Reformed Baptist Fellowship

The Relation of Church and Family

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 9, 2009 at 11:17 am

Introduction:

In the last couple of decades a significant ecclesiastical trend has arisen out of the home-schooling movement which raises significant issues with regard to the relation of the church and the family.  The movement I have in mind is associated with Vision Forum, Patriarch Magazine, and represented by the book by Eric Wallace, Uniting Church and Home (Lorton, VA: Solutions for Integrating Church and Home Inc., 1999), and the New Testament Restoration Foundation.  The views of this movement are by no means homogeneous, but there is a sufficient commonality to ground a unified critique of their characteristic perspectives.[1]

A. The “Family-based” Church Movement Described

The phrase family-based church occurs again and again in their own descriptions of their views.  It seems to me a fair and accurate way, then, to describe their views.  The following statements gleaned from the websites defending this view will, I hope, give a clear idea of its perspectives and what it advocates.

The following statements come from www.patriarch.org.  The emphasis is mine.

The biblical patriarchs were family leaders. To call men back to patriarchy is, first of all, to call them to be family leaders once again. The nation is a reflection of its communities and churches; a community or a church is a reflection of its families; a family is a reflection of its father. What men do in their homes will shape, for better or worse, every other institution in society.

Patriarch aims specifically 1) to develop Christ-like character and behavior in men; 2) to equip men to direct, protect, and provide for their families; 3) to enable men to lead the church back to its New Testament, family-based patterns; 4) to help men rebuild our nation on its biblical and constitutional foundations “under God”; and 5) to provide men with a biblical view of God and his world.

1. Unity is promoted within family and church, in that the entire body is learning the same thing.
2. The church is simply an extension of the family.
3. The father and family are held accountable for what they have learned.
4. The father receives the responsibility and the blessing of training his own family.
5. Destructive influence is limited when there is no age-segregation.
6. The burdens of children’s church ministries are limited because every father is training his own.
7. Christian character is built in our families, thus producing a product that the world is looking for.

A redefinition of the Christian family has resulted in a redefinition of the Church as well as the entire learning process. May we continue to yield to the Lord’s leading as we pioneer.

Here is what I am excited about. I think the Lord is giving us a wonderful opportunity to marry the insights and strengths of two movements of God’s Spirit: home education and cell churches. Home education has been playing an unparalleled role in renewing the family, calling it back to God’s plan. Cell churches have been playing a similar role in renewing the church. Unfortunately, most home educators have not seen the need to connect their renewed family to a renewed church; and cell churches have not seen that the church must be founded on godly family units. What we need is a return to the family-based church. This is a church that is characterized by 1) a family-like quality in its life and ministry, with an emphasis on relationships and discipleship within a small group of believers (cell church); and 2) an emphasis on building biblical family units where parents disciple their children and fathers learn spiritual leadership at home (home education). Families need the church family; the church needs godly family units. These two institutions are God’s means of spreading his kingdom in the world. It is time they began working together again. I can foresee home educating families gathering together across the nation (and the world) to form churches of the cell church model. It is a natural combination. And it is a model that can be reproduced without limit all over the globe . Call them family churches; call them house churches; call them anything you like. But the family-church combination could be the basis of a thorough renewal and revival. It is time to create new wineskins to hold the new wine that God is pouring out in our day. The family-based church idea may sound new to most modern ears, but to ears attuned to the Word of God it is an old idea whose time has returned.

So church leaders must not only teach Bible doctrine; they must also model biblical ways of living. Imagine a leader who is obese because of gluttony and lack of self-control; he sends his children to the anti-Christian government schools; he teaches the importance of limiting family size; his wife works for another man; his children are not under control; he lives beyond his means on credit; and he has been divorced*but his doctrine is impeccable. Can I remain under the authority of someone who so denies the Bible by his life? Can my family continue to maintain fellowship in a church whose leaders so disregard the clear teachings of God’s Word? A specific area in which many homeschooling families find themselves at odds with their church is the matter of how they are trying to train their children within the context of the church structure. The parents may want their children with them in worship and they do not want them in age-segregated, peer-oriented groupings like Sunday School and youth groups. They have rightly concluded that the course they have chosen is more in keeping with biblical precepts and examples and that the church is simply borrowing failed methods from the world. But the pressure on them to conform to the accepted arrangements is intense; they may be made to feel as if they are being poor parents and uncooperative church members. This failure of the church to teach the principle of parental responsibility for child training and to reinforce it in the church’s programs may well be a reason to leave. The church should be promoting biblical patterns of living, not hindering those who are trying to follow these patterns themselves.

Too often the church apes the state as it confuses and confounds the work of the church with the work of the family. The biblical model is for the church to disciple and equip fathers and families in child discipling and family worship. It used to be a reason for church discipline in Puritan New England if a man did not lead his family in family worship. Now it is often an issue of confrontation if you do not put your children in Sunday School. The disastrous result is that we actually have lone ranger fathers meeting with only their own family and calling it church. It may be that we have to meet only with our wife and children for a transition season, but let us not. be guilty of calling it church. We need to obey God’s command to preserve the unity of the Spirit while trying to help the church see the following:
1. Age segregated children’s ministry will produce the inevitable foolishness, worldliness and immaturity that scripture promises (Proverbs 22:15; 13:20; 14:7; Luke 6:40).
2. It is the father’s responsibility to disciple and educate his children after the model of our heavenly Father’s relationship to the only begotten Son (Deut. 6:6ff; John 5:19-20; Ephesians 6:4).
3. God promises to curse us by forgetting our children if we reject such biblical knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

The following statements come from the New Testament Restoration Foundation [www.ntrf.org].  The emphasis is again mine.

Home-sized and home-based churches (thus, smaller rather than larger fellowships) that are linked together into networks of autonomous house churches (Ro 16:5, 1Co 1:27-29, Col 4:15, Phlm 2). City-wide church activities might include larger rented facilities where evangelism, leadership training, the equipping of the saints, multi-church Bible studies, public worship, etc. occur. However, the regular Lord’s Day meeting of the local church is to be homes.

Church as more of a family than a business. Meeting in homes helps foster community, accountability and intimacy among the members of the body. Further, churches are to be family friendly. The church and the family are to be integrated, not segregated. Age-graded Sunday School and Children’s Church only serves to further divide families. Children belong in church meetings and Bible studies with their parents.

The following statements come from Vision Forum [www.visionforumministries.org]:

Take church structure for training children, for example. Today, the primary method for training Christian young people is the modern Sunday school structure. Huge resources are dedicated to maintaining this structure in almost every church in America. Yet this structure cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. It is not commanded in Scripture. It is not demonstrated in Scripture. Our modern method for training children has no basis in God’s Word.

But there are two activities that are clearly communicated and commanded and demonstrated in Scripture for teaching children God’s Word: Fathers teaching daily (Deuteronomy 6), and able teachers preaching in the church (Ephesians 4). If we look at Scripture alone, we must conclude that God’s way of teaching children is through the engagement of fathers and through the preaching (“kerusso”) of qualified teachers within the context of the church.

Since Scripture speaks clearly on the matter, then it is the responsibility of church leaders to insure that what is clear, what is commanded, and what is demonstrated in Scripture is fulfilled in their ministries.

The bottom line is this: if we are spending our energies on things that divert energy from that which is clearly taught concerning the training of children, then we have misdirected our efforts. We have set aside the commands of God for the traditions and desires of men.

Sadly, many churches have taken it upon themselves to actually persecute families who want their children to worship with them rather than attending “kiddy church,” or who will not participate in the church youth group or Christian School. The debt-burden carried by many local churches and the perceived need to subsidize the debt by bringing in new members through ever-more innovative programs, youth groups, and church schools only makes the matter worse. Parents who object to such activities are deemed troublemakers. The church leadership is tempted to adopt a dictatorial approach which includes squashing anything which questions the methodology for church growth that they learned in seminary.

Equally sad is the fact that many families have responded to the crisis of the local church by simply giving up. The tragic results are nomadic families who flit from church to church, or renegades who refuse to place themselves under the accountability of a local church. Quite popular in recent years is the notion that the Sabbath meeting of the church is made up of Dad, Mom, and children reading the Bible in the family living room. This is non-normative at best and downright heterodox at worst. God requires his people to be under biblical local churches with biblical preaching, biblical church government, biblical ordinances, and biblical discipline.

So how do we bridge the gap between Church and home? Thankfully God’s Word provides us with all the answers we need so that we can be “perfect, thoroughly equipped unto every good work.” These answers presuppose a biblical view of the sufficiency of Scripture which allows us to develop a biblical understanding of church growth, outreach, socialization, ministry, education, authority, loyalty, and much more. It is in pursuit of these answers, and to equip the body of Christ, that Vision Forum Ministries launched the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches under the directorship of Scott Brown.

It is obvious that the normative practice for Israel and the early church was to integrate children into the normal practices of the gatherings of the people. Nowhere do we find a trace of teaching or example of our modern age graded approach to the church.

There is nowhere where the turning away is so vividly illustrated, as in the schedule of the average church, and in the behavior of the average father in his home.

B. The “Family-based” Church Movement Evaluated

1. Praiseworthy Features

It is only just and balanced to note a number of features for which the family-based church movement deserves praise or commendation.  First, their emphasis on the church instructing and supporting the family is important and necessary.  Second, their emphasis on the intrusive nature of the extensive programs and ministries of some churches is legitimate.  Some churches schedule so much activity for youth and families that little or no time is left for family life and godliness.  Third, though there is by no means unity or at least clarity on this issue, it is encouraging to see an expressed desire to maintain unity within local churches and not leave a church for small reasons.  Fourth, and again though there is by no means unity or at least clarity on this issue, it is encouraging to note in some quarters a rejection of the abandonment of the church by home-schooling families.  Fifth, the instincts of this movement are correct in rejecting the idea and practice of “children’s church.”  There is no biblical warrant for children’s church or to remove children from the gathering of the church.  Whatever children’s church is, it is not the church!  A nursery for children who are not yet old enough to be trained not to be disruptive is, of course, unobjectionable and not the same thing at all.

2. Critical Appraisal

All this being said, there are significant philosophical and practical issues raised by this movement that contradict a biblical ecclesiology and infringe on the rights and authority of the church.  I want to address these serious ecclesiological issues by means of two questions.

a. Is the church really family-based?

