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The Intentional Father: Jon Tyson

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
December 11, 2023 5:15 am

The Intentional Father: Jon Tyson

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 11, 2023 5:15 am

Without strong mentors, boys are walking alone into a wilderness of conflicting messages about who they should be as men. It's no wonder that our sons are confused about what the world expects from them and what they should expect of themselves. Jon Tyson lays out a clear path for fathers and sons that includes specific activities, rites of passage, and significant "marking moments" that can be customized to fit any family.

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Connect with Jon Tyson at and find Jon on social media on Instagram.

And grab Jon Tyson's book, The Intentional Father in our shop.

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

Before we get into the show today, I wanted you to hear one message that was left for us.

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All right, let's get into the show. How can we be at this point in church history, 2,000 years in, and this is not a normal part of the evangelical tradition? Why is it that it's so rare to meet a son that says, my father raised me into a man, he did a great job, and I'm a healthy, functional adult because of it?

Why is that an exception, not the norm? I don't know why there's not some sort of great tradition that is handed down, even inside the church. It's like, why does it feel like every generation has to rediscover this?

Why do we always feel like we're starting at zero, like the conversation is back at the ground floor? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. So you grew up without a dad in your home or really influencing your life? Are you like telling me something I don't know? No, I'm asking a question. Did that make you sad or mad growing up?

What did it feel like? Yeah, both. Extremely sad. I can remember laying in bed at night as a 12, 13-year-old boy, praying to a God I didn't believe in, why did you take my dad?

I mean, he didn't die. He left, but I sort of wanted to blame God for him not being there. And then as I got older, mad.

You know, like, why did you leave? And felt like I really, really missed something. Yeah, it's been interesting for me to watch you as a dad, because that was always in your head, I think. Well, the thing that shocked me that I didn't understand until later was the power of a father.

Yeah. Because I sort of thought, because I didn't have a dad, I wouldn't copy my dad. And then as I became a young man, and even when we got married, I was like, oh my goodness, I am doing things that I never even saw my dad do, because he wasn't there, but I know he did. And so it was like, wow, the power of a father is powerful. And now I'm a dad, and I realized I am going to impact my boys in a way I don't even understand.

So I wanted to do it right. Do you feel like we're in a culture today that men need help in this area? Oh, we've always needed help, more than ever. And we've got help in the studio today.

I'm excited. Yeah, we have John Tyson, who's a father and a pastor and an author. And I mean, as I read your book, it feels like you have a visceral, emotional feeling about fatherhood. John, welcome to Family Life Today.

Thank you so much for having me on the show. Yes, I do. I have a father's heart, and I think that comes just from the wonder of having kids.

And yes, some of my own brokenness, and certainly as a pastor, over the years, just watching thousands of men deal with father issues, it's like, this is a huge need. We've got to talk about it. We've got to do something about it.

Yeah, and our listeners probably are like, this dude has an accent. You know, where's that come from? Tell us a little bit of your story. Okay, I grew up in Australia. I was born in Melbourne, lived in Perth for eight years, and then basically came of age in a city called Adelaide. And it's sort of like the Napa Valley of Australia.

It's famous, really, for wines is probably the most famous thing. I became a Christian the weekend I turned 17 in a Pentecostal youth revival. Felt a call to come to the U.S. and serve God that felt like some sort of missionary call. Very weird, I told my youth pastor. I remember him saying, why would God send you to America? It's filled with Christians. And when I was 20, I got a scholarship to study theology and moved over, met my wife doing the campus orientation tour. I hear this is a show you can be honest with.

What do you mean? Tell us that. Well, I've been married 23 years, two years of a total hellscape, two very hard years, and then the rest of them absolutely wonderful years. So it's kind of like, you know, like 19 good years out of 23 is like, not bad. Yeah, well, I heard she said 15 out of 23, so.

It's like, we are still working on our communication, so that could be true. So yeah, and so I saw her and just remember thinking, focusing in Bible college will be harder than I anticipated. And then, you know, fell in love and got married and we were both a little older. She had lived on her own. You know, I'd lived on my own. I bought a house when I was 19.

It's a long story. I dropped out of high school when I was 16 to work. And so I had like a very visionary boss who had this life plan for me and I became a Christian in the middle of his plan for my life. But it was basically about getting ahead. And so we were older students and I think we bonded around that.

