Thoughts on the Family Integrated Church Movement - the "FIC movement is reactionary"

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
...what I hear from people who come from FIC churches is that there is no nursery, Sunday School classes, children's programs or youth groups. Not because they don't have the resources, but because they look down upon such programs and practices. All the kids sit in the entire service with their parents from beginning to end, even the ones who dirty their diaper and the folks sitting next to them have to smell it. Some other distinctions are that the families are adamantly against any kind of birth control and have a strictly "home-school only" philosophy of education.

Nothing like generalizations, exaggerations, and passing on idle gossip to bring clarity to an issue.

Quote:
What rubs me the wrong way is that the FIC churches are making some of these practices as their primary distinctive identity.

I agree that some churches make their particular distinctions a badge of pride, ranging from a conservative dress code to a disco ball in the youth center- all of which are inappropriate and usually manage to sabotage the very thing one is trying to accomplish or avoid.

The stated objections remind me of many of the complaints I hear about homeschooling... from those who have never homeschooled or been involved in any way with homeschooling. It is easy to stand on the outside and imagine everything that could go wrong, but quite another to be involved in an activity on a daily basis and know firsthand how problems are identified and dealt with. Furthermore, conclusions are always going to be highly suspect when they are based on extremists and fringe elements of any 'movement'. I don't understand the fear-mongering by the FIC or those who oppose it. Everyone's looking for the boogeyman, and quite frankly, the boogeyman is US.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

It is impossible to mandate from the New Testament that one follow all the preferences taught in the FIC movement.

On the other hand, if the FIC movement is indeed reactionary, I would suggest it may be in part because there are things worth reacting against in "The Church of What's Happening Now."

I dare say that I would not be who, what or where I am today -- anything good of which is only by the grace of God -- if my parents had taken me to First Mega Church, picked up an ID tag number for me, and dropped me off in Kiddie Land.

The older I get the more I realize how deeply ingrained within me are the verses, hymns and catechism portions that I learned, memorized, sang and recited in our Lutheran church and school from four years old and up. Everything else I have ever done is building on that foundation. I never spent one minute in Kiddie Church -- and I even lived to tell about it Cool

I am not "FIC only" and I do believe that it is possible to go WAY TOO FAR in trying to implement the ideals of the FIC movement. We visited one such church (IFB, if you can believe it) where it seemed like we were gathered to worship the family more than to worship God. There are dangers on ALL sides.

On a side note, my wife and I attended a mega church on Christmas Day this year as part of our Christmas getaway. Due to the special nature of the day, the morning worship service was the ONLY activity on the church campus that entire day. We did not sense any smelly diapers or even any distractions in the service. The service was video and audio recorded as normal. It was a very wonderful service. So I guess that is still possible in this video game world of the 21st century.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

juitdeflesch's picture

I'm still looking for that "nuclear" family (Dad, Mom, and kids) from the inner city to start attending our Inner City church. The fact is, most people in lower-income areas don't have a "regular" family. (Single, divorced, single with kids, etc.) If a F.I.C. is the only way to have a correct church, we are completely out of luck.

John Uit de Flesch

Rob Fall's picture

to attending a F.I.C. service is when I attend the Russian Evangelical Christian-Baptist church I serve as a liaison. But, toddlers do have a tendency to wander around, usually to find grandma or up to the choir to mommy. A mother\older sister\single aunt taking a child out for a diaper change is treated as business as usual.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

juitdeflesch wrote:
I'm still looking for that "nuclear" family (Dad, Mom, and kids) from the inner city to start attending our Inner City church. The fact is, most people in lower-income areas don't have a "regular" family. (Single, divorced, single with kids, etc.) If a F.I.C. is the only way to have a correct church, we are completely out of luck.

I don't understand why this is the perception of a FIC church- that they somehow manage to not allow or include singles, divorced, or singles with kids ("You aren't married? You don't have kids yet? Then please leave immediately!"). The only difference between a traditional church and a FIC church is that they don't segregate into classes for seniors, singles, young marrieds, college/career, youth group, Sunday School... The dynamic I have seen to date is that these groups are involved and embraced instead of being separated from the general church population.

I have been in many meetings in my lifetime, Christian and otherwise, where children were included in the mix. Nothing horrifying happened, children were not swinging from the ceiling fans, and no one puked on anyone else. Sheesh.

I simply cannot grasp why age integration is looked on with such trepidation and disdain- apparently no one here has ever seen Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie. I agree that it isn't the ONLY way to minister and teach, but let's stop acting like it is a concept that was invented last week.

Anne Sokol's picture

it is always just is about having kids in church with their parents. I dont' think every fic church is like http://www.thatmom.com/articles/pros-and-cons-of-the-family-integrated-c... thatmom describes, but it's possible that they tend to be this way:

thatmom wrote:
As you put into practice family worship, discipleship of your own children, caring for the needs of extended family, etc, you begin to see how the bureaucracy of the local church, especially if it can’t accommodate your own convictions, can become burdensome and frustrating. It only seems natural to turn to the family-integrated church model and many homeschooling families do just that.

Growing both in the number of churches and in membership, these churches have been established to meet the particular needs of homeschooling families and will eventually be available in most areas of the country. In fact, the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, ... claims a membership of 1677 families who desire to further their mission.

