Becoming the Man God Created You to Be

“The white noise of cultural confusion coupled with the deafening silence of the church has left us insecure and unsure of our manhood,” shares Mark. It has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. So we settle for something far less than what God originally intended. Mark states, “Manhood isn’t a subject to be avoided. It’s an objective to be sought after and celebrated.”

Mark is the first to admit he lacks man skills, “If an assembly project requires more than two steps, it’s not going to end well for me.” Yet he has had his fair share of adventures, such as hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but he did pack an inflatable mattress. To be a man, “You don’t have to eat the heart of a bear or sleep inside a dead horse like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.” Playing the man is about developing character traits you can adopt or adapt in the journey toward manhood. He offers the following seven virtues as a starting point in the journey:

  • Tough love –It isn’t someone who can blacken an eye or bloody a nose. A true tough guy sacrifices himself for the sake of others. Tough love is a sacrificial love. Jesus is the perfect example. He was willing to be nailed to a cross because He loved us even though we didn’t deserve it. “Playing the man requires standing up for what you believe in, even if you’re standing alone,” shares Mark.
  • Childlike wonder – Childlikeness = good.  Childishness = bad. Playfulness is part of playing the man.
  • Will power – You may not control your circumstances, but you control your reactions to them. And that is what sets the men apart from the boys.
  • Raw passion – “It’s an insatiable energy that motivates you to live each day like it’s the first day and the last day of your life. It’s an enthusiasm that can come only from being filled with the Holy Spirit to overflowing,” shares Mark. Jesus may have been meek and mild, but He also had a wild side. He touched lepers, celebrated Samaritans, stopped storms, exorcised demons, ate with sinners, and turned funeral processions into parades. He died the way He lived – with pure passion.
  • True grit – Mark is convinced that men need an element of danger. He says, “It’s one way we come alive. Without danger, our sense of manliness atrophies.” Mark took his youngest son, Josiah, on a trip. They went rafting down the Colorado River. The highlight of the trip was a class 7 rapid called Sockdolager. It was a white-knuckle experience that had his son yelling, “We are men! We are men!” As Josiah faced his fears and fought through them Mark could see how the trip provided a Rite of Passage for his son into manhood. You need to put yourself in positions that will push you past your previous limits.  
  • Clear vision – Jesus was on a mission. You can’t play the man without a vision. Mark says, “A mission from God not only motivates us to do the right thing, it also demotivates us from doing the wrong thing.”
  • Moral courage – Playing the man means speaking up when everybody else remains silent. If God has spoken on a subject how can we remain silent?

When Mark’s oldest son, Parker turned 12, Mark crafted a Discipleship Covenant for his son’s Year of Discipleship. It was his way of making a man of out him. Over the next year there were 3 challenges for Parker to complete: (1) a physical challenge (Mark chose a sprint marathon which he would complete with his son which  included an ocean swim), (2) a mental challenge (Mark selected a dozen books for his son to read which included his books, spiritual books, and even some of his favorite fiction books); and (3) a spiritual challenge (reading God’s Word daily with his son and a life goal list). Mark encourages other men to help disciple their sons, “The discipleship process isn’t just to make a man; it’s to make a man of God.”

Mark was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and grew up in Naperville, Illinois. He was just 5 years old when his parents took him to see a movie made through Billy Graham’s ministry, called the Hiding Place. The film significantly impacted Mark and he gave his life to God. When he turned 19 years old, he realized that he had been asking Jesus to follow him instead of following Jesus.

Mark went to the University of Chicago on scholarship playing basketball and majoring in pre-law. After a prayer walk through a cow pasture, he felt called to full-time ministry and ended up at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. Mark also holds a Doctor of Ministry from Regent University. He is the author of a dozen books including his first published title, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and The Circle Maker, a New York Times Bestseller.

He and his wife Lora, moved to Washington, DC in 1994 to direct an inner-city ministry. He has served as Lead Pastor of National Community Church since 1996. Under his leadership, NCC has grown from a core group of 19 people to 1 church with 8 locations.

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


New York Times Best Selling Author, latest, Play the Man (Baker Books, 2017)

Lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC – one church with 8 campuses

Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University

Married to Lora

Three children: Parker, Summer, and Josiah


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