We didn't want to have a typical freshman experience. We weren't trying to get away from our parents and we were trying to get on with our lives. So connected, got married pretty close to right away and then had kids right away. And we've been at it ever since. We moved to New York 16 years ago to plant a church.

And so I've been in pastoring in Manhattan that entire time, including through the pandemic. And then we've recently become empty nesters. My son's 21.

My daughter's 18. And yeah, I'm here to talk about that process of raising my son in particular and some of the things I learned as a part of that. Talk about your relationship with your dad.

Like, why is this a passion for you? You know, my dad is, in the book I talk about five kinds of fathers. By the way, we read it. It's inspiring. I read Robert Lewis' Raising a Modern Day Night when I was a young dad and it really gave me a pathway to raise my sons. And I feel like this is just as powerful on a new day.

I mean, seriously, I was telling Anne when I was reading, I was like, I don't know anybody writing like this, John. This was not only inspirational, but very hands-on, here's a pathway to do it. Practical. The title's called The Intentional Father, A Practical Guide to Raise Sons of Courage and Character. And I don't even know what question we asked you, but I want to ask you this. You asked me about my dad.

Yeah, okay, go there. My dad is a good and godly man. My dad is a quiet man. He's a prayerful man. I mean, at the start of the books, like to my father, Ian Tyson, his prayers have carried me this far.

That is true. My dad prays for me every day. He prayed me out of rebellion. He prayed me home, went after me in prayer and fasting in my rebellious years. My grandfather was a very accomplished missionary in India, had an incredibly supernatural ministry. Could see the spiritual realm for the rest of his life.

It was very, very interesting to be around. He could live with us in our later years. He was an old-school British missionary, which meant he was amazing at missions and terrible at fatherhood. Dump your kids in a boarding school.

If you love your family more than me, you're not worthy of me. So my dad grew up in India, developed a condition where he would sleepwalk at night trying to find his family. They would find him walking around. Like, what's going on in your head as a kid if you're doing that in your dreams? I want to honor my grandfather's legacy, which in many ways was like, there's thousands.

At this point, probably hundreds of thousands of people in the kingdom of God because of his work. But he had a massive flaw, which is he was a terrible father. So he didn't give my dad what my dad needed. My dad never got a sex talk, never got to talk about money, never got any practical advice about how to grow up.

So his brothers tried to fill in those gaps, and I think they did a pretty clumsy job. So my dad was resolved to do better than his dad. And my dad did so much better than his dad. But there was still some stuff he didn't have. He didn't have some of the tools he needed, particularly for a kid like me. You know, I was a handful growing up. And so my dad did everything he knew, and there was some stuff I needed that he didn't know how to do. And so when it came to me being a father, I was like, okay, I've got to try and break some generational stuff off here.

I don't want to react. I've got to figure out a way how to do this. And it started me on a huge journey of reading and interviewing men to try and understand, like, how do you get this right? One of the things I learned reading all of this stuff was quite simple. There was almost no books about his how to do it. There was dozens of books on, like, wounded men seeking healing, and very few that were like, here's how to do it. And then when I did read those books, here's how to do it, I was like, this is not enough. Like, a camping trip and a few talks is a thousand times better than what most kids get. But it's not enough. You've got, particularly during adolescence, six-plus years with these kids.

You're going to have to have a plan for, like, every day and every week. Formation happens in big breakthrough events, but it happens in the everyday moments. And so I basically realized, which actually stunned me. I was like, how can we be at this point in church history, 2,000 years in, and this is not a normal part of the evangelical tradition? Why is it that it's so rare to meet a son that says, my father raised me into a man, he did a great job, and I'm a healthy, functional adult because of it?

Why is that an exception, not the norm? And so I was saddened to have to write this book. I was shocked that there wasn't, like, 20 options like this.

I would have just used them. And so I felt like, man, I've got to sort of – one of my gifts is, like, reading widely, synthesizing it, and then turning it into tools. And I felt like, okay, I think I need to do this. So that's, yeah, some of my backstory and some of what informed the writing of this book. Well, Dave, I feel like for you, you knew – and maybe this is true of a lot of men. And like your dad, John, like, he knew how to build God's kingdom.

And that's for you, Dave. I think a lot of men, you knew how to build a career. But when it came to, how do you build a family when I've never seen it done?

