"Every single day last week, I received letters from people who were wanting to know more about the family integrated church movement. Many of them had attended a homeschooling convention in recent weeks and, like Momma Knows, had been subjected to a heapin’ helpin’ of FIC propaganda disguised as 'encouragement for homeschoolers.' "
Karen Campbell (That Mom)
(Taken by Deb)
Throughout Christendom there appears to be a growing number of believers who are dancing to a different tune. The family-integrated church (FIC) movement is on the rise and causing discord within the body of Christ. With the D6 Conference getting into full swing today, it is time that we investigate this movement more closely.
When a pastor is compelled to write a serious letter regarding the FIC movement, you can be sure that something is amiss. Here is what Pastor Andy sent to his congregation. (link)
"Dear Church Family,
Have you heard of the “family-integrated church” (FIC) movement? If you are familiar with classical Christian education resources like Vision Forum, you have probably encountered the influence of this growing movement. Or perhaps you have seen recent ads in World Magazine for an upcoming conference sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC). Speakers at this conference include Ken Ham, Paul Washer, Andy Davis (First Baptist, Durham), Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips, and the director of the NCFIC, Scott Brown (a pastor in Wake Forest, NC).
What should we think of the FIC movement? I’m not writing to tell you just what you should think.
And I’m not writing to cast aspersions on the brethren promoting it. From all that I can tell, the leaders of this movement sincerely desire to promote church and family life regulated by the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Surely that is a good desire.
But because this movement seems to be exerting a growing influence in circles that are familiar to many of our people, I am writing to urge you to think with careful biblical discernment about this movement. As with any so-called “movement” within Christian circles, we must be careful to test all things by the Scriptures, no matter how biblical they may sound or who may be espousing them.
Here are a couple of things we should keep in mind when evaluating the FIC movement:
1) Obviously, faithfulness to the Word of God is of first importance. But faithfulness to the Word means more than just holding a biblical view about a given issue. Biblical fidelity includes holding that view in due proportion to the weight it receives in Scripture and the place assigned to it by Scripture.
“Issue-oriented” movements like FIC often are reactions against some legitimate problem in society or the church at large. Reactionary movements sometimes (often?) overact and become biblically imbalanced. The proverbial pendulum swings too far, if you will. When I read FIC leaders describe age-segregated Sunday School programs as a serious threat to biblical family order and the authority of fathers, I wonder if they are taking their legitimate concern too far and finding enemies where they should be finding friends. Be careful to evaluate the legitimacy of such assertions according to the Scriptures.
2) “Issue-oriented” movements like FIC tend to so emphasize and so closely identify themselves with their one primary issue of concern that they unwittingly displace the one great issue for the Christian and the church- the gospel itself. I’m not saying the proponents of FIC are denying the gospel or even failing to preach and promote the gospel. I’m saying that issue-oriented movements have a tendency to displace the gospel from its place of first importance. Every local expression of the church of Jesus Christ should desire to be known and identified supremely for its commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, not by its distinctives. Whenever the church raises such issues to the level of first importance, we risk distorting our true identity and undermining our true calling and usefulness. When I read FIC leaders speaking as if America’s greatest need is the restoration of biblical fatherhood, I wonder if such a displacement is occurring. Be careful to evaluate the legitimacy of such assertions in light of the supremacy of the gospel in God’s plan and man’s need.
3) Lastly, “issue-oriented” movements like FIC tend to hold their particular convictions in such a way that almost inevitably promotes disunity within the body of Christ. This especially concerns me on the local level. The concern I have is this: FIC leaders speak and write much of the “truly biblical” way to order the church and family together. We want to be truly biblical in the ordering of our church and families. That’s a good desire. But care is needed.
We get into trouble when our efforts to define “truly biblical” take us beyond the Bible itself. Especially when we feel strongly about truth and the recovery of certain truths, we also need to exercise humble restraint and spiritual wisdom not only to go where the Bible goes but to stop where the Bible stops. We need the grace to acknowledge the difference between clear biblical principles and the cultivation of personal convictions based on those principles.
