The Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church
The following is a series of articles written in September and October of 2008 addressing the various aspects of the family integrated church model as told through our own story. We have been part of the planting of two family integrated churches and are currently in a traditional church. These articles were originally on this blog and by searching the archives, you can see the reader comments on this series.
Part 1 on the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
I thought it would be a great idea to offer a few thoughts on the growing family integrated church movement after reading Wade Burleson’s recent article and also Cindy Kunsman’s thoughts about this movement over the past few weeks. I want to encourage good discussion here and hope anyone who is interested in this topic will feel free to discuss it. As always, I don’t mind anonymous comments as long as they come along with a real e-mail address and civility.
Having attempted to integrate our own family’s preferences and convictions into church life, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, over the past 24 years, I fully understand why homeschooling families would love to find a church home where their lifestyle is not only accepted but is also the standard. Let’s face it, once you begin taking the responsibility for academically educating your own children, as a parent you begin to see all of the areas of your life where the Lord has called you to take responsibility for your family and your home. As you put into practice family worship, discipleship of your own children, caring for the needs of extended family, etc, you begin to see how the bureaucracy of the local church, especially if it can’t accommodate your own convictions, can become burdensome and frustrating. It only seems natural to turn to the family-integrated church model and many homeschooling families do just that.
Growing both in the number of churches and in membership, these churches have been established to meet the particular needs of homeschooling families and will eventually be available in most areas of the country. In fact, the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, established only 5 years ago, currently lists 657 churches and claims a membership of 1677 families who desire to further their mission.
While this organization does not represent all those who wish to follow a family-integrated approach to church life, they certainly have had tremendous influence through their conferences and publications. Founder and leader of the NCFIC, Doug Phillips, considered one of the most popular homeschooling speakers around the country today, promotes this off-shoot of his Vision Forum ministry while at homeschooling conferences along with other voices for pro-family-integrated worship such as Voddie Baucham, a SBC-ordained pastor, and Kevin Swanson, ordained in the OPC.
Not associated with Phillips but also a founder of what he calls “home-discipleship churches,” former church planter with the CRC, Pastor Henry Reyenga, is the head of the Christian Leaders Institute that seeks to launch churches and to prepare young men for leadership within those congregations. In recent years he has established his own denomination, or perhaps association of churches might be more accurate, that reflects his family discipleship priorities and interpretations of Christian education.
His is not the first group to do go out on its own to form churches with this family emphasis. James McDonald, founder of Family Reformation Ministries and pastor with the Covenant Presbyterian Church, left the RPCGA and starting his own denomination, one that reflects his convictions about home education and paedo-communion, both views not necessarily advanced, and sometimes discouraged or forbidden, within traditional churches.
In contrast to the traditional structure found in most denominations and eschewing the long-established polity in most conventional churches, NCFIC churches each struggle to carve out their own paths and even theology based on the premise that homeschooling is the best and most biblical lifestyle for Christian parents. Placing fathers in leadership of these churches is to be the norm. To this end, the NCFIC mission statement says that they “deny/reject two unbiblical extremes of our day, authoritarian, one-man leadership/one-man ministry that impedes the biblical functioning of the body, and leaderless house churches that disregard the biblical necessity of elders.”
Further, claiming to follow in the footsteps of 17th and 18th century pastors Richard Baxter, John Bunyon, Matthew Henry, and Jonathan Edwards, all great men in history who stressed the importance of fathers discipling and catechizing their own children, the NCFIC seeks to provide tools for men training their own families and believes this is the means for seeing future generations of Christians.
While I whole-heartedly believe that fathers are to be instrumental in the discipleship of their children and while I appreciate so many of the reasons homeschooling families have for leaving their traditional churches, I have come to see some flaws within the family-integrated church movement that I think need to be addressed if it is to have the success so many homeschooling families are hoping to experience. In the next few blog articles I will be looking at some of the things I really like about family-integrated churches and at some of my concerns and am looking forward to some great discussion here.
Part 2 on the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
Yesterday I began a series of thoughts on the pro and cons of the family integrated church model and today I want to continue the discussion, talking about why I believe homeschooling families are so attracted to this new model of family church.
First, I would like to take you through the Reader’s Digest version of the past 25 or so years of our church life as a family.
Let me begin by sharing some of the ministries Clay and I have been involved in as adults: Clay has served as a children’s church teacher, a primary Sunday school teacher, VBS teacher, high school Sunday school teacher, a high school youth group leader, Chairman of the Board of Christian Education, adult Sunday school class teacher, AWANA leader and director.
I have been a high school Sunday school teacher, children’s church teacher, VBS teacher, After School Club for Kids Director, Chairman of the Board of Christian Ed, Chairman of the Board of Community Outreach, Missionary Conference Director, secretary and president of Women in Church in a PCA church, children’s choir director, church pianist, CPC counselor for 10 years, and those are just the things we can remember. Both of us found most of these ministries very rewarding and were blessed to serve in any way that we could do so.
But, in retrospect, none of these ministries have given us the blessings or have allowed us to see fruit in the lives of others in the same way or even in the greatest ways we have witnessed through our continued efforts toward discipling our own children. In fact, we have come to realize that some of the ministries we have participated in have, at their roots, a mission that is in stark contrast to many of the things we aspire to do as a homeschooling family.
When we began homeschooling, we continued to be involved in many church activities, all of us participating in programs and ministries that often took us separate directions on Sunday mornings or on Wednesday nights. While we didn’t allow them to cause division within our family, we did come to the place where we needed to evaluate our own family priorities against the backdrop of how much time and energy we would be spending in working within our local church.
Because we were homeschooling, we had made the commitment that we would be a family living on one income. That meant that there were certain activities that our children simply couldn’t participate in because of the cost. It also meant that our time schedule would need to work around Clay’s job, which grew increasingly demanding as the years went by.
We made the commitment to spend time together in the Word every evening so that meant that some of the evening activities at church would have to take a back seat to what we were doing at home. In essence, as our commitment to homeschooling grew and as we became more confident in how we were living out our convictions, we began to have less and less need for church ministry and eventually began to see our own involvement as a hindrance to our most important efforts, those of ministering to our own children.
We had to ask ourselves some hard questions regarding our use of time and resources. Would spending 4 hours preparing to teach an adult Sunday School class be better used in spending 4 hours in one on one time with each of my older children? Would my children glean more by spending time helping care for elderly grandparents or younger siblings than they would sitting under the teachings of the youth leader whose own wife and children didn’t even attend church? Would it be worse to offend some of the church leadership by not attending their activities than to offend our own children by exposing them to influences that weren’t godly or wholesome?
As you can imagine, responses to the decisions we began to make were not always well received and along our journey to finding a church home, we made many mistakes. While we weren’t looking for a church that would be custom designed for us, we really longed for one where sound Bible teaching was a priority and where we could feel the freedom to not participate in a myriad of programs but could use our weekdays as we saw fit to nurture and disciple our own children, to building relationships with them and with others, as a family rather than as scattered individuals each with our own lives. We knew, instinctively, that that day would come soon enough as our children grew up and left home and we wanted to make the most of our time with them as possible.
Then, one day, out of the blue, we were invited to attend a church that not only didn’t have a list of weekly programs, but one that published a brochure designed just for homeschoolers and that listed all the ways the church family and even the pastor would love to minister to homeschoolers. We were amazed and hooked.
But, in spite of the great hope we had that finally we had found a church that understood our parenting philosophy and even though we were eager and willing to believe that the church’s self promotion was legitimate, that next week’s visit was the beginning of what was to be the most painful season of anti-homeschooling abuse we were ever to experience.
Part 3 on the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
In picking up where I left off yesterday, I will continue my saga of coming to the church that led us to our experiences with the family integrated church model. I believe that telling our own story is the best way to illustrate the main arguments pro and con for the FIC model and it will be helpful for others who are facing similar decisions regarding finding a church home for your family.
Initially, we were quite excited to be part of a small congregation that didn’t have endless activities or programs. The preaching was challenging and inspiring and we really appreciated the worship service and hearing the doctrines of grace taught weekly. We enjoyed the fellowship of other believers, though there were not as many homeschooling families as we had been led to believe would be there. In fact, most of the homeschooling families we met had only been there a few weeks before we arrived and shortly after we came a few more came, too. Though people were friendly enough, it was really only the other homeschooling families who welcomed us into their homes and it soon became apparent that there were those in the congregation who were feeling threatened by the ever-growing group of homeschoolers and that those of us who had come had done so because we had responded to the brochures that had been sent out.
Later, we discovered that that flier had been written and published by one of the elders who was hoping to turn the church into a family integrated one by filling it with homeschoolers, a method, I might add, that is sometimes suggested by those who are encouraging the FIC model, though one we came to see does not work. Eventually, two things happened that confirmed to us that this church was not the one that had been portrayed in the brochure.
We had joined the church and had scheduled our annual visit from our elder in our home. He and his wife came for dinner and afterwards we spent several hours chatting with him as he asked questions about our family’s spiritual growth and as he shared the elder’s vision for the future of the church. Interestingly enough, he didn’t mention any of the priorities you would expect from a church that wanted to support homeschooling.
And then, as Clay mentioned family discipleship, the elder informed us, in no uncertain terms, that we were not to ever mention homeschooling in church, that it was fine if this is what we wanted for our own family but it was never to be talked about at church. My husband pressed him on this issue, suggesting that if we had found a method of educating our children that had proven to be successful, wouldn’t it only follow that we would joyfully want to talk about it? He was adamant that we were never to do so. This was a stunning revelation to us because he was verbalizing what we had been sensing from some of the congregation but we didn’t realize that it was also the growing consensus of the elders.