I think that's a hard lesson to learn, and most men don't have any idea. Yeah, I don't know what percentage maybe you do, John, would be in that category, but I was definitely that guy. I didn't have a dad, obviously, and so I didn't know what it looked like. I didn't have a Christian background. So then when I got married, I was like, what is a Christian man? What's a Christian husband?

What's a Christian dad? What do you do? And we as wives have all kinds of expectations. Yeah, Ann told me everything I needed to know every day, every hour. Here's what you need to do.

Why aren't you doing it? I mean, we got, you know, I'm not kidding. In some ways, that's what she did. And, you know, as a man, sometimes you just push away from that rather than receiving it.

So I did what you did. I started asking men. I want to acknowledge that I think there's a lot of pain in men's hearts that gets glossed over. A, they're not willing to be vulnerable with it. B, our culture doesn't respect men, and oftentimes for good reason. But you talk to most men, and below the surface, I mean, through most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

I mean, that continues to be true. There's a lot of pain under the surface. And when you peel back the roof, you often get a lot of dads who are just like, I don't know how to do it, and I feel like I'm getting nagged on this. And if I knew how to do it, I'd do it.

This is not a will issue. Like, I would do this if I knew how to. And, you know, like there can be a lot of shame when you know you should be doing something that you don't know how to do, and you want to do it, but you don't know how to get the help, and you're just scrambling. And you know the stakes are so high.

It's a high-pressure environment. Yeah, it's interesting. I recently did a message to men, and I made this comment. Is that what you said, Jon? I said, men have lats. And I go, you think I'm talking about these big, you know, abs I have right here under my pecs.

I'm talking L-A-T-S. They're lonely. They're angry. They're tired. They're stressed. And I started talking about the loneliness of us men. We say we have friends, but we really don't. There's a sense of anger because we're carrying so much stuff.

Nobody seems to know. We're tired. You know, whatever.

I had more response of people reaching out and saying, hey, can we talk about that lats thing? Because it resonated with men in the room. What you just said is like, we do feel this sense of, I'm supposed to be the man. I'm supposed to be this dad, this husband. I don't know what that looks like.

Is that what you found? Yeah, and I don't know why there's not some sort of great tradition that is handed down. Even inside the church, it's like, why does it feel like every generation has to rediscover this? Why do we always feel like we're starting at zero, like the conversation is back at the ground floor? I think it's probably part of the enemy's plan, to be honest with you, which is to not build generational influence and impact.

Make every generation start at zero so there's nothing to carry over. I think that's probably a huge part of it. But I think even increasingly, I don't know if you saw these, the latest articles. There's one about how China raised men versus how the US is raising men.

That's getting a ton of attention. The other one on like young men being lost in college, like we're moving into a world that is not designed for men in many ways. And I want to be very clear here. I'm not talking like poor men or poor men. I want to acknowledge the very real pastoral pain that is under all of the cultural issues that we banter around.

And so I think, you know, almost every church is scrambling to do men's ministry right. It just feels perpetually like, I don't know if you've experienced this, like the curriculum's out of date. I've never found anyone who says like, no, the curriculum's right on.

We got it. It's always like, ah, it's dated. It's dated.

I don't know what it is. I honestly think it's like probably the enemy's plan. And so I'm glad we're able to like re-up one more time and, you know, sort of address these things and hopefully build some generational legacy. Yeah, so talk about where you started. I mean, you've got a son. You're trying to be this intentional dad.

Yes. Define where you started. Well, I mean, it honestly started. We were living in Dallas and I was coming back. And this is a shared moment every father has coming back from the doctor where they said, do you want to know, you know, do you want to know the gender of your kid? And I was like, yes.

And I said, it's a boy. And I just remember going, I don't think I have what it takes. Like, I don't know how to get this kid into adulthood. And I was a youth pastor at the time as well, so I was very, very aware of the brokenness of some of the kids in the youth group.

We did, you know, we picked these kids up in our minivan and I just was like, I saw what absentee fatherhood and what poor parenting did. And I was like, I don't know if I want to do better. So it started with a deep sense of resolve, but I felt completely overwhelmed and I think the journey began there. I said, this book is for one particular kind of dad.

Here's who it is. If you're overwhelmed but determined, this is your book. If you're like doing great, God bless you.

Keep going. But if you're not determined, it'll be too hard for you because there's a real task at hand. But if you're like determined and overwhelmed, I'm like, I've written this book for you. You want to get it right, you're like, I will do whatever it takes.

