Family Integrated Church Wrap-Up

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Abraham Lincoln

Church in French Countryside

(Taken by Deb)

Family integrated churches are beginning to garner some attention in the Christian community, and it appears this is due, in part, to self-promotion. The documentary "Divided" is a case in point. This video plays the blame game regarding why youth are leaving the church and holds up the FIC model as the ONLY solution for keeping the next generation from slipping away from the Christian faith. Of course, the video presents valid criticisms regarding youth ministry, parents, and church structure (i.e. Sunday School). That’s what makes this propaganda piece so deceptive.

The FIC model seems to work best in the homeschooling community, as one of our commenters pointed out. As I have mentioned before, I homeschooled my daughters for four years when they were very young, and I believe this educational option can be a wonderful choice for some families. What greatly concerns me about the FIC movement is that from what I understand, homeschooling is the only acceptable form of education. The “government schools” as the FIC crowd calls public schools, are lambasted. Where is the liberty in such a strict religious system? There is so much more that FIC proponents are not telling us regarding their agenda.

A commenter who goes by the moniker Shadowspring shared her insights regarding FIC. Here is what she wrote:

“The problem I have with FIC churches is that they were born in the home school community and promote home schooling. Trust me, not enough time with family or parents is NOT a problem in a home school situation!

They spout all these statistics about how little time the modern family spends together, but that’s not ever relevant in the communities that are pitching and practicing FIC. True statistics about their parishioners would point to a great preponderance of the children’s time spent with family, and very little (in some cases none) time spent with anyone else outside of the presence of a parent or older sibling.

Victorians sent chaperones out with young couples; FIC home school families send chaperones with all of their children in all social settings. It is a complete domination of parent/family over the individual.

The way I see it, they are so mistrustful of their children, and even their fellow parishioners, that they dare not let them out of their sight even for a moment. No one is to be trusted to share the faith accurately except mom and dad. Even the pastor is being listened to by parents so that they will know exactly what little Johnny has been exposed to.

It may be that in such a judgmental, cloistered group, they fear what weaknesses of the family might be brought to light in a Sunday school conversation. People my age remember the show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. Parents in my neighborhood today laugh over such things because we all know that our child (and our neighbors child) has said something that either exposes our weakness or could be misconstrued in an unflattering light. We give each other the benefit of the doubt and still smile and wave and let our kids play together.

In such an earnest religious environment where every word, habit and action is IMPORTANT and building a LEGACY for future generations, it makes sense to keep your children away from judgmental eyes. Then again, it also further solidifies a parents complete control over their children, something that is touted as a praiseworthy virtue in the guise of “sheltering” or “protecting” your child’s tender heart. Maybe it serves both purposes.

As it is, these families drawn to FIC ministries are the very families that should be putting their children in Sunday school, and signing them up for community league sports. If your child can be led astray by a mere one to five hours a week outside of your presence, then you have a serious problem with your FAMILY RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS.

Most families have nothing to worry about. The parents are creating a warm, loving environment at home where their children are happy and secure. The children learn to enjoy the company of others, get other adults to look up to who most likely support a lot of the same values you do, and if they run into problems, have a good relationship with their parents to help them deal with it.

But insecure families, who feel constantly under siege from “the world” because of the insular preaching they are under, who are afraid of being judged wanting by their own fellow congregants, and/or who need to feel in absolute control of their progeny to feed their own egos, those are the families targeted by FIC and the ones who will be most harmed by attending one.”

As I researched the family integrated church movement, I discovered that there are some Christians out there who are so fanatical about this church structure that they are pressuring congregations to adopt the FIC model. My question is for these zealots is — why don’t they just find some like-minded Christian families and go and start their own church instead of trying to change existing congregations?

To demonstrate how FIC supporters are being divisive in the body of Christ, here is question that a Texas pastor received from a pastor friend. (link)

”Mack, have you had any experiences with apologetic organizations, like Answers in Genesis, causing divisions?

I just had a long conversation with one family to calm down any misunderstandings, who were almost leaving the church, because of one comment I made, specifically that I don’t think from Scripture that we can be dogmatic about there was no animal death before the fall. I did explain that it may well be that that was the case, but that people read things into the ‘proof-texts’ that aren’t there in order to come to that position. i.e. Roman 5:12 is clearly talking about human death and the sin imputed to humans and nothing to do with animals. I also gently pointed out that the Hebrew names for animals imply the violent natures of some, although even on that I said, it could still be that they weren’t like that before the fall and that their names could have been prophetic.

I don’t even try to change people who have a view on that one way or the other, to me it is a gray area of Scripture that is not an issue. But they are big followers of Answers in Genesis, who do take a dogmatic position on it.

From this they have also since taken issue on my approach to evangelism. They have a problem with my just preaching the gospel rather than try to prove the existence of God and the truth of creation.

Any advice on how to handle things like this? These sort of problems seem to be coming up more and more, where people become divided over things which shouldn’t divide Christians?”

As you will see in Pastor Mack’s response to his pastor friend, family integrated churches have been causing turmoil in his congregation.  Here is his thoughtful response. (see above link)

Dear brother,

These kinds of secondary issues become too important for some people. They begin to focus on specific areas of truth and then judge all truths in light of certain truths. They then become dogmatic in making such secondary areas of truth more important than they should; but they don’t leave it at that; they then begin to judge a ministry, church, or a preacher by those standards and expect their church to agree with their position; if not, they will then try to influence the church leaders and families to come to see that their position is correct. If that doesn’t work, disagreement or criticism often follows.

This happens because such people are greatly influenced by such organizations as Answers in Genesis, Vision Forum, para-church ministries that focus on specific areas of truth, such as the family, creation, evangelism, abortion. They then become zealous about secondary areas, and see those areas as what the church ought to focus upon. If the church doesn’t conform to their views, they then begin to view the church as being wrong. They want everything to be in line with their views, because they see their views as being the most important area of doctrine. Normally, you cannot please such people unless you agree with them;

I find the wisest approach is to immediately talk with them concerning these issues and not wait. When people begin to evidence their strong views on such things and begin to bring them up in discussion, we must recognize that those views are very important to them and their zeal for them have real potential to cause judgment or division within the church body.

It is best for the pastor or one of the elders to set down with them right away and simply say, “I see that some of these things are important to you; let me share our church’s position is on this so you will know where we are.” Then give them a summary view, also telling them that these things are secondary in importance in the Bible in relation to the gospel and the glory of Christ. Tell them that the church and the ministry there doesn’t major on these things and often does not take a dogmatic position on them.

If you take the pro-active position at the front-end of the relationship with them when the problem first shows itself, you will save time and heartache and hopefully avoid them causing problems in the church.

We had two couples come to our church a couple of years ago who were very much into the family-integrated church movement. As they began to attend, it was the place of the family and the family-integrated church movement was the only subject they wanted to talk about with everyone, and all their questions to the 2 elders were about this, trying to persuade us that all churches should be “family-integrated”, majoring in their preaching and church life on the family more than anything else. Everything in the church ought to be about the family–such was their view.

So both the elders sat down with the men and lovingly and clearly stated over breakfast–”We know these areas are important to you. We want you to fully know, from the beginning, where we are coming from as far as our ministry and church is concerned. We do not major or focus primarily on the family. Though the Bible reveals that the family is a very important area, it is not the most important. The gospel itself and the person of Jesus Christ is what our church majors on. We have our children in the services with us, but our church is not focusing on family, it is focusing on God and the full revelation of truth in Scripture.”

When we made this clear and the men knew where we stood, they responded with understanding. After that, their families never came back to the church again. They began to meet in their living room–two families trying to be a church.

By doing this with them at the beginning of their coming to the church, we saved much time and energy, and avoided potential problems.

Such issues often split churches and cause great division, simply because they are not dealt with quickly enough.

Now we always take this approach–we deal with such issues head-on at the beginning and do not let weeks pass. It is always the best way. People will know that they cannot push their views on the church and will either settle in and accept the teaching or they will soon move on. But you don’t want their views affecting the saints and those attending the church. I hope this helps."

I agree with Pastor Mack's advice.  Church leaders must be proactive in addressing serious issues such as young earth creationism and the family integrated church movement. There is much at stake, and I pray that congregations will not become divided regarding these secondary issues. 

Lydia's Corner:   1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36    Romans 1:18-32    Psalm 10:1-15    Proverbs 19:6-7

Comments

Family Integrated Church Wrap-Up — 11 Comments

  1. Really have been thinking about writing a book called the Rise of the Hefner generation and its influence after much thought of this movement in conservative circles of blaming the women’s movement for much of the current problems in the church culture. The women’s movement is really a reaction to the previous Hefner generation and intitial actually brought back elements of conservatism. The conservative women’s movement brought about moves toward the pro-life crisis centers and such.

  2. Much of what many Christians decry as liberal and resulting from the terrible 60s was caused by TV. More specifically TV news. It destroyed the good old boys system of the print media keeping all the “bad” things our leaders (church, political, community, etc…) were doing quiet. And gradually as the hypocrisies became more and more apparent, well the lid blew off. Somewhat like a pressure cooker with a stuck valve. (Young folks will have to google this reference but it could be impressive in a kitchen.)

    Our wink and a nod culture to our mostly white middle class indiscretions caused the 60s. Deny it all we want. But we met the enemy and it was us. We just keep refusing to look in the mirror and instead keep holding it up in everyone else’s face.

  3. Stuck valves can also cause an explosion of the cooker, and people have died. Others have been scalded as the contents spewed up out of the cooker through the valve stem.

  4. I think Pastor Mack’s advice to communicate early on with people is good if he sees them getting off-track in their priorities. He is right that the focus of our worship and energy is Christ. If we’re focusing on other matters and making them larger than Christ, then we are guilty of idolatry. You all know where I stand on the VF/FIC fiasco.

    I want to make a distinction here though. I think the problem occurs when people affiliated with one group come into a church with their primary purpose being to advance that group’s ideology. In such cases their primary interest is indoctrination, not the worship of the Lord.

    It is natural for people to desire affinity with others. We go to church and we want to find out who shares our common interests, so we can deepen friendships.

    The problem with Vision Forum and Sovereign Grace Ministries is that they do not go to the unbelieving world to share their message. They focus on the Christian world and end up pulling people from other churches into their own. They become parasitical using other churches for their own gain.

    I can understand Pastor Mack’s concern with church-planting organizations like Vision Forum or SGM, but I have difficulty seeing why someone holding a different viewpoint on other issues poses a threat to his congregation.

    In the scriptures Christ actually commanded his followers to go out and be fishers of men with the Gospel, so does someone fervent about evangelism threaten his congregation? It would seem that a pastor would desire a person convicted on that point.

    Regarding the creation/evolution issue, is Pastor Mack saying that he does not want Christians discussing this topic in his church? Or anything pertaining to life issues? Or home schooling?

    It is natural for people to desire affinity with others. We go to church and we want to find out who shares our common interests, so we can deepen friendships.

    If anyone who differs on secondary issues is viewed as a threat to a church, then how is that church any different than a family integrated church?

    In both cases the pastors feel their congregations are threatened by opposing views.

  5. Pastor Mack said, “They then become zealous about secondary areas, and see those areas as what the church ought to focus upon. If the church doesn’t conform to their views, they then begin to view the church as being wrong. They want everything to be in line with their views, because they see their views as being the most important area of doctrine.”

    He’s right that secondary issues should not be the most important areas of doctrine. I’m in full agreement there.

    But there will usually be a few things a parishioner will disagree with the church on. I’d be surprised if there is a Christian anywhere who can’t think of something they wish their church would focus on more. Is he saying that his views are always correct and that it’s wrong for someone to think that “his church is wrong” on some points? Is he saying that his church members should all be in lockstep agreement with his church on secondary issues?

    As long as a pastor encourages his church to focus on Christ and the Gospel, that is good. But if he’s messing around with people’s personal convictions on secondary issues, he may be making his job harder than it needs to be. Unless of course, he’s more concerned about everyone thinking exactly the same about secondary issues so feathers are never ruffled. That may make his job easier, but it only produces drones.

  6. Ted,

    I didn’t get the impression that Pastor Mack was being dogmatic about not allowing the discussion of secondary issues at his church. I got the impression that if someone attempts to force their views on the congregation, they would be dealt with in a loving, yet firm way.

    Have you ever been exposed to Answers in Genesis followers? Dee had this unfortunate experience a few years ago, and it was most unpleasant. Maybe she will share some of her experience.

    I have enjoyed reading your comments, and I hope you will continue to chime in. You add so much to the discussion!

  7. Ted,
    I share your concerns, while agreeing with you and Pastor Mack about the serious “majoring on minors” issue. I didn’t read or sense an authoritarian spirit in his post ( which I have seen elsewhere), so hopefully he wouldn’t take that tack in answer to your questions. Maybe Deb could invite him to comment further.
    St Deb (or the MRR Dee),
    I strongly agree with you and Pastor Mack in the “proactive” part. Now the question… Any suggestion for a worried member when the church leaders are being less proactive than he’d like? I don’t want to be focusing excessively from the anti-patriarchy, anti-vision forum position I hold, either. Plus, there’s a subtlety about this issue in our church. The Pastors have dealt with the Sunday School issue well by having it available with freedom for parents to choose or not. I don’t hear men talking about FIC stuff a lot, but in women’s events, my womenfolk express feeling ignored or patronized by certain other womenfolk. Those others are young, have husbands, have children and school at home, and quote frequently from complementary authors. They also don’t ask for advice from older women like my wife… So I draw conclusions, while not wanting to judge. These same families also don’t tend to socialize with the other types of families, so I don’t know them well, but fear there’s division going on.

  8. Thanks Deb. Well you and Dee are much appreciated too. Your research and whistle blowing are invaluable. You asked about my exposures. I’ve been exposed to self-righteous dogmatic people on about every side I guess. The way an issue is communicated is important in my view. A person can have the truth and smack it so hard on someone’s head that he turns people away. A person can do the same thing with a lie.

    Appalled, people will differ on secondary issues in churches. It’s how they approach one another on these issues that shows Christ’s love or not. If your wife is running into uppity women holding to patriocentric views, it is because self-righteous smugness comes with their territory. The Pharisees were smitten with the same delusions. They could not see it, nor can these women. Pharisees pressure others to conform to their ways through the intimidation of acting superior.

    If I pastored a church with a pride problem festering, I would preach many sermons on the topic. I would find common ground with these people in terms of respecting whatever is respectable in their belief system, but using scriptures I’d punch holes in their prideful approach to others and in their excesses. It would be interesting hearing Pastor Mack provide actual scriptures here that would do just that.

  9. Appalled,

    If you or church staff were to plan an event combining the different “factions” (as they seem to be), and planned it in such a way that split up these factions & encouraged people to talk together or work on something together… how do you see that working out?

  10. Ted and EG,
    Much appreciate the help. You inspired much more thought in me than I have time to share, and confirmed that what I’ve already done in bringing my concerns to the pastors was the right thing. Indeed, as to sermon preaching, since I brought this up, we have had an entire sermon on Mark 10:45 and a very pointed application from Mark 11:11– basically “What does Christ see when he looks around at the temple of your heart? Is he like a visiting neighbor looking at the dirty mirror near the front door? Many of you here are thinking it’s all about how orderly your house is (or I might add children). No! If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation— that’s what he sees!”
    On the event planning line, I see that working out well, if we can get people to attend and out of cliques at the same time. A week ago we had our monthly all-church prayer meeting… Very lightly attended (another concern) but this gave us much time to talk frankly about this issue as well as pray. A very good suggestion was made that newcomers should be encouraged to visit every small group for a couple months before settling in (we have 6). I’m thinking my wife and I will follow this as a kind of faction-breaking event.

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