While this organization does not represent all those who wish to follow a family-integrated approach to church life, they certainly have had tremendous influence through their conferences and publications. Founder and leader of the NCFIC, Doug Phillips, considered one of the most popular homeschooling speakers around the country today, promotes this off-shoot of his Vision Forum ministry while at homeschooling conferences along with other voices for pro-family-integrated worship such as Voddie Baucham, a SBC-ordained pastor, and Kevin Swanson, ordained in the OPC.

Not associated with Phillips but also a founder of what he calls “home-discipleship churches,” former church planter with the CRC, Pastor Henry Reyenga, is the head of the Christian Leaders Institute that seeks to launch churches and to prepare young men for leadership within those congregations. In recent years he has established his own denomination ... that reflects his family discipleship priorities and interpretations of Christian education.

. . .

In contrast to the traditional structure found in most denominations and eschewing the long-established polity in most conventional churches, NCFIC churches each struggle to carve out their own paths and even theology based on the premise that homeschooling is the best and most biblical lifestyle for Christian parents. Placing fathers in leadership of these churches is to be the norm. To this end, the NCFIC mission statement says that they “deny/reject two unbiblical extremes of our day, authoritarian, one-man leadership/one-man ministry that impedes the biblical functioning of the body, and leaderless house churches that disregard the biblical necessity of elders.”

. . .

And there were other occasions where it was obvious that visitors felt awkward. We quickly came to realize that it was mostly because the church had taken on the appearance that everything had a kid agenda. Rather than simply welcoming children into the worship service and not practicing age segregation with Sunday school programs and youth ministry, everything was now geared toward upper elementary aged children, which was the age of the pastor’s own two children.

Worship services included children taking offering and playing the piano, leading singing, and handing out bulletins. While we thought it was great to have them involved, one of our concerns was that the service soon began to have a Bible school program flavor with children participating, adults looking on at what they were doing, and the phrase “boys and girls” was repeatedly used during the entire service.

Another thing that concerned us was that a type of uniformity was expected both inside and outside of time spent at church. For example, there were certain methods of child training that were taught and encouraged as the “biblical” way and tapes and CD’s by certain authors were advertised, promoted, and stocked in the church library. Since there would be no church nursery, it was also assumed that parents would only take their children out of service to “discipline” them and I was even told that moms were to make the time outside of worship so miserable by holding their toddlers down in an empty room that they would beg to go back into the service.

. . .

It was with a great sense of sadness that we decided we would have to leave the church and also that we would need to leave the family integrated church model because we saw that the things that were important enough to us to make us leave were all the things that that model represented.

Our daughter and son-in-law had been encouraging us to visit their church for many months and so we finally did. Initially it was hard to assimilate ourselves into a church that was more than 10 times larger than the church plant. But within a few months, we came to see the Lord’s righteous hand of mercy in our lives. Experiencing God-honoring worship and challenging, expository preaching began to change our hearts and our minds. Our children started discussing the things we heard during the sermon and we soon began to see more clearly the mission of the church and the role that families have as part of that church, not as the center of the church.

. . .

I would like to add just a couple more things that have bothered me about the FIC model of church.
The first is that there tends to be a penchant for doctrinal goofiness, that is, a blending together of some of the teachings that are orthodox with ideas that came from ancient pagan cultures rather than from the Word of God.

One of the greatest areas where this has happened has been in the obsession with the gender issue. Fertility, the promotion of militant fecundity, the concept that dad is the prophet, priest, and king of the home, all have their roots in the pagan Greek and Roman cultures. The modern spin that is put on these subjects and how Scripture is twisted in order to embrace them and teach them as part of the “grand sweep of revelation” today is really quite frightening when you realize that they are taught to be doctrines as orthodox as the trinity or the virgin birth of Christ.

Another area that I see within some FIC church models is the emphasis on the Old Testament as the standard for life rather than realizing that the coming of Jesus brought with it a new covenant and all that that entails. . . . Finally, one other concern I have is that the family integrated church model, with its long list of requirements for “biblical family life” incites, in its us against them mentality, the temptation for families to compare themselves among themselves rather than enjoying the family that God has given to them and trusting that the Lord, in His timing, is working in the lives of every mom, dad, brother, and sister.

The paradigm that they have established leaves no room for personal convictions of young people in the areas of courtship, dating, college, etc. and many are forced to conform to ideals they don’t believe.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

The problem with trying to point out a particular boogeyman in a denomination or movement is that those issues can be pointed out in every kind of church on the planet.

They are the same kinds of objections as I hear about homeschooling- the kids will be shy, or lacking in social skills, or they won't be well educated. Well let's think about this- how many shy, unsocialized, or uneducated kids graduate from public and private schools every day? But no one cared about socialization until people started homeschooling, and then good night nurse- everyone is suddenly concerned with socialization.

Doctrinal issues are a problem in every church- legalism, demagoguery, manipulation, and flat out heresy. FIC churches aren't more prone to problems than any other church. Which is why I said earlier that the problem is US, not the FIC or IFB or BBI or BJU.

Are the ideas the FIM propose status quo ante? I would agree that they are- but is that a bad thing?

Charlie's picture

Susan R wrote:
The problem with trying to point out a particular boogeyman in a denomination or movement is that those issues can be pointed out in every kind of church on the planet.

