How to Grow As a Man of Faith (Part 1)

John ThurmanBy John Thurman19 Minutes

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.
But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT

To grow as a man of faith, you must understand the stages of masculine development. This is part one of a four-part series.

Have you ever struggled with what it means to be a man of faith, a follower of Jesus? I know I have!

In this series, How to Grow as a Man of Faith, I will explore the first three stages of masculine development for men of faith. The first stage is Beloved Son. This stage concerns being a good boy and caring for your mommy. In the second stage, the Cowboy Stage, we see a man out in the world on his own, exploring and finding his way. Finally, the third stage is Warrior Stage – where we see a man who has found his way back to God through Jesus Christ.

I will also look at Deprived Dad Disorder – which can happen when dads are absent in their children’s lives due to divorce or abandonment.

A man of faith is someone with a sense of purpose. He knows he has a life mission and understands what it means to be a man. This understanding comes from his faith, but it also comes from the relationships he has with others. He understands a well-lived life is in the context of a community.

A Christian man is a man made in the image of God. If married, he is responsible for being the head of his home and leading his family. He is a man who is faithful to his wife and children, and he makes time for them every day. A Christian man is a man who knows he is created for greatness, but instead of chasing after it, he chooses to live humbly as an example to others.

A single Christian man is growing in his faith and relationship with the Lord and others. He is learning what it means to love and be loved. He is learning to be a godly husband, father, son, brother, grandson, or uncle.

Being a single male who is a Christ follower can come with challenges. However, these challenges are not impossible to overcome with God’s help through his Word, other believers, and the church.

In this article, How to Grow as a Man of Faith, my heart desires to encourage you to be the man God called you to be. To help you to become a God-loving, courageous, resilient man with an enhanced ability to lead, love, serve, and leave a legacy in this world. To do this, I will review one roadmap to understanding some developmental markers we men face.

From a Christian perspective, John Eldredge and other thought leaders concerning the stages of masculine development reveal six primary stages men should move through in their lifespan. Unfortunately, not all will. These stages are based on his book Wild at Heart.

As with any “journey,” there must be a starting place. Here is an overview of the process.

The Beloved Son

Dads can have a powerful influence over their children’s development on multiple levels. When a dad is learning to be a balanced, engaged dad, his positive impact will follow the child through the rest of his life.

We know kids who have involved dads grow up to have more successful relationships, better social skills, higher self-esteem, and better self-regulation. In addition, they generally do better in school.

The first is the beloved son (boyhood). The boyhood stage is a time of wonder, discovery, and adventure. I have three grandsons, two of whom are involved in this phase. Of course, little boys do this, whether playing hide and seek, digging up buried treasure, or climbing a tree and ultimately getting on the roof unaided.

Every boy has a father. On one end of the scale, the father may be nothing more than a sperm donor. On the other, he may be a man excited to have children. How a man interacts with his son will tremendously impact how the following generations turn out. A balanced and engaged dad will intentionally let his children know he delights in his children.

Birth-6 Years: Primarily the Mom Phase

In the early years of a child’s life, boys and girls need their mom more. But dads are still essential. They must be involved and help create a loving, stable environment for the family. Dads should be involved in caring for the kids, playing with them, and teaching them little lessons that are age-appropriate. Hopefully, both mom and dad read Bible stories, pray with the kids, and attend a church with a good children’s program.

6-12 Years

At around six, boys first discover they are male on a more intellectual level. They begin looking for role models to learn more. Around this age, boys turn to their dads as the primary parent. They begin to observe how a man behaves in the adult world.

Moms are still essential and provide every child’s security and love. However, a boy will most likely focus more on his father as he looks to his dad to show him how to be a male.

If you are a dad, this is a treasured opportunity to make a life-long impact on your children. Don’t squander it.

As more dad-deprived boys and girls grow, we see increases in suicide, drug use, and a host of other issues.

The Cowboy Stage

This stage begins in adolescence and usually runs from age 12-20. My oldest grandson is entering this phase. Of course, I am biased, but my 12-year-old grandson is fortunate to have a dad who has been steadily pouring into him since he was born. It is a blast to watch those two play basketball and do a lot of “guy stuff” together.

Between 12 and 14, a young man’s hormones kicked in with puberty. During this phase of a boy’s life, he will experience an 800% increase in testosterone. This phase can sometimes be a season of volatility as he moves out of boyhood into young manhood.

This marks the beginning of the life lab for a young man. It is a time when he will begin learning lessons from the field, with times of minimal parental supervision. This season, he will develop his personality, body, and social skills and start the advanced shaping of what he will do vocationally. He will learn new skills, like dating and driving. If he is into sports or academics, this will be a time of testing and growth. It is a time of daring, danger, and personal growth where he will “test his mettle.” In other words, this is when he will begin building resilience muscles as he demonstrates the strength and moral courage when faced with adversity.