The second shoe dropped when we attended an annual congregational meeting not long afterward and it was announced that the church would be starting a youth ministry and would be placing a young woman, who was trying to complete a degree in youth ministry, in charge of it. Since our pastor had repeatedly remarked that we would not be a “program church” and that that meant we would never have a youth ministry, we began to feel like we had been deceived.
While none of us knew this woman very well and certainly didn’t know whether or not we would want to have any of our children mentored by her, we were shocked that this was being brought before the congregation for support without any details of her philosophy of working with young people being shared with us. Several of us began to ask questions about what she believed about youth ministry, what goals she would have, what activities she wanted to be involved with, how she planned to include parents, and all the questions any good parent would want to know. We were met with disbelief that we would feel we even needed to know these things. Finally, someone moved that there be a committee established to explore the possibility of beginning a youth ministry and Clay and I were placed on that committee.
Subsequent meetings were not productive and it was apparent that battle lines had been drawn, with the homeschooling parents, who were now in the majority, on one side and everyone else on the other. Clay suggested that each family come back to the next meeting with their own philosophy of youth ministry prepared to hand out to everyone else so we could have an understanding of where everyone was coming from. I still believe this was helpful, though were we to write that philosophy today I am certain it would look quite different now that we are older and have been able to gain some perspective on life and ministry, an appreciation for the concerns and convictions of others, and a clearer picture of the mission of the true church as taught in scripture.
When we returned to the next meeting, we were the only ones who had come prepared with our own views in writing. In fact, the woman who was to be the youth leader had prepared nothing and was still unable to offer anything of substance. The discussion continued with the turning point in the meeting being when one of the mothers asked this very astute question: “Are we wanting to minister to youth from covenant families or to covenant families who have youth in them?” This simple insight clarified the difference between a family integrated perspective on high school age kids and the normal perspective you find in most traditional churches.
I wish I could say that that was the beginning of unity within the group and that we moved on, having better understood each other and that the conclusion was a dynamic family-oriented ministry involving young people and led by parents who were assisted by this young woman. Unfortunately, that meeting and that clear defining of the differences between the way homeschoolers think about raising teen-agers and the way that the traditional church approaches youth only served to further galvanize the differences. The relationships between those who homeschooled and those who didn’t became even more strained and as more homeschoolers continued to come into the church, a battle zone was soon firmly in place.
Part 4 on the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
The philosophy of youth ministry meeting, as I mentioned in part three of this series, did not solve the differences within the congregation regarding the proposed youth group but it did bring to the forefront all of the differences between the way the typical homeschooling family and other families approached the many aspects of raising children. As a result, the handful of families who were committed to public education for their children and who loved the idea of church programs felt more and more alienated. Homeschooling families were suspect any time they suggested doing anything at the church and everything began to reflect this tension.
One example of this was when the church building experienced water damage after a storm, requiring major reconstruction and we had to rent an empty school building for several months. This turn of events moved the church building program to the front burner and a new set of tensions that reflected the differences in family philosophy, as you can imagine, began to surface.
For years the church had owned 50 acres of land, most of it on the side of a hill and surrounded by beautiful woods. There were several hundred thousand dollars in the building fund and the big dream of a large sanctuary and educational wing was still in the hearts of long-time church members. An architect had been hired at one time and had drawn up plans that depicted everything from a soccer field to a retirement village on the property, which, because of the lay of the land, would require more than what was in the building fund just to prepare the current landscape to support the buildings.
Those in the congregation who had been around for a long time had caught the vision for this building and saw all the new families who were coming in as a reason to have better facilities, an educational wing, and there was even talk of a Christian school. They also saw us as the means to pay for their building.
Those of us who were new, which was nearly all homeschooling families, looked at the architectural drawings and saw a facility that certainly didn’t resemble the small country church that had drawn us in the first place. When several church members tried to sell us all on the idea of a Christian school, it showed us that they still didn’t understand our convictions about homeschooling.
One Sunday afternoon there was a meeting after church where one of the elders presented his perspective on how we could pay for the new building. Central to his plan was for all church members to consider selling their homes and downsizing, using the equity to fund the church building project. I was incredulous at this idea and could hardly believe what I was hearing. This man, an elder who was called to minister to and to serve his congregation, had absolutely no concept of the way of life for most of the families in his church.
When I looked at this same group, I saw half a dozen or so families with 3 or 4 pre-school age children and a stay-at-home mom, all already struggling to live on one income and all willing to open their homes to other babies. Some were even talking of adopting and knew the financial sacrifice that would involve. I saw other families, like ours, who had children in college and had a line-up of others behind them, all of us knowing that any extra income we had, had already been earmarked for their education. I saw two families, ours included, who had opened their homes to elderly parents and, as such, their living quarters were already feeling cramped. I knew, first hand, that when you homeschool, you use every available space in the house for books, school supplies, and even nooks and crannies where individuals can pursue their own hobbies and projects. I knew that, for most of us, inviting another family to your home for dinner and a time of fellowship required creativity and a willingness to be “cozy.” At that point it really hit home to me how out of touch this church’s leadership was with the real lives of homeschoolers.
It was at this point, that several of us began to see what we thought might be a great solution for the congregation that could meet all the needs and even future ones as they presented themselves.
Every Sunday as we met together in the rental property, we began to see the potential that the building presented to us. We began to see how perfect this building would be for a church that was committed to equipping families in discipleship and for fellowship. We envisioned building a balcony above the gymnasium, for example, so parents had a place to take noisy toddlers to teach them how to worship. The school cafeteria, which opened on to the gym, was large and roomy, perfect for hosting fellowship dinners. There were several large classrooms that could be used to build a church library and a beautiful back lot that could be fenced in for a playground. The gym itself was perfect for not only worship but for any family fun nights or possibly homeschooling co-op activities, and even wedding receptions. The central location itself was ideal, just a few minutes away from the main interstate which nearly everyone used to come to church. And the best part was that the building could be purchased for cash and there would be enough money left over to do major remodeling without selling the 50 acres, which we suggested could be used as a family camp, opening it up to the entire denomination at some point in the future.
So several of us began to make the suggestion that we consider purchasing the rental property and you would have thought we were terrorists! Even the pastor, though he was fairly polite, had any number of reasons why this was a bad idea, none of them really making any sense at all. It was obvious that he would not be swayed from his vision for a church on the original property. The elders were divided on the idea, the homeschooling elders believing it was worth considering, the others seeing that they needed to push their building program ahead as quickly as possible, which is exactly what happened.
Part 5 on the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
Finally, after many months, our church building was repaired and we moved back into it, any discussion about purchasing the rental property lost in the midst of serious problems that had surfaced among the church elders. Though it didn’t directly involve those of us in the congregation at large, it put the entire church into a state of paralysis.
Some of the issues were theological, some were personal preferences being treated as essential doctrines of the faith. But underlying the problems and contention was the negative attitude that continued to be held against homeschoolers, with left over bitterness about the youth ministry and frustration at the lack of enthusiasm for the building program often surfacing in comments. In fact, relationships had disintegrated to the point that the pastor told people that his problems would all be gone if all the homeschoolers left. Had this been a divorce, homeschoolers could have sued for alienation of affection.
During this time, homeschooling families began to trickle out of the church and any who happened to visit quickly sensed that they were unwelcome. Eventually, after several years, only a couple homeschooling families remained and those who did welcomed the new building program and even supported a Christian school where the parents were involved.
At this point, we had grown weary of not only the anti-homeschooling attitude but the direct attacks from the pulpit against those who held to convictions that were different than the elders’. Pro-homeschooling rhetoric that had drawn us to the church, anti-homeschooling rhetoric had driven us out.
We spent a year in another traditional church, basically trying to recover from what had been a terribly painful experience. It was at this point that we heard that several families we knew, including the author of the original brochure that had brought us to the previous church, wanted to begin a family integrated church so we decided to join them. We still have a picture of that first day we gathered for worship, 3 families standing in front of a rented American Legion hall, smiling children and hopeful adults. I don’t presume to know what thoughts went through the minds of everyone else that day, but I remember thinking that maybe we could have peace, at least for a while. And for a while, we did.
I might want to back up at this point and share a couple things about where Clay and I were theologically on that day. Both of us had grown up in American Baptist churches and had gone to an American Baptist college but had been greatly influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer and the preaching of John McArthur. We both embraced the doctrines of grace and had been members of a Presbyterian congregation but neither of us was convinced of the necessity of infant baptism, although we didn’t have an issue with babies being baptized. We had no preferences for worship style, the singing of hymns, psalms, or choruses, or any combination of them. We did want to feel the freedom to direct our own family’s spiritual training and education, free from the continual negative attitudes and statements we had experienced previously.
In retrospect, we probably should have had many more questions than we did about the direction the other families thought the church would be taking but we had been under the assumption that there would be freedom of conscience in these areas as well as others.
To begin with, we didn’t realize the amount of influence that the teachings of Vision Forum had on some of the families, including new ones that joined us. Many times someone would bring a tape by Doug Phillips and we listened to it after the noon fellowship dinner. When he was in town for a homeschooling convention, Phillips was asked to preach during our worship service, though it turned out to be an hour and a half talk on keeping daughters from losing the vision for multi-generational family life rather than an expository message. Many visitors came that day, several who later privately told us that they were horrified at the things he had said and certainly would never consider returning. We began to wonder if the church could grow if others had this same opinion.
