With Father’s Day fast approaching, we thought it fitting to sit down with Kenny Luck, Men’s Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, and President of Every Man Ministries.
We asked Kenny some questions to help us think through being a biblical fatherhood.
- Did your father help you with a rite of passage? If you did have one, who gave it to you? Do you wish you had one if you did not?
Unfortunately, I did not experience a rite of passage with my dad. By default, I was parented by my peers and culture and experienced several negative rites of passage. My dad was low time, low talk, and low touch. He was very distant and I longed ANY kind of connection with him. I settled for rides to the liquor store on occasion or a ride to the bar as I waited for him in the car.
2. Why don’t we hear about “rites of passages” for boys too much today? Are these “ceremonies” or “moments” phasing out? Are Christian fathers obligated to give one to their sons? Is there a difference between a Christian passage versus another faith or culture?
It is the example of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments for fathers to give their blessing to their sons. The most powerful example is when God the Father blesses and commends God the Son with God the Holy Spirit present in Matthew 3:16-17. It has within it the core elements of a rite of passage that is intended to fortify the son with what he needs to be the man God created him to be. There is a special moment where a special voice speaks into the son; a special name is given along with a special love and a special blessing.
A moment. A voice. A name. A love. A blessing.
At that moment in time Jesus had yet to preach one message, perform one miracle, heal one person, or forgive one sinner. But the confidence and affirmation received from this blessing from his father whom he loved provided the inner security and resolve to go to those very things he needed to do against great odds and opposition.
If God decided Jesus needed this for his journey as a man on earth, I feel a form of this is beneficial for every man to gain the courage and confidence flowing from a strong identity as a passionate son and follower of Christ. Whatever God models for us is meant for us.
3. How important is it for a boy to hear from his father about “manhood?” What happens if a boy does NOT hear from his dad on this issue?
I would reframe it this way. Every son IS hearing from his father about what it means to be a man by his day to day actions and modeling. The question is not: Should our sons hear from us about manhood? The question is: WHAT are our sons already learning from us about manhood directly AND indirectly. Modeling not talking is the most powerful channel for reproducing healthy or unhealthy masculinity. Modeling plus talking is optimal. Talking or instructing minus modeling creates confusion and latent anger at the hypocrisy.
The lesson is this: dads cannot give away to their sons what they do not possess. A baseline of integrity is required to get moral traction. For a son to “hear” it the father needs to “live” it.
4. What biblical verses back up the need for a rite of passage for boys?
Directly you see it discussed in Genesis 27 and Genesis 49 as an inculturated event for sons to seek their father’s blessing. You see it indirectly in Deuteronomy 6 where the father is the agent of spiritual discussion with the son. You see it implicitly in the life of Christ and the “moment” afforded intentionally to him in Matthew 3. Then you see God the Father intentionally do it again with Jesus (the son) in Matthew 17:1-5.
5. You’ve done men’s ministry for 23 years and written 20 books on the subject of men and God. When it comes to men and boys, what are the issues that come to the forefront in your mind that need the most attention in our society today?
Identity is number one. There isn’t even a close second in my opinion. Win a man’s identity and you win his energy and expression. Satan knows this which is why he uses cultural definitions of masculinity to divert men away from an identity in Christ.
All men are born with a need to be valued and validated. That can come from God in Christ or culture. The former has the ability to produce men who love God and people as a purpose. The latter (culture) always produces boys who are committed to self indulgence, self preservation, and self importance as a purpose.
You can place men in one of two buckets: sons of culture (a godless identity) or sons of Christ. His energy and expression will follow his core identity.
6. Where can a father learn about talking to his son about manhood? What is important to remember when talking to your son? What keeps men from talking to their sons about this subject?
First, learn first from God. Watch how God talks to Jesus publicly in Matthew 3 and Matthew 17. You will see acceptance without performance and affirmation of progression. There was a consistent dialogue between Jesus and his Father. His father was always available, present, and verbally affirmed him.
The other day I wrote my 16 year old son a sticky note that said, “I love you son. I am so proud of you. You have mad skills!” and put it on his desk in his room. What happened next I did not expect: HE FRAMED IT! That told me something: these words are important to a young man.
Second, learn how to treat your son by reflecting on how God has treated you. Really reflect. God has accepted you and affirmed you as someone worth his love. God has also added authority and accountability on top of the foundation of his grace toward us. The best dads are ones who pass through the same grace (acceptance and affirmation) and truth (authority and accountability) that God gives to them.
Third, learn from other dads that are doing it right or have raised good sons who are responsible adults and love God. Ask them what they did. Having grown up with a no time, no talk, no touch father I asked and inquired a ton with dads who I saw had great sons.
Lastly, when push comes to shove I tell dads that an easy way to measure solid fathering is in the categories that CHILDREN deem important. Those categories are time, talk and touch. High time, high talk, and high touch (givers of appropriate and frequent physical affection) dads produce the most emotionally secure and confident kids.
That’s how I measure myself.
Thanks for your time, Kenny. You’ve been a huge help to our Network!