Lessons on Biblical Manhood Learned from His Father

Desiring God 2012 Conference for Pastors

God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ

Thank you so much, John. And what a joy it is to be here. I just want to say, first off, Doug, what a great word last night. That was tremendous. I was stimulated, moved, convicted, and I was laughing my head off too, especially about that deal of counting to your children. You’re not teaching them to obey, you’re teaching them fractions. Was that the line? I wonder why I didn’t use it? Where were you when I was raising my kids? Man, I would have used that a great deal.

It is a real treat to be here and I am honored. I don’t know how to say this. I don’t normally get intimidated these days to speak. I get anxious, I want to make sure my flesh is not in the way, that kind of thing. But looking out here at these men of God and realizing that many of you stand up every Sunday or every weekend with your weekly appointment with God to deliver the goods, and understanding the gifts that God has given to you and the treasure that this is as a wonderful opportunity, it strikes a little bit of fear in one’s heart

But I am just thrilled to be here with you. I am going to do some things a little bit differently. Typically, if you’ve ever heard me preach or speak before, I love to get into the text and get into it soon because we preach under the authority of God’s voice and only one voice matters. My miscellaneous insights and ramblings and experiences and applications and that kind of thing won’t even buy you a cup of Starbucks. So I typically want to do that up front. But Jon did ask me to talk a bit about my dad’s signature over my soul and his impact on my heart and life and what that means, and I’m going to do that.

Where I’m going to go today is this. I’m going to start with this broad funnel. I’m going to talk a bit about manhood, perhaps in some minds in a way that might be a little bit disconnected, but there are some deep concerns and burdens that I have. And I don’t mean to sound like some extremists but I’m going to mention a few of these things up front to you. And then I want to transition into the four big categories of lessons that my dad taught me. Actually, I could be here all day long telling you about things that my dad taught me, but I have organized them around four big categories of lessons. And then in the second half, I want to get into a text of Scripture, Galatians 5, and I want to talk about the ministry of the Spirit of God related to all of these things.

I love the way Doug ended last night. All of us are tremendously sensitive about what we don’t have and all of us have, in one degree or another, some insecurities, but thank God our sufficiency is in the gospel, it’s in the cross, it’s in the person and work of Jesus Christ. So please hear that as I speak today.

A Holy Continuity

On July the 4th at 2:10 in the afternoon in 1995, the greatest man I have ever known in my life died. He was my father, and he was the grandson of a slave. Now I say he was a great man, but by the way, parenthetically, let’s not confuse recognition with greatness. In fact, let’s not confuse accomplishment, necessarily, with greatness. Greatness to me has to do with staying power. It has to do with the preservation of the great truths from one generation to the next. It has to do with the closing of the gap between what I say and who I am. It has to do with that integrity that is passed on from one generation to the next. So when I talk about greatness, I’m not talking about faddishness or pop or how many people are following you on Twitter or that kind of thing. I’m not talking about that, but I’m talking about greatness in its purity. And my father was a great man.

Someone said to me a few years ago with a little bit of recognition that I was getting, “Boy, how does it feel to move toward greatness?” And I said, “Number one, you’ve got some terrible misperceptions of my reality. But number two, I got to tell you, I got a tad bit of recognition, but greatness is buried side by side in Old Dominion Cemetery. That’s greatness. So don’t confuse the two.” And by the way, I would say to you, be very careful of your own egos. God spoke through Balaam’s ass and I’ll allow you to make the application.

I want to give you this one big statement that hopefully will cascade over everything that I want to say. I really am extrapolating what Doug said last night. I wrote about leadership in my last book, which is called Leadership as an Identity. I believe that as it is in leadership, so it is in the case with manhood. Manhood is not a private matter. Manhood is a public thing and a man aspires to be the desired destination at which others should arrive. That’s the nobility of manhood. What it really means is not just me getting my stuff together, it’s not just me living out my personal responsibilities, but manhood was meant to be a very public thing because a man is a composite portrait of what has been invested in him and the stewardship responsibility in terms of his moment in history and the vision to maintain holy continuity from one generation to the next. That’s biblical manhood.

And I have a real fear today in our culture and the way we do Christianity in all things relevant, in all things measurable, in all things transferrable, and in all things transactional, that we have lost a noble vision of eternity and going to a city whose builder and maker is God. And my values right now are determined by where I’m going and not just the transient, trivial stuff of the moment. I think we lose those great themes in our transactional Christianity, which really is not transformative. It might help us to navigate our dysfunction, but it won’t change us at all.

