I was reminded again this morning that parenting is a goal-oriented endeavor. In this article from The Atlantic, which highlights the increasing relational isolation that adolescents and teenagers are facing as a result, ironically, of their hyper-connectivity. What struck me is not just the deleterious effects of significant unsupervised time on smartphones, but more fundamentally, the widespread absence of engaged parenting. Parents who, without thinking, have seemingly abdicated their parenting responsibility during the crucial adolescent and teenage years. That void, according to this article, is being increasingly filled by various media accessed on Smartphones and Tablets. Media that is in no way benign. These kids are being influenced, and the question that is not being asked is: by whom?
For the Christian parent: you have your kids in the home and under your direct and God-given influence for a season. In God’s good design, parents are to be intentional about training their children to assume adult responsibility (that is the goal oriented endeavor I spoke about above) while being actively engaged in their day to day lives through the adolescent and teenage years. This includes, monitoring their influences for their well being.
If you are to lead well as a parent, you must know what objectives you are leading toward. As a parent of four boys, my thinking has been helped by Al Mohler’s writings on The Marks of Manhood, which I have summarized below. In this instance, these are goals or objectives for parents of boys to guide them into mature manhood.
1. Spiritual Maturity to Lead a Wife and Children
The Bible is clear about a man’s responsibility to exercise spiritual maturity and spiritual leadership. Of course, this spiritual maturity takes time to develop, and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit working within the life of the believer. The disciplines of the Christian life, including prayer and serious Bible study, are among the means God uses to develop spiritual maturity in a man who is called to lead a wife and family. This spiritual leadership is central to the Christian vision of marriage and family life. A man’s spiritual leadership is not a matter of dictatorial power, but of firm and credible spiritual leadership and influence. A man is called to lead his wife and his children in a way that will honor God, demonstrate godliness, inculcate Christian character, and lead his family to desire Christ and to seek God’s glory. Spiritual maturity is a mark of true Christian manhood.
2. Personal Maturity Sufficient to be a Responsible Husband and Father
Biblical manhood is always defined in terms of functions, roles and responsibilities – including leadership. True masculinity is not a matter of exhibiting supposedly masculine characteristics devoid of the context of responsibility. In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father. Unless granted the gift of celibacy for Gospel service, the Christian man is to be concerned about his marriage and parenting role.
Marriage is unparalleled in its effect on men, as it channels their energies and directs their responsibilities to the devoted covenant of marriage and the grace-filled community of the family. Men must respect and honor the marriage covenant and they must earn the respect and confidence of a wife.
Christian men must understand the responsibilities of fatherhood including the care, training, education, protection and discipline of children. They must aspire to be the kind of man a Christian woman finds security in being married to and have children who trust, respect and obey him.
3. Economic Maturity Sufficient to Hold a Job and Handle Money
A real man knows how to earn, manage and respect money. A Christian man understands the danger that comes from the love of money and fulfills his responsibility as a Christian steward. The portrait of young manhood made popular in the media and presented as normal through entertainment is characterized by economic carelessness, self-centeredness and laziness. A real man knows how to hold a job, handle money with responsibility and take care of the needs of his wife and family. A failure to develop economic maturity means that young men often float from job to job and take years to “find themselves” in terms of career and vocation. An extended adolescence marks a huge segment of today’s young male population.
Skills which mark economic maturity include knowledge of how to work, how to save, to invest and to spend money with care. He must be taught to respect labor, and to feel the satisfaction that comes from a job well done, and a dollar honestly earned.
4. Physical Maturity Sufficient to Work and Protect a Family
Unless afflicted by injury or illness, a man should develop the physical maturity that, by stature and strength, marks recognizable manhood. Of course, men come in many sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical strength, but common to all men is a maturity, through which a man demonstrates his masculinity by movement, confidence and strength. A man must be ready to put his physical strength on the line to protect his wife and children and to fulfill his God-assigned tasks. True maturity means that adult strength is combined with adult responsibility.
5. Sexual Maturity Sufficient to Marry and Fulfill God’s Purposes
Male sexuality separated from the context and integrity of marriage is an explosive and dangerous reality. A Christian man is accountable to God for his stewardship of this great gift of sexuality. Even as the society celebrates sex in every form and at every age, the true Christian man practices sexual integrity, avoiding pornography, fornication, all forms of sexual promiscuity and corruption. He understands the danger of lust, but rejoices in the sexual capacity and reproductive power God has put within him, committing himself to his wife, earning her love, trust, and admiration.
