United Families Dividing Churches

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Jan-Mar, 2012)

The Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM) is having a growing impact within fundamental Baptist churches. Since the mid-1990s an increasing number of families within fundamental churches have gravitated toward the family-integrated approach. In addition, families entrenched in the movement have been drawn to fundamental churches because of their emphasis on Biblical preaching and conservatism. At first glance the influence of the FICM might seem entirely beneficial for traditional churches, but unfortunately not all of the impact has been positive. The FICM mindset can divide churches. 

Understanding the FICM

The FICM is comprised of evangelical churches, pastors, and laymen who share a distinct philosophical approach toward the family and church. Advocates of family-integrated churches (FIC) believe that families should always worship and fellowship together in age-integrated (i.e., multigenerational) services and activities. Conversely they insist that virtually all age-segregated ministries and activities at church, such as Sunday School or youth ministries, are unequivocally unbiblical. Also, they often speak of the father as the conduit of spirtual growth in the family.

The FICM is not a denomination but rather a loose association of churches and organizations represented by a variety of denominational perspectives. Some key leaders are the following:

  • Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC)1
  • Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum Ministries2
  • Voddie Baucham Jr., professor, author, and pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church near Houston, Texas3
  • Eric Wallace, president of the Institute for Uniting Church and Home (IUCAH).4

The NCFIC, founded in 2001, is the flagship organization for the FICM and has a national network of more than 800 churches. It should be no surprise that the FICM has close ties to some currents of the homeschooling movement. While homeschooling is not essential to the FICM, the vast majority of families in FIC homeschool their children.5 

The central concern of the FICM

God has established three institutions to bring order to creation and fulfill His purposes: the family, the state, and the church. Scripture delineates specific responsibilities for each institution, and ideally the relationship between the family, state, and church should be harmonious and complementary, each institution fulfilling its God-given role within its distinct jurisdiction. According to those in the FICM, the fundamental problem within evangelical churches is the skewed relationship of the family and church.6 Leaders of the FICM argue that churches have usurped the responsibility and role of families and consequently enabled families (and especially fathers) to abdicate and abandon their God-given responsibility to train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

According to the FICM, this distortion and blurring of jurisdictions have led to an alarming crisis within the American church. Youth are abandoning the church and Christianity at incredible rates. Studies suggest that as many as 40% and up to 88% of today’s young people are leaving evangelical churches once they leave the home.7 In addition, only about 10% of churched teens have a Biblical worldview.8 These statistics are shocking and prove that something is clearly wrong. Those within the FICM believe the root of the problem rests in the current way churches relate to families.

Adherents of family integration identify the culture of age segregation within church ministry as the key culprit. They consider ministries that separate families by age (or for any other reason) as unbiblical and a form of “practical apostasy.”9 These ministries include Sunday School; youth ministry; children’s church; children’s clubs (like Awana and Kids4Truth); VBS; youth camps; college, singles, and senior ministries; and often nurseries.

Scott Brown contends that age segregation is inherently wrong for several reasons.10 First, using the Regulative Principle and historical-grammatical hermeneutics, he argues that age segregation is not found in Scripture and is therefore unwarranted and indefensible. At the same time, he points to examples in Scripture where families worshipped together as the normal pattern. Second, he asserts that the very concept of age-segregated training is the product of humanistic philosophers, educators, and sociologists and is therefore corrupt. Consequently, the church has inadvertently replaced Biblical truth and methodology with pagan, non-Christian philosophies and practices. Third, Brown suggests that age-segregated ministries are wrong because they have failed to produce lasting fruit and are not working.

Distinctives of the FICM

The leaders of the FICM see themselves as part of a reformation movement within the church similar to the Protestant Reformation.  As Voddie Baucham states, “This is a reformation, a paradigm shift… . We are not talking about a new program; we are talking about a complete overhaul of the philosophy that is accepted in our churches, colleges, seminaries, and homes as the only way to do it.”11 They describe the church as the “family of families” to explain the complementary relationship between the church and family, that is, the church should acknowledge the authority and jurisdiction of families within the church.

So what do family-integrated churches look like?12 First and foremost, they worship together as families. Virtually all services and activities are intergenerational. Second, there is conversely an absence of age-segregated ministries. Baucham summarizes, “The family-integrated church movement is easily distinguishable in its insistence on integration as an ecclesiological principle… . There is no systematic age segregation in the family-integrated church!”13 Third, “the family is the evangelism and discipleship arm of the family-integrated church.”14 Advocates in the FICM lay the responsibility of making disciples on the shoulders of parents, and primarily fathers, based upon the Bible’s clear teaching on childrearing (Deut. 6:1–9; Eph. 6:1–4). Fathers are expected to lead their families in worship and catechism.15 As a result, church takes a secondary role in the discipleship process, primarily training and equipping fathers and mothers to do the work of the ministry. Intergenerational teaching (when the older teach the younger, e.g., Titus 2:3, 4) takes place not through church programs but rather through informal relationships. Their youth ministry philosophy could be summarized in Malachi 4:6a, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”16 Families are expected to reach their own children with the gospel and reach the lost outside the church through simple obedience to the Great Commission and hospitality.17 Fourth, family-integrated churches place an emphasis on education as a key component of discipleship. This involves not only family catechism but also homeschooling for most.

Other common characteristics in family-integrated churches include an emphasis on strong marriages, male headship and Biblical patriarchy, elder rule ecclesiology, courting, and the “quiverfull” approach to family planning. While it would be wrong to see the FICM as monolithic, the majority of leaders fall into either the Presbyterian/Reformed or Baptist wings of the Reformed tradition. Most see themselves as carrying the baton of the Puritans in matters related to the family and church.

Evaluating the FICM

How should one evaluate the FICM? I find several areas of agreement. First, those in the FICM have a high view of Scripture and correctly see it as the sole authority for doctrine and practice in the church. Second, they place a high value on expository preaching. Third, proponents should also be commended for staying in the church. Their ecclesiology reflects the New Testament more closely than other family movements such as some cell churches and home churches who have virtually abandoned a full ecclesiology. Fourth, those concerned with worldliness in the church will find an affinity with FIC authors. 

Finally, I also believe FIC proponents are essentially correct in identifying the breakdown of the family as the fundamental problem in why youth are deserting the church. Those who work with youth need to acknowledge that parents have the greatest spiritual impact.18So the FICM’s emphasis on parental responsibility in the spiritual training of their own children is welcome and needed. I have personally benefited from some of their writings on family worship.19

I find, however, several areas of disagreement with the FICM.20The seminal problem with the FICM is the tendency for family concerns to override church ministry. For example, their inflexible position toward age-segregated ministries is wrong for a number of reasons. First, it is wrong hermeneutically. FIC advocates protest vigorously that since there are no explicit Biblical directives or examples for age-segregated programs, they are unbiblical. However, this kind of hermeneutical approach is flawed. Using this reasoning, things like church buildings, pews, musical instruments, and technological advancements, along with church officers such as clerks and treasurers, would have to be deemed unbiblical as well. FIC adherents press the Regulative Principle too far. This Reformation principle was intended to regulate corporate worship at Sunday services, not the outworking of the Great Commission in other activities.21

Second, it is wrong theologically. The mandate to “make disciples” is given to the church (Matt. 28:19, 20). This mandate is to reach all people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, or family status. The church is not required to reach individuals through their families. Although this normally may be the case, it certainly is not mandated. In fact, Jesus announced that He came to bring division to families, which is often the practical effect of the gospel (Matt. 10:34–36; Luke 12:51–53). Technically, churches are not comprised of families; they are comprised of believing individuals (at least in Baptist polity). In this sense, the church’s authority to disciple individuals both includes families and transcends families. The Bible gives both examples and instructions showing how God’s grace can triumph in less-than-ideal family situations (e.g., Acts 16:14, 15, 40; 1 Cor. 7:14; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15; 1 Pet. 3:1, 2). 

Further, in Ephesians 4:7–16, we see a Biblical rationale for teaching ministries in the church. Paul wrote that God gifted the church with leaders, such as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints to accomplish the work of the ministry (4:11, 12). This work is essentially discipleship, and the heart of discipleship is teaching. So pastors are to train and equip the saints to teach. This is a principled, Biblical argument for qualified men and women to teach the body of Christ. Christian education programs are simply venues to accomplish Biblical discipleship.