I've got a plan in the past to help with that. So yeah, that was birthed in my heart. I think one of the things I read, and this was an old Stephen Covey thing that was like maybe the one thing I got right for both of my kids. I remember Covey saying, you need to give each of your kids one night a week and it needs to be their time.

They set the agenda. And so I did that with both of my kids like fairly consistently their entire lives. And so people talk about like having date night and I was like, you're going to have time with your kids like that. And the whole goal was to develop this sacred bond. And I felt like as long as I have an emotional and relational attachment, we'll be able to process and get through everything. And so I worked so hard for so many years to build that willingness for my son to spend time with me. Because a lot of people say like, how do I get a 13-year-old son to enter into a multi-year like male formation journey? And I was like, I used to take my son to Waffle House in a car carrier. And then when he was one, we'd go.

When he was two, so we just kept that tradition our entire lives. And this book is not a promise that everything will work out fine. My son went through some very hard times. Dad, I don't want to be a Christian. I don't think following Jesus is worth it. But I had that relational connection to say, thanks for sharing that with me. Let's talk about that.

Like, what about following Jesus is not worth it? And on the surface, I looked probably pretty calm. And then I left the room and wept and started a 40-day fast. And I was like, God, I call forth my son's destiny.

Super intense behind the scenes. But I developed a bond that enabled it to work. So that was, I think, the one thing I knew.

If this is in place, I can probably handle anything as long as I maintain this. So yeah, that sort of started when he was born. Now, you've raised a son and daughter. Is it different? I know this book is for fathers and sons, but is it different with a girl?

Yeah, it is. So my wife pulled me aside in the early days. So I originally called this the primal path. That was what I called this thing with my son. And people are like, oh, that sounds like you want to eat meat and take your shirt off. I was like, hey, I don't know how to tell you this. Thirteen-year-old boys are not motivated by sophisticated adult language.

They want to feel like it's got some energy to it. So it was called the primal path. My wife pulled me aside and said, you know that a lot of this stuff is true for women, too. And I said, the number one way to demotivate a young man is tell him this is generic universal wisdom.

You're not special. This is just stuff that girls know, too. And I said, that's not the point. It's the framing of it that is important. So yeah, a lot of this stuff is just like helping adolescents move into adulthood in a healthy way. But there is definitely some things that are specific for men. Although I know it's a different conversation, but you're doing a similar but different thing with your daughter, right?

Yes, it's really interesting. This I did with my son. I did it for six years, and people said that so long. I was like, but I had him the whole time.

Like, do you want him to do a year and then give up on him and then wing it for five years? I was like, I just worked with the time I had. My daughter, I had a wonderful relationship with my daughter. But she had very different personalities, very driven, very conscientious, very internally motivated. So to be honest with you, my wife did a version of this with my daughter. If she turns that into a thing or not, I don't know, that's up to her. She doesn't feel cold to her like I did. But I knew I've got to play a significant role in deciphering my daughter. So I did a one-year intensive, and that was the 50 things.

I'm like, you've got to have this in your heart before you leave our house. So we did a lot of the stuff, but it was in a compressed timeframe. But in some ways, it was more intense.

So yeah, at some point I'll put that out. But what my daughter wanted from me was very, very different than what my son wanted from me. And again, my wife played a major role in deciphering my daughter. Go back, you mentioned the five kind of fathers.

Go back and kind of tell us what those are real quick. A lot of this was just observation. A lot of it primarily in my pastoring. There's five kinds of fathers. They all start with I because I'm a pastor and if I don't … Of course, they love it. If I don't alliterate, it's like, what are you doing with your … It doesn't work. It doesn't work. It's not even true.

Make it memorable. So the first father is like an irresponsible father. And this is like a dad who just bails, does not accept the sacred responsibility of bringing someone into the world, made in the image of God, who relies on them for a sense of purpose and identity, just bails.

We obviously know statistically, personally, sociologically the amount of damage that an absent dad. And I talk about ignorant dads. These are dads who like don't know what they're doing and they don't really want to know.

They just prescribe, well, when I was your age and you should figure this out. They have no empathy, no emotional connection. They don't understand the goal of fatherhood. Then you get inconsistent dads. These are dads who are torn, often with either personal brokenness or ambition.

So they're in or out, but they're not fully committed to the task of fatherhood. You know who Anthony Bourdain is, the famous chef? He was from New York. He was a big deal there. I watched the documentary about the end of his life, trying to ask the question, why did he commit suicide?

And one of the things was in there. He had his daughter later in life in a second marriage. And he wanted to be such an ideal dad that he couldn't sustain it. And then he was traveling so much, so driven to make his own TV show. He got into this cycle of dysfunction of like, if I can't be the perfect dad, I'm going to be a disappointment. So I withdraw, but now I'm withdrawing and traveling.

I love this, but I feel guilty and did a lot of damage. Just like a torn heart in parenting. That's the inconsistent dad. Then you've got involved dads. This is like your typical good American dad, you know, like doing the sex talk, going to the game. Just handing out with good intent, generic Christian wisdom and worldview. And if you've had a good dad, you know that it can change your life, accelerate your call.

It's an extraordinary thing. But my dad was an involved dad. But an intentional dad goes one step farther and they ask this, who is the kid that God has given me? What is the key to their heart? And it's beyond general wisdom and worldview.

So I'll give you an example. My whole life I've had like the equivalent of a dominant personality, outgoing leader. But my entire life I've struggled with insecurity, not pride. I'm a reluctant leader.

I'm the guy you drag to the mic, not the guy you fight to get it from my hand. But I was super gifted as a kid, athletics and academics. And so my dad's advice to me always was like, don't be arrogant. Don't be arrogant. God is opposed to the proud. Don't be arrogant. And that's true. But if he'd known my heart, which was the heart of insecurity, he would have always said to me, have courage. Never fail to step up. Like level up. You're needed.

Your gifts are welcome. He would have actually said the opposite thing. So the general wisdom was true based on the surface observation. And it was good generic parenting. But he didn't understand the key to my heart, which is like, I got to inspire confidence in my son, not deal with the pride issue. And so the intentional father asked the question, what is the key to my son's heart?

How do I get it? And then how do I develop them out of that? So that's my vision is to help dads. And my guess is like listening to like your audience.

If you're listening to a show about this, you're probably an involved parent. And my goal is to just help push and inspire that to the next level. Because I think, you know, the joy of being understood as a young man by your father is one of the greatest gifts you can have.

And I want to see that normalized in our world today. I think a ton of fathers want to practically know how to raise a son or sons of character, but they simply lack a way to get started and tracks to run on. Well, John has certainly helped us with that and pushed all of us in the right direction today.

I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to David Ann Wilson with John Tyson on Family Life Today. John's written a book called The Intentional Father. And this little helpful book gives activities, rites of passage and steps for parenting boys. It's for dads, grandpas and even expectant fathers.

You can pick up a copy of John Tyson's book, The Intentional Father at You know, every now and then we get to hear from a friend of mine who also happens to be the president of Family Life. And today he wants to say something to you if you've been around for a while here with us.

Hey there, David Robbins here. In my role as president of Family Life, I have the privilege of meeting people who are longtime friends of the ministry. And they often tell me these amazing stories about listening to Family Life Today 10, 20, 30 years ago.

Meg and I love hearing how this daily program helped them cultivate a God-fearing home and walk in the ways of Jesus. Well, for these seasoned couples, the days of changing diapers and wiping noses are long past. And now those little ones are raising families of their own. For a moment, let me appeal to our longtime friends of Family Life. Back in the early days, you probably didn't have the capacity to give to nonprofit ministries like Family Life.

But now that your kids are on their own, you're blessed with a financial margin that's a little more relaxed. Today, I want to appeal to those of you who have gone before us by giving to the matching challenge that's active right now. You can minister to young families in a way that someone once did for you. You can make a huge impact on some unsuspecting family who wants to cultivate a God-honoring home just as you did.

There's no better time to give than right now. The incredible matching challenge was set aside by generous friends of Family Life, hoping that it would inspire people like you to do the same. Give today at and double the size of your contribution while also doubling the number of homes that you will impact with the gospel. And together, we'll continue to help families pursue the relationships that matter most. Thank you so much for giving today.

That's right. You can go online to and click on the donate now button at the top of the page. Or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like to.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. You know, as a dad, your sons can take your bad habits and wounds that you carry into their lives. That's why it's so important to bring in people that you need to fill in the places that you as a father simply can't. Well, Dave and Anne Wilson tomorrow are going to be back with Jon Tyson to talk about all of that and so much more as we long to raise sons of character and consequence. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-11 07:20:08 / 2023-12-11 07:32:47 / 13

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