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

Karl S's picture

Larry,

It does seem so very convenient that you are able to dismiss the clear pattern of the OT, because you say family "had a different role because of the covenant". I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this. Obviously, many things were different in the OT; however, these OT examples are not explicitly tied to the sacrificial system, the ceremonial law, or the nationalistic legal structure. In most cases I cited, the families gathered together and were under the teaching of the appointed Spiritual leadership doing things such as reading the Word, teaching the Word, engaging in prayer, singing, and giving thanks (very much like the requirements for a NT church). In many of these cases, these gatherings were not required by the OT law, but happened because of the heart's desire of the people to obey/praise/call out to God. Also, in most (if not all) of these cases, we see great revival or recommitment occurring.

Certainly I am not denying that the church functions differently than the temple gatherings of the Old Testament. However, we must be applying principles from OT teaching if we are to be seeking the whole counsel of God. Simply look at all the teachings in the gospels/epistles that were argued from an OT teaching or principle. I Cor. 10:11 says that things that happened in the OT were "written for our admonition". This passage is in the context of the Syncretistic worship and immorality of the Israelites in the wilderness, despite the fact that they were under the teaching and authority of Christ by means of their appointed Spiritual leader Moses (I Cor 10:2-4).

It troubles me that you dismiss all the Scriptures given without citing any Scripture to back up your reasoning, and then submit that because the Word is in effect "silent", then God has given us the freedom to do ministry in whatever way best suits our culture.

I would agree to some extent that there is no "weekly schedule given in the NT". It is true that God does not directly mandate the direct order of our services and all the details thereof. However, God does give many guidelines and principles, and I believe it is a leap to say that we can then in effect "create" formal methods, ministries, and offices of our own accord. The cultures vary, but the heart issues and the way they are approached spiritually is unchanging.

If I can decipher your above post, you're comparing age-graded teaching to mechanized transportation? Because in any instance, you need a way to get to the assembly, and in any instance there needs to be teaching? Because obviously they didn't have cars, but would have used them if possible, and if needed or possible they would have had age-graded ministries as well?

The big glaring problem with this is that transportation in and of itself has no moral/ethical bearing. It is not a spiritual act, it is a "circumstance", to use a regulative principle term. Teaching is always a moral/ethical act, and the Bible speaks to it directly and in principle!

It seems you're conceding that age-graded classes did not exist in the NT. Is it possible that they didn't exist and you find no record of it because the early church saw that it would be in violation of the overall pattern of Scripture and that they viewed the offices and functions of the church as taught by the apostles as sufficient?

I think that over time we've added so many of our own ideas to the principles of worship in Scripture, that church has become very complex as well as tainted. I can find Biblical patterns for the gathered church to receive teaching from the pastor; to read the Word; to sing hymns; to gather an offering; to share the Lord's table and fellowship together. I can find principles speaking of ministry across fleshly family lines to the broader family of God that extends beyond the weekly assembly, through hospitality, visiting the fatherless and widows, personal mentorship and teaching, exhortation to good works, etc. I don't believe God "left out" patterns and precepts of a whole lot of other stuff that is vital to the work of the church.

Whatever we're doing in the sphere of worship or teaching, let us remember that it is a spiritual work, and therefore is impossible to do in our flesh or by our own ideas without the enlightenment of the Spirit using the Word of God (Jer. 17:9, Isa. 55:7-11, Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12, John 14:23-26, Deut. 12:30-32, Prov. 12:15).

Susan R's picture

Larry wrote:
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.

You opened up a the focus on persons when you used your own family as an example of how you teach 'ministry' to your kids. I then used my family as an example of how we teach respect and human kindness to our kids (which every person should learn, regenerate or not) and how I differentiate that from 'ministry', a term which I was using to refer to specifically to evangelism and discipleship. We could get into a long discussion about compassion and charity in the life of the Christian, but I think we all agree that we don't withhold teaching good manners and proper attitudes to our children, but we don't give them 'Christian responsibilities' per se until they are, actually, Christians.

You said that something I posted (I'm not sure what, exactly) threatens to "undermine the gospel itself and the church's mission of evangelism and discipleship". You will just have to excuse me for feeling the need to address the implications of that statement.

