Speaker Panel: John Piper, Crawford Loritts, Darrin Patrick, Doug Wilson, Ramez Atallah

Desiring God 2012 Conference for Pastors

God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ

David Mathis: Let’s begin with femininity as a complement to all of our discussion about masculinity. What is biblical femininity? We’ll start with Doug, and all you guys jump in. What is biblical femininity? And Doug, in particular, what are the feminine virtues that you referred to generally? What are they specifically?

Douglas Wilson: The feminine virtues would be those which are the counterpart to the masculine virtues. So if a man taking on the masculine role takes the initiative, then his wife responds. So, men initiate, women respond. At the ball, the gentleman bows, the lady curtsies. So initiative is nothing if there’s nobody there to respond to it.

Another feminine virtue would be that of helping. So if you go through the creation account, God creates this and says, “It’s good,” and he creates this and says, “And it’s good,” and he creates this, and he says, “It’s good.” And then, the first thing he says is not good is a solitary bachelor. So he creates man, one guy, a solitary male, and God says, “And it is not good. We are not done here.” It’s not good that man should be alone, and he will make a helper suitable for him.

So the helpmeet or the helper suitable for him means that he by himself is inadequate, so God makes her be a helper suitable for him. And you see the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11 where it says that the man was not made for the woman, but the woman for the man, and the man was made first. This is all creation order stuff. It’s not Greco-Roman customs. It’s creation order.

And so, just to sum it up, the man is built with a mission in mind, and his mission is the garden, the tilling of the field, the discovery of the new thing. And her role is to enable and help and equip him.

David Mathis: You define masculinity as “the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.” Do you have something corresponding in mind for femininity?

Douglas Wilson: I would say “the glad acceptance of that sacrifice.” So a woman should not feel like she’s imposing if a man does that for her. She’s not imposing at all. That’s what he’s built for. That’s what he’s made for.

David Mathis: Anything else you guys want to add?

Darrin Patrick: I would say as well in Ephesians 5, obviously, the classic passage on headship, before a woman is told to submit to her husband, before a husband is told to be the head, there is mutual submission that happens. So I think that in Christ and in the church and even in marriage, there are gifts that women have from God that there is submission to on the man’s part, and so, on the husband’s part.

For instance, my wife is way more organized than I am with regard to everything. And so, I’m just trying to nuance that. Everything she’s better at with regard to details, and she has much more mercy than I do. I think it’s actually a spiritual gift that she has. We’re all called to be merciful, but I think there is a mercy thing in her that helps her understand our children’s hearts in a way that I don’t get, and so, I lean on her to help me with that.

So agreeing with everything that Doug said, but I think in Christ and in the church, spiritual gifts sometimes, and in marriage and with women in the church, there are times that those things rise up. And that is a very feminine thing. That is how God made them to use those gifts in the church and for the greater good of the gospel.

David Mathis: John, you talked about Christianity having a masculine feel. Is there a sense in which there’s a feminine feel if masculinity and femininity are both finding their source in God?

John Piper: If it’s done right, this masculine feel creates a space — it’s big, it’s roomy, it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, it’s just full and radiant with all the good things of life. And in it, women flourishing will give it that feel so that as you, say, walk in on Sunday morning and strong singing led primarily by men and then, a voice from God is heard, you’ll sense it. And women are sitting there loving this — they’re radiant, they’re intelligent, they’re understanding, they’re processing, they’re interacting. And then, all the gifts that were just articulated will flourish in that space, and as you navigate that community, there will be feminine feels all over the place.

And one of the things, if I’d had another hour, I would’ve liked to spin out the benefits of that community. And one of the things I would’ve said is in a community where there is a secure, strong, humble, masculine feel, men are free to be appropriately feminine, and women are free to be appropriately masculine.

In other words, when you look at any given human being, the most attractive, interesting, winsome human beings are not all masculine or all feminine. They are appropriately, if they’re a man, prominently masculine, and there are things about this guy that are remarkably tender, kind, warm, nurturing, the kinds of things we would associate. And when you look at a woman who’s dominantly and prominently feminine, she will have a backbone, she will be articulate, she’ll be thoughtful — things we tend to think are male.

And in a community that’s well-defined, there’s freedom to have a man who might in some places not be viewed as masculine as he might be otherwise. He’s an artistic guy. I didn’t want to create, and I hope I can uncreate any sense that the only appropriate masculine guy who hunts or who does flag football or doesn’t like anything creative, artistic, doesn’t like to write, doesn’t like to make music.