Third, inflexible insistence on family integration is wrong practically. In my opinion, the leaders of the FICM have failed to prove that age-segregated ministries are the cause of the problem. Instead, the family integration philosophy has actually generated divisions in traditional (nonintegrated) churches rather than unity. Families involved in the FICM tend to make their convictions a test of fellowship, choosing to disassociate with believers in their own church who do not share FIC values. Both Scott Brown and Voddie Baucham acknowledge this unfortunate phenomenon in their writings and sermons. In addition, the emphasis on family discipleship within the FIC has the potential for alienating or neglecting those outside of nuclear families (e.g., singles and broken families).

In conclusion, the emphasis in the FICM on parental responsibility  and spiritual discipleship in the home is welcome and needed. Instead of uniting the church and home, however, the FIC philosophy often leads to division in the church. By potentially elevating the family above the church, the FICM tends to diminish the proper role and authority of the church.22

(The text of this article, as well as a Theology of the Family outline, are currently available at the Faith Pulpit website.)

[node:bio/doug-brown body]

Notes

1 The NCFIC website (ncfic.org) has numerous articles and resources that articulate the vision for family-integrated churches. Particularly noteworthy is the NCFIC Confession and the documentary Divided, The Movie.

2 Vision Forum Ministries (visionforumministries.org) provides resources on many issues related to the family, such as home education, civil and legal issues, and family integration. Especially informative for the FICM is its statement on Biblical Patriarchy.

3 Baucham is probably the most mainstream spokesman for the FICM. In addition to his books, his church website and blog have a wealth of information about the FICM (gracefamilybaptist.net).

4 Wallace promotes more of a mediating position between what he calls the Traditional Ministry (with multiple programs) and the Over-Corrective Designs (where the church focuses on nuclear families alone). He calls it the Household Relationship Design (unitingchurchandhome.org).

5 J. Mark Fox, Family-Integrated Church: Healthy Families, Healthy Church (USA: Xulon Press, 2006), 43, 44.

6 The majority within the FICM would also advocate that the relationship between the family and state is askew as well. Most are strong advocates for homeschooling and believe the state has no right to educate youth.

7 Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 19–36; Scott T. Brown, A Weed in the Church: How a Culture of Age Segregation Is Destroying the Younger Generation, Fragmenting the Family, and Dividing the Church (Wake Forest: National Center for Family Integrated Churches, 2010), 37, 38.

8 Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 176, 184.

9 Brown, A Weed in the Church, 37.

10 Brown, A Weed in the Church, 71–130. See also Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 176–85.

11 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 197, 204.

12 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 195–203; Brown, A Weed in the Church, 141–94.

13 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 196, 97.

14 Baucham, Family Driven Faith, 197.

15 This is developed in Baucham’s newest book, Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).

16 See Paul Renfro’s contributions in T. P. Jones, ed., Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2009).

17 Brown, A Weed in the Church, 215–19.

18 I made this same argument in my January 2000 Faith Pulpit article, “Family-Based Youth Ministry.”

19 Their views on patriarchy, however, are a distortion of Biblical complementarianism.

20 For critical reviews of the FICM, see A. J. Köstenberger and D. W. Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2nd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 260-67; J. Webb, “The Family-Integrated Church Movement: An Exploration in Ecclesiology” (MAR Thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009).

21 See Terrry Johnson, “What Does the Regulative Principle Require of Church Members” 9Marks eJournal 8, no. 3 (May/June 2011): 32–34 (accessed February 21, 2012). Ironically, Scott Brown quotes Mark Dever’s definition of the Regulative Principle in making his point about age-segregated programs (A Weed in the Church, 83), yet Dever’s 9Marks eJournal for Jan/Feb 2012 is dedicated to the subject of the Sunday School (accessed February 13, 2012). Here’s the point: not everyone who subscribes to the Regulative Principle would agree with Brown’s application of it to age-segregation.

22 So also Köstenberger, God, Marriage, and Family, 259.

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There are 77 Comments

Julie Herbster's picture

Larry wrote:
Here's another heretical statement for you: It is commonly said by some that the church should support what goes on at home. Again 1 Tim 3:15 seems to contradict that. The home should support what is going on in the church. I have seen enough homes that I do not want the church to support what goes on there. Out of all the declarations, images, and metaphors for the church in the NT, one image not used is anything that communicates an instrument of support for parents. Again, heretical I know. But what does the NT actually teach?

Larry, if both a church and a family are united around belief in the truth, wouldn't "who is supporting whom" be a moot issue? The family is a part of the church, after all, not an island unto itself. The family "supports" the church in that it learns from the teaching of the pastor and applies truth properly. The church in turn "supports" the family in that it provides opportunities for growth and discipleship. If the father is teaching truth to his children at home, the church's teaching will indeed be another source of reinforcement for that teaching.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan R wrote:
I also agree that the obvious solution is to provide quality materials. But if one MUST have age-segregated SS for kids, one should separate 'churched' kids from 'unchurched' kids, for lack of a better description.

How does this equate to body life. Or does that part of ecclesiology only apply to adult Christians, not the minor Christians? This overbalance toward one institution to the detriment of another is one of the inherent problems with the FIC movement. Would you want to segregate the adults too? Perhaps two services - one for the mature and one for the novices?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

You are making my point for me. If one believes in segregation, then Scripturally it makes more sense to separate those on a milk diet from those on a meat diet, rather than an arbitrary and senseless division by chronological age or marital status. Or we'd end up with widows ministering to each other instead of being cared for by the church body.

I do not believe, (nor does the FICM) for the average worship service, segregation is 'needed' AT ALL.

Larry's picture

Quote:
But I think this line of thinking is scary, and it is exactly what I was talking about earlier. If parents make a decision as to how to best minister to their own child, they are 'selfish' or 'isolationist'.

If SS were the only place a person could minister to others, I'd buy the argument. But it ain't, so I don't.

FYI, I didn't use "selfish" or "isolationist." But notice how you didn't really address the point. Tell me why you are not being consumeristic here at the expense of ministering to others?

Since SS is not the only place of ministry to others (your children included), why would you not have your children in the SS for the purpose of ministering to others and then minister to your own children elsewhere as well? Are your children better off being taught that we give up some things for the sake of ministry to others? Are other children better off because your children are around them, even when they could be somewhere else?

Again, I make the point that Christianity in the NT is not an individual thing, but a team sport. It's where we all serve each other, even when that is inconvenient to us personally.

You can minister to your children all week long. You can only minister to others when you are around them in the church meetings. You are giving up the latter (which is more limited) for the former (which is virtually unlimited, particularly when you home school).

Larry's picture

Quote:
Larry, if both a church and a family are united around belief in the truth, wouldn't "who is supporting whom" be a moot issue?
No, not in the NT. The church is the foundation, the pillar and support of the truth. It is the central feature of NT Christianity.

OF course I want to support parents when the are doing what is right. But the fundamental relationship in the NT with respect to truth seems to place the priority on the church.

So yes, I want parents leading their families, particularly fathers. But I recognize that many do not, and kids should not be at the mercy of those who don't.

BTW, I think one reason for this is that in the OT, the primary spiritual relationship was familial, in the covenant community. In the NT, the primary spiritual relationship is not familial.

Quote:
If the father is teaching truth to his children at home, the church's teaching will indeed be another source of reinforcement for that teaching.
This is my point: That seems to be worded backwards with respect to the NT. The church is not a source of reinforcement for the home's teaching. The church is where the truth has been committed to, and the home is to support what is being taught by the God-ordained repository for truth which the church (1 Tim 3:15).

Obviously many churches are failing this in that you all sorts of aberrant teaching, both in doctrine and in practice. But aberrancy doesn't mean we give up the biblical model.

Susan R's picture

If there was a Biblical mandate to put one's child in a SS class, I'd understand the argument. But there isn't. We are free to do what we believe best nurtures our children in the Lord. Churches do not get to take an extra-Biblical idea and make it a Biblical commandment in any dispensation.

Children in their formative years are often NOT in the position to minister to others, and oftentimes they are not regnerate themselves, and thus CANNOT minister to others spiritually. Is church leadership going to say that they know better where a child is spiritually than a parent?

Furthermore, when church leadership expects parents to support their decisions about the family, and insists that parents bow to their judgment against the parent's own, where are they when it's time to pick up the pieces? Is the church going to take responsibility when the result is a prodigal? Are they offering a 30 year money back guarantee?

Oh wait- when a kid becomes a prodigal, it must have been the parent's fault. The church that has claimed primary accountability and responsibility all those years is suddenly staring in wide-eyed innocence "It wasn't OUR fault!"

Sorry- churches can't have it both ways. Both parents and churches have a responsibility to the body and the children that are part of that by presence or conversion, but somebody has to have the overriding veto power, and that rests with mom and dad.