The constant refrain of the quotations cited above is that the church is family-based and should be home-based.  While one cannot deny that generally speaking, the strength of a church will often be in exact proportion to the strength of its families, it appears to me that this movement means much more than this by asserting that the church is family-based.  It means rather that the church is actually “the extension of the family.”  This is not true in any strict sense.  It is certainly not true for those who hold the view (all Baptists, for instance) that the church is composed only of regenerate individuals who give credible profession of their faith.  In the strict sense families do not belong to churches at all.  Individuals on the basis of their personal, credible profession of faith belong to churches.  The rights of church membership are not conferred on families or heads of household, but only on individual believers as individual believers.  The church is not a collection of families, but a collection of believers.  It is not an extension of the family, but a completely different and sovereign institution.  The family was instituted at creation and is a creation institution, while the church in its present and final form was instituted after the work of redemption accomplished by Christ and is a redemptive institution.  This means that the head of the household in virtue of his being the head of the household has no authority in the church.  His rights and liberties as to church membership and as a church member are no different than those of his 20 year old son who lives at home but is also a member of the church.  The family-based church idea makes some sense from a paedobaptist and Presbyterian standpoint.[2] They often have held that only heads of households should vote in the church.  They have always held that the membership in the church is family-based and composed of families.  But family-based churches are a specific contradiction of a Baptist view of the church and make no sense within a Baptist viewpoint.

b. Does the church have a right to teach its members and the children of its members in situations where the entire family is not present?

One of the most frequently mentioned practical applications of the family-based church viewpoint is that age-segregated Sunday Schools are somehow a violation of the integrity of the family.  A similar viewpoint is often assumed with regard to instruction of the wife without the presence of her husband or the entire family.  Note the condemnation in one of the above quotes of a man who has his wife working for another man.  The view that asserts that the church has no right to teach its members without the presence of the entire family (or perhaps its head) represents, I think, a significant infringement of the rights and authority of the church and a fundamental misconception concerning the relation of the various authority spheres appointed by God.

Before I pursue my understanding of the infringement of the church’s rights and authority by this position, a couple of things must be premised.  Without question, of course, the church must wisely exercise its authority.  It must appoint teachers graced and gifted by the Spirit to teach in its Sunday Schools.  It must make sure that such classes are not “peer-oriented,” but carefully disciplined and overseen by their teachers.  Without question, as well, the father has a right to choose a church for himself and his children and normally for his wife[3] that satisfies the biblical standards of doctrine and godliness as he understands them.  Having made this choice, however, the man has a responsibility to entrust his family to the church’s instruction and to regard the right of the church given it in the Great Commission to instruct its members and the children of its members.  This thought brings me, however, to the issue of the infringement of the rights of the church.

At a number of points in the above cited quotations, a significant infringement of the rights and authority of the church becomes manifest.

Christian character is built in our families, thus producing a product that the world is looking for.

A redefinition of the Christian family has resulted in a redefinition of the Church

These two institutions are God’s means of spreading his kingdom in the world. It is time they began working together again.

Statements like this manifest a significant depreciation of the church in favor of the family.  They miss the pre-eminence in God’s plan of the church as the agent and context for producing Christian character.  They redefine the church on the basis of a new definition of the family.  They neglect the centrality of the church in the mission of spreading God’s kingdom in the world and make the family the co-recipient of the Great Commission.

When one appreciates the sphere sovereignty of the church and the distinction between the church and the family vindicated above.  Such tendencies appear in their real light.  They miss the sovereignty of the church and the distinction between the task of the family and the task of the church.  When the church is seen as a distinct and sovereign institution under God, then its right and duty to fulfill the Great Commission in many ways beside the meeting of the church becomes clear.  The elders of the church and their appointed delegates have the right to instruct the men, the children, and the women of the church in age-segregated situations.  The Great Commission gives the church the right to evangelize and instruct the entire world and so certainly the children and wives of believers.  It does not limit this instruction to church services.  Only a specific, scriptural prohibition would warrant a man in refusing as a matter of principle to cooperate with the church in such attempts to evangelize and edify all those to whom the church is sent by the Great Commission.  No such prohibition exists.  In principle the choice to join a church is a choice to subject one’s wife and one’s children to its instruction.  This is what church membership means—subjection to the authority of a specific, local church to fulfill its commission with regard to one’s children and one’s wife.  In principle refusal to allow this in one’s absence represents a misconception of the nature of the church and her authority.[4]

To sum up the church does not exercise authority over its members through the mediation of heads of household or as families, but as individual believers.  Its authority over the women of the church is not exercised, for instance, through the head of the family.  Its authority is direct.  While children are under the care and authority of the family, parents of children who are members ought to be grateful for and recognize the right of the church to evangelize their children with their consent.

Sam Waldron
Professor of Systematic Theology at Midwest Center for Theological Studies

[1]The basis for this treatment is information I have gleaned from the websites associated with Vision Forum [www.visionforumministries.org], Patriarch Magazine [www.patriarch.com], the New Testament Restoration Foundation [www.ntrf.org], and a website critical of this movement Patriarchy.org [www.patriarchy.org].  (The last website reveals its point of view in the rest of its subtitle which is, addressing the issues and legalism of patriarchy with the liberating truth of Jesus Christ. Of special interest is the critical and extensive review of Eric Wallace, Uniting Church and Home (Lorton, VA: Solutions for Integrating Church and Home Inc., 1999)  by Joe Morecraft III.  I accessed these websites in April and May of 206.

[2]I need to note that even Presbyterians who hold the traditional views of Presbyterians on voting and church membership may be critical of the family-based churches concept.  Cf. the critical review of Eric Wallace, Uniting Church and Home (Lorton, VA: Solutions for Integrating Church and Home Inc., 1999) by Joe Morecraft III.

[3]I do not believe that a husband has an absolute right to command his wife to attend a given church regardless of her assessment of its doctrine and godliness.  The wife as an individual believer has an unqualified duty to attend only a church that does not violate her conscience before her Lord.  She should regard her husband’s wishes, but she may not give them pre-eminence before the dictates of her own conscience.  She may not abdicate her own personal responsibility to Christ to attend a true church in favor of a blind regard for the choices of husband.

[4]I am not denying the right of a man in an individual case and situation to remove his child from the instruction of a certain class or teacher.  I am denying the propriety of an in principle rejection of the church to organize such classes and instruction.

Other helpful links related to this topic:

  1. This is a correct and much needed appraisal. I would add the following:

    Of course, the Old Testament patriarchs led their families. However, their patriarchal status was due to the fact that they were tribal leaders. As such, they equate to New Testament church elders rather than fathers of families.

    Writing as a Covenantal Baptist, I say that the Patriarchy Movement holds a worst-case Presbyterian view of covenant — in spite of the fact that many in the movement are Baptist.

    Dr. Waldron did not mention Bill Gothard’s ministry, but it must be included. A man under Bill Gothard’s influence took issue with me as his pastor, for my attempt to privately counsel the man’s 20 year old baptized son, who was a member of my church.

    There is much diversity among the churches that would align themselves with the Family Integrated Church Movement. The greater the priority that the churches place on FIC principles, the worse the results will be.

    Moreover, there are many churches whose organizing principles are Patriarchy, Reconstructionism, Home Schooling and no birth control as matters of fellowship. These organizing principles often take priority over gospel issues.

    Lastly, the FIC Movement is sadly another of the many ways in which Reformed folks have chosen to fragment themselves. Fragmentation is another issue for another time. Suffice it to say, I am troubled when I find that there are places where two 1689 Confession churches exist within five miles of each other.

  2. Patriarchy.org is opposed to patriarchy. It was started by a pastor (if I recall) that had his church ripped apart by patriarchy.

  3. I appreciated the analysis. In my church the patriarchy people [in our past] are the divisive ones, not the average family sitting in the pew. They make it a point to constantly attempt to “reform” the rest of the families who do not logged-on to their obsession with father-rule, and father-exclusive-teaching of Biblical principles to wife and children. We did not attempt to make such families put their children in the Bible school or to attend Junior Church [which we provide for unbelievers who bring their kids to church] I did notice a non-social aspect in these families. They march in together, sit together, exit together and do not intermingle with other families or children. Family life is more sacro-sanct than church-life. Everything is family-first with church almost
    a necessary “evil” to keep the letter of the Christ’s Law “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together”. Fellowship with these families was hard to accomplish, not because of unwillingness on our part as a church, but because these patriarchal families did not
    want us to “taint” their children with ours, and our lifestyle [which may include T. V., and
    our wives owning more than two dresses for church, etc.] with theirs. I think the Patriarchal movement misses the grace of the New Covenant and is an attempt to re-instate a warped concept of Jewish family life into N T Christianity.

  4. This critique is valuable and deserves wide circulation. The tragic irony of this movement is that the failure of the Old Covenant is in part a testimony to the insufficiency of “family based” religion. So far as I can recall we have one New Testament leader whose spirituality was expressly traced to his family and that to his mother and grandmother, not his father. Parents must strive for genuine piety. Fathers must endeavor to be true men. Nonetheless, children need the multi-level giftedness and examples which Christ builds into His church.

  5. It is unfortunate that you have picked a few questionable examples and statements from the FIC movement to critique. Let me give here a much more broad and balanced description of the basis for age integration within the Church.

    The Scripture defines and details an architecture, a model, a pattern for the people of God. The Bible tells us who we are and what we should be doing. When the glorious Gospel pierces our hearts and we repent, we are converted and placed into the Lord’s precious family. There is a wonderful picture of this process at work in Acts 2:37-47.

    The Church
    We need to be very careful how we describe the Church because it is Christ’s body and His precious bride. A couple of statements concerning the architecture of the Church need to be made before listing the characteristics of a family integrated church. Fisrt, family integration is only one element in the architecture.
    The Church, this beautiful structure that is Christ’s body and bride, is much bigger than her age integration. Second, the foundation of the architecture depends on your beliefs about Scripture. Family integrated church structure rests on the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. We need nothing else but what the Bible teaches in principle, precept and command to rightly structure and operate the church of Jesus Christ.