Douglas Wilson: You meant tackle football?

John Piper: Yeah, I did. That’s what I meant. I was going to say blocking. I have challenged these younger guys when they played flag football. So I never played it in my life as a kid. We broke a guy’s neck playing football the way we play it. Tackle the backyard.

So the flavor there is yes. The answer is yes. The church, as you move through this community, prescribed by and protected by a masculine feel, there will be feminine feel lots of places.

Crawford Loritts: I was going to say, you triggered just a thought of me. I really think, sometimes, the genesis of the conflict between these things arises out of a willful ignorance and acceptance of truth and our insecurity that comes out of that. For example, John, in order to do what you just said, a person has to really know the truth and embrace who they are. It’s like great jazz musicians. I love jazz. Great jazz musicians, the truly great ones, they understand clearly music theory. They understand it. You can’t improvise off of what you don’t understand and embrace.

And so, I think the foundation is to preach transcendent propositional truth about who we are and stop recruiting to our insecurities, but accept who we are in Christ, then you can improvise and be appropriately female and appropriately male.

Darrin Patrick: I think that the passage that I taught on, I mean, the fruit of the Spirit, to John’s point, you have seemingly very masculine like that word, faithfulness, confidence, assurance, boldness is the idea. You have gentleness. You have self-control, right?

And I think that that’s part of the problem of the whole a man is a UFC guy, a football guy, a hunter, and a woman likes daisies and home interior stuff. And I think that we have bought into that. That’s the cultural thing. It’s not a Bible thing. And so, we have adopted that and then kind of spit that out as masculinity and femininity.

I mean, was Paul a masculine guy? Was he bold? Would he rebuke? Would he take a punch as he did in Acts 20? Yeah. But would he repent quickly as he did there? Would he in 1 Thessalonians 2 say I’m going to share my life and we are with you like a mother caring for her children? So nursing mother. So I think there’s a distortion and I think capturing this idea of masculinity and femininity, we’ve got to let the Bible inform us not just cultural clues and cues.

David Mathis: I got several questions from fathers of daughters asking for counsel on the formation of their daughters.

Douglas Wilson: There’s nothing that can be done. That was a little joke. One of the things I would say about that is that fathers understand their sons and mothers understand their daughters, and fathers and mothers must therefore be communicating with one another about what’s going on. Because of that understanding, fathers tend to be hard on their sons and more manipulable with regard to their daughters. Mothers tend to be hard on their daughters and more manipulable when it comes to their sons. And so, consequently, dad has got to toughen mom up in dealing with her boy and mom has got to give dad some insight on dealing with daughters.

So I would say the main thing is that husbands and wives, when you’re bringing up children, husbands and wives should have routine, regular visits, business meetings. How’s it going? How are the kids? Are the kids flourishing? Are the kids secure? How are they with the Lord? How are they with their friends? How’s school going? So mom and dad need to talk regularly and then decide whether some time with one of the kids or a conversation is needed and who should have that conversation and what the game plan is. So I would say the key is don’t go into one-on-one time with the kids raw. Mom and dad should visit and prayerfully visit as you tackle all of these things.

Darrin Patrick: I think there’s another element too. So I have three daughters, one son. And two of our girls, one is almost just like my wife personality-wise, and the other one is almost just like me, and then there’s one that we both don’t understand at all. And so, I even find myself gravitating towards the kid who I get because she’s like me. And so, that changes the dynamic. And my wife the same way. And so, I think you can lean on each other, not just on the gender issue, but also on the personality issue and help each other.

Crawford Loritts: My wife says the same thing that I say about boys when a boy gets to be about tenish or so, mom needs to take a couple of klicks back and dad needs to take a couple of klicks forward. She says the same thing is about girls too, that some right around that time. We have two girls and two boys and I have to confess to you that when my daughters, when they say, “Daddy,” they’ve hotwired me, I’ve lost my mind. I’ve tried to get counseling on that, just never helped. So I really am agreeing with Doug. I think I have learned the hard way that when they get about eleven or twelveish, I sort of like, “Don’t trust yourself with making a decision. Hide your wallet. Wait till Karen comes home.”

Darrin Patrick: And that’s not weakness. I mean, he’s being a little facetious, but that’s biblical. That’s Ephesians 5:21. That’s submitting to one another. It’s realizing your wife has strengths there. You don’t have to come up with every good idea. Most of the time that I’ve seen, when it comes to our girls, she’s going to really lead me in some ways and help me initiate and help me be the head of my home. She’s going to support me in that even and lead out in helping make room for me. I don’t have the best ideas with parenting and she’s very helpful. And God has given you your wife for that reason.