Manhood and Responsibility

In many respects, I’ve always wanted to be like my father even into this day. Now, I’m not glamorizing my dad. My father was not the fourth member of the Trinity, trust me. He had issues and problems. He was impatient. He had a little bit of a temper. Sometimes he had some expectations that were not realistic, and I can give you a number of those things. So please hear mm. As I talk about my dad, I’m not talking about some God figure, but I am talking about a man of impeccable integrity that has had his signature all over my life. I’ve always wanted to be like him.

I’ll never forget on May 22, 1971, Karen and I got married. We’re celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary, and if she were here, I’d use a line (she was only five when I married her). But I’ll never forget this. Standing outside the church after we had gone through the ceremony, there at Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, people were greeting us and this kind of thing and I was beaming and happy. My bride was gorgeous and this kind of thing. And this is typical Pop. He shakes my hand and then he pulls me by the shoulder and whispers in my ear, “Son, Karen didn’t ask to marry you. You asked to marry her, and you’d better take care of her.”

And that summarizes his life. This whole idea of stepping up, never walking away. If it belongs to you, you do something with it. In fact, I can’t tell you the number of times, whenever I wanted to bail on something, quit a part-time job or quit a sports team or not finish off something, boy, he would chew me out. He would look me straight in the eyes and he would say, “Son, you never walk away. You don’t walk away. If you can’t do it, you work it out or whatever, but you don’t just drop something and walk away.”

It was Pop’s way of summarizing that the whole idea of manhood is based upon responsibility, pressing in, the last one to leave; that there’s a correlation between being a man and being courageous. There’s a correlation between being a man and being faithful. There’s a correlation between being a man and keeping your promises. And they weren’t just arbitrary things. He used to say to me all the time, “Son, at the end of the day, all you have is what you say.” That’s a direct line from Pop. He said, “All you have is what you say. You can blow smoke and mirrors. You can promise people this. You can say you’re going to do this, you can have all these dreams. But if you don’t follow through on what you said, you don’t have much of anything. That’s all you really have.”

Rehearsing the Loritts’ Family History

To understand my father, and I think in many ways to understand me and what I’ve tried to pass on to my boys as well as our kids, indulge me here. Understand, my dad indeed is a grandson of a slave. Around 1800 or so there was a German Reformed pastor by the name of Abraham Loritz that came to the United States and migrated to Western North Carolina, up around Asheville. He had three sons, and one of them became a very prosperous landowner and that son owned my great-grandfather Peter. And as you probably well know, the slaves took the names of the slave owners and so thus the name Loritz. Now interestingly enough, my great-grandfather, Peter, was illiterate. He couldn’t read and he couldn’t write. But my grandfather could read and write, and this happened throughout slavery.

The first generation of slaves who could read or write often would either change the name of the owner that owned them or they would change the spelling. And my grandfather changed the spelling to Loritts. So anybody that spells it that way is directly related to me. My father was born February 13th 1914 and he was the youngest boy of 14 kids. And my father used to tell the stories as well as my uncles about Peter the slave. My dad knew him. He said Peter lived to be an old man. And the stories that they would tell were pretty remarkable. Generally speaking, what they would say was that Peter was a singing and a praying man. He couldn’t read a lick, but he had memorized portions of the Bible. How do you do that? My father and my aunts used to say, “Well, he used to make his children and grandchildren read to him familiar passages of Scripture over and over and over and over and over again.”

My dad said as he got old, he would sit on the front porch of the old homestead there, rock back and forth, and he would just sing and pray. I don’t know where Peter got it from. Yes, I do know where he got it from. He got it from the Lord. He got it from the truth of God’s word. But he developed a passion for his family. He had two sons and a daughter. One of his sons was Milton, that’s my grandfather, my father’s father. And he wrote over their souls this whole thing of responsibility and of loving your family and of never walking away. That was tenacious with him. And my dad tells us stories of my grandfather. He was a believer, acquired some land, and gave the land to Thomas Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church there on Second Street in Conover, North Carolina to build a church on.

In fact, the old black community there in Conover, North Carolina was built on what was originally Lorittz land. But my grandfather really loved the Lord, made his family a priority, and poured into them. My father played baseball in the old Negro Leagues. They glamorize that now, but he played back in the late thirties and a couple of years into the forties. In the off season those guys had to work, I mean contract with contract. So he worked in the coal mines and there was a natural gas explosion and he lost his right eye. In 1942, he and mom moved up to Newark, New Jersey, and that’s where all of us kids were born, my two older sisters and myself.