Not really. Not at all. Regardless of whether the accusations are true or false, they seem pretty specific to this type of church.

1. Singles feel unwelcome - definitely doesn't fit any accusation of other types of churches I've ever heard

2. Pagan fertility ideas - kind of caught me off guard, but I definitely haven't heard that before

3. Patriarchy (father as prophet, priest) - definitely haven't heard that charge often

4. cater specifically to homeschoolers - pretty unique!

So, at least a few of the alleged problems with the FIC movement are quite specific to that movement and derive directly from their professed principles. One might think that the issues are incorrectly framed, or even that some things adduced as negatives are actually positives. I don't think, though, that it's reasonable to suggest that FIC churches can simply say tu quoque and reflect criticism.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Charlie wrote:
Susan R wrote:
The problem with trying to point out a particular boogeyman in a denomination or movement is that those issues can be pointed out in every kind of church on the planet.

Not really. Not at all. Regardless of whether the accusations are true or false, they seem pretty specific to this type of church.

1. Singles feel unwelcome - definitely doesn't fit any accusation of other types of churches I've ever heard

2. Pagan fertility ideas - kind of caught me off guard, but I definitely haven't heard that before

3. Patriarchy (father as prophet, priest) - definitely haven't heard that charge often

4. cater specifically to homeschoolers - pretty unique!


The problem with many of these criticisms is that is hard to figure out who they are leveled against- Doug Phillips? All NCFIC churches? The FIC model itself?

Then one has to ask- are these accusation even true? And if they are, are they really specific to the NCFIC, or the FIC model? Am I to believe that singles are embraced by the general membership in a heavily segregated church?

Anecdotal, but since anecdotes are being used as evidence here, I'm going for it. I have visited a few FIC and FIC-type over the years (2 did not call themselves FIC, it was just their dynamic), and I have some friends who currently attend a FI church, but it not a 'member' of the NCFIC. This church, and this family in particular, go out of their way to include singles, and there are plenty who attend, mostly from local colleges and universities. The church body has undertaken on more than one occasion for single parents and widows. They don't have any weird ideas about fertility- as far as they are concerned that is private and not appropriate for a church body to get involved in each other's bedrooms. There is no patriarchal element in the 'father-prophet-priest' sense. And while most of the families that attend are homeschoolers, it's the result of 'birds of a feather' and not at all intentional. And when I asked them what they thought about Doug Phillips, they said "Who?"

The church we visit now has Sunday School classes in the morning, but otherwise, everyone, kids included, are together (kids' clubs and YG take place before church on Wed. nights). The church offers a small ACE school, but many families homeschool and some use the public schools. I would say they probably would affirm many of the beliefs of the NCFIC (from what I've read of it) but they were organized in this way long before FIC became headlines in IFBdom. I have seen no ostracizing of singles whatsoever. They appear to be a very active element in this church. And only a few people in the church have ever heard of the FIC movement, and one family gets the Vision Forum catalog but has no clue what Doug Phillips believes, any more than I know what the management at Walmart or Target believes when I shop there.

I think most of the criticisms leveled against FI churches are imagined out of thin air, wildly exaggerated, or true of a very, very few. I think we should be careful about bearing false witness against our brothers in Christ, or assigning thoughts and motives when we do not have that kind of access. If there is a serious doctrinal problem with a church meeting together and not separating into classes or special programs, then fine- I'd be glad to hear the Biblical basis for those objections. If there is a serious doctrinal issue with the NCFIC in particular, then by all means- point those out. But trying to generalize about the FI 'model' is like generalizing about Fundamentalist churches, and we've all been there a thousand times. It's just not fruitful and doesn't really address anything.

Anne Sokol's picture

people just have to be very careful of what church they are getting into. No one here is claiming that all fic churches are this way, not even thatmom, who wrote as quoted above: "While this organization [NIFIC ] does not represent all those who wish to follow a family-integrated approach to church life, they certainly have had tremendous influence through their conferences and publications." I'm not sure i'd even say that the church you visit now is fic, fully. it has separate, age-segregated programs for children, even though all are together during the main services.

For major theological errors to watch out for, here are a few thatmom listed/observed:

Quote:
One of the greatest areas where this has happened has been in the obsession with the gender issue. Fertility, the promotion of militant fecundity, the concept that dad is the prophet, priest, and king of the home, all have their roots in the pagan Greek and Roman cultures. The modern spin that is put on these subjects and how Scripture is twisted in order to embrace them and teach them as part of the “grand sweep of revelation” today is really quite frightening when you realize that they are taught to be doctrines as orthodox as the trinity or the virgin birth of Christ.

Another area that I see within some FIC church models is the emphasis on the Old Testament as the standard for life rather than realizing that the coming of Jesus brought with it a new covenant and all that that entails. . . . Finally, one other concern I have is that the family integrated church model, with its long list of requirements for “biblical family life” incites, in its us against them mentality, the temptation for families to compare themselves among themselves rather than enjoying the family that God has given to them and trusting that the Lord, in His timing, is working in the lives of every mom, dad, brother, and sister.

The paradigm that they have established leaves no room for personal convictions of young people in the areas of courtship, dating, college, etc. and many are forced to conform to ideals they don’t believe.


I agree that not all these are limited to ncfic/fic churches, but a most probably are.

Charlie's picture

Susan, I welcome your anecdotes as just as valid as any others. However, they may not be as relevant to this particular discussion. The conversations seems to be addressing not simply churches that integrate families (an innocuous thing in my opinion), but churches that self-identify with the FIC movement, including the popular figures and organizations. Now, maybe that distinction has not been sufficiently drawn so far. I for one would like to draw it, since I see quite a large difference between a church that self-consciously attaches itself to a recognizable movement and a church that happens to implement a certain approach toward age-segregation/family.

So, in my case, I would not take your main example as an FIC church, but merely as a church that integrates families. In terms of examples, I am interested in churches that are members of NCFIC and consciously embrace the teachings of Doug Phillips and others promoted by NCFIC.

So, how about an anecdote from me? When I was in college, I had several close friends who wanted to go in the FIC direction. They found a church in Greenville and attended for a while. An awkward situation arose. One of my friends was a single female with no father figure in her life. Now, that church took fatherly headship very seriously and also viewed the church as "a family of families" (a common FIC term). So, they told her she had two options: come under the surrogate headship of the pastor or be "adopted" by one of the families. In any case, she could not just be an autonomous woman. A woman always needs to be under headship.

I have had other friends who had similar experiences, but that one stands out to me since I was there at the time it happened. So, I don't think that the majority of accusations against FIC churches are made up out of thin air. In fact, I think most of them can be factually established just by reading the literature of FIC proponents. Thus, certain (potentially) objectionable features are not just evidenced by radical zealots, but are actually part of the mainstream of the movement. But, to pull this around full circle, I have no problem with churches that integrate families. I think that when family integration becomes a defining feature of the church, something central to its identity, deleterious consequences often follow.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

WilliamD's picture

What really concerned me about the FIC movement was after watching that film "Divided" which had some Vision Forum people and other organizations that are calling out all churches with Sunday Schools and Youth Groups as unbiblical and borrowing from pagan ideas. This sets them up as the elite who get it right as opposed to the entire rest of the body of Christ who are duped by Satan. http://www.reformingbaptist.blogspot.com/2012/01/fic-film-identifies-pro... From my blog post that I followed up on after this one, I wrote some difficulties that I have specifically with things mentioned in their video:

1. The structure of age segregated classes is the fundamental problem - I think this is an absurd diagnosis. It may aid the problem, but it is not fundamentally the problem. The kinds of churches that they caught on film with the crazy punk youth groups have a problem - age segregated classes are not it!!! Their # 1 problem is their watered down theology and watered down, false gospel of easy believism that they are being taught regularly. The problem doesn't go back to the institution of the Sunday School, the problem goes back to the false gospel of Charles Finney that breeds every kind of rotten means to lure people to make an unregenerate decision to become a false convert! Most of these FIC churches are Reformed people and they should know this! But it's easier to trash something tangible and concrete (youth groups and age segregated classes) than it is to trash ideas in the abstract (Palagianism, Finneyism, Arminianism). You can see with your own eyes if your church has a youth group, but if you're not theologically savvy, you can't see if your church is preaching Palagianism. Even though the film doesn't advocate for people to leave their churches if their churches have a youth group, they certainly leave that door wide open by introducing the Family Integrated Church as the other option. I see right through this as a divisive way to siphon off discontent people from these churches to make theirs grow. I have to give Paul Washer credit however for answering a guy who asked: "What should I do in my church if I do these things that I know are right? They'll kill me!" Washer answered: "Then Die."

2. That age segregated classes is part of a Satanic conspiratorial design starting with Plato and moving all the way through time to the modern educational system championed by John Dewey. I don't doubt that there may be a direct connection between Platonic philosophy and the Atheistic educational philosophy of the modern education system. But trying to make that connection to the church as if churches adopted evolutionary theory as a part of educating our kids is a stretch. Do you really think you're going to be able to put a 1rst Grade who is still learning his numbers in the same class with a 12th Grade Senior Calculus student? That's ridiculous. But this is what the FIC churches do when they make a third grader sit in a sermon where the pastor is doing an exegesis of scripture and the kid doesn't even have his vocabulary developed yet! That kid needs the milk of the Word dispensed to him in portions he can swallow! This is why we have the kids stay with us during the singing, offering, etc..to participate, and then dismiss them for teaching that is on a level they can understand. If you want to call that a pagan philosophy, then....I'll just bite my lip.

If age graded classes and youth groups are responsible for destroying families, and they have been the problem for over 200 years in the church, then why are we only now in this generation having a problem with kids leaving the faith in droves? I really think that attacking the form instead of the substance of the church is naive. This logic is the same as looking at the fracturing of the African American family in modern times and pointing back to the abolishment of slavery as the cause! You could argue that Black families were whole back then! They had a dad and mom in the home back in the Antebellum south! Logically, the FIC calling for the abolishment of youth groups is like calling for slavery again as a social structure to put Black families back together.

3. The historic timeline of educational philosophy that is shown in the film is THE leaven that must be purged out of the church. First of all, in that time line there were huge gaps like 1,700 year gaps!
This reminds me of the arguments by the KJV Only movement who string together a list of less than credible people who had their hands on the manuscript evidence and make the case that ALL Bibles translated from these texts are corrupt and the only alternative is the King James Bible (nevermind the corrupt people who had their hands in that manuscript family...but I digress.)

