How to Be a ‘REAL Man’
By Gary Olsby
What one church decided about how to help the men they serve in a day when most men are confused about how to be the man God wants.
I have a friend named Nick. He’s a great guy—funny, athletic, a hard worker, a good leader, and a good citizen. He’s a good husband and a great father who provides well for his family. He’s also a loyal Northside Christian Church member (NCC is where these thoughts were developed).
You’d like him, too, if you ever got a chance to know him. But Nick has some issues. You see . . .
• He’s confused about how to balance home, work, and church.
• He’s confused about what spiritual leadership in the home is all about.
• He’s confused about how to make financial commitments in this tough economy.
• He’s confused about how to take his faith into the marketplace.
• He’s confused about sexual purity. And, in this sensual society, sometimes he wonders if it’s even possible.
• He’s confused about God’s grace and believing that God loves him.
• And he’s confused about what a “real man” is.
This confusion leads him to isolate himself from others because he feels like he’s the only confused person. He hates that these things stress him out, but doesn’t think he can do anything about it. He feels trapped and like he’s running on empty.
Nick’s not the only one confused. Most men are confused on some level. And we’re confused about our own manhood—about being a real man. Steve Sonderman tells us, “Most men in our society do not have a compelling vision of manhood, a vision that calls them up as men.”1
Well, our men’s ministry leadership team decided to do something about this confusion at Northside—we decided to define what it means to be a real man. We struggled with this for months—wrestling with all of the biblical concepts and principles—until we came up with a definition so simple even we guys can remember it.
REAL Men, committed to . . .
Effective family leadership
Authentic brotherhood, and
Gary Oliver writes, “The essence of true manhood is not found in what a man does, in how big or strong he is, in how much money he has made. It is found in who he is and what he is becoming. It’s found in his heart, his moral character, his values and integrity.”2
When something is “radical” it is marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional—it is “extreme.” Unfortunately, in our society it is usual and customary for people to lack integrity. Researchers recently found that 97 out of 100 people tell lies—and they tell lies about 1,000 times a year. So, people with integrity must be “radical.”
Integrity means “wholeness” or “completeness”—the opposite of hypocrisy. The Bible uses the terms upright or blameless to describe a man of integrity.
King David said, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” (1 Chronicles 29:17).
So what does “radical integrity” look like?
It’s doing what’s right—simply because it is right.
It’s being the same man in private as in public.
It’s learning how to handle anger. Should we sometimes be angry? Absolutely! But it’s discerning between godly and sel-fish anger.
It’s being courageous at just the right time.
It’s making a covenant with our eyes not to look lustfully at a girl (Job 31:1).
It’s seeking after justice in all situations.
It’s having a family budget that honors both God and family.
It’s being the same at work as at church.
It’s paying our taxes even though no one would know if we fudged just a bit.
It’s making a commitment ahead of time to do the right thing—knowing it honors God, and ultimately honors self.
Effective Family Leadership
The Bible says the husband is the head of the household. We often see this as a command, but it’s not. It is a statement of fact. The text reads, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:23).
Husband, you are the head, the lead, the initiator. You are not commanded to be the “head.” You are the “head.” You are the one everyone else in your family is looking to for leadership. You are the family leader. The question is not whether you are the leader or not. You can’t abdicate your leadership! The question is, which direction are you leading your family? Are you an “effective family leader”?
The problem is that ever since Adam, men have had a natural inclination to remain silent when they should speak. Yale sociologist Stephen B. Clark states flatly, “Men have a natural tendency to avoid social responsibility.”3
So men—we must fight this natural inclination to be passive. We must model our leadership after Christ—literally—as stressed in that same Ephesians passage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25).
Christ didn’t use the church. He didn’t dominate her or force his leadership on her. On the contrary, he earned the right of leadership by expending himself for his bride, and ultimately by dying for her.
Chuck Swindoll encourages us,
C’mon, dads . . . let’s start saying no to more and more of the things that pull us farther and farther away from the ones who need us the most. . . . You’re not perfect? So, what else is new?You don’t know exactly how to pull it off? Welcome to the club! . . . Your family doesn’t expect profound perfection, command performances, or a superhuman plan. Just you—warts and all. . . . Let’s get started.4
Somewhere along the line we were led to believe the lie, “When I grow up to become a real man, I won’t need anybody else.” Nothing can be further from the truth.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up! . . . Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Every man needs his own band of brothers—a tribe, a posse. Truth be told, men long for this—a place to belong, a place where we are accepted for who we are, where we can tell our story and our wounds can be healed, a place where our dreams can be shared, our heart refreshed, our gifts used—without shame, guilt, or fixing. We need a place where we can be challenged and trained. We are in desperate need of a safe place where we can become all God desires us to be.
The Great Commandment tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
We get distracted by many things, don’t we? We should focus on one thing—loving God and Jesus. Bruce Wilkinson puts it this way,
The committed have a single focus to their commitment: Jesus Christ. Their commitment is not to the Bible, the Church, or Christian service; it is not to anything or anyone except Jesus. The committed are simply loyal to Jesus. The committed simply follow Jesus. The committed simply obey Jesus. The committed simply submit to Jesus. The committed would die for Jesus. The committed would give anything for Jesus at any time and for any reason. The committed live their lives for Jesus. The committed are sold out to Jesus. The committed simply love Jesus. Friend, love Jesus! Focus on Jesus and your commitment will flourish. Focus on Jesus and your behavior will be revolutionized.5
Men, the greatest gift you will give your wife, children, work associates, and neighbors is your love for God. And I’m not talking about some legalistic to-do list. I’m talking about a genuine relationship where we surrender our hearts to our heavenly Father and trust him to provide what we need to be—REAL Men.
²Gary Oliver, Real Men Have Feelings Too (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), 54.
³Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ (East Lansing: Tabor Publications, 1980), 639.
⁴As quoted by Stu Weber, Along the Path to Manhood (Sisters: Multnomah, 1995), 20.⁵Bruce Wilkinson, First Hand Faith (Sisters: Multnomah, 1999), 94.
Gary Olsby is the men’s pastor at Northside Christian Church in Fresno, California, and author of the book REAL Men: Tackling the Biggest Issues All Men Face.