Quote:
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.

I addressed that http://sharperiron.org/article/united-families-dividing-churches#comment... ]earlier -
Quote:
When it comes to teaching specific groups that are in 'different places' in their lives, how would a congregation not benefit? People do not live in a vacuum or only with their particular demographic. For instance, I'm 46, I have a 10 yob, 13 yog, 15 yob, and 23 yo son. My widowed mother, who is 84, lives with us. Why would I not benefit from hearing preaching that applies to a single person, or elderly widow? How do I learn to better minister to other 'groups' than by hearing how to apply truths to those people?

I think one of the very harmful attitudes that can come from this kind of regular, systematic peer-segregation is "Oh, he's teaching about family, and since I don't have one, it doesn't apply to me and I don't have to listen to this part." I've heard that said more than once over the years, and it's fruit is a very 'consumer-ish', selfish and insular attitude toward others.

The church is a body, responsible to minister to each other. None of us live in a vacuum. Single people go to work with people who have families, and if they have heard teaching and preaching directed to families, are now equipped to offer Biblical insight into their issues which gives them an open door to evangelism. Parents often end up caring for elderly parents and relatives, childless people often want very much to work with children when they can't have their own... I could go on and on about how everyone benefits by hearing how the Word applies to every person, regardless of their demographic. Do we wait until young people turn 18 to teach them the principles of responsible adulthood? Do we withhold teaching about healthy marriages until they have walked down the aisle? (by then, IMO, it's sometimes too late!)

I have never been bored by hearing how Scripture is specifically applied to someone who is not in my specific situation. What I learn is how richly and deeply Scripture addresses all our lives, and how I can better minister to others.

I'm as OCD as they come, but in church, I think the categorizing of people into neat little compartments is more detrimental than helpful.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan R wrote:
I think one of the very harmful attitudes that can come from this kind of regular, systematic peer-segregation is "Oh, he's teaching about family, and since I don't have one, it doesn't apply to me and I don't have to listen to this part." I've heard that said more than once over the years, and it's fruit is a very 'consumer-ish', selfish and insular attitude toward others.

The church is a body, responsible to minister to each other. None of us live in a vacuum. Single people go to work with people who have families, and if they have heard teaching and preaching directed to families, are now equipped to offer Biblical insight into their issues which gives them an open door to evangelism. Parents often end up caring for elderly parents and relatives, childless people often want very much to work with children when they can't have their own... I could go on and on about how everyone benefits by hearing how the Word applies to every person, regardless of their demographic. Do we wait until young people turn 18 to teach them the principles of responsible adulthood? Do we withhold teaching about healthy marriages until they have walked down the aisle? (by then, IMO, it's sometimes too late!)


Susan,

What you cite here has nothing to do with segregation or integration. This is primarily about the heart condition of the individual involved, regardless of the setting.

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

Susan R's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Susan R wrote:
I think one of the very harmful attitudes that can come from this kind of regular, systematic peer-segregation is "Oh, he's teaching about family, and since I don't have one, it doesn't apply to me and I don't have to listen to this part." I've heard that said more than once over the years, and it's fruit is a very 'consumer-ish', selfish and insular attitude toward others.

The church is a body, responsible to minister to each other. None of us live in a vacuum. Single people go to work with people who have families, and if they have heard teaching and preaching directed to families, are now equipped to offer Biblical insight into their issues which gives them an open door to evangelism. Parents often end up caring for elderly parents and relatives, childless people often want very much to work with children when they can't have their own... I could go on and on about how everyone benefits by hearing how the Word applies to every person, regardless of their demographic. Do we wait until young people turn 18 to teach them the principles of responsible adulthood? Do we withhold teaching about healthy marriages until they have walked down the aisle? (by then, IMO, it's sometimes too late!)


Susan,

What you cite here has nothing to do with segregation or integration. This is primarily about the heart condition of the individual involved, regardless of the setting.


It has everything to do with the topic, because setting, along with many other factors, communicates to others what is and isn't important and appropriate- or we could just all have church in a big hot tub. Because, ya' know, it's only the heart that matters. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

If the congregation is seldom taught about the issues important to those outside of their own demographic, how does that forward ministry and evangelism? Or should singles or families-with-children just stick to their own kind?