4. They portray the modern youth group culture as the only way that it can be done as opposed to the FIC model which is a false dichotomy and is ironically divisive! Is it utterly impossible for parents to disciple their kids at home if their kid is in a Sunday School class for one hour a week? C'mon! Get real! If dads are not discipling their kids, it's not the youth ministry's fault, it's the fault of the father for not manning up. I agree that the blame can be shared with the church that does not teach the parent to do this. But that is a substance problem not a structure problem. You could hash everyone together in the same room every Sunday and still have ungodly homes if the substance being given is as weak as Willow Creek!

So, in conclusion...I am not against my friends and fellow pastors who want to structure their churches this way. I wouldn't break fellowship over it, but I just think that it is an unnecessary movement that only further fractures the church. Mark my words, the FIC churches will end up becoming their own kind of denomination and they will see themselves as the elite in Christianity and as soon as they do, their pride will kill whatever good they're trying to accomplish. I have seen this in the IFB movement and this kind of elitism is a real temptation for whatever group that thinks they have found the silver bullet.

CharlesChurchill's picture

This may serve of no interest to anyone at all, but in the interest of being up front, I am a member of Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. One of the elders at the church is Scott Brown, the current Director of the NCFIC. We are a confessional church that uses the Second London Baptist Confession as our doctrinal statement. We are also, as you might imagine, a family integrated church.

As has been mentioned in this thread, one of the problems with a discussions like this is that many issues are anecdotal and therefore difficult to deal with in a faithful way. Additionally, there are many different churches that call themselves family integrated that may have nothing to do with any deliberate movement or organization. The NCFIC on the other hand is an actual organization, has a web site with an active blog, frequently asked questions page, and, something which is quite useful for a serious discussion about church doctrine, http://www.ncfic.org/confession ]a confession relating specifically to church and family.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in discussing this, to visit the confession linked above and to use that as a basis for critiquing the movement as it is associated with the NCFIC. I would also recommend Scott Brown's book, https://www.ncfic.org/a-weed ]"A Weed in the Church" , as it deals with these issues in much greater depth than the movie Divided.

Joel Tetreau's picture

My issue with the FIC churches that are orthodox (and I'd be careful to make sure a FIC congregation is) is really not that they choose to be "Family Integrated." If we believe in the autonomy of the local church, at some level there has to be an allowance for different methodologies as long as the Gospel is preached and the Bible is taught and Jesus is worshipped. I would say the same thing about churches that have a "no CCM" approach. Internal to their own congregation, if the leadership and the membership believe that to be the best approach, God bless them. With both the NoCCM churches and the FIC churches the poison is swallowed when we say our particular method is a Biblical absolute and must be followed by all churches (Error #1 which is bad). They often take it one step further - because your church uses CCM or your church teaches occasionally based on age - not only is your method wrong but we will have nothing to do with you (Error #2 - this is one is really bad). So....not only are you making an absolute on that which the Scriptures do not (and thereby elevate the teachings of man to the doctrines of God)....you go one step further in being schismatic....that is to say heretical. Those "No CCM" churches that do this and FIC churches that do this are in fact a danger to the body exactly because of this schismatic approach. Those who simply say, "this is the approach we think best for us....but God bless you as you do something different," I think we can embrace at some level. Those who say, "you are wrong and we'll have nothing to do with you" are a different kind...the kind we probably should mark and move on without...because now they are actually being "divisive." In both cases you do not have reasonable men. Dr. Bob Sr. used to say, "good men are reasonable men."

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

CharlesChurchill's picture

Joel,
I'd like to address what you are calling Error #1. Your argument is based on the assumption that it is impossible that God has a prescriptive opinion on how churches and families should interact in worship (you make the same assumption about the details of music, but that's another discussion). But instead of debating this issue, which is a pretty big part of the NCFIC's argument, you want to skip over it completely and effectively call FIC practices nothing more than an administrative decision along the same level of "when should our Sunday morning service start, at 10:00 or 9:30?" (when everybody knows that all churches who truly fear God start at 10:00)

I have specific issues with this sentence: " If we believe in the autonomy of the local church, at some level there has to be an allowance for different methodologies as long as the Gospel is preached and the Bible is taught and Jesus is worshipped." At "some level" sure, but that's a big part of the question that is being asked isn't it? The NCFIC is asking, have we drawn the line way too low here? Have we ignored the teaching of Scripture? Have we treated the prescriptive details of worship to lightly?

Does that make sense?

Kevin Subra's picture

I'll just say that I thought that the article was focused on extremes and maybe some bad personal experiences , and not representative of any FIC church or family that I have ever known. I would say that there is much legitimate discussion about the abandonment of parental involvement in the local church, the rejection of children as a blessing in a family, and the ignoring of much of what the Bible does say about gender roles and responsibilities in the home and beyond.

I am not one that fully embraces a fully FIC philosophy, but I would say that seem to have some very legitimate arguments in a time when the Church has become so individual focused and entertainment oriented. I also so no Biblical warrant for the forms that local churches have adopted today. If anyone is to be on the defense, I would asking the fully age-segregated, program driven churches to give it a shot. The patterns and norms of the Scriptures have no hint of such things.

For the Shepherd and His sheep,
Kevin
Grateful husband of a Proverbs 31 wife, and the father of 15 blessings.
http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com

Joel Tetreau's picture

Charles,

So your response was actually a good response to my post. So....because I don't have the time it would take to share all I believe here - I often post short statements that wrap up my "macro-view" and the reader is left without the details on how I got there. I wish I had more time to sit here behind the key board and do this - but my time here at SI is limited....to say the least. However, your push back is fair. So let me expand as a pastor, father and friend to seveal who are in the FIC movement(s).

Because I"ve actually had families that are connected to me in one way or another in the movement, I've read and re-read a variety of works that serve as an apologetic for a FIC approach. Now your earlier point was well made - not all FIC ministries are created equal. So that's fair.

Bottom up first - I've never once been satisfied that the FIC method is sourced in solid exegesis that points to a kind of regulative principle they way some FIC ministries demand - such as the idea that children must be always taught with parents within the institution of the church? or a pastor/elder/bishop who is especially gifted with young people and their parents are somehow automatically undermining the authority of the home when serving in the church. This one actually is a gross twisting of the Scriptures. (Many of) you too often run over the institution of the church with the internal authority of the institution of the home. Foul! You can't legitimatly pit one institution against the other. In some cases it actually looks like the FIC ecclesiology is almost a blending of the institution of the home with the institution of the church. Much of the FIC failure is hermeneutical - too often (many of you) do not respect the separation from Church and Israel - so I'm not surprised when you're not careful of the distinction between the institutions of the church and home.

My experience with FIC leaders is that often times these families have been "put out" by the demands of nonFic leaders, and because they have swallowed a "home-school" mentality that often spits on the values of local church leadership, they want to throw the authority structure of the local church on it's ear so they can essentially enjoy at church the same way they enjoy home schooling - done "there way." OK - Charles - I would guess that your FIC approach is more principled - I'm happy with that.

So....while I am appreciative of several FIC "big ideas" and can even sympathize with several of these - I don't at all believe that the FIC applications are clear implications from the text that demand that FIC compliance....accross the board.....and so I reject that these are mandated for the rest of us. I say it again....don't have a problem (I do have worries for your kids - more on that later) if you say this (FIC method) is for us. However when you say "this is for you" you have taken your distinctives to the level of absolutes.

Do you guys still believe/teach a singler women, on her own out of the house has no ability/authority/rights to minister within the church because they really don't make up there own family unit? Where in the world did you guys come up with that one? My guess is this is Bill's umbrella deal. Other FIC corollaries that bother me or worse bother Heaven might be some of the following: Most FIC churches have theology statements that say little and offend no one. I'm for some theological cross-breading in a church - but I often shake my head in amazment at the way FIC believers see theology as a "non-issue" when compared to the method's of church education, family education, etc......I remember asking one family that started to attend a FIC church that was associated with an evagelical mennonite congregation about the theology they were opening themselves up to. There response: "We don't care - the families make their kids dress just like we make our kids dress!" Charles - did you hear that? That is not abnormal from this movement or movement of movements.

The strength of the nonFic church is that you have to - or you get to react with other believers who may not be exactly as you are in your methodology or school choice. There is something sanctifying about worshipping with another Christian family that does not pick the same school choice as you do. So to recap - The FIC church foundation is almost always method - not theology. This is a formula for disaster. This leads to the same kind of heretical nonsense that one sees often with the Bill Gothard groups. A mis-emphasis on family vis-a-vis the Biblical primacy of the local church; a wierd approach to hermeneutics that often trades normal interpretation for a (un)healthy dose of typology/allegory/etc......not to mention a twisting view that places women's priesthood and place within churchlife that is somewhere back either in the nursery ministry or in the church kitchen/ and finally most FIC ministries do a horrible job of really understanding what an elder is. The fact that he is a man is just the first condition....not the only condition.

So a bit more by way of detail. Charles, I'm sure there are principled FIC churches that are not guilty of the observations I make here - But these issues are not just small issues to me. The fact that they demand unhealthy practices make the entire movement at least suspecious to me. Much of the motivation seems to be the children. So let's talk about the children of the FIC movement. This is where I can be strong in my emotion as a pastor who loves the children placed in my care as a pastor. Frankly too many FIC families remind me of the disciples who wanted to keep the kids away from Jesus. You guys like allegory - there's a little allegory.

This is my prediction - Because you do not allow more Biblical teachers (children's church leaders, youth pastors, etc....) to impact your children - and because you limit the effective God-given design of pastoral and church ministry coming along to make up of the weakness of the home - your ministries will begin to loose a larger portion of your children to the society and to worldliness in general than conservative nonFic assemblies. I've watched as some families close to me have tried to go the FIC route over the last decade or so - and in these cases they are loosing their kids into the world a high %. Why? Well - yep - the dad did all or most of the teaching - the church was kept back in the background - when they went to church they emphasis that it was "we do church on the side because the home is most important." The kids are left primiarly with mom and dad - who are not as Godly or consistent as the pastor or children's church teachers who they have spurned and so the quiet kid who wore a nice tie at 17 in the FIC home and the FIC Church is running .... no swiming in the sins of the world.

