What is a "Real" man?

by Michael Webb

My cell phone alarm goes off…6am, my clothes still damp from the dew sneaking through the screen of my tent.  I can’t help but grin as I take a last look at my 2 boys still sleeping as I sneak out, quietly zipping the tent back shut.  Six o’clock is early but that’s an extra hour and a half of sleep that I don’t normally get during a work week.  Still half asleep, it all seems worth it knowing the best cup of coffee I will have all year is only a few more feet away brewing in a percolator.  Coffee in hand, I watch the sun rise above the hills that surround Lake Hartwell, men begin emerging from their tents, followed by drowsy, mini versions of themselves.  These are no ordinary men, though…these are REALMEN!

Growing up in a very small southern town in Georgia, being a man meant being tough.  Being a ‘real’ man meant being tough and knowing how to fix things, too.  And you better know how to hunt and fish or your man card would be tossed up in the air and have buck shot fired through it.  But if for some reason you failed to meet these standards, there was one last get out of jail free card you could play…you had to be good with the ladies.  But what if you don’t posses any of these qualities?  Are you not still a man?  

A few years ago I was part of an early morning men’s group that met once a week to discuss a new teaching series about raising sons.  This group was led by Ed Sweeny, founder of 3GEN Ministries.  During our discussions, Ed would tell stories of his “REALMAN Weekends”.  These stories included a group of fathers taking their sons away for weekends each year to teach them about what it truly means to be a “real” man.  Their foundation was solely based around Christ and what is expected of a Godly man.  They had learned doctrine that explained what a man’s roles and responsibilities were, then they put them to practice, not only in themselves but in their sons as well.  They taught their sons about passivity being the core sin of a man and the main Biblical principles that make up the foundation of becoming a REALMAN.  Each weekend had a specific teaching theme, and all the stories and activities were geared around that.  Throughout each weekend the boys would also learn new “man skills” that would help them as they grew older.  Not that these skills alone would make them a man, but each one would be useful in helping build confidence when learning how to pursue, provide, and protect a family of their own one day.  

After hearing a couple of these REALMAN stories, I truly felt the Holy Spirit moving inside me.  In the recent months I had been paying attention to the sin in my 2 young boys lives, as well as my own.  I knew I wanted to help them make better decisions than I did at their age.  My wife and I had been trying (and often failing, I might add) to raise our boys in a Godly way, but the pressure of our culture made all our efforts seem meaningless.  I knew I had to know more about this REALMAN stuff.  So, immediately after one of our early morning meetings I approached Ed and ask him what I needed to do in order to join his group.  With a smile on his face he responded, “you can’t join our group.”  My heart immediately dropped and I was crushed.  Thankfully, he didn’t hesitate long before he continued, “but I can show you how to start your own.” 

What I didn’t realize is that God had already begun answering the prayers that I had been throwing His way over the past several months.  He had already surrounded me with a group Godly men, who coincidently all had sons of their own.  Not only that but all 5 were members of my usher team at church.  We met, we discussed, and finally launched a trial REALMAN weekend of our own.  Six dads and 7 sons hit the north Greenville mountains to learn about God and what He expects of His male followers.  Telling you that the weekend was a success would be a complete understatement.  In those 2 days God made it very clear that He was with us and that He was in favor of what we were doing.  But He wasn’t done yet.  A few months later I was a part of a mission team where another group of men went to do God’s work in Eleuthera.  During that week I had a chance to speak about my REALMAN experience with these other fathers.  The look they had in their eyes matched the passion I had in my heart the first time I heard about this. 

After returning from Eleuthera, several of these men met with our REALMAN squad about joining our group.  We discussed our purpose and our plan, then determined who was truly committed to this experience with our boys.  A few short months later, in the Spring of 2018, 15 men and 25 boys embarked on a journey led by our Heavenly Father himself.  We are now over 2 years into this mission and there is no way in this short article for me to express the amount of growth I have seen, not only in our sons, but in the leadership of the fathers involved.  On each one of these weekends, God has shown His presence in an undeniable way.  REALMAN has allowed me to surround myself with Godly men who share the same passion for raising their sons righteously in this broken world.  REALMAN has upgraded the relationship I share with my boys, and I look forward to seeing what God produces in our young men over the next several years.

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice: he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.”
Proverbs 23:24

Travis Runion