Reformed Baptist Fellowship

An Open Letter with regard to My Blog on the Family-Integrated Church Movement

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 6, 2010 at 1:35 am

Dear Brothers in Christ,

Several months ago I allowed to have posted on the blog of Reformed Baptist Fellowship a lecture I had prepared several years ago for my Doctrine of the Church course at MCTS on the relation of the family and the church.  This lecture was prepared on the basis of interaction over the years with pastors who had dealt with this movement and also on the basis of an inspection of several websites supporting the family-integrated church movement.  In my original lecture I noted that some of the groups and websites I mentioned were less extreme than others.  I mistakenly thought that I specifically mentioned  that the group headed by Scott Brown and originally associated with Vision

Forum and named the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches was in my view more moderate and less extreme than other groups I cited.  That was my view as I recall when I wrote the original lecture, but apparently I did not specifically mention that their positions seemed more moderate to me.  It is only fair for me to make this clear here and now.

Since allowing this lecture to be posted, I have had numerous email and personal opportunities to talk to Scott.  I have also had indirect contact with Voddie Baucham and perused his blogs on the subject.  Both men affirm that they hold the 1689 and its view of ecclesiology.  They have protested rather vigorously that we are misrepresenting their views when we attribute to them the idea that they believe the family is the basic unit of the New Testament church.  In his blog which I cite below Voddie, however, has been honest and candid enough to admit that their description of the church as a “family of families” has been unnecessarily confusing.  I recommend for clarity that you read Voddie’s blogs on this subject. Here are the addresses.

http://www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2009/3/26_Is_the_church_A_Family_of_Families.html

http://www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2009/3/27_Is_the_church_A_Family_of_Families_2.html

I have no doubt that on a host of issues I am in much agreement and real sympathy with Scott and Voddie on how the church should relate to the family.  (My wife and I, for instance, schooled our five children at home through middle school.)  I am also confident that on many practical issues I am in significant, practical disagreement with their views.  This letter is not intended as a commendation of the family-integrated church movement.  It is, however, an opportunity for me to clarify that I recognize that the Family-Integrated Church movement is not a monolithic movement and an attempt to set the record straight as to the views of Voddie and Scott on ecclesiology.  It is also a recognition that these men hold the 1689 Baptist Confession and that there are too few of us who hold this great statement of faith for us to be unnecessarily or mistakenly divided.

Perhaps it will assist good communication if I try to identify why many Reformed Baptists oppose the family-integrated church movement.  It may be that I am speaking only for myself, but I do believe that one reason why many Reformed Baptists have reacted against this movement is that we associate it with the many eccentric and divisive viewpoints which have plagued Reformed Baptist churches.  We have seen people with various such ideas come to and then leave our churches because they made their ideas on secondary issues practically matters of church fellowship.  Many of us are also conscious that too often good counsel has insensibly become divine command and people have been held accountable to follow good counsel as if it were divine command.  Elders have sometimes mistaken the good counsel they give people for Scripture itself.  Applications of divine commands have been mistaken for the divine commands themselves.  The advocates of the family-integrated church movement need to realize that sometimes it has looked as if this was the kind of thing they were doing.  It was not traditional Reformed Baptists being (what perhaps occasionally we have been) ugly and narrow that led them to challenge the family-integrated church movement.  It was, in fact, just the opposite.  It is Reformed Baptists (rightly or wrongly) trying to avoid such narrowness.

On the other hand, if there are churches and elderships that with an open, good, and friendly spirit decide to have no nurseries and decide against traditional Sunday Schools, these are not confessional issues or even key, doctrinal issues.  They are rather issues of practical application.  I may (I do) firmly disagree with such practical applications, but I could hold fellowship with 1689 Baptist churches who hold such views if they also diligently endeavor to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Much more could be said, but it is not my purpose to re-enter this debate.  It is rather my purpose to have a good conscience by not misrepresenting brethren and to assist the cause of unity among confessional Reformed Baptists by open communication.  My heart is to wish all such Reformed Baptists the benediction of Hebrews 13:20-21: Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Lord Reigns,
Pastor Sam Waldron, PhD
  1. Well, I appreciate the humility and concern for unity very much, Pastor Waldron.