My father was a remarkable man. Now, he wasn’t very outspoken in terms of his commitment to Christ. He was committed to Jesus, but my mom was the one that did a lot more of the Bible reading and getting into it. But Pop modeled a great deal of what it really meant. I never knew my dad to make a promise that he didn’t keep. Now he was human, I mean if he said he was going to do something and something came up, he changed that. But he was pretty remarkable along those lines. He made his family a priority. He poured into us. He was always, always, always there. He showed up.

Burdens for Our Day

Now let me back up a little bit and give you some burdens that I have right now as I tell this story. And you need to know the uniqueness of my background is not necessarily lost on me. However, let me quickly say this. I’m not alone in that generation and because there has been a huge slide in the last 40 or 50 years in the breakdown of the minority communities and all the stuff that has happened — and I can get sidetracked by all of that stuff — you have to know that I’m not necessarily unique in that generation.

There are many intact Black families. There are many African American families that had godly fathers who showed up and worked hard. And I get a little bit ticked off when we forget that part of our heritage and just begin to define African Americans as those who can’t measure up, so you have to lower the standards and they can’t make it and this kind of thing. And in the name of compassion we create another source of dependency and slavery and rape people of incentive and character and that kind of thing.

So you need to know I wasn’t the only one, but I also need to say to you that I am blessed beyond measure and not very seldom does a day go by that I don’t think about the deposit and the baton that’s been placed in my hand and the enormous responsibility that is to use that as a leverage for godliness and good, and perhaps God might use it to make a small deposit into revival.

Every child is born with two broad categories of emotional need. Now, I didn’t say they just had two emotional needs, but we have two broad categories of emotional need. Every child is born with a need for touch, tenderness, affirmation, warmth, nurture — the need to be emotionally affirmed. All of us have that. That’s a role, not exclusively but primarily, of the mother — again, not exclusively, but primarily it’s the mother.

Paradoxically, every child is also born with the need for daily doses of discipline and denial and accountability. They need to hear, “No, you’re not going to play video games until you do your homework. No, you’re going to bed at 9:00. No, you’re not going to eat your apple pie before you eat your peas.” We’re born with those structures and that’s the role, not exclusively but primarily, of the father. The father is the direction, vision caster. He’s the movement person. He’s the one that provides the parameters and framework. He gives the banks of the river for the destination and the destinies. That’s his role.

The studies have revealed children who grow up with all accountability, strong accountability, but very little nurture often are high achievers, but they have a terrible time in sustaining meaningful relationships. Sometimes this is the profile of a lot of successful CEOs and a lot of successful business people and a lot of successful entrepreneurs. Often it’s this stick-and-carrot thing, no less than Ted Turner. He says that’s been his primary motivation for being “successful,”whatever that means. He’s trying to please a dead dad.

Now on the flip side of that, children, particularly boys, who grow up in homes where there’s all nurture and limited accountability, often have violent, self-destructive tendencies. And the reason for that is that they’ve never had a visible model of discipline and framework and they never learn to appreciate the most positive word in the English language, and that is no. Because what you’re able to say no to means you can say yes to the right things. So the role of a dad is huge in the sense of keeping the framework and keeping the direction.

Tender Mercy and Firm Accountability

Having said that, every 28 days a woman is reminded of who she is. But a man only knows he is a man when his father or significant male role model tells him so. Manhood is imprinted. You have to get up close and personal with your boys. They have to smell your cologne, they have to hear your heartbeat. You have to connect with them. Often you have to stay in their faces.

Excuse me for being a little locker room-ish, but I think — and this is not PC — we are witnessing the wholesale feminization of men, and quite frankly, some of the philosophical and theological approaches that we’re taking among evangelicalism is actually handicapping this next generation of men by teaching them that they can’t live beyond their felt needs.

What is communicated somehow or another is, “Just be on a journey and just enjoy it. And Jesus comes to you no matter where you are and he’ll be with you,” and all of that stuff. Well yeah, he is with me, but there’s a place that Jesus is taking me to. And so we need this revival. And I pound the table and weep over this. Manhood is imprinted.

Paint Until I Say You’re Done

Let me tell you a quick story. My dad intuitively knew that. I was the youngest and the only boy. Now there’s an obvious issue here. My mother and my father were as different as night is to day. I mean you talk about being different. They could not have been more different. My mother was more gentle and merciful and tender and kind, and yes, I could play her like a Stradivarius. I could get whatever I wanted from my mother. I was her baby and her only boy and I could whine. And Pop, on the other hand, he was bottom line, and since I was the only boy, he was determined I was going to be a man. So I was growing up conflicted.