The dangers for the FIC movement then are the same dangers in the hyper-fundamentalist movement. If the kids pick up methodology without Biblical principles and loyalty to the text you end up with twice the pharisee that the parents are or they see the hypocracy and run headlong into the world. So after 21 years of pastoral ministry - this is what I've seen thus far - for whatever it's worth.

Charles - if you want more real life examples - zip me a note off line.

Shalom my man!

Straight Ahead!

jt

ps - my apology for the length of the post

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Joel Tetreau's picture

Gang - the last post is limited to what I've observed. If there is a FIC orb that avoids the dangers I've noted, I'm more than happy to learn of them.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan R wrote:
The only difference between a traditional church and a FIC church is that they don't segregate into classes for seniors, singles, young marrieds, college/career, youth group, Sunday School...

I simply cannot grasp why age integration is looked on with such trepidation and disdain- apparently no one here has ever seen Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie. I agree that it isn't the ONLY way to minister and teach, but let's stop acting like it is a concept that was invented last week.

Susan,

I don't know what you are seeing that's calling itself FIC, but they generally are FAR different from what you describe here. Their entire concept of the church is far different from historic Christianity; in fact, they have diluted and denigrated the place of the church into near oblivion. Their patriarchal system is an abandonment of the NT in favor of a return to OT tradition. I only wish they were more Little House and less FIC in nature. Please take sometime to read up on Vision Forum to get a more complete picture. Age desegregation is only a natural conclusion of their teaching, there is much more at the core.

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

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Who is "they"?

Vision Forum and the family-integrated model are not Siamese twins. There are FI churches that are not patriarchal, just as there are traditional churches that are patriarchal.

The question I asked earlier still applies. When the family integrated model is discussed, clarification is in order- are you talking about any and all churches that prefer non-segregated study and worship, self-identifying Family Integrated Churches, or churches that are 'members' of the NCFIC?

I've read up on VF and do not recommend them to anyone.

CharlesChurchill's picture

Joel,

I'll try to go through and respond section by section. I had to split it into two parts because of the comment length limit.

Quote:
Because I"ve actually had families that are connected to me in one way or another in the movement, I've read and re-read a variety of works that serve as an apologetic for a FIC approach. Now your earlier point was well made - not all FIC ministries are created equal. So that's fair.

Bottom up first - I've never once been satisfied that the FIC method is sourced in solid exegesis that points to a kind of regulative principle they way some FIC ministries demand - such as the idea that children must be always taught with parents within the institution of the church? or a pastor/elder/bishop who is especially gifted with young people and their parents are somehow automatically undermining the authority of the home when serving in the church. This one actually is a gross twisting of the Scriptures.

Just out of curiosity, are you aware of any other national FIC movement/organization other than the NCFIC? I am only aware of one other - the one associated with J. Mark Fox. Have you read the NCFIC confession or any of it's other documents/materials? I'm just interested in what your exposure has been as from reading through your reply you’ve had experiences diametrically opposed to my own. My frustration with many NCFIC critics is that we end up dealing with people who will not engage at the doctrinal level, we get a lot of unsourced references and anecdotes, and basically end up having to deal with what is effectively the equivalent of theological rumor. This frustrates me to no end at times.

Quote:
(Many of) you too often run over the institution of the church with the internal authority of the institution of the home. Foul! You can't legitimatly pit one institution against the other. In some cases it actually looks like the FIC ecclesiology is almost a blending of the institution of the home with the institution of the church.

Obviously, it's difficult to respond to this because there is no specific issue or doctrine referenced. At our church and in agreement with how I understand the NCFIC to represent itself, the home has no specific authority within the church. Families do not join the church as families, but at the individual level (frequently they will join at the same time, but their membership is not joint or collective). Unsaved spouses or children are not considered to be members of the church because of the husband's membership. In short, the church is very cognizant that as a local church body, it is made up of those professed redeemed who have covenanted together, and that the church has no disciplinary jurisdiction over non-members.

Quote:
Much of the FIC failure is hermeneutical - too often (many of you) do not respect the separation from Church and Israel - so I'm not surprised when you're not careful of the distinction between the institutions of the church and home.

I'm actually a bit stumped on this one. Can you be clearer? Are you talking about the applicability of the law of God to man or dispensational Zionism or what? I'm not clear at all on this.

Quote:
My experience with FIC leaders is that often times these families have been "put out" by the demands of nonFic leaders, and because they have swallowed a "home-school" mentality that often spits on the values of local church leadership, they want to throw the authority structure of the local church on it's ear so they can essentially enjoy at church the same way they enjoy home schooling - done "there way." OK - Charles - I would guess that your FIC approach is more principled - I'm happy with that.

Ok.

Quote:
So....while I am appreciative of several FIC "big ideas" and can even sympathize with several of these - I don't at all believe that the FIC applications are clear implications from the text that demand that FIC compliance....accross the board.....and so I reject that these are mandated for the rest of us. I say it again....don't have a problem (I do have worries for your kids - more on that later) if you say this (FIC method) is for us. However when you say "this is for you" you have taken your distinctives to the level of absolutes.

How would you describe your position on the regulative principle of worship vs the normative principle? Do you hold to either one of these? How would you justify splitting the unified body of Christ during times of corporate worship based on Biblical patterns/teaching?