Larry's picture

Quote:
If there was a Biblical mandate to put one's child in a SS class, I'd understand the argument. But there isn't. We are free to do what we believe best nurtures our children in the Lord. Churches do not get to take an extra-Biblical idea and make it a Biblical commandment in any dispensation.
No dispute, but since no one is making that argument, I am not sure why this is here. SS is not even a mandate (we don't have SS here). The issue is more one of wisdom and ministry.

I would love to have some families in our church who are spiritually strong and whose children are faithfully involved. I think it would be an overall negative to have families who thought their children were too good or too advanced for the children's classes because of the other children in them. I am not attributing this to you, but wouldn't this lead to pride on the part of your children? Someone says, "Why aren't you in the class?" "Well, that is too young for us and we are past that." Think of you own situation: "We listen to Spiros Zodhiates all week, so listening to 65 year old Miss Smith for forty-five minutes is below us." Again, it just seems to me that it smacks of individualism rather than community.

Again, we have all week long to minister to our children. Since that hour of SS is not the only hour for ministry during the week, why not serve the body during that time by involving them in body life for the sake of others, and use the other 67 hours for personal influence?

There's a lot of stuff I do, not because it is best for me, but because it is best for those around me. I defer for their sake, and take care of myself and my family in other venues.

Quote:
Children in their formative years are often NOT in the position to minister to others, and oftentimes they are not regnerate themselves, and thus CANNOT minister to others spiritually.
I completely disagree with this. We are always in our formative years to one degree or another. I think people underestimate the influence of others, even with their mere presence. There is nothing so discouraging to a teacher at any level as having no one show up, or having very few. Even worse is knowing that some who could be there but are not there because they (or their parents) think they are above it or don't need it.

Quote:
Is church leadership going to say that they know better where a child is spiritually than a parent?
Quite often, I would say yes. In your case, or mine, perhaps not. But in the case of real families (i.e., those who are not as spiritually committed), it is much more likely that mature Christians can evaluate the spiritual condition of children better than parents. For example, we have had some children attending for several months. Yesterday, for the first time, their mother came. Now, who do you think is better able to evaluate where the child is spiritually? Who has the better categories for that? I would say the church does. I am not even sure that an unsaved parent has the categories for spiritual evaluation.

Quote:
Furthermore, when church leadership expects parents to support their decisions about the family, and insists that parents bow to their judgment against the parent's own, where are they when it's time to pick up the pieces? Is the church going to take responsibility when the result is a prodigal? Are they offering a 30 year money back guarantee?
Again, this doesn't seem relevant. First, no one here is mandating that parents bow down to church leadership. Second, and more to the point, I doubt there are a lot of kids who went prodigal only because their parents put them in SS and spent the other 167 hours a weak teaching them spiritually. My guess is that there are some other things going on. As you say, the SS hour is not the only hour during the week. My guess is that if a parent spends time daily with their children teaching them, praying for and with them, catechizing them, etc., they will not be greatly damaged by an hour or two with a dedicated and faithful Christian who teaches them in the corporate gathering of the church.

Quote:
Both parents and churches have a responsibility to the body and the children that are part of that by presence or conversion, but somebody has to have the overriding veto power, and that rests with mom and dad.
Obviously parents can do what they want. But that doesn't make it good necessarily. Some things parents do, even with good intentions, are wrong or at least unwise. I think this fits into the latter category.

Thanks for the exchange.

Julie Herbster's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
Larry, if both a church and a family are united around belief in the truth, wouldn't "who is supporting whom" be a moot issue?
No, not in the NT. The church is the foundation, the pillar and support of the truth. It is the central feature of NT Christianity.

I guess my point is that the family is part of the church. The "family" and the "church" have a symbiotic relationship; they are not entirely separate entities. The church wouldn't be the church without the people that make it up.

Quote:
So yes, I want parents leading their families, particularly fathers. But I recognize that many do not, and kids should not be at the mercy of those who don't.

No disagreement here.

Quote:
BTW, I think one reason for this is that in the OT, the primary spiritual relationship was familial, in the covenant community. In the NT, the primary spiritual relationship is not familial.

No...but with respect to children (including as yet unregenerate children), the NT clearly places the "bringing up" of the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord squarely upon the fathers' shoulders. So, shouldn't churches be focusing more on teaching the fathers to fulfill their God-given responsibilities than they should on providing an "out" for the ones who aren't up to snuff? If the majority of the fathers in a congregation aren't doing their jobs, and have to rely on others to "parent their kids" for them, then wouldn't you agree that the church has a primary responsibility to help those fathers and not just give them another reason to shirk their duty (by undertaking the child training for them)? I know that I'm speaking in broad terms here, and that every church dynamic is different (urban ministries are definitely different than suburban, etc.), but I don't think that in a healthy church, the problem of "untaught kids" should be overwhelming enough to merit complete age segregation.

Quote:
Quote:
If the father is teaching truth to his children at home, the church's teaching will indeed be another source of reinforcement for that teaching.
This is my point: That seems to be worded backwards with respect to the NT. The church is not a source of reinforcement for the home's teaching. The church is where the truth has been committed to, and the home is to support what is being taught by the God-ordained repository for truth which the church (1 Tim 3:15).

Obviously many churches are failing this in that you all sorts of aberrant teaching, both in doctrine and in practice. But aberrancy doesn't mean we give up the biblical model.


[/quote]I get what you are saying, and I agree with you. I guess I don't see how this negates the father's responsibility as head of his home and chief "bringer upper" of his children. Smile

In case you missed it, I see no problem with age-segregated SS done correctly...however, this method (seeing that it really has no biblical mandate) shouldn't be considered an "iron cage" or "the way things ought always to be done in every church."

Susan R's picture

There are far too many separate points and "what if" scenarios to address now. Suffice it to say that I believe there are spheres of authority that often overlap and occasionally supersede each other. The individual, the family, the church- all have Biblical principles to follow. When each are fulfilling their duties, all will benefit in the manner that God intended.

My only objection in this whole shebang is when the church leadership believes it is in the position to mandate extra-Biblical ideas to individuals and families, be it SS or movies or music. Biblical principles guide us quite far down the path, and then after that we have some liberty to figure out how to best minister to ourselves and to each other.

It may sound like pride or selfishness to say that one must attend to one's own spiritual needs first, but that is exactly what Scripture teaches. I cannot minister to anyone else unless I am in the position to do so, and neither can my kids. The Bible further commands that pastors, elders, deacons, and teachers have certain qualifications, and in each passage dealing with church leadership, they are commanded to have their families in order. If they do not have their families in order, they cannot lead the church of God. That tells me something about what God believes the proper relationship between church and family should be.

Again, it is not either/or, and there is no blanket rule for every family to follow. Not participating in SS is not being a 'consumer' or 'me-centered'. Kids would much rather play games and chatter with friends than sit with mom and dad in church and be expected to pay attention and intelligently discuss the spiritual truths presented. It takes a lot more effort to take responsibility for one's children in every aspect of their lives than to delegate and hope for the best.

For families and children who are from broken homes, obviously the church should minister to them, and 'churched' kids can be a part of that. But it is still a parent's duty to decide if their child is mature enough to be any kind of help. Unfortunately, many SS classes are comprised of kids whose parents aren't involved or don't care, where kids are using foul and sexually explicit language, boys and girls are flirting instead of paying attention, shallow material is used week after week because it is assumed that kids won't pay attention without it... that is not the kind of sacrifice that Christian parents or kids are called to make. That is why I said that the church is commanded to have their ducks in a row first before they can adequately minister to a congregation, much less dictate to parents how they should teach and train their kids.

Larry's picture

Julie wrote:
I get what you are saying, and I agree with you. I guess I don't see how this negates the father's responsibility as head of his home and chief "bringer upper" of his children. Smile

In case you missed it, I see no problem with age-segregated SS done correctly...however, this method (seeing that it really has no biblical mandate) shouldn't be considered an "iron cage" or "the way things ought always to be done in every church."

I agree with you on all that.

Larry's picture

Quote:
Suffice it to say that I believe there are spheres of authority that often overlap and occasionally supersede each other. The individual, the family, the church- all have Biblical principles to follow. When each are fulfilling their duties, all will benefit in the manner that God intended.
I agree.

Quote:
My only objection in this whole shebang is when the church leadership believes it is in the position to mandate extra-Biblical ideas to individuals and families, be it SS or movies or music. Biblical principles guide us quite far down the path, and then after that we have some liberty to figure out how to best minister to ourselves and to each other.
Again, I agree.