    Paul wanted Timothy to know three things: 1) Scripture is perfect(2 Timothy 3:16), 2) There is a way we should engage ourselves in the Church (1 Timothy 3:15) and 3) There is a fixed pattern of church life (2 Timothy 1:13). Biblical Christianity begins with God and His pattern. The church is not subject to men or the world but to God and His Word alone.

    Once we understand that age-integration is only one part of church structure and we are resting on the doctrine of sufficiency of Scripture then we can rightly examine the marks of a biblical congregation. Here are fourteen characteristics of a Family Integrated Church:
    1. An orthodox church that is faithful to biblical theology and practices. The gospel is the central message. Orthodox biblical ecclesiology is lived out. Scripture is the basis for the things that we do in the church. Biblical preaching is practiced. The Lord’s Supper is celebrated. Baptism is practiced. Prayers are lifted up and songs are sung. Biblical church discipline is implemented. Biblically qualified leaders are appointed. The emphasis is on the Word of God. We don’t start with the family. We start with God. A family integrated church does not have its center in the family. The glory of God is the center of the church (Ephesians 3:21).
    2. Families worship together. Age segregated, family dividing ministry and the exclusion of children from worship is a recent, unbiblical result of creative Christianity. You will not find these practices in the Scripture or in historic Christianity. If you study church history you will find that family integration, family worship, and church structure flowing from leadership to fathers were core components of movements back to biblical authority, especially during the Reformation. The pattern of age integration is found throughout the Scripture.
    3. Singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of church life. Nowhere in the Scripture do you find certain groups separated from the fellowship of the church. Every member should be ministered to, and be ministering, in the context of the body. Singles have a great opportunity and responsibility to minister in the body, not separate from it.
    4. Fathers are equipped to be the spiritual leaders of their homes. It is painfully obvious what has happened in our culture. There has been a massive meltdown of the biblical family. The Bible says that children are to be trained by their father. When you bypass the father you have rejected the clear teaching of the Bible. In most churches tremendous energy and resources are devoted to programs and activities. Are the resources of your church focused on promoting the equipping of fathers?
    5. Biblical roles and jurisdictions are in order. There are three jurisdictions in Scripture; civil government, church, and family. Each has a distinct function. What we have in modern evangelical Christianity is a violation of biblical jurisdictions. The church is trying to do what the family should do and the state is trying to do what the church should be doing.
    6. Children are not isolated but incorporated as full participants in church life. Adolescence is regarded as a myth in family integrated churches. There is no evidence in the Bible that children are to be isolated. Children are to live, work and grow next to their parents and assume adult responsibilities early in life. Age segregation in every area of life is a modern, unbiblical phenomenon and works against multi-generational discipleship and faithfulness.
    7. Biblical youth ministry is implemented. Biblical instruction and discipline in the home by the father, solid biblical preaching by pastors in the congregation and cross-generation discipleship in church life is how Scripture defines youth ministry. Where do the concepts of youth group, Sunday school and children’s church come from? You won’t find them in Scripture. The fact that modern evangelical Christianity has lost the next generation is a statistical reality. Unbiblical practices fail and biblical obedience is blessed.
    8. Wives are functioning in their role as complement to their husband and nurturer of children in the home. God has established gender-oriented roles. The Bible is clear as to the roles and responsibilities of men and women. The Christian wife/mother is to be a fully educated, highly skilled, spiritually strong, motivated and productive agent of God – under the leadership of her husband, working at home and lovingly bringing children to godly maturity. Civilization hangs in the balance on how wives and mothers respond to the commands found in Titus 2:3-5.
    9. Biblical offices and Biblical requirements for church leaders are applied. There are only two offices prescribed in Scripture, elders and deacons. The Scripture has much to say about the office of elder/pastor/overseer. There are two main problems facing modern evangelical Christianity with regard to this office; 1) There is no biblical basis for the office of chief executive pastor, recreation pastor, youth pastor, singles pastor, etc. These man-made offices work against Biblical church structure, 2)Many of today’s leaders are not qualified to hold the office because they are not managing their own households well.
    10. Family integration, as a principle, guides the programs for equipping and evangelism. In general, families are walking together in evangelism, missions, discipleship, etc. The ministry of evangelism, discipleship, serving, and all other ministries should flow from elders equipping the saints to do the work. There is a beautiful picture of this in Acts 21 as the entire congregation ministered to Paul when he left. We do not believe that families must always be together but that age integration is key to fulfilling Biblical commands.
    11. The household and hospitality are the centerpieces of community ministry. There are many hospitality commands in Scripture. Conduct a word study of “household” in Scripture. Modern evangelical Christianity has the erroneous understanding that ministry only happens within the walls of the church building or by church program.
    12. The ministry of the body is not primarily programmatic but relational. There are about 50 “one another” commands in the New Testament. The ministry of the church is very personal and very relational. We need to be extremely careful not to over program the local church.
    13. The fatherless are brought into the mainstream of church and family life. What do we do with the ocean of youth who do not have families or have non-Christian families? What we ought to be doing is engaging what God has given us toward them. The Scriptures have a roadmap for caring for the fatherless and widows. Go to them, bring them into your families and minister!
    14. Multi-generational faithfulness is promoted. Parents are to teach their children how to know God. Then those children are to teach their children, and so on. This is the clear and unmistakable command of Scripture.

    There is a complementary pattern for church and family life. There is a design for church structure and Almighty God is the Great Designer. In the architecture of this great family of God, families are brought together. Every aspect of this architecture is not designed to exalt the family but to use the family to glorify God and communicate the Gospel from one generation to the next. Family integration is only one architectural element of Biblical church life but if you lose that one element you have lost much.

    O Lord, we are ready for the imprint of the pattern of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13).

  6. Can the author or any other readers provide historical context to the Church providing age-segregated classes to children isolated from their parents? Has it been a church practice through the centuries? Are there any resources that you could point me to?

    I would like to point out that Joe Morecraft III (the author of the critical review of Eric Wallace’s book) holds himself in very close association with Vision Forum. His proper ecclesiology is shared by many in Vision Forum and NCFIC circles.

    – Bryce

  7. Thank you Dr. Waldron, it’s good to read a solid critique of this movement. We are always on dangerous ground when our Church becomes the place that preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified PLUS -insert pet issue here-.

    This is a good example of the harm that can be done when a legitimate area of Biblical teaching and Christian life (i.e. family, social issues, politics) becomes elevated in a Church’s agenda to the point that it competes with the gospel. I fear that this is endemic in American churches, and that the Reformed churches are by no means exempt.

    It would be interesting to explore some of the other manifestations of this. Reconstructionism, theonomy, church/family integration, church as political action committee, these are just a few that jump to mind…

    Perhaps this is a good point for internal reflection and prayer that the Lord would expose our own distractions to us, and give us focused purpose in service to his gospel.

    Thanks again for the helpful post.

  8. I am waiting for the follow-up critique that will address actual churches that practice this ecclesiology because you have reviewed several parachurch articles written about this movement but where is the normative application? for example, I could write such a critique of Sabbatarianism based on certain commentaries on the 1689 while missing the mark on the application with-in any number of congregations.

    This critique presents the movement unnaturally. Picking out and focusing on one aspect of FIC’s understanding of the structure of the Church.

  9. Thanks Dr. Sam for your time on this. I think that the “family friendly” movement (at least the branches of it that I have encountered) have tended to be legalistic and divisive. I appreciate you taking the time to examine the foundations. In my experience the examples you pointed to are not “unfortunate” or marginalized but representative of the thinking that characterizes this movement. Doubtless there is some diversity among such informal groups, so the critique may not stick in every case.

    The Vision forum quote is alarming: “There is nowhere where the turning away is so vividly illustrated, as in the schedule of the average church, and in the behavior of the average father in his home.” That seems to suggest that the clearest example of apostasy is our approach to families….hmmm…. This indicates that their view of their stance on the family has risen to the place of a “fundamental doctrine” such that denial of it amounts to a “turning away” from God’s ways, and an occasion to break unity in the church. This can be seen in the way that some include their position on the family into their creeds and confessions.

    Of course, this movement does have some valid criticisms of American Christianity (as do some liberal churches, folks in the Emergent/Emerging church, and atheists). The problem appears to be that some turn their particular response against American excess into a law for every believer.

  10. It appears your article is lacking in Scriptural backing and examples in church history.

    A few questions if I may…

    1.) What do you mean by the word “church”? Is the church not the body of believers? Was the church not “in the home” until it was sanctioned by the State (Roman Empire) in 333AD? Granted, there is nothing wrong with corporate worship in a “church” building with many other families. But the corporate body of believers does not rule over a man’s family.

    2.) Where in Scripture, or the early church, or in the past 2000 years has “age-segregated” church been the norm? Are we to throw out all of church history for a few Dwarnian principles that were put into public schools in the early 1900′s and have now found their way into church?

    The truth is that in most of church history, the older men taught the younger mean, the older women taught the younger women and children, and husbands taught at home in between the Lord’s Days. This is in agreement with Titus 2 and Deut 6:6-9.

    3.) Are you stating we must get approval from the pastor or the elders to be heads over our own families? As a reformed church, we must be careful to not make our own hierarchy of “popes” and “bishops” to be our mediatators in family matters.

    Ephesians 5:22-24 tells us like the church submits to Christ, that wives should submit to their husbands. Granted I’m no hermeneutical scholar, but I don’t see where it says “husbands ask your church elders and pastor first for authority over your wife and children.”

    4.) How would you interpret 1 Cor 14:34-35? Do you force the view into the Scripture here that, “Paul was only talking about women speaking in tongues, not about women speaking in general?”

    That state Patriarch magazine made was wrong. You are correct, the church is not an extension of the family. The believering family IS the church, and the church IS the believing family. You cannot separate the two.

    While you show concern for patriarchal families usurping the church’s power, the bigger problem is that today’s dwarnian, socialist policies instituted by the state and put in state schools are creeping into churches and destroying them.

    Why did you not quote Vodie Baucham? He is a prominent reformed pastor and speaker on the circuit, who whole-heartedly supports family integrated churches and homeschool?

  11. Michael,

    While the question is not addressed to me, I would respond to this in particular: you ask, “Are you stating we must get approval from the pastor or the elders to be heads over our own families?” By no means are we saying that. In fact, we are encouraging the fathers to be head of their own families. But what we are saying, among other things is this: pastors do not have to get the permission of fathers to minister to sons who are baptized members of the church.

  12. To Bryce:

    I have a request out to jog mmy memory concerning a famous pastor of a past century who on occasion would preach or teach to the children of his church, without allowing the parents to be present. He did so for fear that, if the parents were present, his instruction would be aimed at the adult level, rather than the children’s. I do not suggest that this should be a regular occurence. All that I am saying is that we should refrain from taking positions which would prejudice our people from ever letting a pastor minister to the children in such a way. Furhtermore, if you cannot trust your pastor to do such a thing, then you are in the wrong church, and/or that man should have never been placed in office.

    In First Peter 5:5 the apostle exhorted the young men to be subject to their elders. This not only meant their fathers and grandfathers, but also their pastors. On the other hand, Jesus was addressing a strictly patriarchial Jewish society when He declared in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and
    sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” The issue here is priority and balance. The Patriarchy and FIC movements are not monolithic, and to think so can be troublesome for meaningful discussion.

    Suffice it to say, that the New Covenant is markedly different than the Old with regard to covenant membership. The Presbyterians dislike the way we Baptists use Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Exekiel 18. Nevertheless, we place ourselves in peril if we neglect these instructions concerning the New Covenant. The role of the fathers and the elders of the church is to teach the individual members of each family to love Christ supremely. Furthermore, we place our families in peril if we forget that the Spirit of God must do a fresh work in each successive generation. We cannot assume the election or regeneration of our physical offspring.

  13. George,

    Pastors do indeed need permission from parents to put a minor child under their teaching. While this is not necessarily a verbal or written permission, it is still permission by the parent when they actually bring the child to the class, church, etc.

    As for an adult child, he is no longer under the care of their parents.

  14. Michael,

    In view of trhe fact that I have been chasised by an father for attempting to counsel his adult son, I believe that we can agree that the Patriarchy and FIC movements are not monolithic.

  15. This article is spot on! As a Pastor in a “family-integrated” church in Atlanta, we have seen first hand (repeatedly) the influence of hyper-patriarchal teaching. In fact, over the last few years, we have developed our own labels to better articulate our position that maintains the integrity of both church and family. The terms are:

    Patriarchal Family-Integration: This position, as articulated above in the article, sees the basic building blocks of the church as the family unit – despite Paul’s articulation of the church being “individually members one of another.”

    Ecclesiastical Family-Integration: This is term we have coined to describe our reason for worshiping together and having an emphasis in our ministry on the CHURCH family – not the individual family. This is rooted in the fact that we are ONE BODY – made up of individuals. The reason we worship together is because of our understanding of the nature of the church as one body, not because of an over-emphasis and blurring of the lines between church and family.

    This position also is solidly rooted in the understanding that as a Pastor I am directly, immediately the shepherd of both the wife and children in a family. And as such, we have a “young adult’s class” where we work with our 13-17 year olds for 30 minutes each Lord’s Day – pastorally – to train and equip them for the unique challenges that face them. Far from “destroying the family unit,” I am fulfilling my God-given calling to “shepherd the flock of God.” I am “usurping dad’s responsibility” but fulfilling my own!

    Additionally, Ecclesiastical Family-Integration applies most fully to “corporate worship” times – when the church comes together formally. There are other principles that should be leveraged to judge the merits of particular programs, age-segregated activities or ministries.

    For example, there is nothing “unbiblical” about young people getting together for activities or teaching. However, the modern “youth pastor” is a wholly unbiblical paradigm. Where do we see in the scripture that a segment of the congregation has a “pastor” that is not also the pastor, with all that entails as far as ecclesiastical authority and oversight, of the parent? If I was assessing a “youth group” the question would be whether we have adopted the marketing paradigms of the world and created a “sub culture” with its own dress, music, language, worship style, pastor, etc. within the church. If so, we can address it from those perspectives. But to begin at the point of simple “age-segregation” of a particular demographic for ANY ministry, teaching or activity goes far beyond the scripture.

    The fruit of this kind of teaching is a suspicious, almost anti-authoritarian spirit within the church from those who claim to be the most submissive to “male headship.”

    Other examples are dads who break the communion bread and distribute it to the family because they are the “priest” in the home – blurring ecclesiastical roles. Or fathers who “bar” children from the Lord’s Supper, determining themselves whether a child should or should not participate, usurping the authority of those who are called to be the stewards of the mysteries of God and should rule in such ecclesiastical mattes.

    Although this movement has done much to strengthen homes and focus the church’s attention on biblical roles of men and women, the overall minimizing of both the Church of Christ and her appointed leaders should cause us to re-examine the foundational principles of the [hyper]-patriarchal movement.

  16. Mr. Waldron

    I have appreciated much of what you have written in the past but your critique of the “family-based” church movement does not adequately represent what many of us that have what would be termed “Family Integrated Churches” represent and believe. I was wondering if you have spoken to any of those you have referred to in this article? While it is legitimate to critique various public writings without necessarily consulting the author it is also important to make sure you have the entire story and understanding of the subject matter and that often may include clarification by the writer himself. I would also add that your naming of this as “family-based” is an incorrect assessment as those that you mention are seeking to have as “biblically-based” a model of church as possible but your title makes it appear that the “movement” is built around family rather than the biblical call for the church. One may say the same about Reformed Baptist Churches but I would assume you would say that the Reformed Baptist Churches is not primarily built around Reformed Baptist theology but around the biblical model for the church which best reflects itself in Reformed Baptist theology. So it is with those that you might label as “family-based.”

    I would suggest that you and your readers also read some of the following articles and listen to an audio presentation that may make things more clear. If one wants to sincerely make an accurate critique I would guess they would want seek all the information they can gather. Here are some articles you and your readers may interested in if you seriously want to seek the motivation and goals of those that have what you have labled, I would say incorrectly, “family-based” churches:

    By Voddie Baucham
    Is the Church a Family of Families?
    Is the Church a Family of Families?2

    By Scott Brown (mp3)
    What is a Family Integrated Church

    Below is what Mr. Brown speaks of as the 14 Characteristics of a Family Integrated Church and my comments on each point.

    1. It is an orthodox church that is faithful to biblical theology and practices.
    - Key here is that the goal is that the church would not only practice orthodoxy (right doctrine) but also orthopraxy (right practice).

    2. The FIC seeks to see families worship together.
    - It has been claimed that the FIC is only about families and some of that may be a perception from the name as well as the fact that FICs probably do preach on families more than other churches.
    - This is not due to an inordinate focus on families by most churches so this does make FICs seem like they speak more on families.
    - But it is true that we do as FICs seek to see families reunited in the worship of God in the corporate setting as well as worshipping together in private.

    3. Singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of church life. (1 Cor. 7)
    - FICs do have a place for singles. It may not be as the other churches see it by segregating them. The plan for the FIC is to match up singles with families so they can grow and learn about God’s plan for them with regards to families

    4. Fathers are being equipped to be spiritual leaders of their homes.
    - This is one of those areas that is most missed by the segregation of the families
    - By taking the responsibility of discipling away and giving it to “trained professionals” we have helped to diminish and in some places eradicate the role of fathers that scripture reveals

    5. Biblical roles and jurisdictions are in order. (Rom. 13)
    - The church has roles and order in them and the goal of all churches should be to seek these out and follow them in both the church and in the civil realm.

    6. Children are not isolated but incorporated as full participants in the life of the church.
    - This is probably clear already that children are to be treated as an integral part of the church and to participate as they can in the group setting and not simply among their peers.

    7. Biblical youth ministry is implemented.
    - This is not youth ministry as the world sees it but it is ministry that fathers are equipped to do and then allowed to do

    8. FICs seek to see wives functioning according to their biblical complimentarian roles as helpers to their husband and nurturers of the children in the home.
    - This is again about God’s order for the family and not man’s idea of how things should be.
    - We are to seek to have women, and for that matter men as well, to fulfill their God given roles as all of scripture reveals them to be.

    9. Biblical offices and biblical requirements for church leaders are applied.
    - The FIC seeks to again follow biblical guidelines in being led by such offices as Elders and Deacons as God’s word describes them

    10. Family integration as a principle guides programs for equipping and evangelism. (Acts 21)
    - The idea of being a FIC that does things differently than other ministries and churches does not negate that discipleship and evangelism is done. It may look different but it is accomplished as God’s word shows it to be done.

    11. The household and hospitality are the center of community ministry.
    - The family becomes a source of hospitality to the others in the church and to the world and thus is a vital ministry that is missed in churches that segregate the church.

    12. The ministry is not primarily programmatic but relational.
    - This is not about programs but about the relationships that form in families and between others in the church family, of all ages. What forms is truly a multigenerational church family that if the church today was honest is missing.

    13. The fatherless are brought into the mainstream of church and family life. (Job 29)
    - A large part of the FIC ministry is to bring fathers back to their biblical roles as family leaders
    - For too long the church has, although often unwittingly, enabled men to vacate their positions as leaders of their families by supplanting their role
    - The FIC seeks to equip men to regain their place as the leaders of their families and in biblical leadership in the church

    14. Multigenerational faithfulness is promoted.
    - Lastly this point covers many of the previous points in that while the name Family Integrated rightly shows a focus on family, church and individual, the true picture of the FIC is that it is multigenerational in both the church family life and the family life of the individual church members

    I pray that you would take a more complete look at the multigenerational, truly a better name, model of worship. Those of us in what may be called “multigenerational” churches are simply seeking to have as biblically based a church as possible by what is revealed in all, OT and NT, of scripture. At the end of the day if you still disagree with the multigenerational model for what you see as biblical reasons then that would be your prerogative. But please make sure it is a truly informed disagreement.

    Grace and Peace
    Tony

  17. Dear gentlemen,

    Twice among these comments I have read the statement, “The ministry of the body is not primarily programmatic but relational.” This has troubled me both times that I have read it. I see the statement as establishing a false dichotomy. I have been teaching against programmatic ministry for over thirty years. Those of us with a disdain for programmatic ministry will lose the battle if we see “relational” ministry as the solution. Ministry must not be programmatic; first and foremost it must be “revelational.” The revelation of the Person and work of Christ is the principal issue. To the contrary, there are times when FIC and Patriarchy become just anotehr program. In my part of the country, we have churches which have organized around Patriarchy and FIC with very little concern for gospel content. Can we not found our churches on the revelation of Christ and His work, without getting os worked up over the presence or absence of Sunday School programs?

  18. First, our understanding of the church is best communicated in the second London Baptist Confession of 1689. We have plainly stated that the church is supreme among the institutions for it is eternal while the family is temporal. We have not redefined the church or the family, but have simply embraced the historical doctrinal perspective of our reformed forefathers.
    Second, we believe that the church has authority to discipline and instruct every individual in the church not just the head of the family, or through the head of the family.
    Third, we do not believe that the church should be family based, but only that families send their members to church and if you have weak and unbiblical family life, you will have a weak church. In this sense, the family is a building block of the church.
    Fourth, we do not believe the church is an extension of the family, rather they are separate yet complimentary institutions.
    Fifth, we have never said that “the church has no right to teach its members and the children of its members in situations where the entire family is not present.”
    Sixth, we believe that the indisputable discipleship pattern presented in the bible is age integrated and not age segregated. The comprehensive age segregation that rules the church today is a violation of the explicit patterns of scripture.

    The National Center for Family Integrated Churches has written a “confession” that explains its understanding of the necessary harmony between the separate jurisdictions of church and family. http://www.ncfic.org/confession

    We have a number of free audio messages on these subjects on the audio resources section of our NCFIC.org web site. Check out messages entitled, “What is a Family Integrated Church” and “The Biblical Case for Family Integrated Discipleship.” Also, let me recommend that you listen to “What About Home Churching?” where we make a case for what is a true church and why many churches meeting in homes may be unbiblical. http://www.ncfic.org/audio

    And, please accept our personal invitation to our upcoming conference on “The Sufficiency of Scripture,” December 10-12 in Cincinnati, where Paul Washer, Ken Ham, Doug Phillips, Voddie Baucham and Scott Brown will be bringing messages to exalt the supremacy and authority and sweetness and applicability of God’s Word. http://ncfic.org/SOS

    Peter Bradrick
    The National Center for Family Integrated Churches

  19. George, you made a good point. I think for some people arguing about a potential youth meeting or Sunday school class may trump agreement on every other orthodox tenet of faith.

    Family is really important, but it is not all important. Allegiance to the gospel will always put our commitments in their proper order. Matt 10:34-35 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’”

  20. Matt,

    I had thought about the Matt 10:34-35 post. It is most applicable to the discussion. We truly want genuine salvation to span several generations in one family. However, a sovereign God does not always work that way. In fact, there are many good Reformed Baptist churches where the adult membership consists largely of folks whose parents died in unbelief.

    Another problem we face is that many if not most of our members were saved under Arminian ministries. I would recommend that Reformed Baptist pastors ask for a show of hands as to how many of their members were saved under a consistently Reformed minisry. Then follow that question by how many of their members had believing parents.

    Believers are under obligation to evangelize their children, and we do it out of love. Nevertheless, even when ministering to our own children, our testimony is “. . . a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life . . .” (2 Cor 2:15-16)

  21. Dr. Waldron,

    I think you have hit on a crucial issue with so many that I have interacted with who claim to be part of the FIC movement. They every often minimize any authority in the church to the point of virtual non-existence.

    But they also fail to do justice, in my opinion, to the Scriptural teaching on the church as a family that, in some ways, takes precedence over one’s biological family. For example:

    Mathew 10:35-37 “35 For I have come to`set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and`a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

    Mathew 12:46-50 “46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ 48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.’”

    Clearly Jesus viewed as His true family those who are of the faith, and He called for a commitment to Himself that required the same understanding of His followers. So, there is a sense in which our church family has priority over our biological family. It is a blessed thing indeed when these overlap, with the members of our biological family being also members of our spiritual family, but when they do not, I do not see how we can avoid the implication that we have a loyalty and an obligation to Christ and His church that supersedes the devotion we should have to our biological family.

    Thankfully, however, even if we are put in a position in which we must lose our biological family relationships for the sake of Christ, we are promised by Him that we have another family among the faithful:

    Mark 10:28-30 “28 Then Peter began to say to Him, See, we have left all and followed You.’ 29 So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time– houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions– and in the age to come, eternal life.’”

    It is no wonder, then, that the new testament consistently refers to the church as “the brethren” and that the Apostle Paul likened the church not only to the body of Christ, but also to a family (Gal. 6:10, “the household of faith”). And when he described the qualifications for elders he said that an elder must be “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Because the church is a family, one can see who will be most qualified to rule in it by seeing how he rules his own biological family.

    This also helps to explain why Paul tells Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2).

    In my opinion and experience, FIC types rarely think about the implications of such New Testament teaching. But I think it does have some important implications. For example, when we come together as the family of God in Christ Jesus, I see no reason why other spiritual fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers cannot teach my children as I would (so long as they are gifted and called by God to such a role in the church). Why can’t a woman take some of the children apart, for example, and teach them the things of God, much as a mother in a biological family might do with her children? Shouldn’t my children be able to be recipients of the gifts God has given to their spiritual family?

    Now, one common point I hear from FIC advocates against “age segregated” Sunday School classes or separate youth programs is that it divides or undermines the biological family. But this hasn’t been my experience, as least not so long as fathers and mothers are taking their parental roles as believers seriously in the home. But, then, if they aren’t doing this, I thank God that we can seek to help them and that their children also have other “fathers” and “mothers” in the faith (as Jesus promised). At any rate, my experience with my own children is not that their involvement in the youth group has led to disintegration of our biological family relationships, but rather a deeper appreciation for these relationships, especially since they are hearing the same things from their youth leaders (one of the elders of the church) that I am teaching in the home. But they have developed a deeper appreciation for who their true family is, their fellow believers in Christ, which includes us as their believing parents.

    You see, there is a sense in which my children belong to Christ and His church before they belong to me. And I must raise them with an understanding of this. But I fear too many in the FIC movement miss this Scriptural emphasis altogether, while they keep telling me about the the importance of understanding the sufficiency of Scripture in our parenting. In my opinion, it is they who are not fully apprehending Scriptural teaching here. I think they have to some extent over-reacted to our culture’s attack on the family and their desire to fight this has caused them to miss some important Scriptural teaching, not only about spheres of authority (as Dr. Waldron has correctly observed) but also about the very nature of the church itself.

    In closing, I would just like to say that — should someone misunderstand me — I am not saying that the body of Christ is called to parent my children for me. They are are called to help me to be a godly parent and to help fulfill the role God has given them in the spiritual maturation of all their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children in the faith — and this includes my biological children. It would be sad indeed if my children grew up bereft of the teaching, wisdom, encouragement, etc. of their spiritual family, a family God has designed in His goodness for the growth of all of His children for His glory.

    P.S. I think I may feel a blog article of my own coming on!

  22. Keith;

    First off it is always a little uncomfortable to respond to comments negative to ones personal views and convictions as it can be taken incorrectly but I feel that some things needed to be touched on:

    Us “FIC types” seek to see what all of scripture says about the church and in general, I obviously cannot speak for all, do understand that the church itself is a family. Actually some have opposed “us” for using the term “Family of Families.” From all that you have said it would seem that term would be very applicable to how to view the make up of the church. However this idea of the church being a family does not remove the responsibility of the father being the head of the household. Yes, sin enters in and there are fatherless households and households that do not function in a biblical manner but this does not negate the call for the father to be the head of the house and the church to strive to equip fathers to be just that. The sin that removes the ideal does not change God’s mandate it simply drives us to seek to be biblical in how we deal with those sin-induced intrusions. I would say that your reference to 1 Tim 3 and the qualification of an Elder to run his household in a godly manner speaks to the fact that it is not the church as a family that is in charge of his house but the father.

    I would say that the issue that “FIC advocates” have against Sunday School is that it is not the biblical model for teaching children. Now an outgrowth of that may be that age segregation is detrimental to the family but that is not where those that seek a biblical foundation for the church start. As with many reformational churches many FICs seek to follow the “regulative principle” and age graded Sunday Schools would be difficult to support from that stand-point. This is not about experience, even though I think that a broad look at the “youth group” movement reveals it as a failure from a spiritual standpoint, it is about what does scripture say and I can find no call to age segregated activities such as youth groups and Sunday School. The truth is this whole idea of age segregation is largely a result of the humanistic teachings of such men as John Dewey and Jean-Jacques Rousseau rather than of Scripture. About the only segregation we do find is in Titus 2 where we find that older men are to exhort younger men and the same in Titus 2 with women. But, as far as pulling aside children to be taught outside of the context of the church gathering as a whole is not to be found. Now if you would happen to hold to a more “normative” approach to church then I would guess such activities would be more possible for you.

    Your understanding of children, in a “sense”, belonging to Christ and His church first would seem a stretch that you may be making as a result of your interpretation of Mathew 10:35-37 & Mathew 12:46-50. By the way I do see children belonging to God first but the stretch is that they belong to the church before family. I agree that there will instances where you will have a greater familial relationship with your church family than your biological one but I do not think any that I know that hold to FIC principles would deny this.

    I would heartedly agree that as a church family we are to work together to help each other but this is not done so as to usurp the God given authority parents are to have over their household. May there be times elders need to step in and administer correction and discipline, yes. But his is to be done in a biblical manner and in a manner that does not deny God’s spheres of authority.

    As an aside let me share that the principles I hold to that are multigenerational did not come from reading about it in books. I set aside many months to seek to look at what all of scripture says about what the church is to do and what it is to look like and my conclusions were that the modern evangelical, and this includes many reformational, churches were missing the mark. It was only after some further reading that I discovered that my scriptural understanding of church might have a name, the FIC. But even here you need to understand that the FIC is not a denomination so it is not monolithic thus yours, and others, opinions seem to often revolve around personal experience and not an attempt to interact with those that hold to the principles you may disagree with. Personal experience should not be the basis for the denial of any particular model of church but it should be based on solid exegesis of the text of scripture. I have been to “Reformed Baptist Churches” that if I based my entire view “Reformed Baptists” on them I would never enter the door of another. But I realize that churches are led by men and men err so I need to judge each church on an individual basis and I hope you, and others, would do the same. As the issue of the church is often a hotly debated topic I wrote a number of blog posts on it some time ago: The Church. This was done more for my edification than anything else as the issues we see in today’s churches stem from a lack of understanding of what scripture says about the church.

    So at the end of the day I pray, as I have said before, that all those that question the direction of the FIC would interact with those that have such churches. I placed some links to some very helpful material in a previous comment and I would pray that the material would be reviewed. Also, while you do seem to imply that the call for Sufficiency of Scripture by the FIC is empty I would suggest you are incorrect. Now if by your comments you mean the Sufficiency of the NT alone you may be correct as I would say we need to see all of scripture as sufficient as 2 Tim 3:16 calls us to see it. Thus the OT is not to be ignored as is so often the case by those that critique the FICs.

    I pray my comments were taken in the spirit they were intended, as an encouragement to not simply react but to diligently investigate.

  23. So, so glad that you chose to address this, but you should probably get ready for the brickbats…

    My addition:

    The FIC issue is merely a symptom of a deeper, and far more insidious disease that appears to be infecting the RB world (at least online), almost without check.

    Vision Forum and its satellites and promoters (NCFIC, Voddie Baucham, Geoff Botkin) are Reconstructionists. This is no longer even obscured on the websites – it is overtly promoted.

    And while the idea of a Theonomist Baptist seems patently absurd and irrational on the face of it, it seems to be gaining traction, at least in homescooling families in my area.

    This largely unrecognized theonomy is the fountain, with its decidedly un-Baptist doctrine of the Old (and New) Covenants, from which a river of error is flowing – patriarchy, FIC, multi-generational faithfulness, 200 year plans, Christian “covenant” nations, dominion, and on and on. Priesthood of the believer erased as fathers are made the “vicar of Christ” to wife and family; liberty of conscience twisted into an IBLP for marginally Reformed people, with even weirder and more draconian rules; even religious liberty seemingly despised in a strange adoration of Massachusetts Bay Colony and its adoption of “the laws of Moses” as the civil law.

    FIC, though a serious departure from Baptist and Biblical doctrine, and one which seeks to redefine the nature of the local church in its very name, is simply the tip of the iceberg. You need to keep digging (to mix my metaphors, because I couldn’t figure out how to keep that one going) for what lies beneath, though you may be even more disturbed by what you find.

  24. As a covenantal Baptist, I find the FIC and Patriarchy issues to be quite vexing. Nevertheless, I find comfort in Paul’s declaration of First Corinthians 11:18-19:

    For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.

    There are serious disagreements within the Reformed community. However, it is possible for two men on opposing sides of an issue to both be approved by God. Furthermore, it is possible for two men to disagree, both of them be wrong, and yet both of them still be approved by God.

    God is often more concerned about how we handle our disagreements, than how we eliminate them. There are reasons that Reformed Baptists have been accused of burying their wounded. Nevertheless, some disagreements make it impossible for men to be members of the same local church. For instance, my Baptist convictions concerning the ordinances make it impossible for me to join a Presbyterian church, regardless of how much I might appreciate those brethren.

    However, First Corinthians 11:18-19 implies that there are some disagreements that must be allowed to persist within one local congregation. This flies in the face of the fact that men of conviction, of whom I am one, find it particularly vexing that we cannot persuade everyone to agree with us on every point. :-)

    My principal concern is that God would grant me the wisdom to distinguish which issues should divide us into various congregations versus which differences should be tolerated within one local congregation. I also pray that God would grant me the grace to love and appreciate my Christian brethren whose churches I cannot join. However, while personal convictions can make it impossible for godly men to join the same church, I am concerned that Reformed folks are far too inclined to fragment themselves, rather than obey Paul’s exhortation of First Corinthians 11:18-19. We should consider our hearts before we make statements like, “They are not Reformed like we are Reformed.” We would all do better to count ourselves among the “Reforming.” If Paul had not “arrived” prior to his “departure,” neither shall we.

  25. Dear brothers, it seems to me that the counsel put forth in the blog from this website (Night of the Living Bloggers 5/27/09) was not heeded in this matter. I quote our brother, Jim Savastio…

    “The church has ever and always been surrounded by dangerous foes. Chief among them is our adversary who roams about like a lion seeking whom he may devour. We find the apostles warning about dangerous teachers, wolves, and other assorted heretics. We find the dangers of the world looming large and seductively against the people of God. We also find the great dangers that come from our own heart as we strive to put to death the deeds of the flesh and to increasingly put on the virtues of the new man in Christ…why is it that so much of our fighting happens within the house? Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for lively discussion and even sharp rebukes within the house (see how Paul dealt with Peter in Galatians 2 for instance). What I have witnessed, however, especially among bloggers (and I am dealing with Reformed bloggers, because they are the ones I generally read) is that the majority of their ammunition is fired at their friends and not their enemies. It is my contention that if all true brethren had to cease their criticisms of one another for one week there would be tumbleweed blowing through the internet. I confess there is no end the critical comments that can go on in my own heart. You name a ministry, a church, a book, a preacher or teacher and I can find something negative to say about it! But do I have to? There is not a single preacher with whom I agree all the time. The most popular writers and pastors and conferences speakers, on occasion, make me roll my eyes (thankfully someone always rolls them back to me). If and when they do, must I share it with the world? Sound the alarm? Why have I saved some of my most savage comments for those within the body rather than for those without? I’m not talking about heretics or even those who are on the far side of the theological spectrum—I’m talking about close allies. There are real dangers and real threats to the body of Christ, and yet, too often I have been more concerned with what I have perceived to be the theological faults of true and useful brethren…”

    Jim, thank you for those words. They are so true.

    The problem is that I fell that this advice was not followed in this instance. As a current Reformed Baptist, I happen to personally know some of the folks towards whom these accuasations are pointed (the NCFIC). The points brought out in this blog are a misrepresentation of the principles they hold to. If these things can be found among families or home churches (and I do not doubt that the can), it is due to a GROSS misinterpretation or misapplication of the principles held by our brothers in Christ. There is also great danger in lumping groups together in an article aiming to level accusations, as if everyone of necessity held the sam principles.

    I wish that more research had been done. I wish that some of these folks had been contacted directly. As one dear brother who was hurt by these accusations told me, “My desire is to build bridges.” Can we not heed the counsel of Jim? And if we cannot at liberty build bridges, can we at least not attempt to tear them down?

    We will give an account for every word spoken…and be assured that means every word blogged…

    May Christ grant us grace…

  26. Matt 10:34-35 is being distorted in the above comments. First, the FIC church movement deals with believing families. Why would a child of a believing father need to be “set against his father”? Secondly, do you think Jesus is talking about a 5 or 10 year old child here? He’s talking about adult children becoming believers and having disagreements about that with their family.

    Age-segregrated classes are not biblical. While it may be lawful, “not everything that is lawful is beneficial.” However, a century of age-segregration in public school has simply indoctrinated us with the mindset it is best. Why not age-segregrated adults? Why not separate adult sunday school classes by IQ?

    To think there would come a day when reformed baptist pastors criticize fathers for being spiritual leaders in their families and protecting their children from the world. Many of you act as if this was a OT thing and was never done after the Resurrection. A bit of history will show that this type of family dynamic was common in the Christian world since the church fathers, and was even more prominent during the Reformation. Did Luther not rescue nuns from convents and marry them off?

    Most of what I’m seeing in these comments are pastors frustrated with fathers interfering in their duties. Although David alludes to it in his above comment, I do not see any Biblical proof as to why a father should not protect his children and teach them?

    Twenty years ago homeschoolers were labeled as the troublemakers in a church body. Nowadays, by the appearance of this post and it’s comments, it appears that families who practice a traditional, biblical model are being labeled the same.

  27. I am not sure if comments are being held back but I know that one I submitted Saturday and one another person I know submitted around that time are still beng held for moderation, but I do not know for what reason. I pray that those that find fault with the FIC are willing to hear the other side of the conversation.

    Thank you Michael for your comments.

    If one were to read the history of the church you will find that the model of church that most in the FIC hold to is no different than many in the past held to. This is not about somthing new but a call to look at scripture and see what church as a gatherinng is to look like. The picture you will see, as I have said, is one that looks much more like the past than the present.

  28. Michael,

    I would like to ask what you mean by “believing families.” I normally think of salvation of individuals rather than groups. In fact, the Jews, incorrectly, by the way, thought of salvation in a corporate sense. In Ezekiel 18 the Lord corrects their error. I have two sons, and I praise God that they both give evidence to having been saved. However, I by no means ever anticipated that they would be saved simply because they were born to Christian parents. My experience in more than twenty years of ministry within Reformed circles was that of the adults to whom I ministered, the overwhelming majority of their parents were unbelievers. And I would caution each and every one of them not to be presumptuous concerning the salvation of their children. Of course, we all minister in different circles. All I am reporting is my particular experience.

  29. By “believing families”, I mean it simply as a natural family of believers. Not that every person has been regenerated, but that the mother and father have. We do not say “they are a half-christian family because their kids are not yet saved.”

    The FIC is a movement for nuclear families, as I understand it, not one of a extended families.

  30. Michael,

    Now that I know what you mean by “believing family,” I am reminded of a woman who for a time was attending an FIC church. She has three sons and her husband has denied the faith. More can be said, but I will leave it like that. She attended the church with her three sons, and the elders of the church never ministered to her. Her family did not fit their mold. Furthermore, their approach to ministry left them without a “handle” on her situation. She finally left that church and is now a member of the church I attend.

    FIC or Patriarchal churches have difficulty ministering to women whose husbands are unbelievers. These situations are difficult in the best of circumstances. However, a woman who is either single or whose husband is an unbeliever will have difficulty in an FIC church.

    I realize that someone from an FIC church may write to say that they do indeed minister to such women. And I genuinely hope that there are such situations. But this is not the only such situation that I know about. I know too many women who are faithful Christians, and yet their husbands are unbelievers.

  31. As I had previously mentioned, this FIC/Patriarchy has been particularly vexing to me – partially because I believe that some covenantal issues are not fully appreciated, but also because this is another means by which we in the Reformed Baptist community have fragmented ourselves.