  2. It is refreshing to see your willingness to come back to what holds us all together, brother. I appreciate your willingness to take your personal time to make such clarifications to your comments. Knowing one of these two men personally, and his commitment to the 1689 and to the sufficiency of Scripture, and having heard/read quite a bit of the teaching and preaching of the other man, I think you did the right thing. I say that not as though you need my commendation, but with a heart of thanks.

    As a Reformed Baptist, I must also say that I much value and appreciate the time spent at the NCFIC’s Sufficiency of Scripture Conference. Both of these men (Voddie and Scott) were there. It was truly a reflection of their desire to judge all things by “what saith the Lord.”

  3. [...] leave a comment » The Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM) is gaining traction in certain segments of the church.  It should be applauded for its emphasis on strong Christian families, and the role that the family plays in education of children.  However, the FICM is not a centralized phenomena.  Some churches and individuals that are FICM friendly are moderate in their views, not insisting that the family is the basic unit of the New Testament church. Other FICM adherents are more monolithic, believing that the family supersedes the church.   As normally is the case in situations such as this, the truth lies somewhere in between.  Pastor Sam Waldron wrote an excellent article on this subject on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship Blog.  The link to his article is here:  An Open Letter with regard to My Blog on the Family-Integrated Church Movement. [...]

  4. Pastor Sam, timely article. I linked to it on our church blog.

  5. Pastor Sam a very interesting Article that you have put together.So very good work.And very timely work too. Godbless Good servant of the Lord.

  6. Rev. Waldron,
    I wish I knew how to express my appreciation for your thoughts on this matter. Not only am I grateful that someone has conveyed “my view” (more articulately than I ever could) on the whole FICM but it has been done in a spirit of genuine love, endeavoring to keep the bond of peace.

    As a reformed believer in an officially “non-reformed” denomination I have had the privilege of watching God do some amazing out-of-denominational character things, though it has been a long process.

    The best piece of advice I ever received on how to handle that frustration experienced by family-minded homeschooling parents came from Martin Detweiler of Veritas Press several years ago: “Unless you have serious doctrinal differences with your church, stay where you are and become involved. You will not be able to accomplish in one year what you would like but you can usually accomplish in five years much more than you think you can.”

    I am thrilled to say that my husband and I accepted his advice and have been abundantly rewarded. The changes we have witnessed have exceeded our expectations and we continue to marvel at what our Sovereign Lord is doing in our local church.

    To Mr. Detweiler’s advice I would add: “Support what you can and don’t be obnoxious about what you can’t support. Love and pray for your leadership. Choose your battles carefully and address issues from a biblical perspective, always in love and not in a spirit of contention. Let your motive be a genuine concern for the welfare of those around you, not a desire to prove your position.”

    God is faithful and more interested in the welfare of His church and the families therein than we could ever be.

    I am sorry I made this so long.

    I appreciate your writing.

    Blessings to you, your family and your church.

    In Christ,

    Dulce Rock

  7. Dr. Waldron, thank you for your graciousness. I fully support all efforts to conform our families and churches to God’s standards as written in the Bible, and I believe that is what Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum, Scott Brown’s NCFIC, and Voddie Baucham’s ministry have all faithfully tried to do. May God bless them in their efforts, insofar as they are proclaiming God’s Word faithfully, and may God show us where we have strayed from his Word and bless us with repentence and the joy of His salvation.

    I am quite concerned when I try to discuss this with my Reformed Baptist brethren at church, and find “knee-jerk” reactions of dark suspicions against any hint of family-integrated churches or letting children sit with parents during the Sunday School hour, only to discover (if they are even willing to discuss what the Bible has to say about such matters) that there is little to no understanding of the Biblical support this position. And what’s worse, they don’t want to know. They haven’t read articles on the FIC web sites, they haven’t bought or borrowed (I’ve offered to lend mine and been rudely refused) CDs/DVDs on the topic, they walk off without a word at the mention of “doug phillips,” yet they believe they know what they are critiquing. It seems they are opposing what they fear in ignorance, rather than honestly attempting to understand the movement, and oppose it Scripturally, if they can. I sense some of the assertions of the FIC movement are hitting a little to close to home. If they believe it is unScriptural, then why not expose it as such, using the Bible? Is not our God’s Word a two-edged sword. I would be happy to read/listen to/watch a Scriptural refutation of the NCFIC Sufficiency of Scripture CDs and DVDs, for example, though I currently support them. Perhaps I haven’t heard the objections (Prov. 18:7).

    These real issues should be discussed Biblically among the brethren. NCFIC did not pop up out of nowhwere; what were once churches of the Lord Jesus Christ are falling into apostasy right and left. Thank God for these dear brothers in Christ who dare to consult the Bible to see where believers’ disobedience has led to apostasy, and are willing to bravely call those believers who exist in the visible church to repentence and to shake us out of our complacency. Debate does not cause division, rather if done God’s way will cause unity; unless we are prepared to say that Paul, Barnabas, and the other apostles and church elders handled things all wrong in Acts 15. I’m not prepared to say that.

    I read your article of September 9, 2009, on Reformed Baptist Fellowship. In that article, I did not read a Biblical argument for the establishment of age-segrated Sunday Schools in the mid-19th century and their continuance today; rather, simply the assertion that “of course” such classes should have Spirit-filled teachers teaching them. There was lack of engagement on the question of which sphere has God in His word declared has jurisdiction over an unbelieving child–his father/mother or the church elders? You seemed to be asserting the latter choice in your article, but without Biblical support. I’ve never seen a children’s or youth Sunday School that consisted only of believing children who are members of the church, yet that what you seem to imply in your article. I hate to say it, but you do equivocate between wives and children in your article. Yet I doubt very much you shuffle wives off to a women’s Sunday School apart from the men. Telling men who want their wives and their children with them during Bible teaching hour and worship that they agreed to separation of the family when they joined the church is exactly why many “families,” that is the believers in the families, have been “renegades” who will not join the local church. I was left feeling that it was the local churches being unnecessarily divisive, not only of the families themselves, but divisive over the issue of insisting families separate for Sunday School hour. It seems like an odd and unBiblical thing to me to insist upon. Why are so many local churches (and thanks to God, this is changing) denying Christian liberty to fathers and mothers to be with their children during church education hour when the Bible does not teach separation of families in the meeting of the church? I was left very unsatisfied that any real refutation of all the Biblically-meaty arguments NCFIC and the other FIC ministries have produced. By far, most of what is brought up in the NCFIC has gone almost totally unaddressed in the larger church community.

    I hope the church of Christ (that is, believers in Jesus Christ) will come to unity by the grace of God in that in which we should have unity–the Word of God. Let’s not be afraid of it.

  8. I really appreciate your humility and openness here. I am glad that you have qualified your assessment of Voddie Baucham and Scott Brown in particular. However, I am still troubled by the way that both of them — despite their acknowledgment of the problem with the “church is a family of families” slogan — still refuse to stop using such terminology and still tend to speak of those who disagree with them as sinning (or at least they often imply it).

    So they are willfully using truth-distorting and confusing language while at the same time criticizing those who oppose it as misunderstanding and misrepresenting them. This is the same kind of thing I have often seen, for example, with the Federal Vision people. They use language in such a way as to challenge traditional Biblical understandings and then cry foul when they are confronted about it. But if they are being misunderstood, it is almost entirely their own fault for using such confusing language in the first place.

    As for Baucham and Brown, if they don’t wish to be held accountable for the errors that stem from the “church is a family of families” mantra (that they both helped to popularize), then what they need to do is denounce it instead of refusing to stop using it despite their recognition of the trouble it is causing. In my view, until they do this, they are themselves still responsible for much of the division the troublesome terminology is causing. And until they do this, they really need to dial down the level of righteous indignation they seem to be conveying about their being so “misunderstood.” They really can’t have it both ways, can they? On the one hand they refuse to stop using language they know is being misunderstood and is leading to error while on the other hand they are criticizing anyone who confronts them about the errors stemming from such language.

    Again, what these men need to do is to completely repudiate this language and seek to correct those who have been led astray by it. Then I will cease my own criticism of the two of them.

  9. [...] of the movement, critically examining several strengths and shortcomings in light of Scripture. He has written on the subject [...]

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