John Piper and Darrin Patrick on Biblical Manhood (Part 1)

Darrin Patrick is the lead pastor at The Journey, a church in St. Louis that he planted in 2002, which is coming up on 10 years. Do you have a celebration planned for next year?


All right, good. He’s here for this little interview because he’s going to be a part of the Desiring God Conference for pastors in January 2012, which is focused on God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ. Let me tell you a little bit about my pilgrimage and what excites me about this moment of history that we’re in and this conference.

When I was teaching at Bethel College 35 years ago, the word complementarianism didn’t exist in those days. It was created by the movement. In those days, they would call it traditional or hierarchical, trying to put the negative spin on the alternative. Egalitarianism was freeing and affirming. I looked at my Bible and I thought, “I just don’t think that’s what it says.” And it isn’t what I grew up with. It didn’t feel healthy. It felt stilted and it felt trendy.

So I took different opinions. Wayne Grudem and I were teaching together in those days, and we were working this through and we had egalitarian speakers who would come and say, “You guys are obscene.” That was the language. I went to speak at a seminary and women students were there, they would just be spitting mad at me because I would call their calling to ministry into question. And my typical response was, “I’m not calling your calling to ministry into question. The Bible is questioning whether your call to ministry is being interpreted by you correctly as to whether it should be this or whether you should be leading men or not.” So I thought, in those days, we didn’t win that battle. I thought the tide was just so huge that that view would be swept away.

Here we are now 35 years later, where complementarianism affirms that men and women are different by God’s design. It’s not only about their plumbing and the disposition of whether they have hair on their faces or not, which are such minor things when it comes to personhood, but that men and women are different and complementary in their callings and in their nature; that men are called to lead and protect and provide in the home and in the church, and women are called to joyfully and creatively and articulately support that, help that, and embrace that so that there’s this beautiful choreography in the marriage and in the church where both are thriving.

And lo and behold, today there’s people like you, which I never dreamed of. There’s a younger man, who is growing by God’s grace and would identify himself as a complementarian. And the whole movement of Acts 29 church planters is like that. I remember the first time I met Mark Driscoll, I said, “So what’s this about?” He said, “Three things.” He’s got everything done in pieces. He said, “Reformed theology, male eldership, and church planting. That’s what we’re about.” And I was going, “You’re kidding me. Male eldership is part of this?” So I look around the scene today and for whatever reason, God has been pleased not to let that vision go away.

I think the Young Restless and Reformed, complementarian-type folks are a little teeny tribe in the world, but I don’t know what God might be pleased to do to recover something this beautiful. So my question is about your story. Were you always somebody who, let’s see, here’s your, let me get this thing, I didn’t plan this very well. You wrote a book called Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission, and the very first thing you read when you get in here is, “Why focus on men?” So obviously this seems like a big deal to you. How did that happen?

I think it really goes back to how I grew up. I grew up without a dad and I had two older sisters, so I had three moms functionally. And they were great, they were nurturing. But as soon as I got larger than my mom, physically, I basically did whatever I wanted to do. And these were in my high school years. I was out three or four nights a week. I was very much a guy who used women for sex and was demeaning and I just had really deplorable behavior towards women. I became a Christian and I had a dramatic conversion my junior year of high school.

One of the first things that happened to me, one of my first Holy Spirit convictions, was you may not treat my daughters that way. It was as clear as anything, and I actually met my wife in high school right after that. We didn’t get married for a few years. Really my heart was changed toward how I viewed women. I got into seminary and started reading about church planting and church growth and I remember thinking, “I don’t really know where I’m at on this issue.” I became a Christian in a very conservative church that was a complementarian church, but not with a lot of explanation. I was just kind of like, “We do it this way.” There was not a lot of thought and not a lot of Bible.

In seminary I was converted to being an egalitarian, and I wrote a paper actually that my professor told me I should consider publishing with regard to church planting. I argued that if we did not become egalitarians, we were not going to prevail as a church in this culture, that we have to go there. The funny thing is that as I was writing the paper, doing the research, I read yours and Grudem’s book, and I was confronted with Scripture and I began to see it as I was writing the paper, but now I had to finish the paper. So I went ahead and turned the paper as an egalitarian, but in the process of researching, I became a complementarian, a thoroughly to-the-bone-complementarian, and that really has set the pattern for my ministry.

So it matters in the way you do ministry and it matters in the way you plant a church, why?

If we’re not able to challenge young men to take responsibility for things that aren’t their fault, to sacrifice for another, to really all the things that Ephesians 5 tells us that a husband should do for his wife. If we don’t have a basis from Scripture to challenge that, what men do is they prolong their adolescence and they fail to grow up. You don’t have to be a researcher to see what’s happening with young men. So most church plants reach young people, it’s just kind of a young person’s thing. In older people, it’s rare to see. They reach a lot of young people. So how are we going to train these folks? How are we going to give a vision for what family is? How are we going to give a vision for how the church is to be governed? I think it starts with this issue and it really is, I think, this doctrine is God’s beautiful way of calling men to be the men that he desires. And as men go, so goes society, specifically young men.

We’re going to reflect extensively on these things at the Desiring God Conference for pastors in January. If your pastor could benefit from reflecting about these things, we would just encourage you to help him get there. It would be our pleasure to worship with him, study with him, and pray with him. I’m looking forward to it.