Larry's picture

Karl,

I confess to being a bit at a loss as to why I need to make a case for something you have already agreed with.

However, I don’t dismiss all the Scriptures given. I have considered them and I don’t think they make the case because:
(1) – They don’t necessarily show all ages worshiping or learning together at all times.
(2) – Even if all the texts could be understood to include all ages, they don’t tell us what happened at other times.

But having said that, let’s look at a few of these passages:
Josh 8:34-35 – These verses immediately follow vv. 30-33 where Israel stands half on Mt. Ebal and half on Mt. Gerizim around an altar made of uncut stones, offer burnt offerings and peace offerings, with Moses and the elders in the middle. Do you do that in your church?
Neh 8:1-3 – This specifies men, women, and all who could listen, which seems to place a certain level of ability in the crowd, so it was closer to my point—teaching on the level of ability. Furthermore, this took place from early morning until midday (probably from dawn until lunch time or so) and all the people stood (v. 5) and bowed low and worshiped with their faces to the ground (v. 6). Then at least thirteen people along with the Levites explained the Law to the people. Do you do this in your church?
Neh 13:1-3 – It doesn’t specify any age here, or gender. It simply says “all the people.” Furthermore it led to the exclusion of all foreigners from Israel. Do you exclude all foreigners from your church? (And remember “foreigner” is not a reference to the spiritual state but to the ethnicity.)

We could go through some other passages and show the same type of stuff, namely, that you are picking and choosing a pattern rather than following what is laid out. I disagree with that method.

You say I haven’t cited any Scripture in support of my point. Yet I have, referencing different passages that show age related characteristics as metaphors for spiritual states, spiritual growth patterns, and spiritual maturity. Those metaphors, like all metaphors, only make sense because they address something real life that is commonly known.

Which leads me to this point: The idea of age related teaching is commonly known. It doesn’t need special revelation to affirm its usefulness. It is a common grace approach to education that everyone in all human cultures has always recognized.

You seem to bemoan that God has given us freedom to carry out our tasks in the way that best suits our cultures and circumstance. I am not sure why that is a bad thing to you. I think the freedom to teach and minister in ways that best carry out the mission is a good thing.

You question the issue of the family in the covenant. The reason I bring that up is because in the OT, one was in the covenant community or the people of God based on their family relationship. That is not true in the NT church. So the role of the family is different.
You say you “I believe it is a leap to say that we can then in effect "create" formal methods, ministries, and offices of our own accord.” You may believe that, but that doesn’t make it so. The church has always done this. You are correct that “The cultures vary, but the heart issues and the way they are approached spiritually is unchanging.” We are not talking about the way we approach things spiritually.

In closing, I agree with a lot of what you say, particularly that “Whatever we're doing in the sphere of worship or teaching, let us remember that it is a spiritual work, and therefore is impossible to do in our flesh or by our own ideas without the enlightenment of the Spirit using the Word of God.”

I would say that if age-integrated teaching works well in your context, then use it.

Thanks again for the kind and gracious interaction.

Larry's picture

Quote:
You opened up a the focus on persons when you used your own family as an example of how you teach 'ministry' to your kids.
Actually you brought it up first when you spoke of your own children (#18, 24, 29), but my point was that I am not speaking of your situation because I don’t know anything about it. I know about my kids and what we do.

Quote:
… a term which I was using to refer to specifically to evangelism and discipleship.
You can use it that way, but that’s not really the biblical use of the term.

Quote:
You said that something I posted (I'm not sure what, exactly) threatens to "undermine the gospel itself and the church's mission of evangelism and discipleship". You will just have to excuse me for feeling the need to address the implications of that statement.
No need to address it. I don’t want to tie this thread up in that. I started jotting down some thoughts on my blog about it. Maybe one day I will post it. I think it is very important.

Quote:
Do we wait until young people turn 18 to teach them the principles of responsible adulthood? Do we withhold teaching about healthy marriages until they have walked down the aisle? (by then, IMO, it's sometimes too late!)
Great point. This is exactly why we would teach some of these things to Jr Hi and High Schoolers, but not the the K-5 and preschool class. Again, I just think that is so common sense.