We also came to understand that everyone in the church, except for our family, held to what is known as the Civil War as a Theological War theology. We began to hear phrases like “Abraham Lincoln was a wicked man. I hate him” and “Had the south only won the war, we would have had a truly Christian nation” and “the war wasn’t about slavery” At one men’s Bible study, one of the men commented “The Klan has done some good things,” referring to the KKK, leaving us dumbfounded. It wasn’t until later that we learned that some of the members had participated in wearing black face for a homeschool co-op production and we also began to see all of the racist teachings in books recommended by Vision Forum and the lauding of men like Confederate chaplain R. L. Dabney. A growing discomfort began to nag at us.
In the midst of this, we learned that a church planter from the Chicago area was interested in helping us grow our family integrated church and the offer was made to bring in a pastor who believed he was called to minister in a home discipleship church. After hearing him preach and getting to know his sweet family, we were thrilled to support his move to our area. And in the back of our minds, Clay and I felt that this influence would help to temper the patriocentric and pro-south leanings we were witnessing.
Part 6 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
In a traditional church setting, the pastor’s presence and influence can set a tone, for good or for bad, that has far-reaching effects on everyone in the congregation. The same is true within the family integrated model church, in spite of the fact that most of these congregations are touted as being father-led or father-directed. Depending on the polity of the individual church and the standards adopted by the denomination, if there is an affiliation with one, the expectations on the role of the pastor can be quite varied. So can the expectations of the local church leadership, especially as a new church is being established and when there are no “official” church officers.
In our first family integrated church experience, as I talked about yesterday, a pastor was brought in to an already organized congregation, one that was considered to be under the authority and care of an already established presbytery. However, because this presbytery was located 1000 miles away and the church, in all honesty, maintained its own autonomy, involvement with another denomination who saw us as a viable church plant seemed logical, especially given the fact that our church had initiated contact with and solicited assistance from a church in the Chicago area who wanted to plant a family integrated church locally. It appeared to be a win-win situation.
Since the church planter had spoken at a local homeschooling convention and had promoted the concept of family integrated church, our pastor had a list of contacts in the area. He opened his home to many on that list and we began to see visitors coming to the church every week. From the perspective that Clay and I had, it was encouraging because the people who came to visit were what we would categorize as “broadly evangelical,” mainstream Christian homeschool families. These were people who longed to have fellowship with other like-minded families and who desired to be encouraged in their home discipleship. There seemed to be less of a radical fringe-philosophy element.
And speaking of the phrase “home discipleship,” I would like to take a few minutes to talk about what that looks like in a family integrated church.
Clay and I both love the phrase and are big proponents of much of the home discipleship philosophy, having made this a regular part of our family life since our earliest days of homeschooling. Simply put, it is a model where families meet daily for family worship that includes reading the Bible, Scripture memory, prayer, and singing, with emphasis on teaching the great hymns of the faith, which also might include psalm singing, all led by dads.
Inviting other families to your home for fellowship and then sharing these practices is to be the means for growing your congregation and for opening the door to evangelism as you reach out to neighbors and unsaved loved ones.
Many FIC families then meet together for a monthly hymn sing and fellowship dinner where families can share the fruits of their Scripture memory efforts or musical abilities. I can’t begin to tell you what a blessing these evenings can be and what an encouragement it is to see so many precious children memorizing God’s word!
While it will naturally follow that these evenings take on the individual flavors of their particular congregation, we realized early on that the personal childhood experiences of the church planter who was involved with our group set the tone and example for many things that we did. His Dutch reformed heritage was one rich in home discipleship and it was a blessing to see how it influenced the entire ministry. While the principles in our own home had been the same, some of the particulars as he practiced them were foreign to us and we were certain that each family made their own adjustments as time went on, reflecting their own tastes and convictions.
But, as much unity as you would expect there would be among people who had similar goals for their families, there were still denominational and theological differences that needed to be addressed. Several of the men in the congregation had very strong convictions about certain things, including the use of the KJV Bible only, hymns and psalms used exclusively during worship, no overhead projector during worship, paedo-communion served by fathers, and one-household voting, excluding women from any decision making. The pastor and the church planter, on the other hand, preferred to use a more modern translation, wanted to include praise music, and the pastor preferred to use an overhead projector for his sermon outline, etc.
And then there was the problem of the church plant denomination and whether or not our church could really be a member of it. One of the men was being encouraged by long distance friends that this particular denomination was apostate because they allowed for women deacons and their denominational colleges had opened the discussion on how to deal with the issue of homosexuality. This translated into “if we go with this group, we will be known as the homosexual-woman church,” a phrase that sent me through the roof every time I heard it because it sent the message that choosing a homosexual lifestyle and the strong Biblical teaching that it is a sin somehow equates with being a woman, as though that is also sinful. While I would be certain that this man didn’t believe this to be true, this is just one example where the attitude that women are somehow lesser beings would repeatedly manifest itself.
These issues were unresolved until one of the men at the church decided that the solution would be to explore another option, that of bringing in another pastor. So he took it upon himself to write a letter to Phil Lancaster, one of the authors of the Basic Tenets of Patriarchy, asking him if he would consider coming to the area to pastor our church and, initially, Mr. Lancaster indicated that he would be open to the idea.
Though there were no elected or appointed elders at this point nor had Clay heard anything at all about this idea at any of the men’s meetings, it became obvious that this church, by this time a couple years old, was not really thought of as a part of the church planter’s efforts nor was it even a father-directed congregation. In fact, once again, we felt as though there had been a bait and switch, as we had experienced in that first church with the brochure.
But this time, we were really concerned not so much for ourselves but because our pastor had moved his family over 3600 miles to take this job, and we, as a church, had made a commitment to him and to the church planter to support him. And the truth was that the majority of families coming into the church weren’t interested in coming because of the regulated worship nor were they worried about any perceived concerns about the denomination. They simply wanted to be encouraged in their home discipleship efforts.
What happened next was amazing! The first church congregation who had come to disdain the influence of homeschoolers had now, in reality, become responsible for the planting of two family integrated churches, both made up entirely of homeschooling families!
Part 7 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
In the last segment, I listed some of the differences that the church planter and the local pastor had with some of the men in the congregation regarding worship styles and denominational affiliation. These differences soon became central to the power struggle that was taking place in the church and once Phil Lancaster had been contacted, the pastor and church planter knew that they could no longer work with this congregation. And Clay and I knew that we could not be a part of it any longer, either, since it signaled to us the patriocentric direction the church intended to take.
We also knew that the next step for our family would be a difficult one. On one hand, we had come to truly love the people in our congregation. But we also knew that remaining in this church would only delay the inevitable, especially if Phil Lancaster or any other patriocentric pastor were to be called. With much sadness but with full confidence that we were doing the right thing, we chose to join the church planter in his efforts to plant yet another family integrated church.
At this point, you have to understand that we were still experiencing some of the after-effects, both emotional and concrete, of the spiritual abuse from the past few years. I am not sure how Clay was feeling exactly but I know that I was battling a numbness, a flatness of feelings or emotions regarding this turn of events. I was glad that we could still participate in a family integrated church and that, as homeschoolers, we could be welcomed. I was relieved to know that we were not going to have to listen to all that pro-south rhetoric or that inane “homosexual-woman church” comment. But part of me was still not certain what I actually thought about how we were approaching “church.”
When we left the traditional church a few years before, there was still a breech between the leaders and our family. Over a period of months, Clay had challenged some of the over-the-top statements the pastor had made, to the point of filing a complaint with the presbytery. The first committee who heard his complaint agreed that the elders had not taught correct doctrine and that they had not treated us properly in the process and then gave them the opportunity to change their position. Rather than accepting the discipline from the denomination, the elders figured out a way to get around it by having the original complaint thrown out on a technicality, proving that our complaint had not been filed within the 30 days allowed. Our filing was 31 days after their decision had been made. Never having worked within this sort of system, we didn’t realize that there is a statute of limitations on righteousness.
When Clay filed an appeal, publicly he was told that they were really sorry, but this was the way the system works. Privately, several pastors and elders who were familiar with the situation confessed to us that both the system had failed us and that this was an elder board and pastor who were out of control and who needed help.
The end result for us was having the session announce that we had been “defacto excommunicated,” which made no sense to us or to many of the people who heard it announced from the pulpit. Two of the elders contacted us privately, one to tell us he wanted to come and visit us but who never did. The other one called me, saying that that he agreed that the pastor had been out of line but that he couldn’t do anything about it because the Bible says to “touch not God’s anointed.” He then proceeded to tell me that he had to believe that I was not even a born-again Christian because we wouldn’t go along with the pastor in spite of his false teachings. I remember getting off the phone that afternoon and weeping uncontrollably. A couple days later I providentially came across my baptismal certificate from 1963 and cried again, knowing the Lord had, in a very real way, reminded me that I was His child and no man could pluck me out of His hands.
When we first met the church planter, we told him our story and, after looking at his own denomination’s Book of Church Order and that of the former church, he welcomed us into membership in the mother church, again, providentially and unbeknown to us, on the very day of the “defacto excommunication.” We had been very open with everyone regarding what had happened, shared all of our paper trail with those who needed to see it, and had been assured that all that was behind us. Emotionally, as I said before, there was still residue but what we didn’t realize was that our past struggles weren’t as far behind us as we had thought and that the Lord would use them in a mighty way in our own spiritual lives.
Over the next few months, the new congregation slowly began to grow with new families visiting almost weekly and several deciding to stay. We soon outgrew the basement/garage of the pastor’s home and moved to a motel which was even further away for us, but we were happy to make the drive because we believed in what we were doing. Within a few months, we had the opportunity to purchase a small church building with the assistance of the church planter’s denomination. Clay worked with the other men to make the building suitable for our own needs, rewiring the sanctuary, painting, cleaning, and making it a warm, inviting place for adults and children.
As the months went by, two things began to happen. We really came to love and appreciate the wonderful families in our church and we enjoyed times of fellowship and friendship both in their homes and in ours. And adding to our situation was the fact that our daughter and her family had relocated to our area, bringing them into our church home, which was a special joy to us. Then, a series of events caused us to begin to look more critically at what we personally believed about what the mission of the church universal really is and whether or not what we were doing was fulfilling that mission.
Part 8 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
The church building we purchased was located in a 1940’s sub-division that had been originally built to house Caterpillar employees. The houses, for the most part, are small but they are well-spaced with rolling lawns and little traffic on the streets. There is a nice neighborhood feel about the area with only a couple other churches, so it seemed like a great place to plant a church.
The truth was, though, that none of the church families lived in this area. All of us drove a distance to be there and the building was chosen partly because of its close proximity to the interstate highway which brought in families from 30 miles in all directions. Initially this wasn’t a concern because we were concentrating on the importance of home discipleship and welcoming the new homeschoolers who routinely came in as information on our fellowship spread by word of mouth. But we soon realized that those who didn’t fit into the “typical” homeschooling lifestyle, as depicted by the church planter and pastor, would not feel welcome in the church.
I first noticed this when my mom would make comments every Sunday about her being the only “old woman” in the church. In the 14 years she has lived in our home, we have tried to include her in as many family and homeschooling activities as possible, including daily worship time and Scripture memory, and her doctor is convinced that this has been the reason that she has stayed as healthy as she has in these later years of her life. As much as she enjoyed talking with the little children each week at our church, she often remarked that she wished there were older people to visit during the weekly fellowship meal after church.
Another time, a visiting middle-aged couple came into the service right after it had started and sat in the back. Since I was in the front at the piano that week, I saw them and hoped that someone in the congregation might see them and welcome them. At the end of the service, I thought that certainly the pastor would say something to them or hurry to the back to greet them. Instead, as we usually did, he continued on with his agenda of teaching the hymn of the month to the congregation. This couple, who probably had come from the neighborhood, left with no one greeting them and the impression I would have gotten, had it been me, was that unless you are a homeschooling family raising children, you should probably go somewhere else.
In fact, this was the exact feedback we got when we invited people we knew on several occasions. One was an elderly couple, another was a single man, and another was a family who had homeschooled with grown children who also came. One of our visitors also brought along a couple whose children were grown but they had not been homeschoolers. All of them, while they enjoyed the children, sensed immediately that this church was geared only for a certain group of people.
And there were other occasions where it was obvious that visitors felt awkward. We quickly came to realize that it was mostly because the church had taken on the appearance that everything had a kid agenda. Rather than simply welcoming children into the worship service and not practicing age segregation with Sunday school programs and youth ministry, everything was now geared toward upper elementary aged children, which was the age of the pastor’s own two children.
Worship services included children taking offering and playing the piano, leading singing, and handing out bulletins. While we thought it was great to have them involved, one of our concerns was that the service soon began to have a Bible school program flavor with children participating, adults looking on at what they were doing, and the phrase “boys and girls” was repeatedly used during the entire service.
Another thing that concerned us was that a type of uniformity was expected both inside and outside of time spent at church. For example, there were certain methods of child training that were taught and encouraged as the “biblical” way and tapes and CD’s by certain authors were advertised, promoted, and stocked in the church library. Since there would be no church nursery, it was also assumed that parents would only take their children out of service to “discipline” them and I was even told that moms were to make the time outside of worship so miserable by holding their toddlers down in an empty room that they would beg to go back into the service.
Clay and I felt that this was not what we would want to encourage and many Sundays, when our 2 year old grandson became too wiggly to sit in the service, either his parents or one of us would walk him into a room and bring along crayons or small toys for him to play with. We were told that we shouldn’t make the room a fun place and that by doing so we were not teaching him to behave in church. But Clay countered with the truth that fathers and mothers were to make those decisions themselves regarding the training of their children and the applications of Scripture in that regard and to insist that everyone conform to someone else’s standards in the “how’s” of training was contrary to our basic tenets of home discipleship.
There was also the assumption that all the families in the church would study the same passages of Scripture during the week so the children would be prepared to answer questions posed to them at the beginning of the worship service. Then, the pastor would preach on that same subject.
While it seemed like a great idea to many people, especially those who were just beginning to practice family worship, there were some of us who had been doing this for many years and had our own convictions and methods of teachings and instructing. Clay suggested that dads needed to feel less pressured to make sure their children were prepared to perform with the “correct” answers on Sunday morning and to be encouraged to study themselves and look for areas where their own families needed biblical instruction and then to concentrate on those portions of Scripture that were most needful at the time. Again, we both felt that true discipleship takes into account the spiritual needs of the disciple and that parents ought to always be looking for that as well as encouraging their children to think outside of any prescribed box as they study the Word.
It was at this point that we began to feel very alienated because we weren’t on the prescribed bandwagon. And here was the really funny thing to us….we were the oldest couple in the church. We had been married for nearly 3 decades, had 6 grown children who were all believers and our married children were homeschooling our grandchildren. We were a picture of their stated goal, “multi-generational faithfulness.”
Yet, there were those I have referred to as the “Johnny-come-lately” homeschoolers, those who had been homeschooling for two or three years and their children were all quite young, and they knew all the answers and felt compelled to tell us that we didn’t know what we were talking about. I had a groove in my tongue from biting it so many times, let me tell you. As I began to ponder these things, I saw that the Titus 2 principle requires not only older women who are willing to share things the Lord has taught them through the years, but also younger women (and men) with teachable spirits.
I want to be very clear. I am certainly not saying that we had or have all the answers. In fact, most of what I now know I had to learn the hard way, through the many trials I experienced by thinking I had all the answers when I was younger and by not ever seeking out counsel from older and wiser believers. Lord-willing, I pray that I have learned to listen to godly counsel and to seek out those who have walked the path I am struggling to stay on daily.
Perhaps it was because our children were older or because we couldn’t embrace the “formula for success,” we began to see that we were, once again, in a situation where we had gotten involved with something we had been led to believe was going to be fruitful and encouraging for our own family and it wasn’t.
Part 9 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
Early on, when we had first been involved with the first family integrated church and the church planter had been invited to assist us, Clay and I wanted to visit his church for a morning worship service. We had previously attended a hymn sing there and enjoyed it immensely but we hoped to attend a service where family integrated principles had been incorporated for several years. Providentially, we were given an opportunity, though it happened most unexpectedly.
My sister-in-law, who lived in Michigan, wanted to give our daughter the grand piano that had belonged to her great grandmother and so we arranged to drive to her house and bring the piano back in a U-Haul rental truck. As our family drove back through northern Illinois on a Saturday afternoon, warning lights on the dashboard indicated engine trouble and since we were near an exit, we were able to pull-off the interstate and call for assistance. The company told us that no one would be available to help us until sometime the next day so our only option was to stay overnight. Clay and I remembered that the church planter’s church was located near the town we were in and after looking at the map, realized we were only 2 or 3 miles from the church building. So we made plans to attend worship services the next day.
As soon as we walked in the door, the church planter recognized us, introduced us to many families and, upon hearing about what had happened with our truck, quickly put together a group who would be available to help us reload the piano if we needed to do so later that day.
The worship service included many of the elements we had expected to see: a couple families sharing passages of Scripture as they had done at the hymn sing, a children’s orchestra, many children in worship service, the singing of praise music and hymns, instruction in singing 4 parts of the hymn of the month after the morning service, a solid, theologically sound and edifying sermon. All of us thought it was just the type of service we would love all the time and we were warmly welcome by more faces than we could ever remember.
Immediately after worship, one of the elders approached us and said that they had invited several families to their home for dinner and would love to have us join them. (In fact, we left the church that day having received several more invitations to various homes for dinner.) Clay was concerned about the truck repairs but when he called the company was told that it would be later in the afternoon before it was finished and since we didn’t need to transfer the piano, we had several hours that we could spend in fellowship. So we followed the elder and his family to their home, which ended up being about twenty minutes away in rural northern Indiana. 4 or 5 other families all appeared with casserole dishes and crock pots, including the church planter and his family.
There were children of all ages everywhere and our boys joined in with the rest of the teens, all of them quickly acting like long-lost friends. I was amazed at the strategy for welcoming a new family and it was obvious that there had been significant planning involved in order to be able to pull all of this off at the last minute with such efficiency. The hostess had several large quantity items she pulled out of the freezer, frozen fruits, breads, and the largest bag of chicken breasts I had ever seen. Other women produced a variety of side dishes and made fresh salads while the men grilled the chicken. I was welcomed into the kitchen, given a job to do, and we were all such kindred spirits that our exchange was warm and pleasant, as though I had known these ladies forever.
The older children each took their filled plates to various spots, inside and out, some of the oldest helping with the younger ones around the kitchen table. The adults went to the dining room where our lively conversation continued, turning to a discussion of raising older teens, courtship, the logistics of a family integrated church, and the new church plant in our area.