And so I got this stuff working in my head. You laugh, but it wasn’t funny. But I knew how to leverage it. I could play my mother. I had a defining moment when I turned about 12 years old. Let me tell you this story. My parents owned a rental property there in Plainfield, New Jersey, where I went to middle school and high school. The tenants had moved out and my dad all week long had said, “Now son, on Saturday you’re going to come over there. We have to paint this place and you’re going to paint with me. Your mama and your sisters are going to be over there too. We’re all going to be over there on Saturday. We need to do some work.” Well, immediately I began to have issues. I hate to paint, even back then. And I hate to paint now.

So immediately I began figuring out how I can hotwire my mother to get over on Pop so I could go to the park and play. So I was kind of working this thing, but it wasn’t completely working. So that Saturday morning we all showed up at the house. I was upstairs painting with Pop, trying to figure out how I could get out of this thing. A frontal attack with him ain’t going to work so I was trying to figure out this thing. I had to go to the bathroom. So I went downstairs to the bathroom. I told Pop, “I gotta go to the bathroom.” I went downstairs to the bathroom. My mother was by the sink there in the kitchen, and I’ll never forget this.

As soon as I saw her — this was an academy award-winning performance — I said, “Pop is making me work. I’ve been in school working hard all week long (I was 12 years old, working hard, right?). I’ve been in school and Dwayne Rainey and Butch McGee are over at the park, and I don’t see why I need to be up here all day long.” Well, evidently I stayed down there too long and my father walked in, and that was not good. He walked in and there was this defining moment in my life. My mother turned and I’ll never forget this (I’m Crawford junior). She said, “Now Crawford, that boy doesn’t need to be upstairs all day long. He’s 12 years old.” This is what she was telling my father.

And my father said these words, I will never forget it. It really was the rite of passage. He said, “Sylvia, I got this. That boy one day is going to be somebody’s father. That boy one day is going to be somebody’s husband. And that boy is going to learn today that he has to do the things that he doesn’t feel like doing but he has to do.” And then he used this famous line. He said, “Now, son, you take your hind parts upstairs and you paint until I tell you to stop.” To my mother’s credit, I looked at her, she looked at me, looked at him and turned around.

I thought, “My options have been taken off the table here.” So we laugh at that story, but that was a defining moment. What was he doing? He was pulling me out of impulse behavior. He was calling me up to a vision. He knew it was time for me to make a transition.

The Journey Toward Manhood

I tell fathers all the time, the most important season in a boy’s life is between the ages of 10 to 14. It’s the time in which they’re going through a season of sexual ambivalence. There’s a time in which you’re trying to figure out who they are. The testosterone’s going out of the kazoo and they need legitimate affirmation and pull of the most important person in their lives. The journey toward manhood means that we have been imprinted with God’s truth and Christ-like character and we are harvesting and applying the lessons. I want to make a few observations, and I don’t want to embarrass you by being so simple.

They’re obvious, but there are four seasons of any man’s life and each season needs to be greeted. Now actually, I wrote the forward to Dennis Rainey’s wonderful book called Stepping Up, and I wish you had the money to give it to each one of you. It’s an outstanding, wonderful little book and Rainey talks about five stages of manhood. I talk about four stages, and I happen to believe that because we’re seeing stage number four dissipate and erode, it’s affecting what manhood should be.

Four Stages in a Man’s Life

Let me give you these stages. First is childhood, obviously, and the major emphasis in childhood is discipline and delayed gratification. That’s the goal of childhood. We want them to pour into them the word of God, get them face to face with Jesus, one-on-one with them, but we also want to teach them parameters and teach them control and appropriately so. It’s about delayed gratification.

The next stage is adolescence, and it’s a tough time of conflict. Most teenagers’ lives, particularly boys, would define manhood as the ability to do whatever I want to do and what I feel like during rather than what I ought to do. And it’s during that time that a man has got to be persistent. The father has to be persistent, pulling that child through impulse behavior, and helping them to clarify what is right and what is wrong. He has to help identify the right targets, understanding you have six silver bullets and 24 targets. You have to prioritize what you shoot at, but you can’t waste the ammunition. You have to take them there and pull them over there.

Then of course, manhood. I define manhood by these two words. A real man embraces, practically, these two things: obligation and responsibility. Those two words are not profane to a man. They’re not curse words to a man. They’re not a burden to a man, for they are the reason why we are here. A real man understands that something has been given to him back here, or if it hasn’t been given to him, he needs to create it because his moment in history is not just about his moment in history. He understands that there is a stewardship and a sobriety that should grip most men, which leads to the fourth phase. And that is that of a patriarch.