A boy may feel more confident in himself and his abilities during this phase of his life. However, these boys are also more likely to take risks and be competitive with other boys their age. This can lead to negative consequences like bullying, but it can also help them learn how to make friends more easily.

During this season, sons may feel more distant from their dads. However, as they move through this phase of becoming a man, they often need male role models and mentors other than a parent to help them find the way. These could be family members, coaches, friends, pastors, or other men.

How to Avoid Deprived Dad Disorder

The most significant way a dad can influence their sons is by simply spending time with them.

I’ve spent my adult life as a people helper, working as a Youth Pastor, Army Chaplain, and Mental Health Professional. Based on my observation, boys who don’t get attention from their dads will get it by misbehaving and acting out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

Boys need time to build a relationship with their dads. So, make sure you make your kids a priority. Investing precious time with them will have long-term benefits.

After the cowboy stage, the young man will move into the warrior stage.

The Warrior Stage

One of the most important things you and I, as believing men, need as we learn How to be a Man of Faith is to acknowledge that we are to be warriors and protectors of our families.

The warrior stage begins around age 20. Young men in this stage need a mission, a cause, something worth fighting for.

“The Warrior Phase is the third stage of masculinity, and it is characterized by the need for a mission, a purpose, and a cause worth fighting for. Boys will feel needed when they have something to care about and fight for.” – Dr. Michael Gurian

Young men need a mission to help them find their place in the world. They need to know what they stand for and will fight for to find meaning in their lives. Unfortunately, many young men struggle with this stage because they have no direction or guidance from society or family members. They may not have been taught how to be successful leaders or good husbands and fathers, leading them down the wrong path.

We are at a turning point in our culture where many see the warrior phase as archaic and unnecessary. However, there is a danger when society moves away from developing the warrior phase in a young man’s life. To be clear, I am not just talking about the capacity to fight but to be a man. A young man must learn to protect others, provide for his family, and manage his drive.

This competitive part of man is in our DNA, but when it is devalued, as it is being subverted today, it can lead to peril.

Some of you may remember Desert Storm. I know I do because I was a U.S. Army Reservist mobilized to support the war effort. One of the many reasons we became involved in that war was that Kuwait was unprepared. Partially because they had become used to their wealth and because they “out-sourced” so much, they were a nation without warriors. They had become soft, and when Iraq decided to invade, they were overwhelmed and ultimately had to help fund Western allies and other Arab states to save them.

Warriors are necessary, military members, law enforcement, fire, EMS, and other first responders. Another group of warriors we tend to forget is the truck drivers who deliver life-sustaining goods to us. These linemen ensure we have power. Unfortunately, strength, combat, and competition are masculine traits. Unless they are rediscovered and valued by men and women, our society will be in serious trouble.

The Bible does not condemn the warrior but merely acknowledges the warrior is a normal and necessary part of what it means to be a male.

Here are four general things about a real warrior, whether single or married.

1. A warrior is trained
2. A warrior is humble
3. A warrior is accustomed to sacrifice
4. A warrior is connected to others

The man’s primary responsibility, if he is married, is to protect his wife and children from the attacks of the Enemy and this world. These responsibilities include protecting them spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The Bible teaches a man should love his wife like Christ loved the church—this means he should be willing to die for her (Ephesians 5:25). A man should also offer himself as a living sacrifice in service to his family (Romans 12:1).

To be a warrior is not the primary goal of manhood. It is only a stop along the path to manhood.

Later, I’ll expand on this notion from a Christian perspective. But first, I’d like to talk about the spiritual warrior.

As we look at the man of faith as a spiritual warrior, I am talking about a man who does not trust his abilities. However, he does maintain a healthy, balanced perspective on them. He has a genuine commitment, trust, and allegiance to the Lord.

The spiritual warrior is the warrior who trusts and finds his refuge in the Lord rather than in his power to gain wealth by having material possessions. However, he is growing awareness of things that can harm himself, his wife should he be married, and his family.

As a man moves through the warrior phase, he understands being a warrior is two-fold—knowing what to fight for and when to quit. We need warriors who will stand for truth and fight for our society’s spiritual values before they no longer exist.

Are you in the fight for your family, friends, and faith? Are you someone who will make things happen? Or, are you one of those who will wonder what happened when it is all said and done?

As a man of faith, I hope you will have the “conjones” to step into the fray. Will you “Put on the Whole Armor of God?’ Finally, I will close with one of the most important passages for those involved in spiritual warfare.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and his mighty power.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you can stand firm against all strategies of the devil.
For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies,
but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,
against mighty powers in this dark world,
and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT

I hope you will learn How to be a Man of Faith as you continue to engage in life.