Pete Alwinson recently wrote a new book, “Like Father, Like Son: How Knowing God as Father Changes Men.” ByFaith writer Melissa Morgan Kelly spoke with Alwinson about the book.
What problems did you hope to address in this book?
I wrote this book because the biggest force in a boy’s life is his relationship with his father, and a majority of men in America today have not had healthy connectivity with their dads. As a result they do not have a close relationship with God. This is as true for Christian men as it is for unbelievers.
A major social problem in America today is the large number of men who are underdeveloped. As a result, not only are men not flourishing; neither are women, children, churches, or our entire culture. My deep desire is to help men know God as Father, grow as men, and flourish so that their influence becomes positive to the key people in their lives and furthers the Gospel among us.
“So often Christian men ‘know’ in their heads that God loves them, but they don’t feel it in their hearts; they don’t take it personally. As a result, their walk with God is carried out from a sense of duty, and duty cannot sustain a consistent Christian life for long.”
Young men who have been lovingly developed by their dads with a biblical view of manhood have a consistently greater sense of identity, confidence, security, wisdom, and maturity. We see it displayed throughout their work and key relationships. Generally, well-developed young men make better decisions and love their wives and children more sacrificially than other men. Such men also seem to understand how to have a closer relationship with God the Father because they have had a healthy relationship with a father modeled in their upbringing.
Conversely, men who have not been unconditionally loved and developed by their fathers tend to struggle with insecurity in relationships; they also tend to overuse performance in order to gain a sense of personal identity. Most men in American culture waste many of their early years seeking to figure out what manhood is. Consequently, they leave a trail of bad decisions and broken relationships. Men who are angry at their fathers because they were “unblessed” by them often turn that anger toward God the Father, even when the Gospel of Christ, in all of its profound grace, is plainly clear to them. If they don’t turn their anger toward God, they turn it toward others.
In the book you mention that “As the men of the church go, so goes the church.” Can you speak about the importance of developing healthy leadership as it relates to the body?
With the cultural disintegration we are experiencing in America, churches must work overtime on discipling their people and developing leaders. As our culture throws off its dependence on historic Judeo-Christian values, families are splitting up and children, more and more, are being raised in a non-Christian or post-Christian culture. This means when people come to Christ, there is a need for much longer and deeper training for key ministry positions. All this points to what I believe is a call for churches and pastors to give high priority to developing men. While male-only leadership in churches is changing, many churches still recognize that the offices of elder and pastor are reserved for men. To neglect the development of men is short-sighted and deadly to the future of our churches.
How does greater intimacy with God equip men to thrive in their relationships as fathers, husbands, friends, and brothers?
“Intimacy” is really not a man word. We don’t come home from an outing with a bunch of guys and tell our wives, “Hey honey, I had an intimate time with the guys tonight.” However, if you define intimacy as really being known as we are and accepted by someone, well, then we’re in! Men do want some close friendships
The key relationship a man needs, of course, is with God the Father. The Bible makes it clear that we were never intended to live without having God as Father deeply involved. The Fall in the Garden of Eden shows how life is destroyed apart from God.
When a man is struck with the deep reality of the Cross, when he comes to grips with the mercy and grace of Jesus, when he understands that he is forgiven and accepted as God’s beloved son — then a man experiences both an intellectual and emotional love — from and for God.
So often Christian men “know” in their heads that God loves them, but they don’t feel it in their hearts; they don’t take it personally. As a result, their walk with God is carried out from a sense of duty, and duty cannot sustain a consistent Christian life for long. When men are not energized by grace, they get tired of all they have to do for God. The fact is obedience is not empowered by grace as much as it should be; which means that men either walk away from Christ or become a sort of “back row,” uninvolved spectator in church.
However when grace strikes deep into a man’s heart, when he knows he is unconditionally loved by God because of Christ’s work, then he is free — no longer dependent on performance for his identity, and no longer in need of others’ approval for his sense of worth. He is loved and he can love.
It’s often said that you can only love once you’ve been loved, and then you can only love to the extent you’ve been loved. A man who is deeply loved and accepted by the Greatest Person in the universe, and knows it, gains the ability to love as a father, husband, friend, and brother.
Men transformed by grace are less demanding of themselves, thus less demanding of others. They see that they have weaknesses, and are able to be empathetic. Grace enables men to see their sin more clearly, admit it, confess and repent of it, and move toward people rather than away from them in a judgmental and condemning way. A man profoundly affected by the grace of God in Christ and who knows God as Father will know who to stand up for, who to stand against, and how best to do it. It is not overly reductionist to say that a man who enjoys God as Father is fueled by love like never before and everything about how he does life — particularly relationships — is made better and more enjoyable. The kingdom of God was intended to be furthered by men and women fueled by grace and the deep love of God the Father.
How do you hope readers will be changed as a result of reading this book?
My great desire is that men will see how good God is to them, and how much He is for them. As they read the book and interact with the Scriptures, I hope they will move from perfunctory Christianity to the kind of Christianity modeled in the disciples’ lives post-Resurrection.
The Gospel also draws men to a true identity as sons of God, and that clarifies who we now are in Christ. This clarity gives them the ability to go out into the world and work — not to find their identity — but to make a positive contribution out of their identity as loved and redeemed sons of the Most High God.
Men who are gripped by the grace of God in Christ will become more like Christ because the Gospel puts the law of God on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31) and sets us free to become new men. In short, when men know their Heavenly Father by grace through faith, they enter the realm of true manhood where their Father is in the process of building great men as He defines greatness.
Pete Alwinson is the author of “Like Father, Like Son: How Knowing God as Father Changes Men.” He is also the executive director of FORGE: City Wide Ministry to Men with Man in the Mirror. He is the founding pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winter Springs, Florida, where he served for 26 years as senior pastor. Currently he is on the board of both Man in the Mirror and Key Life Network. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Oviedo, Florida.