Patriarchs are essence people. They’re older guys who have made their mistakes and they understand the difference between trends and fads. They’re not very faddish about life. They understand what essence is all about and they greet that. They live for a time they cannot see. They have more in the rear view mirror of their lives than they do out of the front. They’re in the dividend years of their lives and they’re wanting to leverage the dividends.

I can get sidetracked here because I think the disrespect for older people is appalling. I think this cult of youth is going to lead us to heresy. I think the immediacy of our thinking and our disproportionate passion for relevance is going to inject embalming fluid into the character and integrity of the next generation. I think we need to think in terms of, not what will be a big payoff now, but what are the lessons, what are the principles, and what are the things that never ever change?

Four Lessons from the Example of a Father

Now having said that, let me transition into the four big lessons. And I had just a hard time with this because when I think about my dad, there are so many lessons and stuff. I’m going to give you four big lessons. These are not his words, these are my words. He didn’t think in this sequential way. In fact, this might surprise you, Pop never sat down with me and had a discussion about manhood. He just lived it. He never had a lecture. He never told me about seasons of life. I just sat at his knee.

I just would hang out with him and my uncles, his brothers, at family reunions and listen to those dudes talk, and it was sweet. Some of it wasn’t so sweet. Not everything in the family tree is sweet, just to be honest with you. The four lessons are sequential. This is how I’ve packaged them, and I’ll mention them and say a word about each one. The first one is that out of a struggle comes strength. Secondly, out of strength comes discipline. Thirdly, out a discipline comes integrity. And fourthly, out of integrity comes your inheritance.

Out of Struggle, Strength

First is that out of struggle comes strength. I learned this from my dad by just watching him. He sacrificed for what was really important to him. And looking back, I never appreciated this until I was grown and married and I was thinking about, how did Pop do all this stuff? My father never spent a lot of time running with his boys or friends. He worked nights for over 30 years at A&P Warehouse. He worked from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. in the evenings.

He had every Saturday off, and he rotated another day off during the week. And he always hung out with his family. Every Saturday was family day. I played baseball in the little leagues there in Newark, New Jersey, and very seldom my father missed one of my games. And what he would do was that he would switch off with one of his buddies in terms of work schedule so that he could be there. He made huge sacrifices. But one of the things that really had a huge impact on me along these lines was when I was younger. This is one of my earliest memories. I must have been maybe five or six years old, not much older than that. It was around Christmas time and I heard my mother and father having this discussion as to whether or not he should work on Christmas. If he worked on Christmas, he would have been paid triple time.

And listen to what my father said. You have to know my dad was not a lazy man. I’ll never forget this. This burned in me. He said, “Sylvia, I want to do it, but I’m not going to do it. I’ve been away from these kids an awful lot.” Then he used this line, and I never forgot it. He said, “If I did that, that would be blood money.” Blood money. I have to tell you, I didn’t know what all that meant. I didn’t know all the dynamics of that, but I knew that blood money was making a statement of value. We lived in an apartment building until I was 12 years old in Newark, New Jersey. Not because my dad was lazy, but because he felt like my mom needed to be home while we were younger. I’m ambushed by emotions when I think about this.

He didn’t want to rob us of himself, trading it in for square footage. And that had a huge impact on how I thought. So he modeled that out of struggle comes strength.

Out of Strength, Discipline

The second big lesson was that out of strength comes discipline. I did fairly well in school. In fact, I skipped the sixth grade. Back then they didn’t have the advanced placement stuff and all the options, so I skipped the sixth grade. But my fifth grade year was pretty interesting to me and I did extremely well. Do you remember those old report cards where you had on the one side all the academic stuff and on the other side you had all kinds of the behavior stuff? I had all A’s on the academic stuff, and then I had these big red U’s around the behavior stuff.

Well, my mother was the president of the PTA at Warren Street Elementary School where I went to school there in Newark, New Jersey, which was not a good thing for me because I had other issues. Every day she’d get a report and my mother believed in corporal punishment, and I felt it. But one day I got the report card and I mentioned my father would rotate a day off a week. Well, this day he was off. Oh my, this is like my worst day ever.

He was off and my mother had the report card. We were sitting around the dinner table, and finished eating dinner. So you ask, “Can I be excused,” and my sisters got up to go and I got up to go and my mother said, “Boy, no, don’t you go anywhere. Sit down.” And so she went and got my report card and showed it to my father. On the back of the report card, Mrs. Conner had written these wonderful words that I’ll never forget: “Crawford is making great progress in becoming the class clown.” Not a good day, not a good day, not a good day.