Numerous problems result from this all too common practice of going beyond the clear teaching of Scripture and making laws where God has not made any. Not the least is the damage it inflicts on the unity of the church. The basis of unity becomes agreement with the specific way those convictions are worked out, rather than like-mindedness on the more broad biblical principles behind those convictions. Seeking to order one’s family by the Word of God is not enough. It must look a certain way, or it is not “truly biblical.” And that’s where the problem lies.
Here’s an example of what I mean: One writer associated with the FIC movement essentially asked the question, “How could you sit under the ministry of a man who sends his kids to the anti-Christian government schools (emphasis mine)?” In the context, he equates a pastor sending his child to public school with the disqualifying sins of gluttony, failure to properly manage the home and marital infidelity. Now, in all honesty, that angers me. Not because I send one of my children to the local public high school. My conscience is clear on that one. It angers me because it draws a dividing line between brethren on an issue not explicitly addressed in the Bible. Here’s the effect in the local church: those who meet and perhaps agree with his definition of “truly biblical” are tempted to judge and even separate themselves and their children from those portrayed as “compromisers”. This may be an extreme example. We shouldn’t judge the whole movement based upon it. But we should be careful to evaluate such assertions according to the more clear and explicit revelation of the Word of God.
So what’s the point of all this? Simply to encourage you to examine the FIC movement by the clear teaching of the Word of God…"
How does one define a Family Integrated Church? The Wikipedia article on FIC, which is extremely well-documented, provides a concise explanation. The article, along with references, can be found here.
"A family integrated church is one in which parents and children attend church services together, children stay all through church services (without attending Sunday school or children's ministries) and organized groups and activities for children and youth are non-existent. Timothy Paul Jones notes that in the family-integrated ministry model, "all age-graded classes and events are eliminated." Other terms used are family discipleship churches, family-centered ministry and inclusive-congregational ministry.
Family integrated churches emphasise inter-generational ministry and the "parents' responsibility to evangelize and disciple their own children." Some advocates base this on the idea that families are the "God-ordained building blocks of the church." In 2009, B&H Academic published Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views (ISBN 0805448454) which included a contribution by Paul Renfro in favor of "Family-Integrated Ministry." Renfro argues that in the Old Testament, children were part of the "gathered assembly of God's people" (Deuteronomy 31:12), while "in first-century churches the presence of children in the church assembly was assumed," since Paul directly addressed children in Ephesians 6:1-3. Scott Brown argues for family integrated churches on the basis of the sufficiency of Scripture, while advocates of the concept also argue that this is the practice of historic Christianity.
A movement of family integrated churches has formed among evangelical churches in the USA. Organizations that advocate family integrated churches include Vision Forum, the Alliance for Church and Family Reformation, and the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. The NCFIC lists around 800 affiliated churches."
Since the NCFIC plays such a prominent role in the family-integrated church movement, I decided to take a closer look at their affiliated churches. As some of you know, Dee and I live in North Carolina, so I decided to investigate the NCFIC-affiliated churches here in our state. Based on information I obtained from the official NCFIC website, here is what I discovered:
There are 37 FICs in North Carolina that are listed among the 800 affiliated churches on the NCFIC website.
Here is a breakdown of where these FICs meet:
Church Building (which may or may not be rented) — 9
Rented Facility — 22
Personal Home — 6
There are less than 500 families in North Carolina that gather in these 37 FIC churches, according to information obtained from the NCFIC website. That averages out to around 16 families per FIC. I am assuming that the NCFIC statistics are up-to-date. Two churches do not have any families listed, so there may actually be only 35 active FICs in North Carolina. The largest FIC church — Antioch Community Church — established in 1987, has 60 families. Some on the list have just one or two families. Only 8 of these FIC churches in North Carolina has over 16 families.