David Mathis: Doug, a very helpful point from Monday night was about strictness and grace, justice and mercy. This person writes, “In practical terms, how do we know when to apply strict justice (unwavering penalty for disobedience), and when to apply mercy (not spanking or applying the penalty, et cetera)?”

Douglas Wilson: That’s a huge subject, but let me say just one thing about it. In Galatians 6:1, it says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” When you’re bringing up kids and one of the kids is overtaken in a trespass and you’re motivated to discipline, you’re not qualified. And when you’re qualified, you’re not motivated.

Darrin Patrick: Being eager?

Douglas Wilson: Let me add to that. So if someone’s overtaken a trespass, you who are spiritual. So if you’re just fuming or mad or angry or irritated or annoyed, you’re not qualified. It’s the beam and the moat situation. You’re not qualified to discipline your child if you’re not spiritual. So oftentimes, our motivations to discipline are carnal. And then, when we don’t have those carnal motivations, we just say, “Ah, let it go.” Well, “letting it go” — that’s when you’re qualified to do it. So when you’re strict, basically, I would say, strict, godly discipline is kind, it’s judicial.

I remember clearly when I was busted for something when I was a kid and my dad would take us off. We were spanked in the basement, that’s where it happened, down in the basement. And he would present us with an opportunity for the defense, which is usually pretty thin. So it was Proverbs 18:17, “One man’s case seems reasonable until you hear the other side.” And my dad would say, “What’s the full story here?” An opportunity for the defense. Then we’d be disciplined. He would then pray with us and then say, “You’re welcome to rejoin the family at any time as soon as you’re prepared to be pleasant.”

And we got to stay in the basement listening to the happy clink of silverware upstairs, usually happened at dinner. So they’re having fellowship and a grand old time, and you’re down. And the only thing that’s keeping you out of that fellowship is your own attitude. But my dad’s discipline during this was judicious and calm. I didn’t feel like he was disciplining me because he didn’t have control of himself, and I think that’s just crucial. So when you’re strict that way, it’s received appropriately. And you can also see clearly to know when to be merciful, when to remember their frame.

John Piper: Doug, you don’t want to create the impression though, do you, that it’s unspiritual to be angry at the disrespect a kid shows to his mother, for example. And that your key phrase at the end there was “out of control,” I think.

Douglas Wilson: Yes.

John Piper: God is very angry at sin and he acts in that anger, but he’s never out of control. We probably have to exert more restraint than God does because he’s God and our anger is regularly unrighteous and yet, I cannot believe that I should not. If my boy boys who are all grown out now, and Talitha doesn’t do this in the same way, if they spoke to Noël in certain ways, I was furious and probably just because my dad was when I spoke to my mom in a disrespectful way. And I think that fury, while contaminated like everything, was right and for him to see it in my eyes was right. If I were to act out like that, that’s probably going to ruin everything. So any qualifications?

Douglas Wilson: I would say two things. First, I agree. Paul says in Ephesians, “Be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). And then, James says, “Man’s anger does not serve the righteous requirements of God” (James 1:20). So, there’s a carnal anger, which is a work of the flesh and that has to be out completely. There’s a righteous anger, but even when it’s righteous, it’s like manna, it rots overnight. “So don’t let the sun go down on it” (Ephesians 4:26).

So if it’s a righteous anger, then act. The one place that it says Jesus was angry is in Mark with the man with the withered hand. I think he was also angry when he cleansed the temple, but it doesn’t say that. So we have that. But when Jesus was angry, the end result of that was not a hole in the sheetrock, but a man with a withered hand restored. So Jesus’s anger was constructive. And so, I would say that.

And also exploding physically is bad, but sometimes the look of anger or the explosive anger can be almost as forceful as a blow. And so, I agree in principle, but I would urge us all to be wary of our own hearts. In your talk, the three Ds, it really struck me because my dad had the same three rules and he formulated it as no lying, no disobedience, and no disrespecting your mother. That was the top three things: no disrespect of your mother.

So I knew that if we popped off to mom or if we did something like that, my dad would land on us, that was very clear. But I think there’s a firmness and a severity and a righteousness that cannot be mistaken for Dad losing control. That’s the thing you want to never communicate to your children that they might get hit.