So my father said two things to me. One was that he looked at the report and then he looked at me, and he said — now this is not tender language and my father was not PC, and Dr. Phil would want to counsel him for what he said to me — “Boy, help me understand something. How can somebody be so smart and so dumb at the same time?” That didn’t build my self-esteem during that moment. Then he had this line. He used to always say this when you did something foolish. He said, “Oh, I see what this is. I see what this is. You just want to act like a monkey, that’s all, right? I know how to make monkeys dance.”

Let’s just say that evening I gave up my ambition of being the class clown. It just died right there. It was all over. Now here’s the point that I want to make. What he was actually saying to me, “Son, you’re too old for this. You’re too old for this. Now it’s time to make a transition. This is not age-appropriate and it’s not funny. It’s not cute. You need to learn how to discipline yourself and behave. You don’t just do what you feel like doing.” By the way, that’s a lesson in leadership that I wish we would all hold onto.

Out of Discipline, Integrity

The third one is that out of discipline comes integrity. I’m presenting my father as if he wasn’t fun. My father was hilarious. I mean he’d have you laugh so hard your jaws would hurt. I mean he was really fun-loving. But he had some bottom line things that he just didn’t play with. And he never understood why adults would argue with their children. I mean, he didn’t get that. Yeah, he would let you ask him “why” one time.

You could take a lap around Mount Sinai one time and he didn’t care if you liked him or not. You better act like you liked him, but he didn’t care. Liking him was not really important. But he would say stuff like, “Son, I speak one time. I told you that I wanted the grass cut and I wanted you to do those hedges before you left. And I told you that if you did not do it by the time I came back, you were not driving the car. So you made your decision that you just didn’t want to drive the car. And furthermore, I think you just called me a liar.” He would say that. And I would say, “No, I didn’t!” There’s no good way of answering that, by the way. I would say, “Pop, I didn’t call you a liar.” He said, “Yeah, because you did not believe that I would do what I said I would do if you did that. I speak one time.”

There were three D’s that my dad had, where if you did any one of these three D’s there was no negotiating. It was like, if he felt gracious, fine, but the three D’s were these. Number one: dishonesty. He did not do dishonesty. He told me one time, I must have been about eight or nine years old, “When you lie to me” — he didn’t say if you lie, he knew human nature — “it better be the best lie you ever told.” He just did not do dishonesty. He came down hard on that. And I believe it was because of a passion for Ephesians — raise your children up, win the character battle. That was dishonesty.

Number two: disobedience. You just flat out didn’t do it. And the third one, and this was a huge one with him, was disrespect. A lot of older Black folks are this way. I think I do understand the reason why and the reason why goes back to slavery quite frankly. And please, I’m not playing any white guilt or anything like that here, so don’t hear me saying that. It’s just a reality. It goes back to slavery and it goes back to Jim Crow. When people treated us like we weren’t worth that much and you were getting beat up all over the place, the only place that you had value was among your own folks. And you treated each other with dignity. You treated each other with respect. You didn’t use first names for older people.

My dad wouldn’t even allow me to call a coach by his first name. He was big on that. If I had come into the house saying, “George said this,” he would say, “George? Who’s George?” And I would tell him. He would say, “That’s a grown man, boy. You put a handle on that. Mister, uncle, or somebody. He’s not your running buddy.” That’s what my dad would say. He would say, “He’s not your running buddy. He’s a grown man.” And by the way, respect is the incubator for honor.

I can’t tell you how to raise your kids or whatever. There are some young people in our church that will call me Crawford, and I’m not big on titles and stuff, and I get that. I get the differences. I’ve lived in both cultures for many years. My church is predominantly white. Just because they use first names in the broader culture is not a sign of disrespect. I get that. I get it, I get it, I get it. But I still have this thing in me. When we come hard at older folks and we treat them as if they are peers and there’s no sense of honor. These people paid their dues, just by virtue of the fact that they lived longer than you.

Out of Integrity, Inheritance

The fourth one was this: out of integrity comes your inheritance. Now there’s a number of things that I want to say here that have permanently imprinted my destination and how I think about people in life that I actually got directly from my father.

One of them was this. My dad didn’t use these words, but he said something like this and here’s a lesson. And that is, how people treat you should never define you. It’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer to. How people treat you should never define you. Here’s a story. When I was about six or seven years old, we were driving from New Jersey to visit relatives in North Carolina, back to the old homestead. And I will never forget this. I was old enough to read. And not only was I old enough to read, I was old enough to feel the indignity of what happened. You have to understand, I grew up in the Central Ward, Newark, New Jersey, which was a working class, integrated community. There were Italians and Greeks. The Filibakis family lived on the first floor in the apartments there. And there were African Americans.