To back up these statistics, here is a detailed list of FIC churches in North Carolina that are affiliated with the National Center of Family-Integrated Churches. To understand this listing, the church name and location are mentioned first. Underneath are the type of meeting location, year established, and number of families involved. (link)
Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (Arden)
Meeting @ Gentilini Allstate Insurance Agency (2004) 11 Families
Cornerstone Bible Church (Asheboro)
Rented Facility (2008) 15 Families
Simple Truth Bible Fellowship (Asheville)
Rented Facility (2009) 5 Families
Blanch Baptist Church (Blanch)
Church Building (1901) 12 Families (multi-generational)
Park Family Fellowship (Charlotte)
Rented Facility (2007) 3 Families
Holy Trinity Reformed Church (Concord)
Rented Facility (2008) 12-15 Families
Providence Church (Denver)
Rented Facility (2006) 40 Families
Grace Baptist Church (Durham)
Meet in Remodeled Church that is no longer a church (2007) 4 families
Antioch Community Church (Elon)
Church Building (1987) 60 Families
Liberty Fellowship (Fellowship)
Home Gathering (2008) 1 Family
Providence PCA (Fayetteville)
Rented Facility (2002) 26 Families
Southwest Wake Christian Assembly (Fuquay-Varina)
Rented Facility (2002) 24 Families
Legacy Community Church (Greensboro)
Rented Facility (2004) 15 Families
Providence Church (Greenville)
Rented Facility (2004) 6 Families
West Hill Baptist Church (Hillsborough)
Church Facility (1917) 12 Families (Older church transformed)
Heritage Bible Fellowship (Hope Mills)
Church Building – Meets Sunday at 3:00 p.m. (2004) 30 Families
Anchor Baptist Church (Louisburg)
Rented Facility (2007) 8 Families
His Kingdom Come Ministries (Marshville)
House Gathering (2006) ???
Presbyterian Reformed Church (Matthews)
Rented Facility (1998) 15 Families
Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church (McLeansville)
Rented Facility (2011) 8 Families
Presbyterian Reformed Fellowship (Morehead City)
Board Room of Hampton Inn (2006) 2 Families
Chatham Christian Assembly (New Hill)
Home Gathering (2007) 10 Families
Wilkes Fellowship (North Wilkesboro)
House Gathering (2001) 7 Families
Living Vine Church (Pineville)
Church Building (2002) 30 Families
Word of Grace Community Church (Pineville)
Rented Facility (2006) 8 Families
Westminster Presbyterian Church (Reidsville)
House Gathering (2006) 5 Families
Calvary of Salisbury (Salisbury)
Rented Facility (2010) 3 Families
Heritage Fellowship Church (Shelby)
Rented Facility (2007) 6 Families
Heritage Family Bible Church (Snow Camp)
House Gathering (2007) 6 Facilities
Moore Christian Assembly (Southern Pines)
Southern Pines Train House (2009) ???
Foundation Fellowship Church (Statesville)
House Gathering (2005) 8 Families
Hope Baptist Church (Wake Forest)
Rented Facility (2006) 40 Families
Wesleyan Pentecostal Church (Washington)
Church Facility (1994) 16 Families
River City Reformed Church (Wilmington)
Church Building (2008) 7 Families
Trinity Reformed OPC (Wilmington)
Church Building (1971) 14 Families
Pilgrim Bible Church (Winston-Salem)
Rented Facility (2003) 7 Families
Sovereign Redeemer Community Church (Youngsville)
Rented Facility – Hill Ridge Farms (2011) 15 Families
It is worth noting that Scott Brown, the director of the National Center of Family Integrated Churches, lives in North Carolina and leads one of these churches, though not the largest. His church recently planted an FIC with 15 families.
What is really going with this network of 800 Family Integrated Churches, and why should any of us care? That will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.
Lydia's Corner: 1 Chronicles 7:1-8:40 Acts 27:1-20 Psalm 7:1-17 Proverbs 18:22