    Old Covenant membership had a corporate aspect in that all that was required for membership was to be born of Jewish parents. By contrast, New Covenant membership is individual:

    In Romans 12:5 Paul wrote, “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” We are in one body, but we have joined that body “individually.” Similarly, in First Corinthians 12:27, Paul wrote, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” We are individually members of Christ’s body and covenant. We are not members according to physical familial linage, as in the case of the Jews of the Old Covenant.

    As a covenantal Baptist, I maintain this distinction between the corporate membership of the Old Covenant with the individual membership of the New Covenant. Most Presbyterians are opposed to this individualistic view of the New Covenant. That is in large part why they are Presbyterians. However, some Reformed Baptist churches have practices and inclinations which imply that they are more comfortable with the Presbyterian view of corporate covenant membership. I do not anticipate being able to change many convictions on this issue. Nevertheless, I believe it would be helpful to understand more fully the issues that divide us. And when all is said and done, we should “Let love of the brethren continue.” Regrettably, there are going to be some issues which continue to divide us into separate congregations. Let us choose those divisions carefully, with an eye toward maintaining a priority on the revelation of the Person and work of Christ and a love for the brethren.

  32. I recently completed my Master’s Thesis on the topic of the Family-Integrated Church Movement (FICM) for my degree at Reformed Theological Seminary.
    There are several concerns that I have with this entire movement:
    1. They are totally doctrinally incoherent. The doctrinal argument for a family of families ecclesiology is based on an extreme view of paedobaptist covenant theology. Most PBs would sign on to a lot of the language of the FICM, but they do not agree with where the FICM has taken the covenant theology. The fact that the majority of those churches and the majority of the leaders of the FICM are baptistic shows how confused they are doctrinally. Many hold to the 1689 Confession and yet argue along paedobaptistic lines to arrive at their ecclesiology. The leaders of the movement with the exception of Voddie Baucham are without extensive theological training. Philips and Lancaster and Wallace are not seminary trained theologians and it shows in their incoherent theology.
    2. The second problem is two-sided. Most of them are legalistic in their views of salvation. I do not say this on my own authority. In a phone conversation with Eric Wallace he himself told me that he is very disappointed with what the Vision Forum, etc have done with his book Uniting Family and Church. They have gone too far, he said, and have drifted into legalism. They would not in so many words, but in practice, would conclude that if you do not homeschool your children, you are not a true believer. (Not before proponents say that isn’t true in my church, etc, etc, let me say I know that the FICM is a very broad movement, and there is a wide spectrum of views within the movement, and that may not be the case for many people and churches, the fact is that it is a growing problem for the whole movement.)
    The second side of my second concern is their view of salvation is severely reduced. Most of them believe in what I would call militant fecundity. Read the last chapters of Baucham’s book Family-Driven Faith. He basically says we can grow the kingdom of God through having lots of children. This shows a very skewed understanding of how the kingdom of God is done. He more or less says if we as parents are faithful and do everything right in creating a Christian environment and teach and disciple are children they are Christians. Here is the legalism and the lack of emphasis on the need for God’s grace. They of course will say oh that isn’t true and you are taking my words out of context or whatever, but the fact is that the mission statement from Vision Forum never includes the word Jesus or Christ and only the word God twice (if memory serves me correct) This is a movement that is not majoring on the most important things and it reduces salvation into legalism or into an attainable work of parents.
    3. The third concern is their wrong view of the history of the church. They love to say this and that about the Puritans, etc, etc, but none of them do any research to prove their assertions. The fact is that the Puritans, including Edwards, Baxter, Owen, Henry were not holders to the FICM ecclesiology and they were all PBs. Actually reading their commentaries and works on ecclesiology show this time and again. They were not even close to thinking along the family of families line, although there were several practices that are shared between the two groups, but the theological contexts of those practices are very different.

  33. A few further comments:
    1)Having “extensive theological training” does not necessarily make one a good theologian. To assume so may verge on educational arrogance. I don’t want to be too personal here but even writing a thesis paper does not make the conclusion correct as I have read many a thesis paper that reaches incorrect conclusions. Many that we read from the past such as Charles Spurgeon had no seminary background yet many take his conclusions as seriously as those that are seminary trained. Also, having a baptistic view of covenantal theology is not confused doctrinally as even such men as Nehemiah Coxe had such views. This view may not be agreed with but it is not doctrinally incoherent.

    2)If one were to speak to Voddie Baucham you would find that he is not even coming close to saying that simply having children makes them believers. This would be taking his one statement apart from all his others. If you know Voddie he does not hold that children are saved by being in a family with believing parents. But we do know from scripture (Prov 22:6 ) and from experience that having believing parents that bring their children up in the teachings of the Lord is used greatly by God as a means to produce believing offspring. Thus large families of believing parents, if it God so chooses, does increase the kingdom. Do not read more into Voddie’s comments than is intended.

    3)The claim to legalism in salvation without direct proof seems lacking. I do not know about word counting but I have heard sermons by many of the men mentioned in the various comments and it is clear from their sermons that salvation is only of the Lord and through the cross. The word legalism is all too easily thrown out there and could just as easily be used of most Reformed Baptist Churches by those that see such things as the “regulative principle” and the “1689 London Baptist Confession” as a legalistic tools. If by legalism it is meant that a call to follow God’s law by God’s power is legalistic then such men, from my study, as Charles Spurgeon would be tossed into the legalistic fray. Let us seek to shy away from the overuse of the word “legalism” as it seems to be used when someone does not agree with their own view.

    4)As far as Vision Forum’s Mission Statement it needs to be read in light of their Statement of Faith. Any Mission Statement of a ministry is worked out by and through the tenets of its Statement of Faith. Their Statement of Faith is clear about salvation being only through Jesus Christ. So to claim simply by a word counting that they are not focused on Christ is incorrect.

    5)As far as the area of homeschooling all that most FICs seek to is encourage parents to see that scripture calls them to raise their children and not the state. No one is saying that to send your children to government schools makes one a non-believer. However, with the nature of our government and it’s antagonism towards Christ and the indoctrination that ensues at school it is the duty of pastors to make it clear to parents that God calls us to protect our children and raise them in the Lord not the state, with homeschooling the best way to do this. Many may not like this call because it raises the issue of whether it is a sin or not to send ones children to the government schools but we need to face that type of question, what is sin and what is not, in all we do so why not with the schooling of our children?

    6)With regards to being historically incorrect, I would disagree. If you interpret the idea of a “family of families” apart from the movements (I really do not like the word but it has been used in this post and various comments) use of it is to lead to wrong conclusions. I would say the idea of a “family of families” is simply no different than say Baxter’s view on the church where he went from family to family as part of his ministry. He understood the spiritual health of the local church was directly tied to the spiritual health of the family. Actually as far as I have read Baxter, Henry and Edwards at one time or other has referred to the family as a “little church.” This in no way is meant to replace the local church with the family. But seeks to see the spheres that God works in and while due to sin the family today is fragmented the church is made up of people who belong to families and the church is also a family and the two are how God works to change and impact His world.

    I pray that this makes clear, at least from my perspective, where I see some misconceptions that are being put forth. I would also ask that you look at Peter Bradrick’s comments above (Sept 11th) as he speaks for The National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC).

  34. Concerned RB- thanks for the quote. I actually agree with you about reformed cannabalism. That is really sad and unfortunately characteristic of a lot of us. I am surprised you are making that comment here. From my perspective this conversation has been pretty civil and a number of posts have sought to qualify their remarks. If you take umbrage that Dr. Sam’s comments don’t represent your friend you should rejoice. He wrote in his original post and several others have echoed that the FIC movement is not homogenous, and of course that makes it more difficult to consider. It also makes it more difficult for people within those groups to listen with humility.

    In my very limited experience, I have found that the FIC people love God and want to serve him and the culture around us but have some differing views. I have also found that the limited number of people representing this movement that I have met have been characterized by a spirit of divisiveness. Even some of the quotes that Dr. Waldron mentioned come close to equating current age segregation with a form of apostacy. That is pretty strong. I know that is not true of everyone, just like your remark about RB bloggers is not true of every RB. I appreciate your comments about grace and caution and think we can all benefit, RB’s and the FIC folk alike.

  35. Tony,
    I really hate online arguments so I’m not going to make this one. Just a couple of comments and I’ll be done:)
    1. I totally agree with your comment about educational arrogance. I only included my history of this to say that I have studied at great length and that I wasn’t shooting from the hip.

    2. I was actually mistaken at one point in my first comment. I forgot Scott Brown has his M.Div from Talbot, so Baucham isn’t the only one with a theological education. Of course regardless of their theological credentials they still nevertheless show great incoherency in their understanding of covenant theology, particularly those who hold to the 1689 confession. This is not the forum to prove this. I could send you my thesis if you would like. It goes into greater length with more quotes than I feel inclined to do in this setting.

    3. I again agree with you about the need for care in using the word “legalism”. I don’t use it lightly, because it is a slippery snake that often bites the ones who play with it. I was in now way indicted everyone in the movement-because that would be utterly untrue. I would say it is a problem for many, and the homeschooling and the full-quiver theologies along with other things are the occasion for it. (By the way I’m homeschooling for many reasons, but one of them is because I don’t want the government schools raising my children, but I cannot say it is sin to do otherwise, because the Bible is silent on that, and my human reasoning and logical argument is not the judge of other men’s consciences)
    4. Puritan ecclesiology does not in fact work on a family of families view of the church as defined by the statement of faith issued by the NCFIC which says:

    We affirm that the biblical family is a scripturally ordered household of parents, children, and sometimes others (such as singles, widows, divorcees, or grandparents), forming the God-ordained building blocks of the church (2 Tim. 4:19).

    The Puritans did not call families the building blocks of the church. They certainly related the family and the church, but to unite them was certainly not what they said or did. Again I have a chapter on that in my thesis, if you want fuller documentation.
    In the chapter I take a close look at Baxter’s Christian Directory and The Reformed Pastor as it is relevant to the FICM. If you are truly interested I will email you a copy. If not, I could have lived without writing it and you could live without reading it:)

  36. Jason:
    I agree when it come to these blog comments and I really did not want to get involved but when I see what I think are misrepresentations I felt I needed to say something. By the way there are others that are part of the FIC that have degrees but as I said that should not matter. I would say that one can hold to the 1689 in large and still see some aspects differently. The 1689 is only a frame work for understanding ones beliefs and since the bible is the last court of arbitration if a confession does not fully encapsulate a particular aspect that is found biblically then any straying from the confession does not appear incorrect or incoherent to me. It would be interesting to see where you feel we stray.

    As far as homeschooling, and this is a personal opinion, I do think the bible is more clear than often given credit for as to this matter, especially with our current state of affairs in this country. As to whether one homeschools or not is not only about the responsibility of parents, it is that and more, but it is also tied to the moral grounding of the institution that would teach your children if you did not do it yourself. While you may disagree with the biblical basis for this I do think there is more to where one schools their children, especially in the times we now live, than it simply being up to conscience. All of this said no part of the NCIFC confession speaks to homeschooling so this is all my biblical understanding of the matter. While there may be those in the FICs with strong feelings on this subject, such as myself, that is an individual matter for the individual churches and their elders/pastors.

    As far as the disagreement over the understanding of the ecclesiology of the Puritans, the FIC does not build its theology on them but on scripture. Yes we do look to the Puritans and see that the family was important and played an integral role in the life of the church. This would appear to be why those such as Baxter, Henry and Edwards would speak of the family as a little church. Not to displace the church but to show its importance to the church as a whole. So I do not think the FIC has a view of family that is much different from that of the Puritan view. But again it is not the Puritan view that the FIC would base its standards and practices on but on the whole counsel of God, OT and NT. Obviously you may disagree but that would be your prerogative.

    While you showed one part of the confession I thought it best that the Article headings and related statements be made. Any confessional statement needs to be understood in contexts of its heading as well as its affirmations and denials. Also, one truly needs to read the entire confession so as to understand the meaning behind the words used:

    ARTICLE VI — The Church is a Family of Believers that Includes Families

    We affirm that local churches are spiritual households that include individual family units which are separate and distinct jurisdictions that should be cared for and strengthened to fulfill their God ordained roles, not only as individuals but also as families (1 Tim. 3:15, Ephesians 5:22-33, Ephesians 6:1-4).

    We deny/reject the current trend in churches that ignores the family unit, is blind to strengthening it, systematically fragments it and does not actively work to equip her members to be faithful family members.

    ARTICLE VII — Family is a Building Block

    We affirm that the biblical family is a scripturally ordered household of parents, children, and sometimes others (such as singles, widows, divorcees, or grandparents), forming the God-ordained building blocks of the church (2 Tim. 4:19).

    We deny/reject the modern trend embraced by many churches to undermine the purpose and government of both family and church, by substituting family-fragmenting, age-segregated, peer-oriented, youth driven, and special-interest programs, which may prevent rather than promote family unity, church unity and inter-generational relationships.

    I pray that this discussion is seen as productive and leads to a growth in understanding. If you would like to forward me the articles you mentioned I would be more than wiling to read them: tkonvalin@sbcglobal.net. As with you I think this is all I will write as there seems little more to add and I have a sermon to prepare.

    Grace and Peace,

    Tony

  37. Matt writes,
    “Concerned RB- thanks for the quote. I actually agree with you about reformed cannabalism. That is really sad and unfortunately characteristic of a lot of us. I am surprised you are making that comment here”
    I am not surprised Matt as you know.
    Like Matt, I also agree with Concerned RB and also with the RBF blog posting that he quoted. As Jim Savastio blogged “Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for lively discussion and even sharp rebukes within the house (see how Paul dealt with Peter in Galatians 2 for instance).” It is therefore important to examine cases where “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) applies.

    Matt writes concerning a Vision Forum quote,
    “This indicates that their view of their stance on the family has risen to the place of a “fundamental doctrine” such that denial of it amounts to a “turning away” from God’s ways, and an occasion to break unity in the church.”
    Like Matt, I too am concerned about that specific Vision Forum quote. Thankfully more sober perspectives have been outlined in the comment threads.

    Matt writes,
    “Family is really important, but it is not all important. Allegiance to the gospel will always put our commitments in their proper order.”
    Matt is correct, allegiance to the gospel should put our familial relationships in their proper order.
    Michael is correct when he replied that Matt 10:34-35 is being distorted and that Christ is not talking about a 5 or 10 year old child, but about how adult believers need to count the cost and place the cross of Christ before familial loyalty.

    On a newer thread Gary Hendrix exhorts us:-
    “Will we seek Him tirelessly for grace to be patient with all the struggling souls in our lives..? …Will we be faithful to trust Christ for grace to perform our responsibilities toward others…? …Please understand, nothing said here excuses failure to do what we are commanded to do.”

    In regards to our topic of “The Relation of Church and Family” a far greater danger, than parents protecting children, is when pastors place their own adult familial relations above the gospel of Jesus Christ. What should we say when a pastor declares that he has no biblical charge to bring against a member of the church, explicitly refuses following a process of church discipline, and yet brings in his brother-in-law from another State to meet with that member and forcibly demand his resignation from the church?
    Is that being faithful to Christ to perform our responsibilities towards others? No.
    If “Allegiance to the gospel will always put our commitments in their proper order” the logical question that follows will always be – is such an act the work of a gospel believer?
    Whose stance on the family is truly such that “it amounts to a “turning away” from God’s ways, and an occasion to break unity in the church”?
    Is it repentance for pastors to carry on for years after and simply to say words to the effect of “I am the first to admit that I have not done all I could to be a faithful gospel preacher and gospel liver.”? No.

    We need to remember whose Church it is. Christ bought His people at a price. Perhaps we need to make a case for what is a true church and why some churches meeting in public buildings may be unbiblical.

    Who seeks to devour Christ’s people and put them out of the Church?
    Who is a “Reformed Cannibal”?
    Which is actually the unbiblical “family-based church” in the worst sense?
    Christian parents should indeed protect both their children and their brethren from those who love to have the pre-eminence.

  38. Well said Obed.

  39. [...] by Pastor Sam Waldron entitled “The Relation of Church and Family.” You can find it here: http://reformedbaptistfellowship.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/the-relation-of-church-and-family/. Pastor Waldron goes beyond what I’ve said here and raises important questions regarding some of [...]

  40. Sam,

    Thanks for this well balanced assessment of a growing movement that has caused much division in churches. In addition to the legalistic tendencies of the movement, for all practical purposes their view of the family and church is contrary to the 1689 confession of faith and is destructive to the very fabric of Baptist ecclesiology.

  41. I would that such things that I report could not in truth be said. But as an eye-witness to the plot in an RB church (closely aligned with the RBF) I fell for a time into sinful silence consenting to this deed contrary to the Bible and the 1689 Confession. My desire is only that these men who so profoundly abuse church office and divide Christ’s blood bought sheep would come to repentance so that unity may then be restored to Christ’s body.

    As former RB pastor George Seevers wrote above in a remarkably candid statement:-
    “God is often more concerned about how we handle our disagreements, than how we eliminate them. There are reasons that Reformed Baptists have been accused of burying their wounded.”

    “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

    “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

    Christ died that his people may rise and see God, and yet there are reasons that RB’s have been accused of burying their wounded?

    “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”

  42. Obed,

    Since you have quoted me,

    “God is often more concerned about how we handle our disagreements, than how we eliminate them. There are reasons that Reformed Baptists have been accused of burying their wounded,”

    I believe that it would be good for me to share some thoughts. I am 60 years old. I became a convinced Calvinist in 1971 and adopted the 1689 Confession by 1983. Many of us have experienced difficulties as we developed our convictions within Arminian circles. For others of us, our worst injuries have been inflicted at the hands of other Calvinists. This is complicated by the fact that some of us have received great benefit from the same ones whom we think have injured us. In the final analysis, we have to say that all these things have come from the hand of the Lord, and He has caused all these things for the furtherance of the gospel.

    As I consider my insignificance as a 60-year-old man who has been looking for secular employment since the end of February, I remember the verse of the hymn,

    I ask thee for the daily strength,
    To none that ask denied,
    A mind to blend with outward life,
    While keeping at thy side,
    Content to fill a little space,
    If thou be glorified.

    As the consequence of many struggles, I am indeed filling a little space. “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth? Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins (Lam. 3:38-39)?”

    In First Corinthians 13 Paul wrote that love, “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” We can spend our lives attempting to execute ecclesiastical justice with regard to past offenses, or we can decide not to take into account the wrongs we have suffered. Having decided that it is “not about me,” I have chosen to forgive. If I ever need vindication, I have an Intercessor and Judge seated at the right hand of the Father. It is best if I leave it to Him.

  43. Brother Seevers thank you for the very wise and humble words.

  44. This article sums up the age-segregrated youth ministry and the results it’s having on children when they become adults…

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/communitylife/discipleship/istheeraofagesegmentationover.html

  45. [...] good insights into the theological problems with the teachings of various leaders within the FIC. The Relation of Church and Family by Sam Waldron outlines some of the key concerns with the FIC movement and his Biblical response is well presented [...]

  46. I appreciated the author’s work and agreed with his conclusion. I don’t see how the FIC can be reconciled with Matthew 12:50 — Jesus says His true family are not His biological mother and brothers but “those who do the will of the Father”.

  47. I know this is way late on this comment thread. I just don’t know how people can get so worked up about things. We should have strong convictions and family distinctives but should stop short in making those the necessary norms for the entire body of Christ. My wife and I agree with much of what Vision Forum and family-based churches stand for but we love the larger body of Christ and do not think that we have the corner on the market of reformed, evangelical, biblical Christianity. May the Lord grant us strong theology, strong convictions, and humble attitudes.

  48. Greetings,

    I am glad others have tried to wrestle with this issue. However, the amazing assertion of some of these leaders is still not known. So, my in-depth research may be of great benefit:

    What is a Family Integrated Church?
    http://www.weswhite.net/2011/04/family-integrated-mathis/

    for the peace and unity of the church,

  49. Sam Waldron’s article above is well-done. For my briefer article, see: http://www.christianpost.com/news/if-the-family-is-central-christ-isnt-92655/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,397 other followers

%d bloggers like this: