems of support and encouragement that are built in. Now, again, we've acknowledged that some of those systems of support and encouragement abandon their role, and there's some real pain and anger and frustration and hurt and a sense of loss that some of us feel when dads don't do what it is God has designed dads to do.

But growing up, you have a mom and dad who are there to encourage you and to speak into your life and to support you. So much so that a lot of us sometimes say, "Yeah, yeah. You've got to say that. You're my dad" or "You're my parents." Kids sometimes don't really trust it. Even though they can't stand it if it's not there, if that's all there is, they go, "I need somebody else to affirm me other than these people who have to because they're responsible for me." There's a built-in protection there with moms.

As friends, as peer groups, you go through life, whether it's athletic teams or bands or whatever it is you're involved with at some level. There are coaches, if you're involved in the athletic arena, who invest in you, who want to develop you and nurture you and celebrate when you do great things. There are pep rallies. There are award ceremonies for doing well in academics, even doing well with citizenship or performing in certain areas. Within the school system, there are all kinds of systems that are set up to support you and to cheer for you.

You go to college. If you're still involved with sports, that athletic thing even gets tighter. Some guys go off and get into a fraternity where there's a group of guys who go through with them. There's a sense of people who are there for you to validate you, to celebrate who you are, to put their arms around you and take you to another level, but then, as you get older, that goes away. It just naturally goes away.

I heard a gentleman speak last night, a young man who just got done with a school out there in ACC, and he was just sharing a little bit about his life. He was speaking at a deal that was to try to further a specific ministry. He was just talking about how he kind of looks at where he is. Five years ago he was in high school, and today he's sitting at a table, and he's one of those guys who's supposed to put money in the envelope. So he's trying to figure out how much money he should do, but he's speaking about why he's committed to this ministry because of how it impacted him.

What he said was really significant. He said, "As I look back at my life and figure out what happened from five years ago to where I am today, as a guy who's going to get married this coming spring, as a guy who is now working in the business world, supposed to be salt and light, and I see just after a few short months in the business world the opportunity I have to make an impact in other people's lives, what happened these last five years that was supposed to position me and get me ready for this."

He said, "I had to look at it, and I had to acknowledge that my five years at this school back east… Not much really happened in those five years to form my character and make me the man I need to be today." He said, "For me, it was from when I was in sixth grade through twelfth grade and I had a mentor. I had a guy who poured into me. I had a guy who shared his life with me. I saw how he did it. I saw how he got married. I saw how he attacked his career. I saw how he challenged me. I saw how he spoke into my life with wisdom and warned me about some mistakes he made and celebrated for me good decisions I made."

He said, "What ultimately got me to the place that I'm ready to take the stage I'm on today is that I had somebody there for me to guide me," to supplement what, in his case, a very good father did. He was talking about the value of having somebody who is playing a positive, specific role in your life. That's what formed him as a man.

There was another guy who stood up and said he grew up in a home that by all definitions was Christian. He spoke about the fact that he, though, did not really have anybody who poured into him specifically and how some decisions he made had some disastrous results right up until the place that he spent some time in a federal pen. Now this man had been brought through a relationship where when he got out of that penitentiary, he was mentored.

Somebody came alongside of him to speak into his life, to teach him wisdom, to give him warnings, and to help him realize that though he grew up in a home, he didn't by osmosis become a certain kind of person. He said he saw his mom and dad do things early in the morning, pray, read the Bible, but he never had anybody really speak into his life until he came to this place that he was empty and humble, and then somebody spent for him one year to where now this guy is in a significant place of leadership in leading other folks.

I heard a story about somebody at a school district who walked up to a young man who was in the same position I just described and said, "We really appreciate what you do." The guy said, "Well, I appreciate what you do," knowing that this particular school administrator was involved with kids who are typically identified as the troubled kids.

In fact, the school administrator said, "Let me tell you, the kids I work with we classify as oppositionally defiant, and we see an increasing number of kids who are labeled oppositionally defiant." Meaning, they are violent and anything but passive in challenging, either verbally or physically, the authority that is over them.

This guy who was involved with kids he was spending time with said, "That's amazing. None of the kids I'm spending time with are oppositionally defiant in the way I'm influencing their lives." The administrator said, "That's exactly the point. I'm grateful for what you do. I wish you could do it with more, but the reason these kids, every one of them, are where they are is because they have nobody in their life doing for them what you're doing for those other kids."