Crawford Loritts: I want to say something that I might be stepping into some real dangerous territory, but in recent years, I have revisited this whole idea of the relationship between anger and parenting, anger and leadership, anger and authority, and I have a positive twist on it. I don’t think you can be an effective father without the demonstration of anger. I don’t think you can be an effective leader without the demonstration of anger. Anger has gotten a bad name. It is the “out of control.” It is “the graceless.”

But I think anger, people need to. This sounds bullish and I know. A person cannot lead if he’s not passionate about the direction and values that need to be protected and led with. And when those things are threatened, there needs to be an appropriate passion and preservation and protection over those things. John’s illustration, the flash in your eyes when your sons — that’s what that meant. There’s leadership, authority and you will not cross this line. And I think what happens to some younger leaders that get beaten up by bullies in the church is that the fear of man and some — I don’t know — compromise, eroded, prostituted understanding of anger and false humility causes us to retreat.

Well, anger is an ally and it’s a friend, and I think we need to think a little bit more about that. Some of us just need to stand up and say to some people, “I am angry at you for doing this and you’re going to stop it.” And I don’t think that’s wrong.

John Piper: Just a text on it that I thought of while Doug was giving one of his messages. Governing my fatherhood, and imperfect as it was, was Romans 11:22, “Behold the kindness and the severity of God.” And I told my boys outright, as soon as they can understand me, “I’m here to represent God to you. I don’t think you’ll know God any other way early on than the way I treat you. God has a hell and God has a heaven. God has a Son who died. I hope I get right the proportion in this family of showing you the kindness and the severity of God,” a huge challenge. And when we’ve got personalities that are all messed up, and so hence the cautions are totally appropriate.

Douglas Wilson: So again, Jesus got angry, and for us to outlaw it and say it never is appropriate, we’re trying to be holier than Jesus. I agree in principle.

David Mathis: Someone writes, “My wife and I are fostering children, and the state is very strict on how we discipline them. What is the best way to go about this but want to love and teach the children the way Christ would want us to?”

Douglas Wilson: Who’s that for?

David Mathis: Anyone.

Ramez Atallah: Move to Egypt.

John Piper: Let me just get it rolling. Foster care, I presume, is not exactly the same as parenting. They’re here to be cared for and loved, and yet, foster means they’re not adopted, I presume, and they’re going to go away shortly, perhaps. So I’ve not thought through, frankly, the demands of fostering.

If Uncle Sam said to me that I couldn’t spank one of my sons, I would disobey Uncle Sam, period. But foster care — I’m just trying to think out loud here — whether the distinction between the child living with me for a month or a year, in order to let his family get in order or keep him off the street or whatever, and the state has its rules, must, I suppose, given that kind of relationship, might then justify you in conforming to the state’s unbiblical expectations in order to do good to this child. And then, you would find ways, I suppose, to do what’s within the state’s expectations that would be as close to representing firmness and justice and severity, representing God and kindness and mercy and care.

Douglas Wilson: To add something onto that, agreeing with everything there, I would urge kindhearted Christians — and I am saying this as an enthusiastic proponent of adoption and a cheerleader for people who are ministering to kids who need foster care — nothing should be taking away from that. But I would urge kindhearted Christians to read the fine print concerning everything before they get into it. Know what they require, know how they enforce their requirements, know how it goes in your state.

It matters whether you’ve got foster kids and your own kids in the same home. Let’s say the biological parent makes a false accusation that you’re abusing the foster kid, and now the social services can come into your home and take your natural kids away because the rules of evidence and innocent until proven guilty and that sort of thing, it’s just out the window when it comes to a lot of these sorts of tangled family social services sort of situations. So know what you’re getting into.

Understand what the challenges are and make sure that it’s a mission and a call, not an emotional reaction. So that’s the thing. Once you get in, you’re all in. And I agree with what John said, that as you function within the parameters that you agreed to function within, but you should know what that’s going to cost. You should talk to foster parents who’ve done it for five years and who’ve done it for ten years and just do your due diligence.

David Mathis: Ramez, having been in a place much more hostile to the gospel than many of us know in North America, lessons in courage and boldness and wisdom that you would have for us learned along the way.

Ramez Atallah: I’m not sure if that’s a right assumption. I think North America may be more hostile to the gospel than a Muslim country in a real way because the values that Muslims uphold are similar, but not identical to many of the values we as conservative Christians would uphold. So the opposition is mainly, in a place like Egypt, twofold. One is on doctrinal issues. So, “Is Jesus the Son of God?” And the other on restrictions in evangelism, and I’ve just mentioned there are creative ways of overcoming them.

