Jack Graham, in new book, urges men to fulfill their calling
PLANO, Texas (BP)--Jack Graham often has challenged men to "step up to the plate." The Dallas-area pastor's new book, "A Man of God: Essential Priorities for Every Man's Life," reflects his efforts over the years to build up the men in the church.
Graham, pastor of the 24,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he was blessed to have had four spiritually strong male figures in his life: his father, his grandfather, his brother and his pastor. But he realizes that many men don't have those types of influences, noting that's where the church should step in.
"I know the influence my pastor had on me in taking me forward in my Christian life, and as a pastor I take that assignment seriously," Graham said.
He said he's never felt like he's had to do as much with women "because women are more spiritually motivated to begin with." This message to men is "sort of a culmination of one of my life messages," which is that men need to be men of God and take responsibility for spiritual ministry and leadership in their community and church and their own families.
Living the Christian life is not as complicated as it's made out to be, Graham said during an interview about the book, published by Crossway. "There are some simple truths and simple tools to help men get this done."
Additional questions and answers during the interview:
Q: What led you to write this book?
A: For a number of years, I've wanted to write a book that we could put into the hands of a new Christian, which would cover all the basics of Christian living. Now, at the same time, I didn't write this as a primer. I wrote this for all men because I think it is the kind of book a veteran believer could pick up and read and be challenged to step it up in their Christian lives.
Q: What are your hopes for the book?
A: I didn't write this book thinking that it would be a best-seller because it's a niche with men, and it's going to be a challenge to get men to read a book. But I hope this is the kind of book that men's ministries, not only ours but in other churches, will be able to use. We hope to come out with a study guide and some supplementary materials that could be used.
Q: You've often said that one of the greatest social ills facing the country is the breakdown of the family and that it starts with men.
A: You name an issue, if it's sanctity of life, abortion, marriage and family, parenting, even issues of social justice and economic development, all these social problems are ultimately a family issue. And, if indeed the father and husband is to take responsibility for loving and leading the family, then more needs to be said and done to strengthen families and, thus, strengthen the culture in the country by helping men fulfill their calling.
Q: You write about how men are "maxed out" on a lot of things, but not necessarily on Christ. Why is that? Is it too difficult to commit?
A: There are many pressures on men today to do it all. Let's just talk about the Christian man -- he's to love his wife as Christ loves the church; he's to give his children priority in his life and be a great parent, a great role model, active in their lives. And at the same time, he has career responsibilities, and he has the desire to do well and achieve and accomplish in his life and make a difference. If there's not a strong spiritual foundation in their lives, if men do not practice spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study and worship, if men do not take care of their own souls, of their own spiritual walk, then they're going to be torn in many directions and feeling frustrated and like failures.
Q: What does it mean to become "a man of God?"
A: It means really getting your priorities in the proper order and then trusting God to do with your family, to do with your life, to do with your faith what needs to be done. So, hopefully, we're providing simple truths and simple tools to establish these proper priorities in a man's life.
Q: What did you learn from your father about being a man of God?
A: My dad taught me perseverance. I saw him persevere through some very tough situations, primarily related to job and money. And I saw him prioritize his family. My mother felt like we needed to move to Fort Worth for a number of reasons -- my brother was there in seminary, she had a sister in the area, and my dad was kind of between jobs. I remember him getting in our car and driving to Fort Worth from Conway, Ark., and staying a week and coming back and saying, "OK, I have a job. We're moving in two weeks." We packed up and moved. And, I've always wondered why he did that. But the obvious reason was he saw it as a chance to keep our family together and to give us a better opportunity with our lives. He was willing to leave his comfort zone for us. He never read a book on being a man, but he was a man and he was a good man, and I believe he was God's man; he was certainly God's man for our family.
Q: You dedicated your book to your maternal grandfather, A.J. Sims. Tell us about him.
A: In those formative years of my life from 1950, when I was born, to 1960, when we moved to Fort Worth, he was a daily influence in my life. My grandmother had died in 1951, so my parents and brother and I had moved into his home. So his room was next to mine. I spent a lot of time with him. He was a man of God. He was a leader in the church, a gracious, dignified, old-school, southern gentleman. He read the Bible to me every night.
Q: For those who haven't had the male influences you had, could this book help fill in some of the gaps?
A: You could certainly pass this on to a seeker or someone who maybe either never attended church or once did. This book also would be good to give to a man who is reaching that time in life when you say, "There's got to be more to my life than this." This book might help them discover or rediscover their faith and get their priorities in order. I would pray that God would use the message of the book to bring those men to Christ or back to Christ.
Jack Graham's new book, "A Man of God: Essential Priorities for Every Man's Life," being released in time for Father's Day, is available at LifeWay Christian Stores and other Christian bookstores across the country.