The mentor who had the greatest influence on my fatherhood

Over Father’s Day weekend, I was reflecting upon those who have influenced my own fatherhood.

Of course, there was my own alcoholic and philandering biological father, who fought in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge. Just a handful of years after returning from the war, he left my mother to raise three growing boys all on her own. I can’t really say I learned anything positive from him, though he did teach me what not to do as a father.

Eventually, my mother remarried a very kind and gentle man who became my stepfather, George Knight. Though I was an adult and out of the home, George and I became very close. He modeled what a loving husband and father should be, and I will be forever grateful that he came into our lives.

The man who had the greatest impact upon my fatherhood, however, was Dr. Edwin Louis Cole. What I know, I owe to him.

Dr. Ed Cole is known as “The Father of the Christian Men’s Movement,” because he influenced millions of men worldwide, including many of the most influential leaders today. He’s also the founder of the Christian Men’s Network. His mission statement is simple and powerful: “I have been called to speak with a prophetic voice to the men of this generation and commissioned with a ministry majoring in men to declare a standard for manhood. …”

Dr. Cole’s story is amazing. As detailed on his website, he was born in Dallas, Texas, but moved with his mother, Florence, to Los Angeles at just 4 years old. A doctor told her that he would not survive without the sea air and sun to heal a severe case of scarlet fever. As a result, Ed grew up in the famous church Angelus Temple, founded by the controversial Aimee Semple McPherson, and in which he and his mother played a part of the ministry.

Ed fell away from the church and later served in World War II, where he met and married a fellow member of the Coast Guard, Nancy Corbett from Massachusetts. Meanwhile, mother Florence continued to pray for Ed and his new wife, until he and Nancy spiritually returned home.

Within two years, Ed became a pastor of a church in the mountains of Northern California. About 10 years later, Ed became the men’s minister for a major denomination. From there he spent the following decades particularly touching men’s lives all around the world.

Ed influenced some of the biggest names in Christendom today around the world: Coach Bill McCartney (founder of Promise Keepers), Pat Robertson (president of the 700 Club), John Maxwell (president of Maxwell Leadership), Sunday Adelaja (Ukraine), Kong Hee (Singapore), Eddy Leo (Indonesia), Robert Barriger (Peru), Alex Mitala (Uganda), Alexey Ledyaev (Latvia), Suliasi Kurulo (Fiji), Leon Fontaine (Canada), Kenneth Copeland, Oliver North and a host of others, including me.

My wife, Gena, and I first met Ed and Nancy in 1998 at a banquet honoring “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Over the next four years there would be many choice moments between Ed and me.

One night in that period, Dr. Cole drove across Dallas through a thunderstorm simply to deliver a message God had laid on his heart to encourage us to get grounded in the Bible in order to discern between the genuine and the counterfeit in life. What a great lesson. What a great man!

As I shared in my autobiography, “Against All Odds,” in 2002, Ed called our home and asked us to pray for him, because he was very ill. After we prayed with him over the phone, we decided to fly to Dallas to see and pray with him personally. It was one of the most moving moments of our life. It wasn’t long after that he passed to his heavenly home.

God loved me through Ed Cole, and I thank God for him. And I look forward to thanking Ed again when I see him one day in Heaven.

I will never forget or take for granted Ed’s influence in my life. He influenced me to increase my trust in God, to be a faithful husband and father. Even though I was a “TV tough guy,” Ed challenged me to be a real man. He challenged me with the three keys: to be a better role model, mentor and motivator to my family. I actually expounded on those three principles as I wrote to men and fathers about manhood and fatherhood in my New York Times bestseller, “Black Belt Patriotism.”

I am not a perfect father or husband. Truth be known, I’ve learned far more from my failures than from my successes. However, I won’t allow them to stop me from pressing on and bettering myself – and I don’t believe that you should allow failures to hinder your fatherhood either. As Ed used to say, “You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.”

Do you have a few role models, mentors and motivators in your life? I hope so. If not, Ed can still be a part of your life today through his resources found at the Christian Men’s Network.

It’s been 20 years since Ed departed for Heaven, but his ministry and work continue to influence and impact millions of men in many languages. Please, check out his many resources, including a new book for Father’s Day publication: “Maximized Minutes for Fathers.” (Another great book for men is “Courageous,” by our friend and another spiritual mentor Randy Alcorn. It is based upon the movie but expanded with 80% more and new content.)

Of course, I understand and believe in the power of motherhood, and I’ve written about it a host of times. I wholeheartedly believe in the Spanish proverb that says, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” However, I also believe that men and fathers hold a unique role and power to restore our homes and country, one that is being negatively impacted by the increasing rate of fatherless homes. reported, “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.4 million children, 1 in 4, live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. That’s enough children to fill New York City twice or Los Angeles four times over. Research shows that a father’s absence affects children in numerous unfortunate ways, while a father’s presence makes a positive difference in the lives of both children and mothers.”

I believe as families go, so goes the nation. Dr. Cole was right: Men possess three specific keys (powers) that can draw them, their children and their spouses closer to one another and God as well empower them all to be better citizens. Don’t ever forget them. Fathers, they are an inherent power gifted by God to you: to be a model, mentor and motivator to your family as one who uniquely reflects the very image of God.

I learned from Dr. Cole that, 400 years before Jesus was born, the closing verse of the Old Testament predicted a primary hope, purpose and power gifted to fathers by the future coming of the Messiah: “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. …”

That verse reminds me of Dr. Cole’s legacy message: If we men continue to fight to be the best husbands, fathers and leaders we can be, I believe we will not only give our family members what they need, but we will also receive in return what we need and simultaneously help to restore our country, one home at a time.

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