Quote:
It may sound like pride or selfishness to say that one must attend to one's own spiritual needs first, but that is exactly what Scripture teaches.
I agree, but that's not really the issue here.

Quote:
If they do not have their families in order, they cannot lead the church of God. That tells me something about what God believes the proper relationship between church and family should be.
I don't agree here. The requirements you mention regarding families deal with leadership in the church, and the relationship between one leading the church and the way he manages his family. That is not applicable to the membership of the church. It should be taught, but it is not demanded. So here, I think you are comparing apples and oranges.

Quote:
Not participating in SS is not being a 'consumer' or 'me-centered'.
Not necessarily, but it can be.

Quote:
Kids would much rather play games and chatter with friends than sit with mom and dad in church and be expected to pay attention and intelligently discuss the spiritual truths presented.
As with some stuff above, not sure why this is here. No one has suggested this, have they?

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It takes a lot more effort to take responsibility for one's children in every aspect of their lives than to delegate and hope for the best.
If parents delegate and hope for the best, then they are sinning. But I don't think anyone has suggested that, have they?

Quote:
Unfortunately, many SS classes are comprised of kids whose parents aren't involved or don't care, where kids are using foul and sexually explicit language, boys and girls are flirting instead of paying attention, shallow material is used week after week because it is assumed that kids won't pay attention without it... that is not the kind of sacrifice that Christian parents or kids are called to make.
First, some of this is just life in ministry. And if you want to avoid it all, you must go out of the world. Second, no one here is defending this. So running to an extreme to argue against a norm is not all that helpful. If you disagree with what you list here, then I welcome you to the party. I oppose it all, and have for a long time. That's not really the point.

Quote:
That is why I said that the church is commanded to have their ducks in a row first before they can adequately minister to a congregation, much less dictate to parents how they should teach and train their kids.
I am not sure what this means. The church is the congregation, so I am not sure how the church can have its ducks in a row before ministering to the church. Furthermore, it seems to me that a healthy church will never have all its ducks in a row. There will always be foul mouthed people, flirting, bad influences, etc. It's called ministry.

In the end, I imagine that most of what you oppose is what I oppose and what I work against in our church. But I have been around enough to see some severe dangers with some of the "solutions" that the FIC approach brings. Not to mention the whole lack of a biblical model for it.

Regardless of all the ink spilled (cyberly speaking of course), at the end of the day, the Bible still uses age related metaphors, still speaks of growth and teaching people where they are at, and still gives the church to responsibility to defend and propagate the truth. Families should be strong families, and fathers should lead their families. Churches should teach and disciple men to lead their families. And when men do that effectively, most of the danger that you are concerned about is greatly minimized.

Again thanks, and I will give you the last word if you want it.

Susan R's picture

we appear to be talking past each other. I think we agree far more than it appears on the screen. C'est la vie.

Quote:
The requirements you mention regarding families deal with leadership in the church, and the relationship between one leading the church and the way he manages his family. That is not applicable to the membership of the church. It should be taught, but it is not demanded. So here, I think you are comparing apples and oranges.

I didn't say it applied to the membership, although, in a sense, it does. Christian parents who do not disciple their children are in rebellion against God.

My point was more to the fact that church leadership can't/shouldn't lead if their families aren't in order tells me that God places a high priority on an orderly family as much as He does an orderly church. The two expectations are not in competition, but rather are essential to each other. When I said the church needs to have their ducks in a row, I was still speaking of the leadership, not the church body in general. Sorry if I was not being very clear on that.

Then my next point was about the state of the church and the re-examination of our methods to see if they truly are Biblical, and to examine the fruit. It is simplistic to say that age-segregation is alone responsible for a falling away of young people, but I believe it is a link in a chain of more and more secularization in the church, more marketing, more gimmicks, more fluff etc... aimed at kids in order to bring in families, and the result has been a shallow faith, if not a counterfeit faith. Age-segregation seems to beget a more entertainment oriented dynamic, and I think kids suffer spiritually because of that. If a church can have classes and avoid those traps, more power to 'em.

My dh and I were looking into this issue long before we'd heard of the FICM, because we were seeing some very poor fruit coming from many of the SS classes and kid's clubs in church, and of course I had my own upbringing to fall back on. My dad's attitude was that church was SERIOUS BUSINESS. The first time my dh ate a Tootsie Roll in church I thought God would strike him down where he stood. Even if he does have blood sugar issues- a Tootsie Roll? Oy vey.

But as my dh and I look around for something different, we've found that there is very little that is different. Every church is doing the same exact thing, with practically the same curriculum, the same silly songs, and the same kinds of well-meaning but inexperienced/spiritually immature/ungifted teachers.

And let me just say that I appreciate these lovely, caring people who really, really want to help and volunteer outside of their... skill set- they are not at fault here, IMO because they probably have not received proper teaching about qualifications and gifts in the church, and many churches are desperate for warm bodies to fill in the spaces.

So- what does a family do but stay and do the best they can where they are? That's where you get parents who opt out of SS or YGs for their kids, because for the most part they love their church, but they believe some aspects are out of line, and instead of just leaving they stay and try to work through it, ministering to their kids and addressing issues with the church leadership the best they can. But eventually their family has to take priority if church leadership is unresponsive. I am talking about real Biblical concerns, here, not petty complaints.

BTW, my description of a SS class was not worst-case scenario, but the norm, in my experience. The purpose of SS is supposed to be to ground kids in truth, not subject them to immorality and call it 'ministry', especially when many of them are newborn babes in the Word. We do 'leave the world' to a great extent when we walk through the doors of the church, which is the topic here. We have different expectations, Scriptural expectations, for church than we do for a visit to the grocery store or the zoo. I think our kids should be able to engage in learning and worship without being distracted and harassed by other kids who are not interested. We would never expect the adults of a congregation to tolerate rowdy behavior, immoral speech or conduct during a service, and in some cases physical assault, so why should our children? What woman is going to feel worshipful or even be able to focus if the man behind her was pulling her hair the entire service? Would we tell her to deal with it because it was just part of ministry, he's from a broken home, he's lost and he doesn't know better? Of course not.

You don't have to answer, Bro. Larry. Sorry to go on and on. The mulberry bush is worn pert near to a nub. Smile

PLewis's picture

Susan R wrote:

My only objection in this whole shebang is when the church leadership believes it is in the position to mandate extra-Biblical ideas to individuals and families, be it SS or movies or music. Biblical principles guide us quite far down the path, and then after that we have some liberty to figure out how to best minister to ourselves and to each other.

I agree with this totally - which is why it took us a LONG time to find a church teaching the Bible that was a good fit for our family.

Susan R wrote:

Again, it is not either/or, and there is no blanket rule for every family to follow. Not participating in SS is not being a 'consumer' or 'me-centered'. Kids would much rather play games and chatter with friends than sit with mom and dad in church and be expected to pay attention and intelligently discuss the spiritual truths presented. It takes a lot more effort to take responsibility for one's children in every aspect of their lives than to delegate and hope for the best.

I do not think it's fair to make a statement that implies that families that participate in SS are taking less effort and therefore less responsibility for their children. If a church is on target Biblically, and is loving .. there should be no reason why a parent should feel that their children would not be taught the correct things .. afterall - if the teachers are Christians, spending time preparing and in prayer - it's really the Holy Spirit who will be speaking to the hearts isn't it?

JG's picture

If a man's 15 year old son (living at home) wants to get baptized and the father says no, will you baptize him?

If his dad tells him he can't come to your church anymore because he is convinced your church teaches wrong doctrine, so they are going somewhere else, will you tell him to disobey his dad?

Suppose his dad decided that they will attend your church, but he doesn't have confidence in the youth group leaders and teen Sunday School teachers, so he says they won't go to that. If the son wants to be part of the youth group, will you tell him to disobey his dad?

Unless the answers to these questions are yes, then I don't think you actually have described very well where you think the division of responsibility / authority lies between home and church.

I believe in I Timothy 3:15, too, but I would answer to all of these that the son obeys his dad. I think the way you've expressed yourself on the verse in this thread presses the point farther than it was intended, and farther than you probably actually practice.

Susan R's picture

PLewis wrote:
I do not think it's fair to make a statement that implies that families that participate in SS are taking less effort and therefore less responsibility for their children. If a church is on target Biblically, and is loving .. there should be no reason why a parent should feel that their children would not be taught the correct things .. afterall - if the teachers are Christians, spending time preparing and in prayer - it's really the Holy Spirit who will be speaking to the hearts isn't it?