Even though the fellowship had the same sweetness as we experienced in our home church, there were two differences in the relationships that all of us noticed. The first was that there was no awkwardness between the young men and the young women. As Scripture admonishes, they all treated each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. And the second thing was that the women around that dining room table were all included in the discussions about theology, church polity, and raising children. It was refreshing, since we were used to the men and women separating for fellowship on Sunday afternoons.
After the meal, all the families gathered in the family room where several of them quoted Scripture together from memory, testimonies were shared, and we sang hymns. We had a time of prayer together, too, and all too quickly the truck company called to tell us they were finished so one of the men had us follow him through the winding back roads to get to the exit where we had turned off. Soon we were back on our way home, still talking about what a great day we had shared with our new friends.
In retrospect, I am so glad that we had had that day’s experience because it showed us some very positive things that can be done in the body of Christ to minister to one another and to facilitate times of genuine fellowship for all ages as well as to welcome new visitors into your group. I remember asking myself why the idea of a traditional youth group had been so troubling to us while this time of fellowship for teenagers was so positive and, again, the key factor was that parents with compatible goals were there with their children and that any stifling, adversarial gender issues, either for the young women or the mothers, were absent.
We also observed that while we were likeminded in the essentials of the faith and even in some of the nonessentials, there was no pressure to conform to a certain paradigm or a specific agenda that made everyone feel like they all had to do everything in the same way. One example of this was the large cardboard tree that had been mounted on the back wall of the sanctuary over the doorway. Along the branches of the tree were leaves with family names on them and when your family memorized a passage of Scripture, you could place your leaf on that tree. The branches were nearly full and nearly every book of the Bible was represented. It was a great encouragement to see that this was a church that was determined to memorize God’s word without everyone having to do the same thing and if you chose to not participate, it was your choice. In other words, memorizing Scripture was established as the norm but families felt free to do so according to their own needs, ages of children, and at their own pace.
On the downside, we did ask how many of the families were homeschoolers and were told that only a handful did not homeschool. While there were a few older couples, most of them seemed to be the grandparents of children in the church and there was one, dear single man who, each time we were there, stood up and shared the Scripture he was memorizing. We were also told that anyone who doesn’t homeschool quickly realizes that home discipleship, to be done properly, needs to be done within a homeschooling setting, that all the outside activities always interfered with the time needed to properly disciple children. While we are obviously huge advocates of homeschooling, we do believe that is an overstatement.
A couple years later when we were with the second family integrated church, the daughter church of the one I just described, we realized that our church had a much different flavor and tone than the mother church did, which was somewhat of a disappointment to us. In assessing why this was, again, the mother church was, at that time, a church that was welcoming children into the service but was not centering everything around them and, in our opinion, it made a huge difference is how worship was conducted, how inclusive or exclusive we appeared to be, and how welcome nonhomeschoolers might feel if they visited.
Part 10 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated church Model
During our last few months at the second family integrated church, our daughter and son-in-law decided to visit another church at the encouragement and invitation of some friends they knew from my son-in-law’s job. While they really liked being in the same church we were in, they had become frustrated, too, because, even though this was a church that was still in its infancy and, as such, had not yet clearly defined itself, there was little room for input or suggestions. And there was also little room for any of us to use our gifts.
Both of them had music degrees and had much to offer a church full of children, including experience directing a choir and teaching music to students. My son-in-law also had experience in orchestra directing and since there was a desire to begin an orchestra, he was excited about doing that. However, a music director from the mother church was asked to lead this ministry and he drove the 3 hours one way every week to do this, in spite of the fact that there was someone willing and able to do the same thing right in our own congregation. That seemed strange to us. Several times all of us spent Sunday afternoons talking about our concerns, mostly the ones I have already shared, and eventually our kids came to the conclusion that perhaps they needed to find another church home.
As time went on, our concerns grew and we realized they were shared by others who began to question their involvement in the church. When a family either stopped coming or their attendance waned, Clay talked to the dads and we soon learned that we were not alone in our disappointment at what a family integrated church appeared to be.
We even contacted the mother church, since there were no elders in our local church, to ask about some of the things we saw in our church that were so different than what we had seen in their church and we shared some of the comments visitors had been making to us. Their response was that, basically, our local pastor was authorized to make all the decisions and that they backed whatever he decided to do. Privately, we decided that we would stick it out and try to make an appeal to the pastor and the congregation to tweak some things that seemed to be off putting to visitors and that seemed inconsistent with the basic tenets of the family integrated church model as we understood them to be.
It was then that the mother church decided to place three of the men in the congregation in the position of leadership, not officially as elders since the church was not yet self-supporting, but as the ones who would serve in some capacity of leadership during the transition time. Clay was not chosen to be one of those men and the pastor approached him to tell him why he had been passed up. He said that though we were members in good standing in the local church and had been with them since day one, unless we were willing to go back to the traditional church who “defacto excommunicated us,” and seek forgiveness for questioning the elders, Clay would not ever be considered for any leadership. When we asked what we had done wrong there, it was suggested that we might just tell them that “in our frustration we…” and to think of something we could fill in that blank.
We then learned that the traditional church was threatening to publicly name the church plant as “an apostate church” for not upholding their church discipline of us. The pastor’s request was amazing to us, on one level, because we had been very forthright with what had happened in the past and had been told repeatedly that we certainly had not done anything that required repentance at that local church.
However, we also realized that we had been questioning the paradigm and that that had not been welcome, so not being in any leadership would certainly have solved that problem. We knew, then, that we had no input or influence to change any of the things that we knew were contrary to broadening the scope of the church plant beyond the inclusivity of homeschoolers only. It was with a great sense of sadness that we decided we would have to leave the church and also that we would need to leave the family integrated church model because we saw that the things that were important enough to us to make us leave were all the things that that model represented.
Our daughter and son-in-law had been encouraging us to visit their church for many months and so we finally did. Initially it was hard to assimilate ourselves into a church that was more than 10 times larger than the church plant. But within a few months, we came to see the Lord’s righteous hand of mercy in our lives. Experiencing God-honoring worship and challenging, expository preaching began to change our hearts and our minds. Our children started discussing the things we heard during the sermon and we soon began to see more clearly the mission of the church and the role that families have as part of that church, not as the center of the church.
We have often wondered why the Lord allowed us to wander as He did for so long. We have asked ourselves, many times, if the pain and struggle, especially in relationships, was worth the end result of where we are now and absolutely the answer has been “yes.” You see, I think we had to come full circle, back to a traditional church, through the path of experiencing family integrated churches, in order to really understand that there is an entirely different mindset you must embrace if you are in a family integrated ministry and that, as homeschoolers, that model seems so appealing. But, I believe it may be a siren song.
Part 11 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
Going back and telling this story has prompted a lot of great discussion in our home over the past couple of weeks and one thing I keep realizing is that the pros and cons of the family integrated church model do not necessarily fall at the opposite end of the spectrum of the pros and cons of the traditional church model. In fact, in some instances, the pros are the same in both models, as are the cons, though they are very different and might appear to contradict each other. So as you read through my thoughts for today, please don’t think I am crazy and confused. On the contrary, I think I am beginning to sort through the pros and cons and am seeing something quite interesting emerge.
I would like to begin by summarizing those things that our family experienced as good things within the family integrated church model, those things that I would call the “pros.”
We loved being in a church setting where there were so many families who were serious about discipling their children. We all had similar educational and discipleship goals for our children so there wasn’t the tension we had experienced in the youth culture mentality that had permeated the traditional churches we had been in. Having regular times of family worship with dads leading those times was the norm and expected of every household.
We really enjoyed the emphasis on the times of family fellowship. Since in all three churches we knew sharing meals together, both at church and in each other’s homes, was integral to getting to know each other, we all looked forward to that time together and appreciated the fact that it was done weekly. We loved the openness that families had toward one another as they practiced hospitality and practical ministry to each other in times of need.
We loved the fact that children were welcomed into worship and their participation wasn’t considered unusual or a distraction to the adults present. We so appreciated the emphasis on learning hymns and particularly enjoyed learning to sing them in four parts as a family.
We appreciated, for the most part, the fact that our weeks weren’t jam packed with other activities that could take us away from home in the evenings or on Saturdays. The exception to this was the direction that the second church plant appeared to be taking before we left. They were in the process of planning a co-op, and had family game nights, day time activities for families during the week, as well as women’s meetings and men’s meetings. Since nearly everyone had a long distance to drive to the church, these things would have become burdensome to our family and seemed to contradict the very purpose of home discipleship. Since relationship homeschooling is at the core of what we believe, all these home discipleship activities would have left little to no time for us to do all the things in our own home that fosters the building of those relationships.
We loved the fact that most people in the church had already wrestled with the concept of having a Biblical worldview and they had already come to have the proper understanding of issues like abortion and homosexuality. There was never a threat that theological liberalism would take over or that the excesses of the emergent church would influence the congregation. Initially, the essentials of the faith were present, though as time went on, it became obvious that some nonessentials were actually considered to be biblical orthodoxy, which I think is inevitable given the very nature of the family integrated movement.
We loved being able to get to know so many children by name, learning their interests and their likes and dislikes, watching them grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man! There was a sense of family, of even possibly the truth that, in spite of the priority of parents raising children, it is also true that is DOES take a “village,” ie the body of Christ, to raise children and that as we encouraged each other in our goals and spent time ministering to one another’s children, we saw ourselves as one unified group in so many ways.
The pros of the traditional church model are also many.
To begin with, there is an established doctrinal position that has been held by church leaders for many years and typically they are outlined in a written form so there are no surprises. When a new teaching is introduced into the church, there is usually a broad enough base of people who are able to discern whether or not the new teachings are biblical or not. (This is not always true and much of how anything new is presented will be a reflection of the type of character and integrity of the church leadership.) Within a smaller group that is so very like minded, cult-like mentality is able to slip in in ways that cannot happen in a traditional church setting.
And along those same lines, while there are “Christian celebrities” who the influence the traditional church, they do not have the overriding influence into all areas of family life that the “homeschooling celebrities” claim and so their influence is more apt to affect church leaders or Sunday school teachers than the average family who attends the church and has maybe or maybe not ever heard of those famous Christians. Also, their influence is rarely apt to actually have anything at all to do with the day to day lives of the average person in the pew, probably being more one of theological consequence than life application.
In a traditional church, members typically have a greater liberty to read the Word of God without having to mentally run the passages through the family integrated model paradigm meter. Instead, there is a greater emphasis on the mission of the church rather than the mission of the family. There are often programs that can prepare you for ministry, such as mission trips and Evangelism Explosion training and there is much encouragement to use every opportunity to witness for Christ within your community.
The joy of seeing new people come to Christ and participating in their discipleship and mentoring is an opportunity for everyone in the church. Because there is an emphasis on evangelism, church members are more inspired to share their faith and the Gospel message centers on building a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than winning someone over to a lifestyle.
The traditional church is able to financially provide for a pastor who is able to give many hours each week to Bible study and to prepare sermons for the edification of the church. Since there isn’t the continual need to preach topically on the various aspects of the family in order to keep the family integrated crowd coming in or the current membership indoctrinated, the church can be edified by expository preaching.
The traditional church has all sorts of families, not only homeschooling families, and there is a greater opportunity to get to know all sorts of people of all ages and backgrounds, which can build up everyone in their faith. Many of these families have exhibited multigenerational faithfulness without ever having heard the word and without homeschooling their children. I can think of one congregation I have known for years that has had the same families in it for a hundred or more years and it isn’t unusual to see four generations together on Sunday morning. In fact, many of the young people go away to college, get married, and bring their spouses back to live in the area to be a part of this church home.
I think I have adequately addressed the negative aspects of both of these types of churches through my own story, but I would like to add just a couple more things that have bothered me about the FIC model of church.
The first is that there tends to be a penchant for doctrinal goofiness, that is, a blending together of some of the teachings that are orthodox with ideas that came from ancient pagan cultures rather than from the Word of God.
One of the greatest areas where this has happened has been in the obsession with the gender issue. Fertility, the promotion of militant fecundity, the concept that dad is the prophet, priest, and king of the home, all have their roots in the pagan Greek and Roman cultures. The modern spin that is put on these subjects and how Scripture is twisted in order to embrace them and teach them as part of the “grand sweep of revelation” today is really quite frightening when you realize that they are taught to be doctrines as orthodox as the trinity or the virgin birth of Christ.
Another area that I see within some FIC church models is the emphasis on the Old Testament as the standard for life rather than realizing that the coming of Jesus brought with it a new covenant and all that that entails. This week I came across this passage of Scripture that really brought this all home to me: “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:13-17
I do not mean to say that I believe that these church members are not born-again believers. but I do believe that a veil covers their hearts and they cannot see what they are missing by seeing Jesus in light of the new covenant that He made possible for us.
Finally, one other concern I have is that the family integrated church model, with its long list of requirements for “biblical family life” incites, in its us against them mentality, the temptation for families to compare themselves among themselves rather than enjoying the family that God has given to them and trusting that the Lord, in His timing, is working in the lives of every mom, dad, brother, and sister.
The paradigm that they have established leaves no room for personal convictions of young people in the areas of courtship, dating, college, etc. and many are forced to conform to ideals they don’t believe. The church ends up nurturing a generation of young Pharisees who haven’t been given the opportunity to embrace their own convictions about the important areas of life. Rather than teaching the absolutes of the Word of God, trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead each one into righteousness, churches that live within a paradigm make rules that force young people who are Christians but who don’t agree with the list into either being hypocrites or “rebellion.” Sadly, I have received several of those sorts of stories from lovely young believers who fell out of grace because they couldn’t agree on the nonessentials that their parents or their church embraced.
In trying to look at both the pros and cons of the family integrated church model, I have come to several conclusions. I believe that, while there are many commendable aspects of the FIC model, in its zeal to encourage home discipleship, it has reacted against the negative aspects of the traditional church model in such a way as to swing its pendulum far away from not only the negative things but the many good things as well. The only analogy I can compare to this is that of the modern feminist movement. In their zeal to right some of the wrongs of the past that were perpetrated against women, the radical feminists have rejected many of the good things that can come from men in leadership in their homes, the church, and in the culture. They have set men up as the bad guys, the ones who must bear all responsibility for what is wrong in the gender discussions and have determined that only a woman-run world will right these wrongs.
In the same way, the FIC model, while reacting against the often rightly described daycare mentality of the traditional church that has neglected the involvement of parents in the discipleship of their families, they have also neglected to keep their focus on the commands of Christ that He has given to the church. In their excitement for bearing and discipling their own children, they have neglected those who desperately need Jesus and who are outside the blessing of a godly family. And their appeal to homeschoolers is so great because, in our zeal to raise children who will love the Lord, we have forgotten that we are to take the Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus and His atoning work on the cross beyond Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth.
In the next and last installment in this series, I will be offering my own suggestions as to how I think the traditional church can reexamine its ministries and encourage parents to disciple their own children. And I will also be looking at how those who are promoting the family integrated church model are dividing the church of Christ along lines that should never divide true believers and offering suggestions on how this can be remedied.
Part 12 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
I know there are many more things that could be said and I would certainly welcome any comments someone might want to add to the conversation. It is a thorny topic to address because I fully understand how difficult is to be part of a traditional church that doesn’t appreciate the importance of parents discipling their own children. I also understand that there are times when a church can actually work against the efforts of the parents and once that line is crossed, it is difficult, if not outright unwise, to remain in that sort of environment.
At the same time, I also recognize the dangers that are lurking within a family integrated church, especially as they are related to the leaders within the patriocentric movement. Again, I see this model as a severe and unnecessary overreaction to the traditional church and, knowing what I know at this time, would only recommend this type of congregation IF no other Bible teaching church was available.
All of that being said, here are some ways I think the traditional church might minister to families, especially homeschooling families who seek to disciple and mentor their own children.
Pastors ought to regularly preach and teach the importance of family worship at home and should inspire fathers to take the lead. I recognize that before this can happen, pastors must be convinced, themselves, that this is the most effective way of mentoring sons and daughters. Each pastor ought to prayerfully consider the programs and activities within his church and question whether they strengthen the hands of the parents in this task or if they compete with the parents. They may be surprised to learn that some things are actually undermining the discipling efforts of mom and dad.
Pastors would do well to read the writings of Richard Baxter, a Puritan pastor in England who took very seriously his role in the discipling of families. His philosophy was that if he preached sound doctrine from the pulpit, making application as he did, and if met personally with his families every year to be certain that they were catechizing their children, he would need to spend less time in individual counseling. His books The Reformed Pastor and The Christian Directory both serve as a model, though some of topics seem archaic, for pastors today who understand the role sound teaching plays in instructing families, especially fathers.
Sometimes it is very easy to understand why pastors would be reluctant to abandon children’s ministries programs in their church. I can remember one time when I was on the ministry outreach board and we were faced with the problem of two AWANA buses that were in terrible need of costly repairs. The pastor talked with us and asked us if it wouldn’t be a better idea if we asked parents to bring their children to the church or if we would consider asking the club leaders or other church members to give rides to any of the children who ordinarily rode the bus. He felt that if we did this, we could make a better effort of reaching unchurched families with the Gospel rather than only the children who rode the bus. His goal was to find more opportunities for church members to make connections with entire families.
You would have thought the sky had fallen. Some members of the board thought that we couldn’t possibly expect parents to actually be responsible for the spiritual training of their children, let alone actually driving them to the church building. The truth was, some of the church members enjoyed using that time alone at home and THEY didn’t even want to bring their OWN children to the church.
The pastor used this as an opportunity to reassess the goals of the church and to preach about the responsibility of parents in spiritually training their own children. Frankly, it is much easier to just line up a bunch of people, buy some AWANA books, and give a portion of the church budget to a children’s ministry than it is to inspire some parents to train their own children. But, home discipleship should be taught as the norm and as what is expected of all Christian families.
Christian education boards should consider the many family worship guides that are now available and should include the purchase of them in their budgets. Pastors could take the opportunity at a men’s breakfast to instruct dads how to begin having devotions if they have never done so, bringing in a father or two to share a testimony of the benefits of having a regular worship time with your family. Testimonies could also be shared from the pulpit or printed as a bulletin insert. Encouraging home discipleship should be done regularly and purposefully at all levels of instruction throughout the traditional church.
An even better idea could be for homeschooling families who are already practicing this in their homes to take the opportunity to reach out to other families in their churches, inviting them over for a meal, singing, and prayer, even if it might be awkward at first. If it is included at the end of the meal while you are still around the table and no pressure is put on the guests, I believe it can go a long way toward encouraging others to make home discipleship seem doable and valuable in their own homes.