So I think the only advice I would give to someone who was going into a situation is remember — it’s just been said now, understand the limitations — respect them and try to work within them. Don’t try bravado.

At the Cairo Book Fair, for instance, two years ago, we sold, for a pound, seven thousand New Testaments. A couple of missionaries came and gave out two Bibles free of charge, found themselves in jail. So they were all excited and wrote newsletters and said they were persecuted for Jesus and everybody got up in arms and all this kind of thing. And we felt they were stupid, and they got us in trouble.

So there are ways of doing things in many situations, and you will break the law only if there’s no absolutely other way of evangelizing. So I would say the wisdom is work as much as you can within and respect the culture you’re in, the limitations, and in many cases, if you respect the letter of the law, there’s a lot of things you can do that are maybe not in the spirit of the law that would pass.

David Mathis: Following up on the topic of worship from last night, Doug, when the world leaders are meeting together and here in the distance, the faint boom of Christian worship, as you mentioned in your talk, what is it that is happening in Christian worship that threatens the pattern of this world?

Douglas Wilson: One of the things I should have said in that talk is that you’re trying to bring together Romans 12 worship: “Present your body as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Day-to-day worship, and then, formal worship on the Lord’s Day when we’re coming into the heavenly places, Hebrews 12 worship. So there’s Hebrews 12 worship and there’s Romans 12 worship, and those two things should be integrated.

The message that secular rulers and the rulers of this world should be hearing if this is done right is that Jesus is Lord, which means that Caesar isn’t. So if Jesus is Lord, this is really important, the early Christians were not persecuted because they wanted to worship Jesus. The Roman Empire could have cared less whether you worship Jesus or not, “We will add him to the God shelf. We’ll put him in the pantheon. You can worship Jesus.” The conflict came because the Christians said that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, he’s the King of kings, he’s the Lord of lords. They’re saying that Caesar has a Lord. Caesar has someone above him. There’s a court of appeals past our earthly kingdoms. There’s a God in heaven who judges all these things.

So when earthly rulers become aware that there are hundreds and then thousands and then tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people who are gathering in places like this or in catacombs or in homes or in traditional church buildings and they’re gathering to express their allegiance to the one who rules all the kingdoms of earth, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever and that is the message, it throws some of them into a state of consternation. I don’t want to be answerable. They want the supreme court to be the supreme being and it’s not. That’s the thing that I want to get through. You answer to someone, you have a Lord, you have accountability. And every prophetic minister with an open Bible can tell them how that accountability is going to run.

David Mathis: Changing gears, but we’ll stay on the topic of corporate worship. How does recovering biblical manhood and masculinity relate to our worship music? There seems to be a subtle femininity to much of the music we use in worship. Is this merely an issue of style or is it something deeper we should be concerned about?

Douglas Wilson: I’m a guest here.

John Piper: Well, I’ll just say a word and toss it to the guest if he wants it. You’re not going to stay long. Yes, there are deeper things I think going on. And I think yes, there’s a feminine music and the more masculine music, it’s on a continuum. And yes, there are emotions that are touched that are more feminine and some that are more masculine. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, the historic one and the newer one, I think has a pretty robust feel to it. And then, some of the more tender, warm embrace language songs would feel more feminine.

And therefore, my suggestion is that we mix it up and that there be a strong masculine feel to it, but not an only one, and it should not be only feminine. I think the reason I said predominantly masculine leaders is because thinking of the men in the church being affected. And I want the men in our church to be masculine, and I want them to have emotions. If only women are singing in front of them and they’re looking a certain way and swaying a certain way, it’s just going to say to feel like this and have these affections is feminine and I don’t want that.

Rather, I like these guys standing up here, they’re pretty engaged, they’re pretty emotionally involved. And the choir last night, pretty enthusiastic guys I want the men in our church to feel it is masculine to be emotionally thrilled with the King of kings. And it is masculine to hear Doug say at the end, if you were struck by “God the Father is waiting with open arms” When he said that I wanted to cry because I want one of my sons there. That’s a real emotional thing.

So we have a huge job helping our broken people grow into full-orbed emotions. So my answer is yes, that matters. Who leads it matters. What it feels like matters. The instrumentation matters. And some of it is so instinctual you have to choose the right worship leaders and trust them. So now to you, go ahead, say whatever you want to say.

Douglas Wilson: Thank you. Let me say amen to that. And let me also say that there’s a lot about the music here that I really, genuinely, sincerely enjoy, appreciate. I appreciate the exuberance. I appreciate how loud it is. I appreciate the instrumentation, I appreciate some of the chord changes. And amen to everything you said.

Just a quick word, I’ve wound up in the ministry because our church, Christ Church was then Faith Fellowship and then, it was Community Evangelical Fellowship. And back when it started, it was a Jesus People type of thing. And I was a college student and one of the worship leaders. I played the guitar and I was upfront with the guitar. And it was the ‘70s and things were kind of weird and loosey-goosey.

And one day, the pastor, the church was a year and a half old, and the man who was doing the preaching announced one Sunday that he’d gotten a job in another city and he was going to be gone the next week and good luck everybody. And there was about thirty of us. I think we were meeting in the park. And that was my call to the ministry, I was up front with the guitar. And so, I preached the next Sunday and that’s how this all happened.

So I’ve been there, I’ve done that kind of music. I grew out of that. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church with traditional hymnody. And I remember number one in the Baptist hymnal was “Holy, Holy, Holy” — one of my favorite hymns now. But as a child, I hated that song. I just hated that song. It was like we were at God’s funeral. And it was a ball and chain. And when I first encountered what’s now called contemporary music, it was thrilling to me and it opened up a bunch of things. And I went through that. And thank God for it. And I do believe, I think you pointed to the fact that this is not an on-off toggle switch, this is a dimmer switch issue.

And so, that said, the thing that drives me crazy on the far end of the contemporary music scene is “Jesus-is-my-girlfriend” music. When you have “Jesus-is-my-girlfriend” music and you could substitute Sheila for Jesus in the song and it works just as well, maybe even... then something’s wrong.

So all that said, and then, at the other end, there’s the ortho-dusty, when the choir director raises his arms, a little puff of smoke goes up, there’s that problem. There’s a ditch on both sides of the road. So that’s the problem. I will say one thing that as our church has gone back to psalms and hymns and that kind of music, the thing that I love about it is we’re trying to teach our congregation to sing four-part harmony. And that’s something that used to be standard in Christian churches.

And I think a lot of contemporary Christian music swallows up the ability to sing parts. And that’s something I would like to urge contemporary Christian church musicians to work on. If the standards stacked, harmonies don’t work with the new arrangements, then write new parts and teach them to your people so that we can express polyphonically, the one in the many, a Trinitarian worship where different people are singing different things. Ordinary, regular worshipers can do that. And I think that there’s been a sliding back musically at that level.

David Mathis: So, pastors, outside of corporate worship, can you share some significant, specific strategies for building godly men?

Crawford Loritts: I really think we need to get back to New Testament discipleship. I think we make building men more difficult than it ought to be. I think we need to get back to the Scriptures, back to pouring ourselves into men, loving them, modeling it before them, re-parenting them where necessary, but being — I want it to sound right — being fathers. And I think that’s where we need to get back to.

I think we have programmed everything to death in our church. We have rallied it, we have principlelized it, we have best practiced it, and we’ve gotten so convoluted and so confused. Getting back to aggressively sharing the gospel, modeling it before other men, walking with them, helping them to overcome sin in their lives, to get face to face with Jesus. And that’s where it all begins. And there’s multiple ways of doing that.

But I get frustrated, and the older I get, the more simple I get about certain basic things. And we — nevermind. I can get on a hobbyhorse about this. Because we tend to, whatever is the latest, greatest thing, it becomes a surrogate for discipleship. And we need to get back to biblical discipleship, getting guys connected with Jesus and staying with him.

Darrin Patrick: One of the things that we’ve done is trying to teach our men the discipline of silence, and so various ways this works, but to pray, have a time in the Scripture, and then just sit for ten minutes. And wow, if you’ve tried it, you know. But I have found, for men, that discipline is huge. They’re never silent — the radio is always on, the phone is always with them, the kids are always talking. And as far as just really sensing God’s presence, being aware of his conviction, his leadership in our culture, I think silence is a big deal, and most of our guys, including most of us, are scared to death of it. So for what it’s worth, I would encourage silence. Not right now.

David Mathis: Trying to give it some application.

Douglas Wilson: Straight to application.

David Mathis: Okay. Several have asked about bromance. How do you choose your bromance? How many bros do you have inside or outside the church? Do you seek out a group of peers in addition to lay leaders? Some more details about the bromance.