Quite a bit of this issue revolves around motives. A parent who feels confident that the church's SS programs and teachers are going to minister to their kids is far different from the parent who by default sends their kids to SS regardless of the curriculum or teacher qualifications in order to 'get a break' from them. Also, my qualifying statement was about kids going to SS to "play games and chatter with friends". A SS program that involves sober study is not what I was talking about. The problem is that I seldom see SS programs that really embrace a serious, studious, reverent attitude toward Scripture.

Part of the problem, IMO, is some harmful attitudes that are tolerated about family and children. There've been far too many instances where I've heard snarky comments about teaching and training children from parents who "can't wait until the bus rolls up each morning" and "could never homeschool because I couldn't stand being with my kids all day". This is wicked, IMO, but it is not only accepted, it's expected, and often a source of amusement. If someone talked like that about their spouse, we'd be concerned about the health of their marriage, and yet it's OK to talk about kids like they are inconvenient burdens? I adore being with my kids- they are fun and interesting. We stood in the kitchen talking and laughing last night for 3+ hours- at which point Mr. Raber's carriage turned into a pumpkin. Smile But if SS is basically for the purpose of keeping kids quiet and out of the way so the adults can worship- which is how I've heard it described more than once- that's a harmful, unBiblical attitude. Anyway, the point is that while SS can be used to teach and train kids, it can also be used to abdicate responsibility.

I was thinking last night about how many elements of discipleship and worship the church accepts and adopts that at root have extra-Biblical origins, like the altar call and revival meetings, but we often can't seem to view them as extra-Biblical. They've become part of the fabric of the church, and just the idea of suggesting that we should reconsider the whole thing is shocking. SS is another one of those things that the church uses but seldom asks where the idea came from and why, and if it is indeed extra-Biblical, it should receive a double heapin' helpin' of scrutiny.

I also sometimes wonder who invented the sticker chart. Bleah

Aaron Blumer's picture

[quote=Aaron wrote:
So the attitude should be something more like "you apply the Scriptures by dividing into age-based groups sometimes; we apply them by not ever dividing into age-based groups--you do your thing and we'll do ours."

I think this is a great conclusion to come to...but that doesn't seem to be what either side is doing. The "age/peer-segregated" people are troubled that the FIC people do not apply Scripture in the same way they do, and vice versa. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this fact seems to be evident in the original post of this thread, in your article about why churches should have "kid times," and in Baucham's writings (and other FIC writings) as well. And, as we all know, the FBFI actually drafted a "resolution" against the FIC movement not too long ago...That's part of what got all of the discussions going in our circles.


It's important to understand the actual sequence of events. Long before I wrote about Kid Times, I wrote a two-article piece against FIC here at SharperIron. (It disappeared either in the server crash in '06 or maybe before due to the near-riot that ensued when I wrote it).
Even in '05, what I wrote was in reaction to what the FIC movement was already doing that was resulting in unnecessary conflict in local churches. The FBFI resolutions were also reactions... as is Doug's piece here.

What are they reactions to? They are not reactions to the idea that teaching families together might be a better method. This is not what the FIC has been claiming from the beginning. Rather, their verbiage out of the gate has been to characterize age-grouping as unbiblical, humanistic, and responsible for virtually all the defections of young people from congregations. In my original articles on the subject I quoted Scott Brown and others accusing churches that age-group of not caring about children, of adopting a procedure invented by anti-God humanists, then intentionally painting a veneer of Scripture over it in order to more effectively spread the poison.
I showed that these assertions are not only factually incorrect (age grouping has been going on since way before humanism, for example) but that it was not appropriate to attack the motives of those who incorporate this in their Christian ed practices.
Some defenders were adamant that I'd gotten Brown and Phillips et. al. all wrong, but they never could explain how I had misquoted them.

Compared to much of the FIC movement rhetoric, Doug Brown's language in the OP is quite even handed. And my own writings on the subject have frequently suggested that the division the movement has fueled is not intended by its leaders--but that it is a consequence, nonetheless.

So... I don't mean to imply that these matters of application cannot be debated. They should be. But both sides should refrain from over-the-top accusations and generalizations about the motives of those who simply want to do something different.

Julie Herbster's picture

Thank you for taking time to clarify those points, Aaron. In your article about "Why Churches Should Have Kid Times," this is your conclusion:

Quote:
Every church with adequate resources should include kid times in its ministry.

I just perused the original thread in which your article was the OP. There was quite a lively discussion about what you meant by using the word should in your title and conclusion. At one point, you admitted that perhaps you'd gotten a bit too "fiery" in your reaction to the FICM. I'm glad you took a minute to clarify again on this thread that you believe that this issue is a matter of application, method, and preference, and that churches (with or without adequate resources) which do not offer "kid times" are not remiss in obeying Scripture.

Larry's picture

So Jon, let me ask you this: Suppose the dad tells the son, "You cannot believe in Jesus for salvation."

Do you tell him to obey his father?

JG's picture

Larry, you never answered my question, but I'll answer yours. Belief (or unbelief) can't be ordered. If the son believes, he believes, and can't un-believe, whatever dad says. A strange question from a guy who considers himself, if I remember correctly, at least somewhat Calvinistic. Smile

Back to my question. Would you tell the son to carry out disobedient actions in the cases I asked about? Or would you say the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, supersedes parental authority in those cases?

Karl S's picture

Let me say that I am encouraged to see some hermeneutical/Biblical evidence in the discussion over this issue. At the end of the day our experiences, opinions, deductions, etc. must all conform to the Word. With that said, let me delve in a bit.

Quote:
A major point of hermeneutical confusion in the debate is what to make of silence. An example of 'age segregation' in the NT is not required any more than we need an example of passing a plate to collect an offering (or having a box at the back if that's your method). What we have is a mandate to teach and even a mandate to teach particular things to particular sub groups (some of which are age-based). So the details of method are in the sphere of application.

There is also no inconsistency with the sufficiency of Scripture in applying Scripture in this way ... or any other way. Nobody believes that sola scriptura demands what we only apply Scripture in ways that we see it apply itself. That is, even the regulatory principle doesn't exclude the idea that revealed principles must be applied in not-revealed ways.

I agree there is a mandate to teach, and that there is teaching to take place among some age-based "subgroups" (although whether this takes place under the roof of the church may be debatable). However, I do not consider the overall heading of "teaching" as it relates to the church to be a matter of silence. I would also take exception with the broad sphere of applying Scripture, at least as you stated it here.

With regards to making application, I would agree that it is certainly true that revealed principles are by necessity applied in non-revealed ways (such as applying I Cor. 4:2 to financial matters in addition to spiritual). It is through these types of applications that we are able to bring all matters of faith and practice into subjection to Him.

However, when we are making these applications, we must make sure that such applications are harmonious to the testimony of Scripture as a whole. For instance, if the church acquired funds through a raffle, I believe most of us would agree that trying to apply I Cor. 4:2 to how we use those funds would not be the most important consideration.

I believe the same is true as we deal with this issue. And this brings me to the issue of silence. The assumption in many comments and arguments seems to be that Scriptures command the church to teach; that this mandate includes all age groups; and that beyond that there is silence, and therefore liberty in regards to methodology. I believe this is a false assumption.

It is true that the Scriptures command the church to teach. And as per previous comments, the Scriptures call the NT church the pillar and ground of the truth. Beyond this, however, we see numerous examples of what and how the church is to teach and perform its functions. We are given the church offices of pastor and deacon, and the lifestyle expectations of men occupying these offices (Acts. 6:1-7, I Tim. 3, Titus 1). We are given regulations on how church is to be conducted (I Cor. 11, I Cor. 14:26-40, I Tim. 2:8-12, I Tim. 5, Col 3:16). We see instructions from Paul on what types of things to teach (Titus 2, II Tim. 4:1-4). We see examples of this teaching fleshed out in sermons in Acts as well as all the epistles to the churches. Beyond this, we have numerous examples of corporate teaching in the Old Testament.

The overall pattern in both the OT and NT of corporate teaching and worship is inclusion and integration of all God's people (Deut. 12:12, 16:11, 29:10-11, 31:10-13, Josh 8:34-35, I Kin. 8:14, II Kin. 23:1-2, II Chron. 20:13, Ezra 10:1, Neh. 8:1-3, 12:43, 13:1-3, Matt. 14:21, Mk. 10:13-16, Acts 2:46-47, 12:12, 14:27, 20:7-9, Heb. 10:25, Jas. 2:1-4). Never in all the instances of corporate worship recorded in the Word do you find a "children's class" or "children's church", whereas you do find children specifically called out as being a part of the general assembly in numerous instances. When you find instances of children being taught in Scripture, it is done in the midst of the assembly or by the parents (or, in the exceptional case of Samuel, one-on-one mentor-ship by a Spiritual leader).

Furthermore, the responsibility and command to teach children is always given to the parents! (Deut. 6:6-7, 11:18-19, Eph. 6:4). Children have another "level" of authority over them. This does not mean that children are not also under the teaching of the church, but that this teaching occurs in a more indirect way because of the additional jurisdiction above them. This same principle is even applied (albeit with different caveats due to the somewhat different nature of the jurisdictional relationship) to married women -- I Cor. 14:34-35. This is an important principle which everyone seems to miss!

Furthermore, commands are given by the church authority (the epistles to the churches) to its membership (as these letters were read) about familial relationships. What is taught by the church to distinct members within a family only affirms this jurisdictional relationship (Eph. 5:22-6:4, Col. 3:18-21)! In addition, the fact that Paul writes instruction directly to children (as well as other "sub-groups") in his epistles implies that these parties would be present to hear the instruction (in the general assembly). Therefore, in the church setting, you have the pattern of a unified assembly being taught by pastors/elders, and specific additional instruction within the family unit being given by the father/husband in a home setting.

Therefore, you may justly say that the Scripture is silent with regards to age-segregation as it is practiced in the church today. This is because Scripture by pattern and principle teaches a different model! Therefore, to mandate another model would be in effect to "teach for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9, Col. 2:20-23). In addition, I would think that in this area careful consideration should be given to the principle of Deut. 4:2, 12:30-32, Prov. 30:6 & Rev. 22:18-19.

You can find Scriptures that describe the meeting of the church as a corporate gathering, using language indicative of one unified group. You can find Scriptures that speak of children (and/or families) gathered with this unified assembly. You can find children being taught/blessed by the leader of the assembly. You can find principles of familial jurisdiction/relationships and commands given by the church for how that is to be fleshed out. I'll leave the Titus 2 sub-group teaching application for another day, but just say that in this case the teaching in view is being carried out by one pastor, with the exception of the "young women"; in no area are children in view.

It is primarily upon all this "NON-silence" that I take my stand on this issue. I could go into secondary practical considerations, but I wanted this post (and the focus on the issue in general) to be a biblical one. Unfortunately, we've been doing "ministry" in such a pragmatic and "classroom" oriented mindset for so long, it can be quite difficult to think outside of the box. However, I believe it is necessary because it appears to me as if our box and God's box are not the same. Smile And, if any of you have made it this far, let me either congratulate you on going directly to the bottom, or apologize to you for such a long post. Biggrin

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I think it would help the discussion for folks to differentiate between a more family integrated structure of church and the official FIC movement. The doctrinal problems in the FIC movement far surpass the strict age segregation discussion, which, I think, can be dealt with as a separate issue.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Karl S's picture

Aaron, I appreciate you sharing your take on the movement's history and it's helpful to understand your point of emphasis. It's unfortunate that we cannot refer to those earlier articles of yours.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

They are not reactions to the idea that teaching families together might be a better method. This is not what the FIC has been claiming from the beginning. Rather, their verbiage out of the gate has been to characterize age-grouping as unbiblical, humanistic, and responsible for virtually all the defections of young people from congregations.

The main FICM apologists I'm most familiar with (Phillips, Brown, Baucham) do indeed teach that the FIC is a better method; but you're right, they don't stop there. The argument that I've always heard is that the current method is unbiblical and in need of reform. Therefore, since they view it as unbiblical, it naturally follows that they won't simply lay down and say "you do it your way and we'll do it ours". I would hope that none of us would say that in an area of conviction.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
In my original articles on the subject I quoted Scott Brown and others accusing churches that age-group of not caring about children, of adopting a procedure invented by anti-God humanists, then intentionally painting a veneer of Scripture over it in order to more effectively spread the poison.
I showed that these assertions are not only factually incorrect (age grouping has been going on since way before humanism, for example) but that it was not appropriate to attack the motives of those who incorporate this in their Christian ed practices.
Some defenders were adamant that I'd gotten Brown and Phillips et. al. all wrong, but they never could explain how I had misquoted them.

Again, it's unfortunate that we can't refer back to these original articles. I personally was not even aware of this "movement" until around the 2005-2007 time frame. My interest came due to personal convictions that I had been forming on my own, and then "discovering" various resources that were aligning with and fleshing out some of those convictions. Therefore, I can't speak very well to anything being said at or before ~2006.

However, I can certainly say that from all the material that I've read/watched, I have never seen the attitude that you're painting in the above comments. From what I've heard, you may be mistaking their claims of "effect" for "intent". That is, it is common to hear them say that the effect of systematic age segregation is detrimental to children and has it's roots in humanism and evolutionary thinking. I have never heard anyone claim that the intent of any of the churches or persons involved in these ministries was to promote humanism or harm children. In fact, I've heard more than once a statement just the opposite (people mean well but because methodologies are un-scriptural, the result is harmful).

From your comments, I take it you think the movement stems from personal opinions regarding the subject, and then persons with these opinions try to isogete the Scriptures to support their claims. This is certainly debatable, but again, I've never detected this spirit among the FICM advocates I've heard. If what you say is true, they are either huge hypocrites or greatly deceived, because again and again they refer to the sufficiency of scripture in concert with their teachings (even devoting an http://www.ncfic.org/mediaorganizermodule/view_mediaorganizer/id/97/src/@random4a1fff0b0c23b/ entire conference to the subject alone).

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Compared to much of the FIC movement rhetoric, Doug Brown's language in the OP is quite even handed. And my own writings on the subject have frequently suggested that the division the movement has fueled is not intended by its leaders--but that it is a consequence, nonetheless.

While I do not agree with some of the doctrines these men might hold to (amillennialism, infant baptism, etc.), I will say that in listening to Phillips and Brown in particular, they are some of the most gracious and heartfelt speakers I've encountered. They say what they believe, but from what I've witnessed do so in a very "speaking the truth in love" kind of way. If you ask me, a lot of the language in the FBFI resolution was much harsher ("denounce", "does violence").

At the same time, I am not accusing either you or Doug Brown of spouting harmful rhetoric or attacking the motives of those in the FICM (Baucham himself in http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/blog/detaile... his response acknowledged the tone of the Doug Brown article as "refreshing" and "encouraging").

Aaron Blumer wrote:

So... I don't mean to imply that these matters of application cannot be debated. They should be. But both sides should refrain from over-the-top accusations and generalizations about the motives of those who simply want to do something different.

I absolutely agree. I just haven't seen the attack on motives from the leaders in the movement that you're claiming here.

PLewis's picture

JG wrote:
Larry, you never answered my question, but I'll answer yours. Belief (or unbelief) can't be ordered. If the son believes, he believes, and can't un-believe, whatever dad says. A strange question from a guy who considers himself, if I remember correctly, at least somewhat Calvinistic. Smile

Back to my question. Would you tell the son to carry out disobedient actions in the cases I asked about? Or would you say the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, supersedes parental authority in those cases?

I'd like to weigh in on the questions regarding a son wanting spiritual growth and the parent seeming to be squashing it .. and how the church would/should react ..

I was that 15 yo - ( but a girl.. laugh). My mother was a Christian, yet did not go to church.. My father a former Catholic that we never have been sure if he accepted Christ or not. I wanted to be baptized from about the age of 10 .. I'd try every couple years - and my parents would not allow it .. This was over 2 or 3 churches.. I was allowed to go to Sunday School, and as I was older to church. But never did they allow my baptism... SO - I would go forward for baptism .. I'd go home .. be told no .. and in every instance the ( age segregated) churches advised me to obey my parents... as a result I didn't get baptized until I was married.

I dont' see how your argument related to FIC vs non FIC churches.. that could happen anywhere .. with differing results.

Because I was from an "unchurched" family - I've been to various churches of differing denominations .. (of course the "FIC movement" was not going yet..) - But looking back I can see how the Lord led me to the right churches, at the right times. Some churches weren't that great .. some were teeny tiny .. some large IFB churches .. In every one I felt loved and accepted .. and was thankful to meet kids of my own age who wanted to learn about Jesus, something I didn't find among my friends in school (a largely Roman Catholic neighborhood in Chicago.)

Now as an adult - who is ministering to some similar "unchurched" kids .. as well as the "churched" ones. I uphold the same principles of supporting parental decisions.