Something else the Christian education board or children’s ministries might sponsor is a family-integrated Sunday school class. This is another way to get parents to be more involved in the training of their children and it would give an option to parents who are not comfortable with age segregation. The options for doing this are endless and can involve older children who need to learn how to prepare and lead Bible studies and to work well with others. Many of the unit study materials that are used by homeschoolers could be adapted for family Sunday school use and if several families took turns preparing the lessons it wouldn’t be burdensome and could also give dads an opportunity to be creative as they teach, which is something most dads don’t have a lot of time to do on a regular basis.
Churches need to see homeschooling families as a valuable resource rather than “flies in their program ointment.” We have some awesome training materials for children and young adults that were purchased through homeschooling companies and that were written by homeschooling parents who understand how to teach. If you compare these resources with what is available in your average Christian bookstore, you quickly realize that there is no comparison. Homeschoolers don’t usually dummy down theology, but rather, encourage their children to think with maturity. Pastors and Christian education professionals ought to be able to humble themselves enough to seek Godly wisdom from Christian parents who have spent years mentoring and discipling young people.
Traditional churches need to step back and take a long look at their philosophy and methodology of youth ministry. Scripture has set before us a model that is too often ignored in the majority of churches, even the good Bible believing ones. Titus 2 instructs the older to teach the younger. It is really a perfect plan. So why don’t churches do this?
Typically, some young man whose best qualification for youth ministry is that he recently was one (a youth, that is) is hired to plan and execute activities for junior high and high school age young people. While the Bible studies may be really good and sometimes even meaty, there is typically no one in the room older than 25 who is having input into the topic. What a sad waste of the resources we often see in the church!
Traditional churches would be wise to begin their youth ministries with a team made up of parents and older retired Christians, those who have spent many years serving the Lord, asking them to brainstorm about those things that would have been the most valuable for them to know as they were growing up and becoming adults. This group should include both men and women and if some of them are grandparents, it is even better.
I am always amused when you have someone who has been married five or ten years with a few toddlers at home teaching about marriage and raising children. (It is even more amusing when these same people are instructing the parents of these same youth about marriage and family life, but that is for another blog entry. hint: Look at those who are frequently “instructing” at homeschooling conventions!) You know that same guy who rides a skate board down the center aisle at church to get teens to attend some event or other? What qualifications do they have, really, to be giving counsel? Why not tap into the group of believers who have been married 40, or 50, or 60 years and see what they have to say? Why not pay attention to those Christians whose Bibles are worn and marked and who have come through many fiery trials through the decades? I think many parents would be open to “youth ministry” if youth described the age of the attendees rather than the age of those who are offering the “sage” counsel to their young people. And homeschooling families would be even more interested if parents were included in all aspects of any youth ministry.
And here is one other thing about youth ministry. I am the first one to think that young people ought to have fun. But, too many youth activities in the typical church, whether it is a traditional church or a family integrated church, are centered on having fun. Where are the service projects and the outreach programs to the local community? (And by that I don’t mean a youth group car wash with bikini clad youth group babes holding signs.) And are the ones that are being done really productive or are they mostly symbolism over substance? That is a tough question that must be asked.
And here is one more word to those in leadership in the local church. Please realize that most homeschoolers have very strong convictions about raising their children and they want the freedom to have their children in worship with them. If I had a dollar for every time I have been told “We have a lovely nursery” I could take every one to lunch. Please realize that some families want to have their children in worship and that being in worship is normal, not the exception. This is not to say that nurseries or children’s church is inherently evil, but all children ought to feel welcome and so should their parents. I remember hearing one pastor say “Any preacher who is worth his salt can preach over the top of a crying baby.” He said it often enough that moms felt comfortable being in the service with little ones and I never did see any parent remain when a child was inconsolable.
And now a word for homeschoolers in traditional churches: LIGHTEN UP!!! If you really believe that the responsibility for discipling your children is yours, why are you so bent out of shape that the ministry in your local church doesn’t meet your qualifications? Don’t participate if you don’t want to. Continue what you are doing with your own family. Develop your own philosophy of youth ministry and then follow through on it yourself. Ultimately, you are responsible before the Lord and quite honestly there are times when what the pastor is preaching in some churches is worse for children to hear than what they would get in a Sunday school class! You have to make the decision as parents as to what they will or will not be taught.
But here is the difficult part. Don’t grandstand about what you will and will not participate in. I have been there and done that, to my own shame and folly, and all it does is makes you look like a legalistic jerk and shines the spotlight on your own children, singling them out for ridicule, something we get too much of as homeschoolers to begin with.
I know there are often horrendous influences on our kids, even while they are in church. I can remember one time when our oldest two were in a high school Sunday school class and the teacher brought in a bottle of beer and proceeded to slowly pour it into a frosted glass. He wanted to get the kids talking about underage drinking and he assumed that all the kids there were doing it or were in situations that put them in that situation. He never once thought that there were several homeschooling families whose kids weren’t exposed to this in the same way as the public kids were. And it never occurred to him that there were people in the church who didn’t drink at all. This is the same teacher who decided that worship service was boring and so he took the kids joy riding after Sunday school for several weeks in a row until someone finally asked what was going on. And this was the same guy who read the verse “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees” and insisted that “woe” meant “stop” as in stopping a horse!
But as awful and as ignorant as someone like that is, it is best to simply choose not to participate and then to tell someone about it who can actually do something to fix the problem. Making a big deal out of it only further alienates others and gives people who are already uncomfortable with homeschooling a green light to dislike us. Again, if we really believe in home discipleship, then we ought to be practicing it whether anyone else in the church is or not.
In retrospect, some of the worst influences we would like to protect our children from are most often found in the family integrated church model. The isolationism that is bred, the misogyny and racism that are allowed to pass as “biblical” Christianity, and the Pharisaical system that is imposed are all far worse, to me, than an inept Sunday school teacher or a VBS ministry.
Something else that I have come to believe is important is learning to serve those who are skeptical of what we are doing and finding ways to bless and encourage them along the way. During one of our first years of homeschooling, we were sensing some disapproval from people in the church, which was understandable since most people in our area had never heard of homeschooling before we started.
I remembered that when I was a little girl, one of my favorite days of the year was May Day because I had friends whose mom helped them make and deliver beautiful May baskets filled with candy or flowers. I would wake up early in the morning to find this beautiful surprise hanging on the front door knob and it delighted me so much that I thought it would be fun to have my children take part in the same sort of surprise.
Without telling the kids my reasons behind it, I picked out six or so ladies I knew who were talking negatively about homeschooling and they were to be the recipients of the baskets. We spent several days designing and assembling beautiful baskets decorated with doilies and ribbons, filling them with beautiful candies. We got up before dark and delivered them to each door. And we never told anyone we were the ones who had done it.
I don’t know if any of these ladies figured it out and I don’t remember if I heard any more gossip that came from them. But what I do know is that our attitude toward these ladies changed completely and we were able to love them and befriend them in spite of anything they didn’t like about how we educated our children.
I also think that we need to learn to be content where God has placed us. Of course there are times when it may become impossible to stay in a church. Maybe you have come to embrace doctrine that is contrary to what is being taught in your church. Maybe there is a genuine threat to your family where your convictions are being challenged or even purposefully undermined. Maybe you are in a situation where you have been singled out by the pastor and preached at from his “bully pulpit.” I have experienced all of the above.
But there also may be things that you just don’t like, that aren’t your preferences, that simply irritate you as a homeschooler. If that is the situation, I would encourage you to seek ways to not only grow in your walk with the Lord personally but to minister to others so that you can earn the right to influence other families who need to take responsibility for the spiritual guidance of their children. Seek to practice what you believe about ministering to and evangelizing the lost and caring for the widows and orphans in their affliction. Try not to be as focused on the local church as on the church universal and your part in fulfilling its mission. I believe that as you learn to be gracious and kind to others, the Lord will bless your family in ways you can’t even imagine.
I have said several times on this blog that I believe that homeschooling is an important part of the revival that is beginning to rumble across our nation. The Lord has opened the eyes to so many people inside and outside the homeschooling community to the importance of building solid relationships with children and in training them for God’s glory. To that end, neither the local church or homeschooling families within the body of Christ can afford to squander the momentum we have helped to set in motion.
Part 13 of the Pros and Cons of the Family Integrated Church Model
A couple weeks ago, while I was doing some research for a podcast, I was reminded that in Scripture, the number 12 represents perfection. So it is probably a good thing that I am now adding number 13 to the series on the pros and cons of the family integrated church model since, I believe, there is no perfect solution to the church crisis that many homeschooling families face.
Today I sincerely hope that those who are directing the family integrated church movement, the pastors, the elders, and the self-appointed leaders within the homeschooling community, are listening and are willing to honestly access the consequences of their agenda. I also pray that they would be willing to make changes in their approach to ministry to bring it back into alignment with the mission of the church universal. While I realize that not all churches who list themselves with the National Center for Family Integrated Churches practice the excesses I am writing about today, there is no doubt that the leadership within this movement promotes these teachings and is using homeschoolers to advance their agenda.
Since this is a movement birthed, incubated, and advanced within the culture of homeschooling, it is one that must be examined and held up for scrutiny, challenged and understood by those who dearly love home education and who do not want to see its demise. In all sincerity, I know that homeschoolers both outside and inside the FIC movement DO love home education and they do desire to see it flourish. But I also have to wonder if the steps the FIC movement is taking to narrowly define a biblical lifestyle and church life are done so out of naivete, ignorance, or a purposeful attempt at recreating an elite group of believers.
Perhaps it seems harsh to suggest that the very groups who have so long educated their children at home now have the potential within themselves to greatly damage its credibility. After all, since we began homeschooling some 23 years ago, not only are homeschooled graduates accepted into colleges and universities, but they are courted and wooed. Employers no longer dismiss us as unqualified workers. And even extended family members who were initially doubtful eventually became the biggest cheerleaders for homeschooling because they saw that it works. The fruits of our efforts have won the hearts of earlier skeptics and even our biggest critics are now cheering us on.
It is grievous to me to know that many within the FIC movement have maneuvered their way into the leadership of so many local and state homeschooling organizations and, as a result, a growing number of families are looking askance not only at this church movement but at homeschooling in general. They hear the ungracious rhetoric, the list of nonessentials taught in workshops as “biblical” steps of action for homeschoolers, and they see church body lifestyles that are exclusive and inbred. For all our efforts to demonstrate what a wonderful and viable option homeschooling is for Christian families, moms and dads are turning away because, quite frankly, they do not see the FIC-led message as one of compassion, grace, wisdom, or sound doctrine. And they certainly it as forgetting the Great Commission.
If I were the king of the forest (or in this case the queen), here are some things I would suggest to those in FIC churches.
I would first ask FIC groups to stop sowing discord among the brethren. Just look at the lines that have been drawn in the sand between biblical lifestyles that are actually commanded in the word of God and those things that are preferences. A prime example is this statement by R.C. Sproul Jr.:
“There is, in evangelical homeschooling circles, a growing divide. On the one side there are those of us who might be called movement homeschoolers. We homeschool because we believe it to be the Biblical choice, not because we merely prefer it. We tend to adopt many of the secondary lifestyle issues related to homeschooling, lots of children, modest dress, husbands as the heads of their homes, courtship, denim jumpers. On the other side are a different bunch of folks. These typically are homes where moms see homeschooling as a choice, an arena wherein they can excel by helping their children excel. The former are driven by issues of conviction, the latter by more practical matters.”
I have seen every one of the items on his lifestyle list used as a measuring stick within FIC churches to determine the motives and convictions within the body of Christ and, brothers and sisters, this is not right. In fact, others have embraced his thoughts, too, and promptly after this statement was made on R.C.’s blog, James and Stacy McDonald from Family Reformation reprinted and linked to it, advancing these notions as sound teaching. But Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides because they strained out gnats and swallowed camels. Are these church and homeschooling leaders any less blind for leading their congregations and their followers in drawing these lines of demarcation?
I would also ask them to stop using homeschooling conventions to promote their FIC agenda and to stop using careless rhetoric to create discontentment. Whether everyone realizes it or not, FIC speakers are using a venue that is intended for edifying and encouraging all homeschooling families as a means of advancing an FIC agenda held by a tiny minority of evangelicals and to plant seeds of doubt amongst those who do not attend FIC churches. It is an agenda that by its very nature condemns the local church and it is used to proselytize those who may be struggling. In fact, there are often times when homeschooling families are experiencing no insurmountable problems in their local churches but their fears are magnified so that FIC leaders can step in and offer their own agenda to calm those fears.
If the real goal is to encourage home discipleship, then that should be apparent and applauded. But since the only means of church growth of an FIC church is recruiting members from other congregations and playing on their concerns, it appears that they are being given a free ride at these conventions to promote their own churches and to take homeschooling families out of traditional fellowships.
I would also ask them to hold their own spokesmen accountable. A year ago I talked about the over-the-top rhetoric used by FIC promoter Kevin Swanson on his Generations program. The lack of grace and wisdom has disappointed me but even worse is the fact that broadcast after broadcast keeps getting worse and I only see more people giving him accolades, promoting him, participating in interviews with him, and even filling in for him when he is unavailable. Why is no one challenging his harsh and arrogant discourse? And adding to my disappointment is that Kevin, himself, is a homeschooling graduate.
I would ask the FIC movement to stop leading parents into a false sense of security, attempting to build a church model that will guarantee long-term relationships and provide a place for their children to find spouses and thus to reproduce the same church culture for future generations. This puts pressure on young people to find a spouse within their church group, even though there may be no one that is suitable for them. So betrothal becomes the standard and is practiced in many churches. And along with that step comes the many extra biblical qualifications that are added on in order for someone to be a suitable partner.
A few years ago I remember hearing negative responses when a Christian homeschooler would marry a Christian who hadn’t been homeschooled, treating the nonhomeschoolers as thought they worshipped pagan deities. If that wasn’t bad enough, now, the list of biblical requirements for potential spouses has grown even more stringent within these groups. Young men worthy of marrying your daughter should be entrepreneurs and not employees “building the kingdom” of another, as it were. Young ladies who are considered appropriate helpmeets should have remained at home under their father’s protection until marriage since going to college might foster an independent spirit that would make it difficult for her to come under a husband’s authority. Voddie Baucham even goes so far as to describe for young men what kind of personality a potential wife must have, which, of course, means his interpretation of what a quiet and gentle spirit should look like. Of course, according to Kevin Swanson, we know that college girls will lose their moral purity, rendering them unacceptable as wives for homeschooled young men. And on top of all of this, the hypocrisy that turns a blind eye to the real Biblical standards for marriage and family life are glossed over as long as the outward appearance is good. It boggles the mind.
I would ask FIC churches why there is such a great emphasis on what they call “multi-generational faithfulness,” but there are typically only two generations represented in these churches, parents and their children. There are few if any elderly couples and single people are basically nonexistent. And probably the saddest aspect of the FIC church is that families who are really struggling with even basic issues of faith, let alone those who desperately need help in building relationships within their marriages or with their children, high maintenance families, as it were, would never darken the door of these churches. Sadly, even if they did, many of them would never come to understand what grace even looks like.
I would ask how welcome orphans (those without families) and widows might feel in an FIC church. James 1:27 says “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Are they welcomed as part of the royal priesthood, joint heirs with Christ, or are they seen as projects needing to be fixed, added on to someone else’s family in order to be “normative,” which is defined in the FIC movement as married with children? It seems to me that the true “normative,” according to Scripture, is to welcome all believers, to minister to one another, and the assumption is that these things can and should be done without defiling any of God’s true standards for righteousness. The practice of father-served communion, as is common in FIC churches, is just one example of the loud and clear message that anyone outside of a human family within that congregation is not normal and needs reforming.
I would ask “what about evangelism?” I would love to take a poll of those FIC churches that move into neighborhoods and find out how many of them have taken steps to reach out to those in their local community. How many have knocked on doors and presented the good news of Jesus Christ? My guess is that few if any have done that. Perhaps many of them are willing to financially support both foreign and local mission organizations, but what would they do with desperately needy folks who might walk in to their churches? Or would they ever consider allowing their children to go to the mission field? And if so, how are they preparing them to do that? You see, the Gospel within the FIC church is family reformation through homeschooling and lifestyle changes for man’s (the father’s) glory rather than the work of the Holy Spirit to transform lives for the glory of our Heavenly Father.
Finally, perhaps the greatest concern I have about FIC churches is that they are Trojan horses, enticing agendas offering fathers encouragement in leading their families but inside there is a battalion of false doctrine the pushes families further and further away from Biblical truth and a healthy Christian life toward heresy. Two of these heresies are especially dangerous because of their subtle appeal to families who sincerely want God’s best.
The first one is the heresy of patriocentricity. A year ago when I ran the first series of podcasts on the topic of patriarchy and patriocentricity within the homeschooling movement, I never would have dreamed of the response I have gotten. My concerns are shared by thousands of families who have been pulled down the patriocentric path toward father worship, having left behind the Biblical truth of husbands being the heads of their wives. Thankfully, they have recognized this idolatry for what it is, they have rejected these teachings and are beginning to delight in healthy families and real growing relationships within their marriages, with their children, and with other believers.
But over the past 12 months I have seen these patriocentric beliefs mutating into even more bizarre teachings and the dangers for families are even greater. Abhorrent perspectives on all things from protecting moms who have ectopic pregnancies, women not being encouraged to participate in the political process, kinists beliefs recognized as acceptable, redefining the Trinity so as to place all women in the place of subordination to all men, etc. have been added to the already disturbing teachings within the FIC culture.
The other false teaching to be aware of within FIC churches is that of ecclesiocentricity, the notion that all authority is given to the local church elders and the Christian life is not to be lived or practiced apart from their rule. Combined with patriocentricity, the priesthood of the believer and the mission of the church universal become lost in the agendas of men without any check and balances to hold leaders accountable. It becomes the perfect breeding ground for those who are attempting to build their own little fiefdoms. And sprinkled into this mix is a dominionist theology that preaches family reformation through government policies and militant fecundity rather than the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Once again, I would encourage Christians to become Bereans, to daily search the Scripture as they seek God’s will for their families. I would encourage those within the homeschooling leadership to wisely consider whether or not they want to promote FIC teachings at their conferences. And I would challenge the FIC leaders to prayerfully consider the concerns I have listed as well as those coming from both within and without the homeschooling culture. I believe that the credibility of homeschooling is at stake and that the Gospel is being compromised.
I am now being contacted by people who are working through their own thoughts regarding this type of church model as well as from seminary students who are writing their dissertations on the family integrated model. If you wish to contact me, my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Further reading on this topic addressing the theological issues can also be found on this blog at this entry.
all content copyright Karen Campbell 2009