The point is not that we never expose people to other kinds of teaching. But we recognize that different people need different diets at times.

Aaron Blumer's picture

Can't really keep up at this point but I'll lob in a response to this...

Quote:
....able to dismiss the clear pattern of the OT,

The "clear pattern" argument appears often in this debate and vaguely similar ones (courtship vs. dating, for example). I deal with the clear pattern idea at some length in "Should We Cast Lots?" (don't have the link handy).

Short version: lots of examples of something happening or not happening, especially in narrative passages, does not constitute a blueprint. A prescriptive pattern ("blueprint") requires some biblical teaching on the subject, not merely biblical reporting of what people did.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan R wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Susan R wrote:
I think one of the very harmful attitudes that can come from this kind of regular, systematic peer-segregation is "Oh, he's teaching about family, and since I don't have one, it doesn't apply to me and I don't have to listen to this part." I've heard that said more than once over the years, and it's fruit is a very 'consumer-ish', selfish and insular attitude toward others.

The church is a body, responsible to minister to each other. None of us live in a vacuum. Single people go to work with people who have families, and if they have heard teaching and preaching directed to families, are now equipped to offer Biblical insight into their issues which gives them an open door to evangelism. Parents often end up caring for elderly parents and relatives, childless people often want very much to work with children when they can't have their own... I could go on and on about how everyone benefits by hearing how the Word applies to every person, regardless of their demographic. Do we wait until young people turn 18 to teach them the principles of responsible adulthood? Do we withhold teaching about healthy marriages until they have walked down the aisle? (by then, IMO, it's sometimes too late!)


Susan,

What you cite here has nothing to do with segregation or integration. This is primarily about the heart condition of the individual involved, regardless of the setting.


It has everything to do with the topic, because setting, along with many other factors, communicates to others what is and isn't important and appropriate- or we could just all have church in a big hot tub. Because, ya' know, it's only the heart that matters. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

If the congregation is seldom taught about the issues important to those outside of their own demographic, how does that forward ministry and evangelism? Or should singles or families-with-children just stick to their own kind?

Emphasis added by me. However, it is this point I want to comment on specifically. First, this is a huge assumption. Just because classes are age segregated, there is no necessary reason why the ideas being taught must also be segregated. I agree, the applications are more likely to be specific to the audience, but the doctrines and principles will always overlap in a good teaching situation. Secondly, if the teaching is segregating doctrine and truth, that is a problem with the teaching, not an inherent problem with the age segregation itself.

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

Susan R's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Emphasis added by me. However, it is this point I want to comment on specifically. First, this is a huge assumption. Just because classes are age segregated, there is no necessary reason why the ideas being taught must also be segregated. I agree, the applications are more likely to be specific to the audience, but the doctrines and principles will always overlap in a good teaching situation. Secondly, if the teaching is segregating doctrine and truth, that is a problem with the teaching, not an inherent problem with the age segregation itself.

Not an assumption when the sentence starts with the word 'if'. I've clarified many of my statements with words that grant that my opinions are not etched in stone, but what I've posted is based on my experiences of 42 years of church attendance and involvement, not worst-case scenarios or hypotheticals. However, the fact remains that age and peer segregation are not necessary or required to teach truth. It is a practical step that some churches take for organizational purposes, some for marketing purposes, and not because there is a clear pattern, description, or example in Scripture. The only clear-cut 'segregation' in Scripture is by gender, and I still wouldn't call women and children on one side and men on the other 'segregation', nor would I assume that older women teaching younger women translates to 'classroom'.

Liberty allows us to do many things, and that is where many differ with the FICM, and that is a legitimate concern. But it is always beneficial to examine our traditions for their true Scriptural veracity and helpfulness. Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

A good example of my concerns is the typical curriculum aimed at young people-
[img ]http://www.preteenministry.net/images/HBC_curr.jpg[/img ]

This does not communicate reverence for God or a sober attitude towards Bible study. It's like, awesomely cool and everything, but this does not convey the message I want my children to absorb. After looking at sample after sample of SS materials aimed at young people, you'd be hard pressed to find anything with a truly sober, Scripture driven tone. That leads me to believe that there is some element of age-segregation that begets this kind of gimmicky marketing ploy to make the Gospel attractive to young people, and it's why many parents are looking for something else from the church for their kids.

Larry's picture

Quote:
This does not communicate reverence for God or a sober attitude towards Bible study
Out of curiosity (not disagreement) why? What is it about this that is problematic?

Susan R's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
This does not communicate reverence for God or a sober attitude towards Bible study
Out of curiosity (not disagreement) why? What is it about this that is problematic?

Put in on a T-shirt, have a young woman wear it to the mall, and let me know if it communicates to the young men there that she is 'hot' for God.

dcbii's picture

Larry, while this is only an impression (I'm not familiar with the curriculum in question), it makes me think of those iTunes/iPod advertisements (attempting to be the epitome of cool), where various people are "jamming out" to whatever they are listening to. I'm not trying to confuse this question with the appropriateness of "jamming out for God," but I would agree with Susan that this poster does not make me think of scriptural attitudes. Further, while "hot" as used in the Bible is a good thing ("I would thou wert either cold or hot..."), the term is fairly compromised in today's English, and on this poster does not make me think of "on fire for God" or other similar concepts. Note that the bottom of the poster leaves "hotness" out of what we are relying on God for. Apparently even those who made this poster thought that would go a little too far.

Now, does this make the curriculum itself bad or age-related teaching bad? Obviously not (and I am one of those in favor of teaching what is appropriate for ability, and certainly not in agreement with FICM, though I share some of Susan's concerns about what sometimes passes for "kid-appropriate" learning), but this does appear to me to be not much different from the different types of Finneyism that have been present in various fundamental circles for a long time.

Dave Barnhart

Larry's picture

I agree with both of you. I think the word "hot" has some cultural baggage (at least here in the US) that doesn't work well for this context. I also think the jumping silhouette is strange. It doesn't seem to have any relevance.

Was just curious about the specifics.

But in my mind, it is a long ways from there to condemning all or most age related curriculum as not serious. In fact, there is nothing in this that says the curriculum isn't good. I am not familiar with it so I have no idea. The curriculum may be fine, and the topic is certainly appropriate.

And this certainly says nothing about the propriety of age-segregated teaching in general, IMO.

Susan R's picture

Larry wrote:
I agree with both of you. I think the word "hot" has some cultural baggage (at least here in the US) that doesn't work well for this context. I also think the jumping silhouette is strange. It doesn't seem to have any relevance...

But in my mind, it is a long ways from there to condemning all or most age related curriculum as not serious. In fact, there is nothing in this that says the curriculum isn't good. I am not familiar with it so I have no idea. The curriculum may be fine, and the topic is certainly appropriate.

And this certainly says nothing about the propriety of age-segregated teaching in general, IMO.


It is indicative to me of the tone that seems to (note how I use the phrase "seems to") color much (most IMO) age-targeted curriculum. Along with what has already been said, I'll add that if the silhouette in the picture is a girl, this is not the modest and chaste behavior I teach to my dd.

Is it wrong to play, to jump up in the air? No. Do we encourage our kids to jump around as part of the service? No. Do we want 'play' to be equated with 'church'? Hopefully not. Does jumping around somehow communicate the Gospel? Not that I'm aware of.

Am I a nitpicky stick-in-the-mud? Probably.

Looking around at all the major SS, VBS, and YG publishers, the overwhelming trend is kid stuff that is cartoony, and teen stuff reflects some aspect of pop culture. Neither are primarily conveying sobriety or reverence. If I have to dig for substance, what's the point? This is not, IMO, a condemnation- it's a concern. WHY do Christian publishers feel the need to do this? Why do churches so often act as though if they don't present truth in eye-catching, flesh-appealing packages, no one will buy it?

Here's a sample from Regular Baptist Press- http://revitup.rbpstore.org/kit.php ]"Rev It Up- Full Throttle for God"
[img=200x200 ]http://www.rbpstore.org/images/prodImages/thumb/30663.jpg[/img ]
Is it immoral? Of course not, unless you think NASCAR is of the devil. But what is the average kids' first impression going to be? Of God and His Word? If not, why not? Or why shouldn't it be?

