Elfstrand Affirms Manhood with 10 Passions of a Man's Soul
- Friday, July 27, 2007
If you're a Christian talk radio listener in the greater Chicago area, chances are you already know about Mark Elfstrand. Soon, men across the rest of America will be familiar with Elfstrand and his heart for a rediscovery of manhood thanks to his new book 10 Passions of a Man's Soul (Moody Press, 2006). Building upon the insights and expertise of recognized Christian leaders, Elfstrand jumps right into the issues that really drive a man.
Earlier this month at the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta, Mark took time out of his busy schedule to squeeze in a discussion about the book between his remote radio broadcast and an interview with Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy.
Mark, your book has been called, “A tool for men to check themselves for hidden danger zones.” Can you elaborate on that? How so?
Well, every one of the 10 passions can be a danger zone for a man, and let’s just start with the first one, which is purpose. I just noticed an article that came out on one of the religious websites over the last few days talking about the importance of a man having purpose, or the risk he gets to the end of his life and [experiences] the feeling of emptiness. Well that’s not a good feeling to have for a man! So, when you think about the idea of “purpose,” the danger zone is that it never enters the man’s mind that that’s even an issue.
A man of adventure – what happens when he loses sight of adventure? His life becomes boring, and drab. He loses the beauty of what God has created for him. And a man can become depressed about that as he goes along.
So that can be a danger zone. So, really I think all 10 at some point can become danger zones. That’s why the book is a guide through manhood of what to watch out for.
Speak to this identity issue of manhood. What is it? And what struggles do we have with identity in today’s culture?
Yeah, this is perhaps the biggest thing, the biggest piece, the reason why I got involved in this at all. And it really started a few years ago (I tell a little bit of that story in the book). A friend of mine from Dallas-Fort Worth came up and did a men’s retreat for us, a men’s weekend. And he had written a book called Things Only Men Know. Most women think it’s a short book [laughs], but it’s really not, it’s got a lot of pages in it.
And so he came up and did the retreat, and at the last session I was gone that night; I had another commitment that I had to attend. So the next day we had lunch and I said, “What happened last night?” And he said, “Well, I did something, Mark, I’ve done a few other times, I said to the men, ‘There are men in this room who’ve never felt embraced by manhood.’” And these are not guys in their teens or twenties. These are men all over 30, all of them, and several of them over 40 and 50.
So he says this to them, and I go, “Oh, my goodness.” I’m embarrassed, you know. “What happened?”
He said, “Well, Mark, again I’ve done this in several other places, and I got the same results with your men as I did when I’ve done this before.”
So I’m on the edge of my chair. I said, “What happened?”
And he says, “Half the men in the room stood.”
I have sales and marketing as my background. You don’t have to be a Marketing major to figure this out. But if he’s getting about that same response [at every venue], this is a significant issue. In fact, it is the significant issue.
So, why do we have this kind of a problem in our culture, that guys who come through the ages of 21… 23… 25 never grasp that they belong in the fraternity of men? I think part of the reason, that’s been identified by Dr. Robert Lewis, is that we don’t have ceremonies. In the Jewish tradition you’ll find a ceremony, a Bar-Mitzvah for a young man, and he’s essentially embraced by other men. And as Dr. Lewis has said, only a man can affirm another man’s manhood. Not a mother, but a man!
And so we’ve come to a culture where fathers have disappeared out of the household to a large degree. And they go to work – my dad did, he worked outside the home every day, so when I got to see him when he came home, if he had time, maybe we’d do some things together. And then we have a lot of single-parent homes right now with moms raising boys, and there is no father present. You start compiling all that data and you can kind of see why, without those ceremonies, without those benchmarks, without that affirmation, we have a significant problem of men not feeling like men.
I would agree with you there. Even as someone who had a great relationship with his dad, something really resonated with me that was recently written by John Eldredge, who I know has given some insights to your book. One thing in John’s latest book that struck a chord with me was his story about how ill-prepared he felt to even fix his sprinkler system, how feeling like you were absent from school that day stems from how these ceremonies just aren’t there to help a man feel connected. You’re talking about being embraced by men, and being able to know that you have been affirmed… what sorts of rites of passage do you talk about in 10 Passions?
There are a few ways that men can actually get this kind of affirmation that we’re talking about. One of them is for young guys to get involved in something like Boy Scouts, or a scouting program, where you’re taught things about men, and other men are leading you. And you notice there again that there are benchmarks that you can move through.
There are church groups like Awana, where fathers get involved with boys. Even for single moms this is a very important thing. Single moms will ask you: “What do I do about this?” So, there are places you can go. Small groups are a natural way for guys to deal with this subject. It’s just not something that you would see generally come up in a small group. That’s part of the reason for writing a book like this, is to say, “Can we get the discussion on the table?”
So, for example, with a small group of guys you’re meeting with - four or five - bring up the subject, just start by bringing up the subject. A friend of mine is using [10 Passions] as a discussion book in his small group. That’s what he’s chosen to do. But let’s bring up the discussion: “How many of you in here, in our small group – let’s just talk about this – where did you sense that you were dealing with the issues of manhood?”
I have a very good friend who was a bank president who had me [get] involved with his men’s group, come down and kind of spend some time there. And I went through this, and I told the very same stories. And at the end of the evening (and he’s probably around 60 years old – anything you’d notice about him, he’s totally a manly guy) he just starts to tear up. And he said, “I’ve never felt affirmed in my life as a man. Ever.” And so there again, is it too late? No! It’s not too late. That’s what those guys were doing at that retreat we had – they were standing up. In other words, there needs to be those mechanisms. It sounds awkward, it sounds like something we shouldn’t have to do, but for guys who have been struggling with this, now is a very important time to do it. So there’s a number of ways that you can actually engage in [ceremony].
Now, whenever we’re talking about “passions,” that’s something where balance is going to be an important factor. Can you speak to, for example, balancing a man’s passion for wealth; what does that look like?
Okay, well, you take a look at the extremes of what a man could do with money. He could be very miserly over on one side, or he could be very extravagant in his spending on the other side. Well the miser sort of looks at it probably like it’s his own. And the man who’s extravagant probably has lost the [correct] sense as well, he’s thinking that it’s his own. The man of faith should start out with one basic principle in motion, and that is that it’s not mine. That’s the hardest single financial principle, I think, for any man to adopt – that it all belongs to God. Well now if you start from that point – let’s just make that the center point – on one side you don’t want to be extravagant to the point of wasting God’s resources, because they’re not yours, they’re God’s. On the other hand (that’s why you want to stay balanced), if you go too far into the miserly side, you’re probably not investing in the kinds of things that God would invest in with His heart.
So the idea of balance is to say, “Do I have a benchmark to look at my life?” So in each chapter I try to put components together that explain this, and to take a look at the balance issues.
I have one more question for you – something that really intrigued me from your introduction. You say that you “field tested” the material in your book. Can you talk about that process, and how it went?
Yeah, this was on the heels of the men’s retreat I told you about. So kind of a Step Two was realizing that this was a significant issue, and I’d read some previous books on this too, so I sort of knew where we were going. I ran across this material by Robert Lewis that he teaches, and actually he’s got a 3-year curriculum, that has to do with the masculine soul. It’s called The Quest for Authentic Manhood. Once we brought his curriculum into our men’s group, I flew down to Little Rock, met with Robert Lewis, and there were 1,000 guys on a Wednesday morning at 6:00 meeting in his church. A thousand men in Little Rock. And they’re out there for like a 24-week series on this quest for authentic manhood, and this is the third time he’s done it down there. I’m like blown away from this, and so I brought our pastor with me, and we went down there, and when we came back up he said, “Now what’s next?” And I said, “Well… what are you…” And he says, “I’m willing to do this.”
So we did the same thing Robert Lewis did; we simply announced in our church that we were going to be starting to teach this curriculum the following Wednesday. That’s all we did. And we had 150 guys show up, versus 30 that we were getting on a Saturday morning. And this is at 6:00 a.m. in the Naperville area outside of Chicago on a Wednesday morning. And then we repeated it on Saturday for the guys that couldn’t come, and we had about 35-40 guys. Our men’s ministry went from about 30 guys to 190 guys.
So with that kind of now the benchmark for where we were going, after two years of Robert Lewis’s curriculum I said, “We’re about ready to do our own.” And it was at that point I was asked, you know, where do you want to go with this? I said, “I’ve been working on this thing called ‘Passions of Manhood.’” And that’s what we did. I taught a 10-week series on The 10 Passions of a Man’s Soul, and got a wonderful response, and Moody Publishers then decided to make it a book.
Mark Elfstrand is the Executive Producer and host of the Morning Program on WMBI-FM in Chicago – the flagship station of the Moody Broadcasting Network. His background in sales, marketing and radio programming spans more than 30 years. He is also on the organizing committee for the Chicago Executive Forum, which supports senior level executives in discussions of faith. Mark and his wife Rhonda live in Plainfield, Illinois. They have three married children.
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