I want to tell you, guys, what we're talking about today is what all of us need and what God intends for all of us to have, not just at a certain life stage but to pursue. You'll see models of it all the way through the Scripture. Here's what I want you to do very quickly. Just do this as a stream of consciousness. Don't put a lot of thought into it. You don't need to share this answer with anybody. You don't need to have anybody know that these are the three guys, and you might want to change later to three other guys.

Write down the three most influential men in your life. As you look back over your life, just write down initials or something of the three most influential men in your life. Let me give you literally 30 seconds. If you only write down one, great. If you don't have any guys to write down, fine, but just put initials or put down there the three most influential men in your life.

Looking at that, I'm going to speculate that most of you wrote down… Probably for a lot of you, if you had a good relationship with your father, he made it on the list. Others of you, I'm speculating, wrote down some coach, maybe even somebody who was in the role of some kind of youth leadership in some ministry or some presence in high school or possibly college, a person who came alongside of you.

Now here's what I want you to look at. I'm curious. How many of those men who you say are the most influential men in your life are actively involved in your life today on a regular basis, spending time with you, speaking wisdom into your life, warning you about different things, celebrating certain areas of your life, coming alongside of you regularly and saying, "What you just did was outstanding" in the way that a coach, a youth pastor of some kind, or a dad does?

Probably very few of you in the three you wrote down are guys who are actively involved with your life today. Now here's what I want you to do. I want you to write down the three men who are most influential, and I mean by that very present in your life, making an influence in your life today. If you had to say, "No question. These are the men who are playing that role in my life today," can you do it? Write it down.

Chances are most guys, as you write these down, are either in a very small minority if you have names or some of the people you write down are folks who influence you from afar. It's appropriate to have guys be able to speak into your life through their writings and through their speaking or things of that nature, but how many of those guys know you personally, are guys who would come after you, who can speak into your life, who know exactly where your struggles are, what skills you're looking to develop, what challenges you're facing, who are pulling for you, praying for you, partnering with you?

I'll tell you, if you don't have men who are like that in your life today, you're missing out on a key component you were intended to have as you seek to be a real man. Watch one more clip, and then we'll dive in and tear through this. This is a continuation of that same little episode, and then we'll get done laughing and dig in.


Ray: We couldn't help noticing that you really like this Sam guy and you were an inspiration to him and everything, and we kind of got jack.

Robert: Squat. Jack squat.

Frank Barone: Jack squat! Give me a break.

Debra Barone: See, Frank, maybe this is the attitude…

Ray: Stop! This is the attitude!

Robert: The same jack-squat attitude that proves the thesis of our discontent.

Frank: I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds like fruity whining to me.

Ray: You never gave us the time of day, so how do you think it makes us feel when we find out there's a kid out there that you're actually nice to?

Frank: Maybe he was actually nice to me! Did you ever think of that?

Ray: What?

Frank: He was nice to me! He respected me! You guys never did!

Robert: How could we respect you? How could we respect a guy who looks at you and says, "Stop brushing your teeth so loud; I'm trying to watch Gunsmoke"?

Marie Barone: You did brush loudly, Robert.

Frank: I was a great father.

Ray: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You gave us great inspiration, great advice. "Quit crying! You've got plenty of blood!"

Robert:"Don't screw up. You're big. Everyone will notice more."

[End of video]

That's brutal, but you get the idea. These guys are saying to their dad, "Hey, Dad. This guy came to our door. He said you mentored him. We're your boys. We didn't have that from you." A little bit later in that show, it's pretty funny, because the guy comes back, and as he leaves he wants to thank Frank for being his mentor, and he hugs Frank. Both of the sons are shocked. They show very clearly they've never been hugged by their dad.

They say, "Hey, why didn't you ever show that kind of affection? Why didn't you ever hug us?" Their dad looks at them and says, "If you guys leave my life for 25 years, I'll hug you too!" A lot of y'all, as you look back, kind of go, "You know what? If there has been anybody who has played a key role in my life, it has been 25 years since they've done it. I don't know if I have anybody in my life playing that specific role right now." That creates a problem for any of us and for all of us.

Here's the issue. Man's tendency (this is in all of us) to isolate, to deal in superficiality, to lead hurried lives, to operate in fear, and to inappropriately define accountability creates emotional, social, and spiritual deficits that result in these things, and it's huge: foolish actions, significant and serious setbacks, discouragement and a sense of defeat, and then ultimately, a poor stewardship of life. When you don't have a guy in your life who's going to push you through some blind spots, as you isolate yourself…

One of the things the Proverbs say is, "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom." Which is to say if you're not sharing life yoked with others, putting yourself in a place where others can help you get downwind of yourself, you will develop things in your life that everyone else can see but you have no idea are there. All of us have a tendency to move and drift toward isolation, because pursuing oneness exposes stuff that's painful in our lives.

Some of us are even in groups of guys who meet on a regular basis, but because we define accountability so poorly, we still end up, and often with more tragic consequences, because everybody goes, "See, that's not the solution. This guy had met with a group every Friday. This guy even met with a group of guys who said they were a prayer group or a Bible study, yet his life didn't have any transformation."

Just getting together to have coffee and calling yourself an accountability group doesn't mean you're holding each other accountable, doesn't mean you're speaking with wisdom into each other's lives, warning each other in a loving way, being faithful friends who wound when they need to. We've shared that there are a lot of guys who we know in this community, because it is kind of a little bit of a trendy thing and more encouraged in this community to have a group of guys you somehow meet with on a regular basis and have time together with…

One of the biggest problems some guys in this community have is not that they don't have guys they meet with, but they think they're meeting with guys when all they're doing is getting together and having small talk and talking about very superficial things and not moving deeply into each other's lives, not asking their wives, "Hey, tell us how your husband is doing" and creating an environment where that wife feels safe enough to say, "I'll tell you. We're really struggling right now."

Talking to the kids of those guys, knowing enough about their business practices, their financial condition over a period of time where they're really safe and exchange that information, and having somebody who you see is ahead of you in the game in some form or fashion, who is skilled in the way they do life, mentoring you, shepherding you, spurring you on. All through the Bible, you'll see successful examples of what I'm talking about today.

We all know Moses as a great leader. One of the things that made Moses a significantly great leader is he was a humble guy who knew he didn't have all of the answers. His father-in-law Jethro bailed him out of one of the biggest binds he could have ever gotten himself into. He came alongside Moses and said, "Moses, you've just been thrust into a leadership position, and you don't have a clue how to do it. You're going to exhaust yourself, and you're going to frustrate the people. Let me give you a system that would work. It works with me."

Then you find Moses taking one young man with him everywhere he went and modeling for that young man what it means to be a leader. You have Jethro to Moses, Moses to Joshua. You have a guy named Elijah who was the very first prophet who spoke boldly to God's people. He had a young sidekick named Elisha. He mentored him, brought him along. You have Jesus pouring into 12 guys. You have Barnabas, whose name means encouragement, come alongside a radical terrorist who had met Christ and mentor him.

You have that radical terrorist, a guy by the name of Paul, who later takes a young man by the name of Timothy, and on and on and on it goes. You see a model that is set up. Not just father/son, but you see a model of men having other men who consistently encourage and sharpen them. If you don't, you will see an increase in foolish actions, serious setbacks, great discouragement, and an overall poor stewardship of life to where we have to give an account as men. It's not going to be a pleasant accounting.

One of the things you can see when you read through the Old Testament, which is just a history book of one nation, is a succession of terrible leadership. Even when you see good leaders, you'll often find that they didn't do a good job of mentoring the next generation of leaders, so those leaders in themselves left a legacy not of prosperity for the people, but because they didn't show somebody else how to make something work in a way that would honor God and help them to be real kings or real men, you'll see destruction that will come.

One of the things I'm going to tell you a little bit later is that your success ultimately is going to be determined by your successor. One of the things that will allow me to have a lasting impact is that I, at some point, have to be thinking about who is going to take and carry forward what one day I'm not going to be able to carry forward.

Part of him carrying it forward is not just that he'll do a successful job during his generation of leadership, but will he have the mindset of pouring into others the way I intentionally poured into him and communicated to him, "Look. These things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who one day will be able to teach others also."

Is there that model going on today? I'll make a case that where it's not you have an increase of all of these things. You'll find that that is very clear. It says, "He walked in the wickedness of the ways of his father," and then it lists his name, because if there is any mentorship or leadership or any locking arms with somebody, often it's that legacy of destruction.

Do you want to know what a real man is? A real man is a man made in the image of God. There's a guy who said once, "If you're made in your God's image, then your God doesn't impress me very much." Being made in God's image is not just a physical thing. It's not just that we have a mind and an intellect and a will. There should still be something about our character that when men see other men who walk with God, they should go, "That is glorious."

That's what it means when it says in Scripture, "For all men have sinned. They've left their calling and have fallen short of the glory of God." Meaning, we don't have in our lives the glorious life God intended for us because we have left his way and chosen our own way. In that, all of us leave who our Creator is. We create our own image, and it's not nearly as glorious as the image God intended for us to have.

This is the image God wanted us to have: to bear his image, which is to pursue justice, to exemplify good, to live without regard to self, to be glorious, to exhibit kindness, to extend grace, to offer forgiveness, to remain reliable, to establish security, to embody strength, to provide protection, to define integrity, to show mercy, to lead with love. Part of being made in the image of God (this is huge) is to live in relationship.

There is something significant about the fact that the God who created us has revealed himself as one God. We are a monotheistic people, but that one God has said he exists in three persons, and what he says in the midst of that is that those three persons are one in essence, distinct in individuality, and they are submissive and subjective to each other in their roles and their desire to exalt and encourage each other. There is eternal community. There is eternal completion and encouragement and love.

God has forever existed in relationship even though he is one, and that blows our categories. What God says is, "Look. You don't try to figure me out; you accept who I am as I reveal myself to you. Part of being who I am is somebody who exists in love, and I created you to exist in the exact same way." In that you don't have guys who are around you, men you're sharing life with, you're not bearing part of the image and getting part of the grace God intends for you to have as one he created to bear his glory.

Here's the truth. Four different proverbs that talk about this. First, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." As I reflected on that, I just put this: authentic relationships with other men are igniters of a healthy life. What I mean by that is that we have the kindling to be the men God wants us to be, but the only thing that's going to send a spark into our lives that's going to allow us to begin to ignite and burn with the brightness and heat and intensity and the flame of hope that the world wants to see in us is when other men are around us.

When you get other guys who are committed to the same thing, that alone God uses with his Spirit to drive us where he wants us. It is an igniter of a healthy life. When you isolate yourself from that, you will not burn with the glory God intends you to burn with. So to isolate yourself from this thing I'm talking about today is going to make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to be the real man God wants you to be. It's not an option.

I want to make a case that to say no to this is as foolish as saying no to prayer, as saying no to God's Word. Having men in your life never supplants God's Word, but it's one of the first things God's Word drives you toward. Look at the second proverb. Proverbs 18:24: "A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Here's what I wrote about this little one: authentic relationships with other men are antidotes to an irresponsible life.

In other words, what it's saying in Proverbs 18 is that if you're a guy with a lot of superficial relationships or if you're committed to being every man's friend, to living your life by the polls, you will come to ruin. You won't stand for anything. You won't have somebody who's coming along saying, "I know who you want to be. You don't want to be just some politicker who gets elected at whatever cost. You want to be a man. You want to be a real man who leads and loves. So don't be a friend of every man."

One of the ways you can judge the greatness of a man is by knowing who his enemies are. If you don't have anybody who has a problem with what you stand for in a world that is still bent toward sin, I question whether or not you're a man of integrity. We have a world that needs leaders. One person would say "needs statesmen," but all they have is politicians.

We have a country that wants politicians, but they don't need them. They need authentic statesmen, leaders, who will do what is good for the people. I know that's really offensive to some folks. They go, "Who are you to tell me what's good for me?" I would say I'm nobody, but I would also say the God who created us and spoke into our lives what would make us a glorious people and a glorious nation has plenty to say.

Authentic relationships with other men are an antidote to an irresponsible life. Not when you have superficial relationships, not when you speak in sound bites and at pep rallies, but when you sit down with other guys and go, "You have total access to me, including the ability to expose me and to call me a fraud. You ignite a healthy movement in my life."

Look at this next little statement in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Authentic relationships with other men are provisions for the difficulties of life. It's going to get tough, and we need somebody who can come alongside of us and pick us up.

One of the things God does and one of the ways he's revealed in the Scriptures is as somebody who's a lifter of our heads. Psalm 3: "Thou, O Lord, art a shield around me. You're my glory and the lifter of my head." I can think of specific moments in my life when I have made mistakes that I've felt let other people down. Most of them that rush to my mind are athletically, and I kind of go, "Dadgum!" But I've also done the exact same thing, with much more devastation, relationally in my life, not on as big of a stage but with much more pain in the small arenas that I've done it.

When I have folks who come alongside of me and say, "Todd, look, man. You just blew it right there…" I'm talking relationally now. "Let's all agree that what you did was a huge mistake. Now learn from it. I believe you can do better next time. I think you can love that woman better. I think you can lead that group better. I think you can react with more compassion. I think you have it in you to be more sensitive, to be a better listener, to not be so harsh, to not be so flippant, to not be so quick. I trust you. I know you can do it. Here's where we went wrong. Come on. We need you to be this man." To have guys who can come around and say that to you.

I can remember, and I'm doing it right now with my little boys as I coach them… When they make a mistake, we tell them, "Hey, great athletes live for the next play." I let them watch the World Series. I said, "Did you see Jeter? (This was in the ALCS.) Did you see that error he made? What did he do when he made that error? Did he throw his glove down? Did he quit? Did he walk into the dugout and cry? The best players in the world make mistakes, but what makes them great is that they persevere and get in there and keep going."

We tell these little kids, "Hey, we believe in you. You've got what it takes. You can make it. Get your head up. Come on. We're going to need you next inning." I'd be telling Scott Rolen right now if I'm Tony La Russa, "We're going to need you next year, Scott. Yeah, you just had the absolute worst World Series for a cleanup hitter since 1911. It's a fact. Zero for the series. Hey, buddy, you can cave right now or you can right now know this is going to be a defining moment in your life. We're going to need you next year. Don't let this define you. Get your head up. Let's go."

Look at the next one. Let us consider how to stimulate… I used that word stimulate because it basically means to annoy. This is not stimulate like sexual pleasure here. This is stimulate like, "Hey, man. That's annoying to me." Let us consider how we can do whatever we need to do to drive one another to a good place. That's the idea right here. Sometimes faithful friends play that role. "Hey, you're not hearing me." Have you ever had somebody grab you by the cheeks and go, "Look at me! Listen to me!" Maybe not since you were little, but you know what? All of us need that.

I've had some stuff going on in my life recently where I have about 10 different guys who are saying the exact same thing to me right now, and they are, metaphorically and sometimes physically, grabbing my cheeks and going, "You're not listening to us, big boy. We're going to celebrate all that is good, but we're going to love you enough that we don't really care. Listen to me. This is an area you can do better in." I need that. I hate it. It is so painful. I mean, I hate it, but I know it's making me a better man.

Authentic relationships with other men are essential for us to maximize our life. It is a fact. You cannot be the man you want to be unless you are availing yourself to this gift. Here we go. All men need men who will give them (I'm going to give you three words) acceptance, affirmation, and accountability. That's what I'm asking you to pursue, because it's what God says you need as a person created in his image. He doesn't need it; you need it. He has given it to us as his gift for us.

There are folks out there who will love you, who will encourage you, and who will speak the truth to you. You might go, "I wish I could find those men." I'm going to give you steps to get to that place. All men need men who will give them acceptance. Too many guys operate in fear. "I've been hurt too many times. I'm never going to ask another guy to love me and be essential and needed in my life again." That's operating in fear, not in truth. Guys who will affirm you and guys who will ultimately hold you accountable.

That doesn't mean you want that last thing; I'm telling you you need it. Isolated men are not real men. I say that because if you think about what God originally designed us for… Real meaning authentic, original, without blemish. Real men know how to do these things. They know how to commit and step up and say, "I will do this. I will be in life with you." They learn how to communicate. If you decide to lock arms with some guys, it's going to be not very long before you get to a place where you go, "This is kind of awkward" and you learn how to speak the truth in love.

"The words of the wise make knowledge acceptable," it says in Proverbs 15. Part of being a man is you learn to confess your mistakes. You're not supposed to be perfect, but real men who don't live in isolation but are thrust into relationships have to learn to say, "You know what? I've disappointed you. I've hurt you, haven't I? Let me agree." That's what that word confess means. "Let me agree with you that I did not do my part."

Real men learn how to change. What does it take? How do men change? Where does transformation come from? They learn that so they don't drive people crazy. I love this statement. It's true. "Everybody is normal until you get to know them." I grew up listening to Casey Kasem. Casey Kasem would end America's Top 40 with the statement, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Now Jeff Foxworthy has a countdown, and he has his own little statement he ends with. He says, "Call your mom and hug your kids. Everybody's family is crazy." That's what he says. That's the way he ends his show. How many of you have looked at other families and went, "Man, I wish my family was like that"? Probably some of you married into a family and went, "This is great. I'm marrying somebody with a healthy family," and then you had a few Thanksgivings with them. They're crazy! They're absolutely whacked. Everybody is normal until you get to know them.

Real men live in the company of coaches and teammates. I'll give you a couple of different metaphors here. Sergeants and a platoon. Real men have mentors and live with other men. You don't isolate yourself from leaders and from peers. Here's a solution. I love this statement by Joe Ehrmann. Joe Ehrmann, by the way, is a guy who played pro football with the Colts. This is a Parade magazine article from August of this year. It says, "Why We Believe He Is the Most Important Coach in America."

It's not because he has led his team to state championships. It's because of the way this man leads. There are a couple of quotes I've pulled out of this article. "Masculinity ought to be defined in terms of relationships and taught in terms of the capacity to love and be loved." Joe Ehrmann is saying too many times, manhood is defined and measured by athletic ability, sexual conquest, and economic success. He goes, "That's what I thought a man was when I was playing pro ball, and I realized that is nothing that a man is."

It's a guy who has eventually dealt with his depraved heart, and now he's speaking wisdom and truth that the world is looking at and going, "Man, if we had guys who would mentor people like Joe Ehrmann, this would be a better place." He is the most significant and important mentor/leader/coach, not just coaching football but coaching lives, in America today. Do you know why? Because the world cannot resist something when they see it as glorious, right, and true.

Joe Ehrmann is a guy who has dealt with society's wound, his father wound, his mother wound, has dealt with his depravity wound, and he's being a real man. When he is that man, the world looks at that and goes, "That's glorious. We're going to put him on the cover of a national magazine and say, 'I wish more men were like this.'" Doesn't that encourage you? That encourages me, because when the world sees a real man living as God created man to live, doing what God created man to do, they can't resist it, even if some folks resent it because it calls them to a higher standard.

This is what I put: real men don't live life alone. Two things here: they intentionally share their life and their learnings with others. That's the idea of having a coach and a teammate. You say, "I'm going to be a teammate. I'm going to find me a coach. I'm going to be in this platoon. I'm going to listen to the sergeant, underneath the authority of Christ. That's my ultimate authority always, but I'm going to have guys who I know can speak into my life."

Great men are great mentors to other men. Guys, I'm firmly convinced of this: your success is ultimately determined by your successor. No man, I've said in here already, ever rises above the opinion of his child. You can tell me all day long what kind of men you are, but let me ask those who are around your life and see what they want to be after being around you. Do you want to be a great man? Then you have to have a great legacy.

The way you have a great legacy is you step up and pour your life into others. You love them, you lead them, you provide for them, you protect them, you give them direction, and you reject passivity. Look at this. Great mentors provide three things: wisdom… Let me just tell you this. A mentor is not the same as a discipler. A discipler always has a spiritual component to it. Mentors don't always. There are vocational mentors who will tell you how to do well in business. There are recreational mentors who will tell you how to fly fish. There are spiritual mentors, life mentors.

When you think about a mentor… In every area of your life, it's good to have guys who have been before you who can teach you. They'll speak wisdom into your life. "This is how you do it. This is something I've learned." They'll speak into your life with warnings. "Don't do this. Man, I've done this. These are mistakes I have made." They give words of encouragement to you, and they have "Well dones."

In other words, they take moments in your life where they pull you aside and say, "I just want to tell you something. I am so proud of you. I noticed what you did. I've seen the effect you've made. I noticed that decision. Well done." They affirm you, just like they used to do on all of the little teams you played on. Player of the week. Hit of the week. Student of the week, whatever it might be, and folks go, "This was well done."

That's what great men who are mentoring and building into others do. They look for moments where they say, "Let me just stop here and say we hold you in high regard for the way you're living." Great mentors don't want fans; they want humble men with a plan. A guy named George Young… George Young was a four-time NFL executive of the year. George Young was the guy who took over the New York Giants as the general manager after seven consecutive losing seasons.

The first thing he did was he drafted a young no-name quarterback out of Moorhead State. Seven years later, that kid was All-Pro and led them to their first Super Bowl in years. Three years later, he took them back. This guy named George Young hired an unknown coach named Bill Parcells, and you guys know what the NFL thinks of him today. He's the guy who took Lawrence Taylor and said, "We're going to make him the second pick in the draft and build around him defensively." And on and on and on.

George Young was one of the most respected general managers in the history of the NFL. One of the things that happened when George Young died a few years ago… I just happened to be listening to the radio, and a guy called in. It was another general manager, and they were talking about George Young and what he did and his professional accomplishments, but the best thing I heard was this guy said, "What George Young taught me is that great men are desperate to teach what they know to others who they believe will be responsible with it."

Listen to that. What this guy called in to say was, "I learned from George Young that great men are desperate to take what they know and give it to others who they know will be responsible with it." He talked about how when he, with intelligence, went to George Young and asked him questions about what he did, why he did the way he did it, George Young had all the time in the world for him.

I have to tell you, there are guys in circles and arenas like that who have made it who don't want fans. They don't want hero worshipers to come around and become "somebodies" because they're telling people, "I had lunch with George Young," but George Youngs of the world are desperate to find somebody who is faithful, available, and teachable so they can take those things and make their legacy significant.

They don't want fans, because they know there's nothing really there to worship, but they love guys with a plan. So, here's the plan I want to give you today if you're serious about pursuing this. First, you have to know who to ask. In other words, someone who models what it is you're really after. Specifically and primarily, I want you to look at a guy who the world would look at and say, "That is what a man looks like." I want somebody that God is going to say to this man, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

That's the kind of man you ought to pursue, somebody who's an individual who isn't Machiavellian in his tendencies and techniques. Machiavelli was a guy who accomplished great things, but his motto was "Whatever the ends are will justify the means." In other words, Gordon Gekko. Do you remember the movie Wall Street? Very successful guy, would love to mentor somebody on how to become a financially dominant wizard like he was, but he's not a guy worth getting mentored by. You have to find men who are going to hear from their Father, from the Creator, from the ultimate Judge, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Realize that you're not going to ever find a mentor who won't disappoint you at some level, and the closer you get, you're going to find out that even your mentor and your most admired men are a little bit crazy. You get around Billy Graham, you're going to find out there are some holes there. There's only one man who won't disappoint you, and he already abides in you as your mentor if you know him in the person of the Holy Spirit. Everybody else has flaws. But you have to know who to ask and why you're asking him. Find somebody who is skilled in living.

Secondly, know why you're asking. This gets to the point I was just talking about. If you're looking for a best friend, if you're looking for somebody that you can tell people you meet with so you can impress folks at parties, then you'd better not ask. If you want somebody that if you can just spend time with your hero, somebody you want to use and exploit in some way other than humbling yourself before them intentionally, then you'd better not ask, because they will smell that immediately.

I can remember there was one guy a number of years ago, about two decades ago, who I really admired, and I wanted some time with him, but I didn't even know why. I just think I wanted to be around him because I knew other people thought he was a great guy. I made an appointment to be with him, and I went into his office and sat down with him, and about seven minutes after being there, I found myself outside of his office talking to his receptionist again.

I kind of go, "How did I get out here?" It took me three weeks to get some time with him, and within seven minutes he politely ushered me to his door, and I was outside with his receptionist. I thought to myself, "What happened?" I had a chance to be with this guy that I could tell people I had a meeting with, this hero. I'll tell you what happened. Right away, he figured out I wasn't there for any other reason than to get to tell people I was with him, and in a very gentle, loving way, he asked me a few personal questions. He realized I didn't know why I was there, so he got on to the next thing.

Since then, I have developed a friendship and a relationship with that guy where I've talked about that moment with him. He didn't even remember it, of course, but he said, "I've done that to a lot of guys. The reason I spend time with you now is because there's substance to what you want to spend time with me." That gets to the next point.

Know how to ask. Guys, this is huge. Respect people's time. George Youngs of this world, individuals you respect and have time with, want to spend time with you. Don't go up and say, "I want to get together on a regular basis. I want you to mentor me. I want you to be my coach. I want you to be somebody who has coffee with me over a period of time so I can slowly, through osmosis, become like you." No. You have to respect their time.

What I like to do with guys when I'm trying to spend time with them… If I feel like there's a learning I can get from somebody, I call them or write them and say, "I need 30 minutes of your time. Here are the specific questions I'd like answered. If you feel like you could better serve me by answering these questions another way, I'm comfortable with that. But here's exactly what I want to ask you. I will get up and leave your office in 30 minutes unless you ask me to stay." That'll get you access to almost anybody if you do that well.

If you know what to ask and you tell them why you're asking them that and you do the work before you get there… By the way, that kind of relationship is not the mentor I'm talking about who knows you and follows you and prays for you in a distinctive way, but the point is you have to respect these folks' time and know how to ask what you're asking for.

Lastly, know how to avail yourself to what is already there. Don't ever be somebody who's going to call somebody up and ask for 30 minutes of their time if they've already written a book that answers the question you're seeking. You have to know, "What have I already made myself aware of that this person has put out there for me?" Don't ask them to spend some time with you…

For instance, if there's a guy you really respect because he speaks on an issue, make sure you've listened to certain series he has done on that issue, and then, as different questions are created through that series, go, "Hey, I'd like to know what you meant by this or what we could do with that." You don't do it just to get the opportunity; you do it because you really want to grow and take new ground.

Guys, you pray. "God, I know you want this in my life." So you prioritize. "I'm going to pursue it. I'm not going to make excuses. I'm going to make it happen in my life. I'm going to elevate what role it plays in my life, and I'm not going to be satisfied until I have what I know I need. I'm going to partner with others." One of the things to make other people's time more valuable is you say, "Hey, four of us…"

I look out and see a friend of mine in this little group right here who said, "Hey, I want some time with you to talk about leadership," and I said, "You go find three friends you're leading, you guys write down a series of questions and send them to me, and I'll get with you guys, and we'll spend all the time you want talking about the specific things you want to talk about with leadership.

But the very first thing I'm going to ask you to do is you tell me who you're leading. Who are guys you can influence enough to tell me that you'll get them up at 6:00 in the morning to meet with us so that when we meet I'm not just speaking to you; I'm speaking to a group of guys you're trying to go through life with?"

Partner with others. Say, "Let's do this together. Let's make him a coach to us, but let's go through life and lead and be on this team of leadership as men who make a difference together." And persist. If the first guy you ask, the first 10 guys you ask aren't available for whatever reason, don't quit, don't flee, don't give up, don't whine. Be a man. "I'm going to find this. I'm not going to get my heart broken by one woman, by one mentor, and say, 'Oh, I tried.' I'm going to get out there and get what I know I need."

We close with this: real men connect deeply with others. I believe this firmly. You can't be a real man if you're not sharing life with others. That's why these small groups are about to start. If you don't have a team of guys to go through life with, it's the first thing you ought to get. Get a group of guys who are going to take the stuff we've talked about these last five weeks and go another five weeks with it, and then maybe you might find some guys there you want to keep connecting with.

I will tell you, if you're not already in a regular, authentic way, not with pretend accountability but really getting to know each other in life like that, we're giving you a chance to join a team today. Don't squander that opportunity. Real men connect with others. I also will say this. If there's a single guy in this room who has never had a dad to shepherd them, to father them, I will personally guarantee that we will, in a sense, re-father you in a way that God would have us, as men who, by the grace of God, are growing in that direction ourselves.

You have no excuse, because we're telling you we are willing and ready if you really want it. We want to invest our lives in faithful, available, teachable men. We have guys waiting for this opportunity. Real men connect deeply with others. They live by a code of honor. In other words, they don't do what their flesh wants. They don't do what's easy for them. They live by a sense of integrity and nobility and honor that the world cannot mistake.

Lastly, they live for a cause that's greater than themselves. They have a cause they live for that is bigger than just their own comfort. Real men live as Christ. You can see that Christ is the embodiment of all of these things as he rejects passivity and accepts responsibility for his role. You saw that Christ was not just a guy who rejected passivity, but he accepted responsibility.

"Not my will but your will be done. I will do the job you've sent me to do. I will love the woman you gave me to love. I accept responsibility for my charge." Who's the woman Christ loved? The church, the bride of Christ. Rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, and leads courageously; provides direction, protection, and provision. That's what real men are.

Guys, we want to share life with you. We want to be on the team with you that is making a difference in this city and this world, because we're going to say we're going to be the men God created us to be. You just have to let us. There are no tryouts here. There's just a willingness to say, "I want that, and I'll pursue that, because that's what God intended me to be. If I'm going to be real, I'm going to be what I was created to be, and I know I can't do that in isolation." So join us.

Father, I thank you for these guys and the commitment they've made to sacrifice to get up early now for five weeks and just to reflect together on the things that wound us, that keep us from being the men we want to be. We can either use those as excuses or face them head-on and live courageously, confidently, with faith depend on truth to take ground back.

Lord, I pray that what comes out of this is not just a good time we had as men but a group of women who say, "I am blessed because there's a man in my life with this characteristic"; a society that says, "We are blessed because these men lead us"; children who are blessed because they say, "These guys model for us"; other men who say, "We are encouraged and we are sharpened and we are better because this man comes alongside of me."

We don't want this to be an end; we want this to be a means, Father, to your end, where we are the salt and light and men you've created us to be. I pray, Lord, that you raise up some heroes in this room, some men who Parade magazine would want to put on the front and say, "This is the most valuable citizen in the country" because he is being what any glorious individual should be.

Lord, we know as we become more like Christ we'll be just that, because magazines keep throwing him on the cover. Men keep debating who this Jesus was, because he above all men is a real man, exactly what you created men to be, and we want to follow hard in his steps. Help us to lead courageously. Help us to accept responsibility and reject passivity just like he did. For his glory and our good, amen.

About 'The Real Men's Club, Volume 1'

(Fall 2004) There is a different Men's Club in town - a place where men of strength and integrity are willing to face the truth even if it involves pain from present or past troubled relationships or circumstances. At this club there are men who are willing to live their lives with honor. Men who are responding to a noble call. A call to live for a something greater than their own pleasure, prominence or gain.