When discussing things like this with my kids, I often say "We are what we love" or "We are what we do" ("out of the abundance of the heart..."). As far as age and peer segregation goes, it isn't so much that we use those methods, whether occasionally or often, but how and why do we use them, and for what purpose? Do our methods and motives line up with Scripture? What is the 'abundance' of the church's heart?

I'm offering these questions and concerns, not so much as arguments against age and peer segregated classes per se, but as reasons why some parents find the FICM (or the ideas promoted by the FICM) so appealing. If folk are going to complain or be worried about what the FICM teaches, then I think it's also important to ask if the church (generally speaking) has been remiss in some area, and as a result the FICM has come along to pick up the slack?

Karl S's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Can't really keep up at this point but I'll lob in a response to this...
Quote:
....able to dismiss the clear pattern of the OT,

The "clear pattern" argument appears often in this debate and vaguely similar ones (courtship vs. dating, for example). I deal with the clear pattern idea at some length in "Should We Cast Lots?" (don't have the link handy).

Short version: lots of examples of something happening or not happening, especially in narrative passages, does not constitute a blueprint. A prescriptive pattern ("blueprint") requires some biblical teaching on the subject, not merely biblical reporting of what people did.

Thanks for your challenge on this issue from this Biblical interpretation point of view. It is important for me (as well as anyone) to think through these things and be challenged with these types of arguments.

I found your article and read it over along with some of the comments. Let me just say up front that with regards to the "lots" issue, I would not apply it as a pattern to follow today for basically the reasons stated in http://sharperiron.org/comment/11988#comment-11988 ]this comment . Don't completely agree with everything, but the overall principle is there. Just wanted to get that out of the way so you don't think I'm arbitrarily holding to some patterns and rejecting others.

I'm shooting from the hip a bit here, but I'll try and give you my thoughts on how this particular issue relates to the 4 "common problems" you brought out in your article (which overall, I believe are some good things to consider).

Principle 1
I would argue that narrative specific to corporate worship gatherings is more than merely an "incidental detail", because it relates to something that is a perpetual command in Scripture. Also, because it involves an act of direct worship, the Lord is more demanding of our exact obedience. While you obviously have to have some detail to provide structure with narrative literature, I think you have to be careful not to dismiss details as merely necessary filler. All the words and descriptions are God-breathed! In your example of David gathering 5 stones, you stated yourself that it "may suggest important things to us about his attitude and intentions". So sometimes these details are instructive, even if they are not the main point. Also, because we have just one instance of a person gathering 5 stones for battle, this is not any form of pattern. If such a detail kept being recorded in Scripture, I think we would have to ask ourselves why.

Principle 2
This is a valid point that we do have to be careful about. It is also the point of debate in many accounts (is this something that God was pleased with or not?). However, I believe there is much supporting evidence for the fact that this was pleasing to God. We see the results of such actions as overwhelmingly positive; the people commit themselves to God, reform to obey His Word, God delivers them from their enemies, stays His judgement, blesses, etc!

Principle 3
First of all, the comparison between "different" and "weight" does not equate in my mind. I think I get the general point you're trying to make, however. You say that a "large number of examples" does not necessarily equate out to a "blueprint that God expects us to follow". I would agree in the limited sense where these "examples" have no immediate moral bearing (such as riding a donkey), but disagree when the pattern relates to moral action or activity, and particularly in worship.

But again, if God calls out specific details over and over in Scripture, we would be wise to ask ourselves "why"? Is this an absolute necessity in order to tell the story, or did He inscripturate these details for some instructive purpose? We should examine the passage in context as well as bringing other Scriptural principles to bear in order to come to an answer.

Principle 4
Completely agree with your first paragraph about the dangers of an isogetic method of interpretation. However, the way you try to argue this point (and thus the conclusions that may be drawn from it) I think is in error. The book of Proverbs itself is a book by which the authors state a specific example in order to illustrate an overall truth. This does not in itself negate the validity of the example stated, but at the same time the literary device expects us to derive a pattern from the specific example given. Therefore to argue that we should always interpret details in a broad rather than direct sense throughout all of Scripture based upon an argument from Proverbs is circular reasoning.