I went to school with them, we played ball together, we hung together, had parties together, and all this stuff. So you have to understand that this sounds crazy, but in a certain way, up until I was 11 or 12 years old, I was insulated from the racism that was a part of the broader culture. Of course, I knew who I was. So as we were traveling, my dad had driven all night long, stopped at this service station somewhere in Southern Virginia and gotten gas. I remember walking with my father. He wanted to get a cup of coffee. And as we walked up to this window thing, I was old enough to read and old enough to feel the indignity. It said, “Colored served in the rear.” I’m 61 years old, and even as I say these words today I still can feel the sting that I felt.

And I remember saying, “Pop, why do we have to go in the back?” And he said, “Close your mouth boy and follow me.” And then we got back in the car, and I always said a little more than I should have. But I remember my father saying, “That’s all right. We know who we are. We know who we are.” And I’ll never forget that. That lesson has been with me my whole life.

Don’t let people tell you who your friends should be. That’s another thing that I learned from him about integrity. You don’t let people recruit you into their insecurities and fears. I remember when we moved to Plainfield, New Jersey and I was in high school there, I hung out with white dudes and black dudes and friends. I remember some of my black friends saw me with some of my white friends, and they said, “Loritts, you’re selling out.” And I remember going home and saying that to my father and telling him that story and he said to me, just typical Pop, “Boy, don’t you ever let anybody tell you who your friend should be. You value people.”

My sons have gone through the same things. And there’s a sense of integrity that you are who you are. You are who God made you to be. You don’t let people define you. And by the way, some of you are here and you’re being beaten up by elders and other folks and that kind of thing. I’m not suggesting that you be proud. Humility is wonderful, but humility is not weak. You are who God made you to be and you don’t let somebody else write your biography. God made you who you are. You hold your head up and stand in the dignity of the Savior and let God take care of you.

Do Right

The third thing under all of this is my dad had a favorite statement when he wasn’t sure about what I was going to do as a teenager and I was going out and wasn’t certain about things. He would often ruin my evening by saying this as I would walk out the door, “Boy, do right. Do right.” All we have to give to the next generation is what we have become.

I was in North Carolina in the fall with my oldest son, Brian, who pastors in Memphis. And he had not been to the old cemetery behind Thomas Chapel since he was a little boy. Brian is going to be 39 next week. So we went to the cemetery and we walked around and I was surprised at how emotionally ambushed I became. I was standing there and telling him about his great-grandparents and Peter, the slave, is buried there. We can’t find his grave, but he’s there. I was telling him all these stories and filling him in. I remember looking at these grave markers and looking at my son and I just said to him, “Brian, don’t you ever forget these people paid your tuition. They paid your tuition.” And gentlemen, we are paying the tuition for the next generation.

The Ministry of the Spirit

Now I’ve got a brief time and I spent a little bit longer than I wanted to with all these stories, but I want to point your attention to Galatians chapter 5. When you tell stories like this, I’m aware of the fact that I talk about my dad and I talk about his influence on my life and I talk about our relationship and all of that, I know there’s so many of us that didn’t have that. I know that there’s hurt and there’s pain. There’s a sense of, “I wish this could be so in my life,” and all of that. But we do have God’s word, ee do have one another — God has placed us in his body — and we do have the Holy Spirit. And I want to say just a few words about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

One of my big concerns over the last 5 to 7 years of pastoral ministry is how we downplay the Spirit of God’s role in transformation. How easy it is for all of us to get so very transactional in how we preach and proclaim things. And I think we ignore the person and work and the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the third person of the Trinity. He’s not an influence. He’s the third person of the Trinity who has regenerated us. He indwells us. He has baptized us. He seals us and his operative ministry in our hearts and lives today is that he empowers us. He creates Christ-like character in us. And for the sake of time, I’m not going to read Galatians 5:16–26, but I want to point out five key words that I really believe represent the outline and summary of what the apostle Paul is saying in Galatians 5 about the work of the Spirit of God.

And you might say, “What does this have to do with being a man? And what does this have to do with fatherhood?” Well, this has to do with everything life. The way these things should take place, they don’t take place in the energy of the flesh. We don’t spend our lives reacting to our dysfunctions. But there is a transforming power of the Spirit of God that can change us and break the chains and break the patterns and sever the curses and make us what we need to be, and can take a former slave and launch generations of strong men and godly men. The Spirit of God can do that.


Here are the five words: walk, led, fruit, live, and walk again. The words for “walk” are two different Greek words, by the way. The first word (walk) is the Greek word peripateō. He says in Galatians 5:16:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

That term walk (peripateo) is a favorite word that Paul uses. It’s sort of his slang expression when he is talking about Christian behavior. And I think it’s interesting. He says, the way you act and the way you live day in and day out, whether it’s preaching on Sunday or sitting down and trying to resolve some conflict with your wife or interacting with your child — in this case, being a man and being a father — allow the Spirit of God to govern you. Don’t fight him; yield to him. We walk by means of the Spirit of God. This is the reason why the Christian life is supernatural. It’s not a string of best practices. It’s not a string of insights. It’s not a string of formulas. It is the power of God that guides us and lives his life in and through us. I want to give you hope, brothers, walk by the Spirit.


The second word here is the word led. Galatians 5:18 says:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

If you’ve studied the book of Galatians, you understand that the word led there is about the whole concept of freedom. Freedom. But the freedom here is not a license. The freedom here is a freedom to obey God. The Spirit of God gives us the freedom to do that which is right, the freedom not to be imprisoned to our flesh. And I would say, by implication, the freedom not to be typecast or blocked in or pushed in the corner because of my background, because of my past.

We can be whatever God wants us to be. We are free in him. And the Spirit of God expresses that freedom through us.


Then the third word is the word fruit. There’s a lot of lazy exegesis on Galatians 5:22. He says “the fruit of the Spirit,” and then he gives these nine character qualities. And by the way, I don’t believe that this is an exhaustive list because the last line says, “Against such things, there is no law.” The implication is that there could be more. But the point that he’s making here is that you don’t produce the fruit of the Spirit. It is the fruit of the Spirit.

No, we’re not passive in the Christian life, but when we are controlled by the Spirit of God, he produces Christ-like character in and through us. It’s a supernatural work of the Spirit of God as I lean into him and live for him and surrender to him. He produces love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc. It is the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t work on doing it. I’m not standing and straining to bear fruit and looking to see, “Is there any love here?” He does it. Don’t minimize or dumb down the Spirit’s ability to produce Christ-like character in and through you. And sometimes the older we get, the more we accept limits. He’s changing us.


The fourth word is live. Galatians 5:25 says:

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

The word live there is a Greek word zaō, and it’s often used, not exclusively, in a sense of fullness. I would argue that what he is saying here is that — and I use this expression intentionally — our lives should be typified, bathed in, baptized by the Spirit of God. There is this wonderful, sweet aura, the third person’s control. And we’re full of life, life more abundant, life that is free. And we model that life before our children and a watching generation.

Keep in Step

And the final word is the word walk again, but it’s a different Greek word. The word walk in Galatians 5:16 is peripateo, which means “to tread” or “trample about”. This word in Galatians 5:26 is the Greek word stoicheō. You might say, “Well, what’s the difference?” It’s not just a little difference. It’s a significant difference here. One has to do with our general behavior, but stoicheō has to do with our attitude in our walk, how we walk. It’s not a timid walk. It’s not a cowering walk. It’s not a fearful walk, but it’s a certain walk.

Where do I get that from? Because the word is a military term that was used of army’s in formation who were prepared and confident, who faced the battle with that degree of confidence. And I think what Paul is saying is, “Look, if you’re empowered by the Spirit of God, you don’t need to be afraid of any assignment that you have. You don’t need to be afraid of any God-given role that I’ve given to you. You’ve got the third person of the Trinity. Stand up, hold your shoulders back. What they call you is not who you are. It’s who you answer to. Stand at formation. Do what you need to do.” There’s a boldness. Let God be the source and theme of your life.

Being Filled with the Spirit

I don’t need to tell you as a pastor what to do in terms of being filled, or perhaps I do need to suggest. There are three big realities. And frankly, some of us need to do them today. We need to repent of wallowing in our self-pity and deifying our dysfunction. We need to repent.

Secondly, we need to yield, and say, “God, I can’t do this. Help me. Help me.” And thirdly, we need to believe. I have never ever had everything I needed to do what God has called me to do, ever. That’s not false humility. But I look back over my life. This month, I’ve been on sabbatical and I’ve been rereading my journals. Many times, I’ve fallen to my knees and said, “Look at God. Look at God.” When my dad was dying, in a few moments of being lucid he looked at me — and as he got older, it always bothered me to see him cry because I never saw that as a kid — and I saw a trickle down his cheeks and he looked at me and he said, “Boy, I did the best I could.” I knew exactly what he meant by that. The leader of the band is tired. This song is in my soul:

My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band

Wouldn’t it be great if succeeding generations could point back and say, “He followed Jesus. He was empowered by the Spirit. He loved me well and he gave me wings to fly.”

serves as senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia.