Week 37 in the year of our Lord 2021

Leadership and reframing

11 minutes to read

[Married] people who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because they despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage. —Martin Luther

I fear that, sometimes, in our endeavours to be sweet in disposition, we have not been strong in principle. “Charity” is a word that is greatly cried up nowadays; but, often, it means that, in trying to be courteous, we have also been traitorous. —Spurgeon

Fathers exercise discipline which will often be experienced as a form of pain by those under their care.

Hebrews 12:11a says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful…”

No good father enjoys inflicting sorrow. However, it is central to his role as a benevolent disciplinarian. To be unwilling to cause temporary sorrow is to abdicate your fatherly responsibilities.

Fathers must remember how this passage in Hebrews concludes: “to those who have been trained by [discipline], afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11b).

Discipline is temporary pain that produces long-term peace. The withholding of discipline may allow for temporary peace—but it always produces long-term pain.

If your home lacks peace and righteousness, it’s almost certainly because it lacks the loving discipline of a father.

Here’s one quick tip that helps a lot of fathers who are struggling with this: Counting to three is basically saying, “I’ll give you three more seconds to disobey but then you better get obedient.”

Require immediate obedience from your children, especially when they are young.

Biblical obedience is right away, all the way, in a willing way.

Michael has been reading through Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. It has a lot of very helpful observations that can be applied to marriage. Here are a few lifted from his notes:

Anyone who has ever been part of an imaginatively gridlocked relationship system knows that more learning will not, on its own, automatically change the way people see things or think. There must first be a shift in the emotional processes of that institution. Imagination and indeed even curiosity are at root emotional, not cognitive, phenomena. In order to imagine the unimaginable, people must be able to separate themselves from surrounding emotional processes before they can even begin to see (or hear) things differently. (31) The great lesson of this turnaround is that when any relationship system is imaginatively gridlocked, it cannot get free simply through more thinking about the problem. Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur, that spirit of adventure which optimizes serendipity and which enables new perceptions beyond the control of our thinking processes must happen first. (32) But for that type of change to occur, the system in turn must produce leaders who can both take the first step and maintain the stamina to follow through in the face of predictable resistance and sabotage. (33)

[While there are clear applications to marriage here, I am especially reminded of an excellent recent essay by Julius Ruechel on how breaking people out of believing propaganda cannot be done with data, but requires a drastic emotional shift: The Emperor Has No Clothes: Finding the Courage to Break the Spell —Bnonn]

CHARACTERISTICS OF GRIDLOCKED SYSTEMS: an unending treadmill of trying harder; looking for answers rather than reframing questions; and either/or thinking that creates false dichotomies. These attributes are both symptom and cause… (34) The treadmill of trying harder is driven by the assumption that failure is due to the fact that one did not try hard enough, use the right technique, or get enough information. This assumption overlooks the possibility that thinking processes themselves are stuck and imagination gridlocked, not because of cognitive strictures in the minds of those trying to solve a problem, but because of emotional processes within the wider relationship system. The failure to recognize those emotional processes, if not the outright denial of their existence, is what often initiates and ultimately perpetuates the treadmill effect. (35) …it took European civilization almost three centuries to grasp fully that what it had found—North America—might be more important than what it was looking for. (35)

Answers Rather Than Questions …the way one frames the question, or the problem, already predetermines the range of answers one can conceive in response. (37) Innovations are new answers to old questions; paradigm shifts reframe the question, change the information that is important, and generally eliminate previous dichotomies. (37) Do times make the man (or woman), or does the person make the time? Obviously, conditions must be propitious for imagination, boldness, or energy to bear fruit; but for ripe times to benefit from what they have to offer, someone simply must be able to separate himself or herself enough from surrounding emotional processes to go first—whether we are considering a marriage or a corporation. (40)

One striking issue that Friedman speaks to somewhat prophetically is the risk-averse nature of modern men. Most men today are so timid and insecure that they are desperate for a detailed map of proper steps in proper order to take action. That’s what is behind the never-ending hunger for more content. They want safety and they think data and method will provide that. But it won’t. That’s not how getting free and getting thing done works. Friedman explains:

…the role of cartographers in modeling reality deserves some mention. They, after all, are the publishers, the evaluators, and in some ways the censors of what is to be filtered into the (44) public consciousness. Sometimes they seem to have had more power to determine reality than the explorers themselves. (45) Cartographers differed widely in their concern for accuracy, their ability to draw, their taste, and their honesty. They mixed fact, theory, and hypothesis according to their illusions, their fears, their wishes, their biases, and their political prejudices. (45) In any field, then, is reality primarily what the “cartographers” of the day say it is? Answer: Only when the leaders of that age have deferred to the “mapmakers” because of their fear of making mistakes. (45) …the acceptance and even cherishing of uncertainty is critical to keeping the human mind from voyaging into the delusion of omniscience. The willingness to encounter serendipity is the best antidote we have for the arrogance of thinking we know. Exposing oneself to chance is often the only way to provide the kind of mind-jarring experience of novelty that can make us realize that what we thought was reality was only a mirror of our minds. (46)

Even more powerful counsel when you remember there is no “chance”—only providence.

Michael shares some observations about managers versus pastors:

A few years ago, I really questioned my call to the ministry. I almost didn’t go through with my ordination into the PCA. And not for denominational reasons.

I was surrounded by men who had a more managerial vision of the pastoral office.

And that’s not me.

What do I mean by a managerial pastors? In essence, it’s a view of the pastoral ministry as overseeing a heavily systemized, rule-focused process, where people are given narrow goals to fulfill under the close supervision of the pastor.

This approach requires a pastor to fit people to the goals of the church. In other words, people are molded around the needs of the church which are generally determined by the pastor. The pastor’s attention to members is very reactive based on goals being hit or missed.

In this form of leadership, innovation is often perceived as a threat because it upsets the process and shifts goals. Moreover, it’s perceived as rebellion because the pastor’s authority is exercised through the maintenance of a system which you just “challenged.”

Hence, managerial pastors often attach great significance to small failures and/or little “challenges” to the system. Assimilation into and compliance with the set system tends to be how they measure commitment to the church.

Not always, but often, a failure to assimilate or comply within the particular church system is met with sharp rebuke and/or guilting tactics. I’m not sure why. I think it is hard to inspire people into a system that they don’t entirely believe in. Thus, the manager falls back on guilt.

This is not only difficult for the church members, but very hard on the church leader. Management can turn into a grind where the pastor is more of an enforcer than an influencer. More of boss than a father. And it wears them down and isolates them.

I hated this idea of church leadership. If that was what ministry was, I knew I wasn’t called to it.
I have zero problems with a pastor ruling, overseeing, and correcting. But pastors also equip, instruct, and motivate people to find ways to use their gifts in the church. Pastors mold the church, to a great extent, around the people who God has placed into their congregation.

Now, there are certain elements which must be present in every local church. However, the local church will take on a particular form that is determined by her particular members. The role of the pastor is to anchor the application of those gifts in the broader vision of the church.

This I get. I see that it in Paul and his relationship with Titus, Timothy, etc. I see it in his writings on church body life in Romans, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians. If I was allowed the freedom to approach pastoral ministry this way, I’d keep with it.

And I was, so I did.

Symbolism is the physical expression of a spiritual reality. The implication of this is that creation is imbued with meaning. For instance, God made us with our brains sitting on top of our spines. Let the reader understand.

In a not entirely unrelated vein, if you haven’t considered the strange relationship between women and horses, it is worth thinking about. Consider this little passage from Laura Ingalls Wilder, which sums up a fundamental aspect of the female psyche so succinctly:

She intended to drive Barnum. When she and Barnum were used to each other, perhaps, just perhaps, she could make him act gently. —Laura Ingalls Wilder, These Happy Golden Years (HarperTrophy, 1971), 208.

New content this week: #

We’ve dropped a new episode: “The Inevitability of Patriarchy.” Here’s a preview:

Patriarchy is inevitable. God has built it into the fabric of the cosmos. It is part of the divine created order. You could as soon smash it as you could smash gravity. It is natural and irrevocable. Cicero was right: “Custom will never conquer nature; for it is always invincible.” Men were made to rule. They always have and always will. Nothing can change that. Nothing will. It is not a question of whether men will be ruling, but which ones and how.

You can listen on iTunes, Spotify, or on this direct link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/266333/9159001

You also can watch it on The Stronghold Conference YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlv-QVkvLRo

Notable: #

Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

This email is archived, but you can receive new ones free every Saturday.

Subscribe to Notes on Manhood

You’ll get the newsletter every Saturday morning, Eastern time.


You’re now subscribed to Notes on Manhood. You will get the next newsletter in your mailbox on Saturday.

You can safely close this dialog and keep browsing now.