Again, I appreciate your challenge with these principles. I would agree that we have to careful in the way we apply Scriptural narrative. However because of the reasons listed above, I believe that in this instance the principle and pattern of an integrated assembly (in contrast to the rather paradoxical "segregated assembly") is instructive and carries weight. You say in your conclusion: "…More often than not, a potential biblical pattern helps us form an opinion on a matter of conscience but falls short of establishing a biblical mandate." This is often true; however, in such cases, we must ask ourselves -- "Do we have a Biblical argument that supports our breaking from this pattern that is stronger or clearer than the Biblical argument for the following of the pattern?" If the answer is no, then we are failing to allow Scripture to fully govern our lives.

I apologize for the length here, but I think I would truly be remiss if I didn't address something that you said in http://sharperiron.org/comment/12092#comment-12092 ]one of your comments on your article that I think cuts to the heart of our disagreement. You make a plea for the use of practical wisdom. By the way, I would fit in your "third reason" type. Smile

The way you presented this I see as absolutely unreconcilable with Scripture and the doctrine of the depravity of man. There are many verses that speak to this, but let me use this "chain" to make my point:

1.) Prov. 21:2 (only God can discern whether the "good intentions" of the heart are really good)
2.) Heb. 4:12 (the Word of God is the tool for exposing the heart motives)
3.) John 14:26 (The Spirit teaches us about the Word of God and how to use it)
4.) Eph. 6:17 (The Spirit uses the Word as a weapon in the Spiritual arena)

Therefore, anything we can conjure up which does not have it's basis upon the commands or precepts of Scripture (and this does not include "silence equals permission") is completely misplaced and vain. According to my understanding of your use of the term, there is no such thing as "practical wisdom"!

Karl S's picture

With regards to the issue of the general appeal and focus of SS/YG/CC curriculum and literature, let me say that I would definitely agree with Susan's concerns. You can argue that the outside of the cover is not proof of what's on the inside of the cover, but it's a pretty weak argument.

Apply this principle to a person's appearance. Sometimes people look great on the outside but are really "whitewashed tombs" (Matt. 23:27). It is quite unlikely, however, that a person with numerous tattoos and piercings, wildly colored hair, and celtic dress is going to be straight as an arrow in the heart.

And the heart issue is critical. You can follow every precept and pattern of Scripture for the church perfectly, but if it's for appearance's sake or from a spirit of pride, the body will not flourish. To be "perfect", we must have Biblically-informed standards and a willingness to obey out of love.

JG's picture

Smile Sorry I don't have time to interact with it all. The point of the hypotheticals was to demonstrate the limitations of church vs. home in some areas. The church will rarely know all the parent knows about the child, nor should it, necessarily. Thus, the church's authority in home matters is limited. If the church believes a parent is using authority inappropriately, there may be grounds for church discipline, but once you start telling children to disobey parents while still in the home, I believe you've crossed a line. Sounds like you believe the same, which means you do see limits here. But that's really all I have time for on that discussion right now.

***

A general comment here, and then I'll depart this thread.

We don't have any age-segregated meetings. We used a kids' club in the past at a time when there was no church meeting, and may do so again, but it won't go beyond that, at least in our current building.

Babies may make a little noise, but I can just talk louder, unless they are screaming, and then the mum takes them out. Sure, younger kids may not understand everything, but I was saved at the age of 4 after listening to a sermon, so maybe they understand more than you think.

I need to explain well, but if I don't explain so kids understand, some adults won't, either. Adults like seeing kids in the services. They like singing "Jesus Loves Me" or "Jesus Bids Us Shine" even if the kids are missing that day.

The kids like having an adult Bible, adult hymnbook, and an adult Bible study book. They like sitting in a circle for Bible study with all the adults. They like being treated with the expectation that they will behave in a mature fashion, and being spoken to with respect and asked questions just as if they were adults. They like it that when it is thrown open for people to choose favourites to sing, they have just as much right to choose a favourite as anyone else. They like to be able to give their prayer requests right along with the adults. They like to run around and play and have fun before and after our church meetings, but during the meetings they would rather be "adultised" then "infantilised".

Our adults are friends with the kids, and the kids are friends with them. We're all together for everything. It's extremely profitable in many, many ways. Even if we had the facilities to change, I don't think I would. I've been in age-segregated and non-age-segregated churches. I'll take the latter.

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