Darrin Patrick: I’m really sorry I said that. Yeah, for me, there’s an elder team that keeps me accountable. These are lay guys, so they can fire me, I can’t fire them in the sense of they don’t work for the church. And we get together once a week for prayer and do the silence thing. And then, every other week, we do discipleship together and just kind of help each other believe the gospel, keep each other accountable. We pair up at different times. There’s three of them, other than me, and we pair up at different times and do accountability and switch off and whatnot. And so, I think it’s important to have that on your team.

But I also think it’s important to have guys outside of your team, so I have other pastors that I talk to for a while. I had kind of a group that I met with regularly; now it’s more hit-and-miss. And I think that’s good to do with guys across the country, but I also think some other pastors in your city are really good.

And then, I’ve just got some normal business guys that are just in the church that kind of understand some of the complexities of a large church that I talk to about that kind of stuff. So I think different guys for different purposes. I think we’re looking for one guy that can do everything, well, his name’s Jesus and he is closer than a brother, but you need some guys, you need some Jesus with skin on, with some men around you. And so, you just have to figure it out. But I think it’s multiple relationships, multiple groups in and out of the church, in and out of vocational ministry.

David Mathis: Other counsel or experiences in relation to friendships or accountability?

Crawford Loritts: I really loved what you have to say, although we don’t have a bromance.

Darrin Patrick: Not yet. Your son and I do.

Crawford Loritts: No, I know that ain’t true. I really want to underscore what he said. I think sometimes, one of the things I’ve learned, and I’m watching young guys or others, don’t make the people that you surround yourself with so narrow that it ends up being spiritual cloning. You have to be very careful of that. I think you need to choose wisely. And I think that the most healthy accountability relationships are those that you enter in where you have defined what you need. And so, you’re not abdicating your will, but you’ve looked at what you need and you’ve taken that assessment and so you’re getting what you need. And they’re powerful personalities and you got to be careful. I tell younger guys all the time, “Don’t ever give your will over to anybody except the Lord.”

And if you’re hurting, be very careful about who you submit yourself to. And I have found it healthy in my life to have different voices. I mean, believe in the gospel and this kind of thing, but people different from me, different voices, coming at things from a different way. It helps me to be whole. And 2 Timothy 2:2 — it’s plural. Not “faithful man,” but “faithful men.” And so, I think that that’s the advice I would pass on.

Douglas Wilson: Just to add one other thing. And this, incidentally, is very important for your sons is parents are concerned with the friendships that they are developing. And I was thinking a very important point you made in your talk about masculinity as an imprinted thing. It’s something you learn; it’s something that’s culturally instilled. And if it’s biblically, culturally instilled, it resonates with how God makes us. But it doesn’t just come automatically. So friendships matter.

And one of the things that you don’t want to do is have the imprinting going all one way. If you’ve got a dominant person and everybody else is just copycatting, then he’s the seal and they’re taking the imprint. Well, true friendship is iron sharpening iron. The imprinting goes both ways. It’s give and take, and one person affects the other, and then the next week it goes the other way. That’s shoulder-to-shoulder, true friendship, and the need for that doesn’t go away.

Ramez Atallah: I mentioned in my talk my strong conviction of principles, and I find that one way of not having that dominance is to have Scriptures and principles be the subject of what you’re discussing. So am I submitting to biblical principles? How are we applying biblical principles so we’re accountable to each other but more to the Lord? And when we discuss our accountability, it’s to the Lord rather than to each other. So “I’m struggling with this principle,” and then we work off how to do it. Or I’m not able to apply this principle. And I think a principle-centered relationship between men lifts you up, rather than simply a situational-centered one.

John Piper: To capture those last couple of things, everybody should probably read C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, because the chapter on friendship there, as opposed to eros, captures that, I think. Men relate shoulder to shoulder with a common quest, vision, passion, whatever it happens to be. And women sit face-to-face, tend to, or as you say, the romantic does. But trying to make relationships happen with men when the relationship is the end is not going to last; it’s not going to last. There needs to be, whether you use the word principles, Scripture, a mission, a project, something. They bond deeply when they have a common passion. So I think forcing the relational thing as a constant get-together and talk about your relationship just will abort eventually.

Douglas Wilson: To add something onto that very quickly, going back to my comment earlier about one Corinthians 11, if you look at a book written by a man for a male audience and compare it to a book written by a woman for a female audience, you can see this stark difference. What’s the book for men about?

Well, it’s about the mission. It’s about winning the war or spiking the guns or getting the cattle back or finding the gold. And it can be great literature. It can be Louis L’Amour Western type of stuff; it’s always about the mission. And when the woman enters into it, it’s to help get the gold back or find the cattle, or the plucky rancher’s daughter comes in and helps. And that is how men think.