6. Moral Maturity Sufficient to Lead as Example of Righteousness
Moral maturity is marked by learning to think like a Christian, act like a Christian, and model righteous living for others. The Christian man is to be an example to others, teaching by both instruction and example. Of course, this requires the exercise of responsible moral reasoning. True moral education begins with a clear understanding of moral standards, but must move on to the higher level of moral reasoning by exercising wisdom in applying biblical principles into godly living and meeting the moral challenges of his day with the truths revealed in God’s inerrant and infallible Word. Men must learn how to weigh evidence and think clearly, and how to prioritize values according to a biblical standard. A real man knows how to make a decision and live with its consequences – even if that means that he must later acknowledge that he has learned by making a bad decision, and then by making the appropriate correction.
7. Worldview Maturity Sufficient to Understand what is Really Important
Our Christian discipleship must be demonstrated in the development of a Christian mind. The Christian man must understand how to interpret and evaluate issues across the spectrum of politics, economics, morality, entertainment, education and a seemingly endless list of other fields. We must develop the capacity to translate Christian truth into genuine Christian thinking. A man must learn how to defend biblical truth before his peers and in the public square, and he must acquire the ability to extend Christian thinking, based on biblical principles, to every arena of life.
8. Relational Maturity Sufficient to Understand and Respect Others
Psychologists now talk of “emotional intelligence,” or EQ, as a major factor in personal development. While the world has given much attention to IQ, EQ is just as important. Individuals who lack the ability to relate to others are destined to fail at some of life’s most significant challenges and will not fulfill some of their most important responsibilities and roles. A man is to learn to demonstrate emotional strength, constancy and steadfastness, he must be able to relate to his wife, his children, his peers, his colleagues and a host of others in a way that demonstrates respect, understanding and appropriate empathy.
9. Social Maturity Sufficient to Make a Contribution to Society
While the arena of the home is an essential and inescapable focus of a man’s responsibility, he is also called out of the home into the workplace and the larger world as a witness and as one who will make a contribution to the common good. God has created human beings as social creatures, and even though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, we must also fulfill our citizenship on earth. The Christian man bears a civic responsibility as a shaper of the society for righteousness and justice. A Christian man must learn how to relate to unbelievers, both as a witness and as a fellow citizen of an earthly kingdom.
10. Character Maturity Sufficient to Demonstrate Courage under Fire
In these days, biblical manhood requires great courage. The prevailing ideologies and worldviews of this age are inherently hostile to Christian truth and are corrosive to Christian faithfulness. It takes great courage for a man to devote himself unreservedly to his wife and to the duties of fatherhood. It takes great courage to say “no” to what this culture insists are rightful pleasures and delights of the flesh. It takes courage to maintain personal integrity in a world that devalues the truth, disparages God’s Word, and promises self-fulfillment and happiness only through the exercise of personal autonomy. In the end, a man’s character is revealed in the crucible of everyday challenges. For most men, life will also bring moments when extraordinary courage will be required, if he is to remain faithful and true.
11. Biblical Maturity Sufficient to Lead at Some Level in the Church
A close look at many churches will reveal that a central problem is the lack of biblical maturity among the men of the congregation and a lack of biblical knowledge that leaves men ill equipped and completely unprepared to exercise spiritual leadership.
Men must be taught to know, to treasure, to honor and to understand the Bible. They must know their way around the biblical text and feel at home in the study of God’s Word. They must be taught how to read with care, “rightly dividing the Word of truth,” and they must learn how to apply the eternal truths of God’s World to the challenges of modern manhood.
Furthermore, they must stand ready to take their place as leaders in the local church. While God has appointed specific officers for his church – men who are specially gifted and publically called – every man should fulfill some leadership responsibility within the life of the congregation. For some men, this may mean a less public role of leadership than others. In any event, a man should be able to teach someone and to lead in some ministry, translating his personal discipleship into the fulfillment of a godly call. There is a role of leadership for every man in every church, whether that role is public or private, large or small, official or unofficial. A man should know how to pray before others, to present the Gospel and to stand in the gap where a leadership need is apparent.