From my experience I don't think a "family integrated church" necessarily turns out "better" Christians, families, kids than a "traditional" church. I realize what I'm about to say is a blanket statement - that does not reflect ALL families that attend FICs. From what I've observed because the families are large, homeschooled and often serious in their teaching there is a unique "pecking order" with little cliques among the kids.. ( Just like in "traditional" churches..) Now granted - the "popular" kids are the ones with more "biblical knowledge" .. not the worldly kids - or the jocks .. but often to me there is even more of a sense of arrogance with these kids... They are the kids who are great public speakers, or musicians or can win a Bible drill hands down .. but they also give off a sense of arrogance and pride. I've judged some "fine arts" type programs for some local homeschool groups (many if not most of them that attend FICs ) .. and to be honest I was SO disappointed in the lack of friendliness and kindness of the families .. Also the "closed society" feel I got from them. Later when I thought of it those kids were no different than a group of Christian school kids, public school kids or traditional church kids .. They were KIDS .. running around, having to be shushed in the halls, breaking up into their little groups (by age) .. Confident kids, shy kids, boisterous .. just KIDS.

The bottom line is ANY gathering of Christians are going to have human faults .. to me if a family wants to be in an FIC church .. that's cool .. for our family "traditional" church has worked best .. All I look for is a church where all the fruits of the Spirit are found in the people.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Julie Herbster wrote:
Thank you for taking time to clarify those points, Aaron. In your article about "Why Churches Should Have Kid Times," this is your conclusion:
Quote:
Every church with adequate resources should include kid times in its ministry.

I just perused the original thread in which your article was the OP. There was quite a lively discussion about what you meant by using the word should in your title and conclusion. At one point, you admitted that perhaps you'd gotten a bit too "fiery" in your reaction to the FICM. I'm glad you took a minute to clarify again on this thread that you believe that this issue is a matter of application, method, and preference, and that churches (with or without adequate resources) which do not offer "kid times" are not remiss in obeying Scripture.

Well, I don't think "should" is too strong. I do believe using some age grouping is better than the alternative. There seemed to be more fuss about my saying it was "biblical" or "more biblical." But I generally use "biblical" to mean "consistent with Scripture" and use something stronger when I mean "required by Scripture." I would certainly not say that having zero age grouping is contrary to Scripture.

Still, it's one thing to say you believe your approach is biblical and another to say that another approach is unbiblical. And it's yet another thing to say that another approach is nothing more than whitewashed humanism or hatred of children, etc.
And then if you have conferences--not local church events--where you encourage folks to come from their churches, tell them that age grouping is something only bad people do, and that the conference is intended to lead a "new reformation," then send them back to their churches with that thinking... the dynamic is divisive. (The "reformation" language alone encourages folks to think that the practice of age-grouping is on a par with selling indulgences or something).
All of this for something that happens for, in most cases, an hour or two a week (at our church is adds up to less than an hour).

JG's picture

PLewis wrote:
I dont' see how your argument related to FIC vs non FIC churches.. that could happen anywhere .. with differing results.

Larry made a theological argument that, effectively, when it comes to teaching truth church authority supersedes parental authority. I'm asking how far he wants to push that theological argument.

It relates because if his theological point is pushed far enough it can seriously undermine parts of the FIC approach. I don't think it is valid to push it that far, and is not a good argument to use against the FIC philosophy -- in fact, I think it is dangerous to use.

Larry's picture

Wow ... I am reminded of why I didn't get involved to begin with ... All out of time.

But let me hit a few here real quick and then hopefully be done.

Preface: As Susan said, we (all of us) probably don't disagree as much as it might appear But having said that, I think there are some severe problems with her (Susan's) description that I think threaten to undermine the gospel itself and the church's mission of evangelism and discipleship. Perhaps more on that some other time.

To Jon, thanks for your answer. I wanted to get your answer first because I wanted to illustrate formally what we all agree on, that there is a continuum of issues show the parent is not the final authority in all things, and we do not always command children to obey parents. I am not persuaded that "belief vs. action" is the right way to categorize it. But my point is that you (and Susan and whoever else) recognize that at some point we "must obey God rather than man" so parental authority is not the final issue. Truth is, and the truth has been committed to the church. The question is at what age and in what issues do we "obey God rather than man"?

The church has the authority to command certain things, and to expect obedience. This requires that a church rigidly adhere to the biblical qualifications to avoid dictatorship, and it also requires that the church avoid elder rule, where a group of men can mandate things with no accountability.

The church also has the authority to do things in certain ways (not necessarily matters of obedience) and expect participation. I tell our church all the time that we do things as a church and that I don't even like everything we do. But we do it together as a body for the sake of the body and our guests. I tell my kids the same thing ... that I realize that things we might do as a family are not what they might do as an individual, but we do it as a family, and they are expected to do it with us. Another time, we might do what they want to do.

Now again, as I said, we don't even have SS. So I am not defending that. We don't have a YG, so I am not defending that either. My point is about deference for the sake of ministry in the community, and contrary to Susan's point, I think people of all ages can have ministry. So as soon as my son could walk and hold out his hand, we (by which I mean my wife) was teaching him how to walk into church and greet people, particularly the older generation. There are kids in his class that are a negative behavioral influence on him, but we willingly embrace that for the sake of ministry and recognize that the other 167 hours a week belong to us to work on that.

Now, to the specific questions from Jon, isn't the dad clearly wrong? In the first case, he is undeniably wrong, and by allowing baptism to be postponed, you are telling someone to disobey God in order to obey man. In the second case, he may be wrong but until we know what the false doctrine supposedly is we don't know if he wrong. My presumption is that if he is accusing our church of false doctrine, he is wrong because I am fairly confident in what what we teach. But having said that, attending another church is not necessarily sin. In the third case, it is fairly easy to determine whether or not the complaint is legitimate. He may just be a critical spirit in need of humility and repentance and love for others.

Don't we all know parents who are messed up? Don't we all know parents whose experience and spiritual immaturity leads them to make bad decisions or bad evaluations? (And isn't ironic how much someone else's "wisdom" tends to look just like our own?) Some of you say, "Well we need to disciple the dad so he can lead his family." And I agree. And that is the admission that the dad is wrong. And it also leads us to say that we should not abandon teaching children until the dad straightens up. The point is that there is some external standard given to the family and that is the truth as held and proclaimed by the church. (Again, I am not talking about the authority of certain structures such as SS, YG, or whatever.)

That is the point: Truth is not left up to the changing whims of parents, their spiritual level of maturity, etc. whatever their spiritual state. Truth was committed to the church. Regardless of family (and there are both good and bad), the church is the pillar and support of the truth. It's not that the family is not important, or that dad's don't have responsibility. But in the NT church, the locus of spiritual food and authority is moved outside the family primarily.

Now, in answer to your questions, I answer them the same way you do. But not because I think the parents are equal in truth authority to the church, but because I think it is a matter of wisdom and gospel testimony. And I am not sure I am right on that. I think it might be possible, particularly in the first case of baptism which is a clear and undisputed command of Scripture, for the child to say, "Dad, I respect you and love you and will obey you as much as possible, but I can't disobey God to obey you."

So it's not easy, but that's life in the ministry.

To your last comment:

Quote:
Larry made a theological argument that, effectively, when it comes to teaching truth church authority supersedes parental authority.
Isn't that what 1 Tim 3:15 says? That truth has been given to the church?

Quote:
It relates because if his theological point is pushed far enough it can seriously undermine parts of the FIC approach.
I think it absolutely undermines it, and with serious ramifications.

Back to the main point, I think it is common sense that we should teach different age groups differently, both in form and content. It is incredible to me that people think otherwise.

Larry's picture

To Karl,

I am still not sure where the passages are that show the NT church doing all of its learning and worshipping in an age-integrated fashion. You cite a number of OT passages, which I am not convinced make your point, but also take place in the OT economy where family had a different role because of the covenant.

The NT is where we need to focus, and none of the passages you cite give any indication that would support the idea that there is no age segregation. Those passages simply don’t indicate who was there, and certainly not as a regular practice. The mass feedings have women and children, but there were two of those. That is hardly enough to show a pattern. And a few times they brought children to Jesus for blessing and the disciples got upset. Their being upset would be strange if children had been regular attenders. It seems that perhaps the children were out of place because they weren’t regulars.

I think the strongest argument you have is that the epistles address children as if they are in the congregation where the letter is being read. But that doesn’t really help since it doesn’t say there were no other venues of teaching in the weekly life of the church. Furthermore, in our church, the children are in for the public reading of the Scripture and then leave for their class teaching time.

I think what is often missed in the whole sufficiency of Scripture/regulative principle argument is that there is no weekly schedule modeled in the NT. And I think it is a mistake to try to mandate that. We simply do not know how exactly they did things. That’s actually an act of grace and wisdom it seems to me. We are free to carry out the purposes and mission of the church in the ways that work best in our cultures. We are not bound to a culture that no longer exists, or at least that doesn’t exist universally.

I think most of your arguments have some fairly large holes in them that won’t stand up to scrutiny, at least in my mind.

But at the end of the day, you seem to acknowledge that there is teaching that takes place in age-based subgroups, which renders the rest of your post pretty meaningless to me since you already gave away the farm in the first admission. Once you acknowledge that there is teaching that takes place in age-based subgroups, you have acknowledged the very principle that I am arguing for.

I appreciate your kind interaction, as well as everyone else.

For me, I am not convinced there is one right way to do it, and I would encourage us all to stop short of mandating that. At the same time, I would encourage us to support the work and mission of the local church in which God has placed us.

Susan R's picture

Quote:
contrary to Susan's point, I think people of all ages can have ministry. So as soon as my son could walk and hold out his hand, we (by which I mean my wife) was teaching him how to walk into church and greet people, particularly the older generation.

Civil behavior and human kindness are not the kind of ministry of which I was speaking, and the idea that this issue is just about people satisfying their whims is also not remotely close to what I have been discussing. I don't know what I described that has "some severe problems with her (Susan's) description that I think threaten to undermine the gospel itself and the church's mission of evangelism and discipleship", so let me say that our family, including our children, are involved in ministering to others in various ways, some of which are 'official' church ministries, and some that aren't, like training service dogs to work with handicapped children, or my dd and I growing out our hair to donate to http://www.locksoflove.org/ Locks of Love . But I don't expect my kids to disciple or evangelize until they themselves are regenerate.

Quote:
I think it is common sense that we should teach different age groups differently, both in form and content. It is incredible to me that people think otherwise.
To a certain point this makes sense, especially if we are talking about children who are at different developmental stages. But many segregated congregations go beyond this to organize classes for youth groups, college/career, singles, young marrieds, senior citizens... and I truly do not see the sense in that. I do believe that this actually harms the unity of the church, and in a sense, dismembers it.

Age/peer segregation could perhaps in some situations be practical, but it is not necessary. And I think that is the crux of the matter.

Granted, this thread is supposed to be focused more on the language of the FICM and how, in the author's estimation, their black/white interpretation of the issue could be causing division. I haven't seen enough of that to say it's happening or not, so I'll take a powder.

JG's picture

You probably know my followup questions.

1. How do you know the father doesn't have excellent reasons for telling the son not to get baptised? Maybe the father doubts the son's salvation, with good reason.

2. Are you putting "wisdom" and "Gospel testimony" before truth? Your theology would state that the child should always get baptised, "wisdom" and "Gospel testimony" notwithstanding. If you answer the questions they way I would, it either demonstrates that you prefer "wisdom" to your ecclesiology or that you really do believe that ecclesiastical authority has its limits in respect to parental authority.

3. What if the child is 12? 10? 8? At what age is it wrong for a child to disobey his parents and get baptised / go to youth group / whatever?

The church is to uphold the truth. The truth upholds other authorities. Those who are under other authorities are not free agents, and the church should not treat them as if they are. The extent to which they have freedom is the extent to which they are accountable for putting into practice the true teachings of the church. A prisoner in a Roman prison who converted was not free to be baptised. That does not mean the church did not teach baptism.

The church should not consider children in the home to be entirely free agents. They are under parental authority.

I am persuaded that the Biblical response to some of the errors in the FIC movement does not include exalting church authority over parental authority. The church is responsible to teach and uphold the truth. This may even, in some extreme cases, necessitate church discipline against a parent who uses his authority contrary to truth. It does not include the sweeping away of parental authority, which is the logical end of your statement, if not your practice.

Larry's picture

To Susan, I have tried to keep it focused specifically and not on your family and what you do. So I am trying to stay out of directly addressing specific situations about which I know little to nothing.

As for the organization of classes for YG, College, young singles, young married, seniors, etc., again it seems really obvious that the application of the Bible is different for different age groups. Therefore, segregated classes allow for more intentional and directed Bible teaching ... a rifle instead of a shotgun, if you will. And that is actually a good thing. It only disunifies the church if it is done wrong.

To Jon, we could multiply specifics all day in dealing with hypotheticals, and I am not sure that is something that is helpful or necessary. We all have to make these decisions based on the information we have at hand in real situations.

Quote:
1. How do you know the father doesn't have excellent reasons for telling the son not to get baptised? Maybe the father doubts the son's salvation, with good reason.
I don't. Until we have real information we simply can't answer this other than a blanket, broad brush response. Maybe the dad is scared you are going to drown his son, or carry him off to Timbuktu in a boat after the baptism. Biggrin ... There are all kinds of hypotheticals that we can't deal with.

Quote:
2. Are you putting "wisdom" and "Gospel testimony" before truth? Your theology would state that the child should always get baptised, "wisdom" and "Gospel testimony" notwithstanding. If you answer the questions they way I would, it either demonstrates that you prefer "wisdom" to your ecclesiology or that you really do believe that ecclesiastical authority has its limits in respect to parental authority.
Tough isn't it. Think of the other side, as I mentioned. If you refuse to baptize the boy, you are refusing to allow him to obey Jesus in favor of obeying man. When we live in a fallen broken world, things are complicated. My answer is that since baptism is a matter of the intent and desire, and not a matter of eternal life, it says enough that he desires to get baptized (assuming his profession is credible) for me to say "Wisdom says let's wait and see if our willingness to defer to dad might be an opening for the gospel."

Quote:
3. What if the child is 12? 10? 8? At what age is it wrong for a child to disobey his parents and get baptised / go to youth group / whatever?
I don't know. My typical approach is that if you are living at home under your dad's roof and out of your dad's refrigerator, you need to honor him with obedience. If you do not want to, you can always move out and pay your own way. But again, it's hard.

Quote:
I am persuaded that the Biblical response to some of the errors in the FIC movement does not include exalting church authority over parental authority.
I agree and I have tried to frame my comments consistently in light of the authority of the truth, or as you say, " The church is responsible to teach and uphold the truth."

Quote:
It does not include the sweeping away of parental authority, which is the logical end of your statement, if not your practice.
I completely disagree with this because I have no intent of sweeping away parental authority. My point is that parental authority is under the truth as held and propagated by the church in the Bible. We have no right to disregard that.

And while the Bible "speaks to everything," it doesn't actually "speak to everything." Wisdom does play a role in understanding and applying the Bible to life. Witness previous discussions here at SI on child baptism. If the father of a 4 year old is insistent on baptizing his child because he believes the child is saved, will you defer to his authority? I wouldn't.

Many of these are matters of wisdom and context. A church meeting in a building with two rooms, one of which is the bathroom, is probably unwise to have a fully age-graded SS regardless of biblical commitments. A church with twenty adults and sixty-five elementary school age children attending would be wise to take that into consideration when structuring their programs. In a community where you have mostly nuclear families, you can do things differently than you can in communities where those nuclear families have gone the way of Hiroshima.

IMO, the silence of the Bible on the specifics is a measure of grace to us that we are not constrained based on a world that we no longer live in. The Bible was not intended to give us weekly schedules, program formats, etc. That is not the RP in any sense. The Bible tells us what to do, not how to do it necessarily.

Here's the question, particularly with respect to Karl's argument about the absence of age-graded classes in the NT. I generally reject the "can't use pews, offering plates, air conditioning etc if you use the RP" because I think it is a silly and simplistic argument that doesn't understand what the RP is about.

But why don't we see people using cars in the NT? Does that mean that the absence of mechanized transportation is wrong for the church? I think we would all say no. But how do we explain the absence of cars? We explain it by culture and technology. It wasn't possible for them to use it. So what is age-graded teaching is more like cars than preaching in church? After preaching is part of the RP. It is commanded even though we have record of how the weekly preaching and teaching was carried out in the church. Perhaps the reason age-graded classes didn't exist was a matter of space -- the houses they met in didn't have room for them. Perhaps it was a matter of teachers -- they did not yet have enough teachers in some of these fledging congregations. Perhaps it was a matter of culture -- the use of specific age-graded teaching was not widespread.

The point is we simply don't know why they didn't use it and we would be wise not to make it a major issue.

And to the point of the thread, it is possible for people of the FIC type mindset to divide churches by making it a major issue when it isn't.

And hopefully by now I have made this long enough that no one will read it. (And I am not rereading it so if there are mistakes, I won't catch them probably.)

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