And then, when a woman writes for women, and it can be great literature or some gothic, bodice-buster romance sort of thing, it could be Pride and Prejudice, it could be something else, the relationship is the plot. First, they like each other, then they don’t like each other, and then they like each other again. So what you have to do is say, okay, how can we get these two worlds together? Men could be friends for years, a common hobby or hunting or some activity, a common sport, and it’s shoulder to shoulder. And they are true friends; they’re real friends and they know each other. A lot of comments they pick up, by the way, side to side, but it’s shoulder to shoulder.

And the interesting thing is when a man and a woman come together and it’s face-to-face in the courtship in the initial part of the marriage and then, he veers off to the mission and she’s saying, “What happened? I thought that this was the way it was going to be.” Well, those two worlds have to come together and occupy the same space.

David Mathis: The final question for fathers who are in fathering recovery. Any practical counsel for helping dads as they seek to restore what the locusts have eaten? Besides bathing our souls in the gospel, where to from here in taking practical steps to rebuild our relationships with grown children that we sense we may not have fathered well?

Douglas Wilson: I would say don’t be afraid to say and own what everybody knows anyway. So if you have sinned or stumbled or failed or whatever the issue is, say so. One of the things that fathers tend to do when they’ve failed is they flare up or whatever it is that they’ve done and then they hope it just blows over. Well, I don’t feel the next week or the next month or the next year; I’m not feeling the same place, so I’m just going to act differently and hope nobody notices.

But it really is important to acknowledge sin to God. If we confess our sins, he’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So we do that Godward, confess as possible to your wife, to your spouse, what God has taught you about what happened. And then, as God gives opportunity, go to your kids and talk to them and say, “This is where we are now. We all know that this is where we are now. Let me own with you my responsibility. I’m not here to bring accusations, but I’m here to simply own my part in this.” And then, just after that, leave it in God’s hands. God takes us from where we are, not from where we should have been.

Crawford Loritts: I was going to say start where you are in the relationship. The problem is I think sometimes when we blow it and we feel bad about it, we feel guilty, we acknowledge it, you want to backtrack and start all over again. I don’t think you need to start all over again. I think you need to start right where you are and realize that the burden to rebuild trust is on your shoulders.

Again, we want to be the desired destination from here on out at which we want others to arrive. I think being patient with yourself and demonstrating love and the willingness to change and the willingness to meet them where they are, I think that that’s important. We’ve all made mistakes. I’ve made a ton of mistakes with my kids, adult kids. And sometimes you don’t find that stuff out until they’re 30 years old and you find yourself apologizing and saying that. Humility is your ally. None of us are the fourth members of the Trinity and we need to stop acting like it.

John Piper: Keep offering to meet, keep calling, keep emailing, keep inviting if they don’t want to. That’d be one. Say, face to face, eyeball to eyeball, “I love you,” whether they believe it or not, and admit that they might not believe it and just say it anyway or whatever was missing.

I think I talked about besetting sins. It’s odd how many strong men are wimpy when it comes to that sort of thing. That is if a strong man gets shut down by a woman, say you’re dating, single, strong men and so many men who just go home and lick their wounds. It’s like, “Oh, I tried. And I did my best.” And glory in the self-pity of that moment.

Same with kids. Kids do something, even as a teenager, say 14 years old or 15 years old, there’s something in a lot of guys, probably women too, I don’t know, I just know it from inside me, who when you’ve been hurt to retreat and to lick the wound and to feel sorry and to justify yourself and to say you tried and then to do your thing, leave the relationship. And that walk away, as much as it feels emotionally right, and the alternative, emotionally impossible, I think manhood just says, “No, not going to do that.” You just walk right back into that again and again and again. That’s the hardest thing in the world to do is to keep walking into painful relationships. And so, that would be what I would add.

Darrin Patrick: I don’t have grown kids. The oldest is 11, but I’ve seen what my wife and I’s parents have done for us. And so, when they serve us, meaning we were poor and in seminary, taking us out to eat and giving us a nice Christmas and buying clothes for us we couldn’t buy. And then, when we had our kids, them coming and watching our kids so that we could have a date night.

I mean, that is a big deal as you’re trying, because as you get older you realize how screwed up everything was and you start getting thirty and you start getting married and you start seeing things, things come up. And I just think that enables a soft heart as it has for us because we were wounded as everybody is because we’re all in dysfunctional families because no family’s perfect. And that serving has softened us to receive those conversations and even to initiate some of those.