Quote:
Do you guys still believe/teach a singler women, on her own out of the house has no ability/authority/rights to minister within the church because they really don't make up there own family unit? Where in the world did you guys come up with that one? My guess is this is Bill's umbrella deal.

What do you mean by minister? What do you mean by authority? We don't allow deaconesses or female elders, but that is not a distinction of the NCFIC. A single female who is a member of the church, but is not a member of any other household in the church has a vote in church issues.

Quote:
Other FIC corollaries that bother me or worse bother Heaven might be some of the following: Most FIC churches have theology statements that say little and offend no one. I'm for some theological cross-breading in a church - but I often shake my head in amazment at the way FIC believers see theology as a "non-issue" when compared to the method's of church education, family education, etc......I remember asking one family that started to attend a FIC church that was associated with an evagelical mennonite congregation about the theology they were opening themselves up to. There response: "We don't care - the families make their kids dress just like we make our kids dress!" Charles - did you hear that? That is not abnormal from this movement or movement of movements.

I grew up among evangelical churches, and I’ve seen more than my fair share of churches with minimal theology statements. Most FIC churches that I am familiar with are Reformed and typically confessional, which I would say precludes the criticism that you are leveling here. I believe the NCFIC encourages participation in confessional churches.

Quote:
The strength of the nonFic church is that you have to - or you get to react with other believers who may not be exactly as you are in your methodology or school choice. There is something sanctifying about worshipping with another Christian family that does not pick the same school choice as you do.

I’m not sure that there is anything specifically sanctifying about heterogeneity in school choice in particular, so I’m not wiling to accept your premise here. (Maybe you can re-articulate this?) Having said that, I agree with you that our association with other brothers and sisters in Christ who bring with them their own gifts and weaknesses is valuable, and from my experience, there is a great deal of difference among those within our own church and within other FIC and non-FIC churches with which I’ve had the privilege to associate.

CharlesChurchill's picture

Joel,

Here's the second half of my reply.

Quote:
So to recap - The FIC church foundation is almost always method - not theology. This is a formula for disaster.

So obviously, I don’t believe that you’ve established that in any way that would relate to my church or to the NCFIC (and I’m not saying that you’ve failed. I’m assuming that you would probably agree in that you’ve made no particular attempt to do so). I would hold that orthodoxy drives orthopraxy.

Quote:
This leads to the same kind of heretical nonsense that one sees often with the Bill Gothard groups. A mis-emphasis on family vis-a-vis the Biblical primacy of the local church; a wierd approach to hermeneutics that often trades normal interpretation for a (un)healthy dose of typology/allegory/etc......not to mention a twisting view that places women's priesthood and place within churchlife that is somewhere back either in the nursery ministry or in the church kitchen/ and finally most FIC ministries do a horrible job of really understanding what an elder is. The fact that he is a man is just the first condition....not the only condition.

Agan, I’m not sure what branch of FIC you have associated with. I’m genuinely curious. I’ve been at Hope Baptist for about four and half years and have been familiar with the NCFIC for 2 years before that, and it turn out to be that I am just completely ignorant, but after several years of asking people who fall into the critic camp to identify who the leaders of these FIC movements that promote these awful practices of family worship, father worship, etc, are, I’ve gotten no closer to getting any meaningful answers. And from my perspective, identifiable movements are really all that matters. Even the Emerging church movement, which swore up and down that it wasn’t a structured movement had identifiable leaders in it. And you could pin down things that they said and identify them and argue about them.

Quote:
So a bit more by way of detail. Charles, I'm sure there are principled FIC churches that are not guilty of the observations I make here - But these issues are not just small issues to me. The fact that they demand unhealthy practices make the entire movement at least suspecious to me.

Again, I’m not aware of anyone associated with what can be identified as the FIC movement that is actively teaching these unhealthy practices. I know of some home churches (that aren’t really churches) that are basically ecclesiastical anarchists who have some really bad practices. But rebels do not a movement make.

Quote:
Much of the motivation seems to be the children. So let's talk about the children of the FIC movement. This is where I can be strong in my emotion as a pastor who loves the children placed in my care as a pastor. Frankly too many FIC families remind me of the disciples who wanted to keep the kids away from Jesus. You guys like allegory - there's a little allegory.

This is my prediction - Because you do not allow more Biblical teachers (children's church leaders, youth pastors, etc....) to impact your children - and because you limit the effective God-given design of pastoral and church ministry coming along to make up of the weakness of the home - your ministries will begin to loose a larger portion of your children to the society and to worldliness in general than conservative nonFic assemblies.

So yesterday my wife listened to a message to fathers by Scott Brown titled Family Discipleship where he is talking about the need for the church, he says “Let’s talk about the importance of preaching in a family. It’s important that families receive the preaching of the word of God. They hear another voice. They hear the voice of another shepherd. They have a shepherd called their father. But they are exposed to a whole other range of speaking through other shepherds and they deliver the inerrant word of God. So they end up being brought up in the training and the admonition of the Lord through another means. Because a father’s means is not enough. You dads, you’re not enough. You are inadequate for all of what God has. You’re not inadequate for your task, but you’re inadequate for the larger objectives that God has for his people. And so his people need the preaching of the word of God. They also need the prayers of the saints. They need the fellowship of the saints. They need the Lord’s table. They need all these things that only the gathered church brings.”

Quote:
I've watched as some families close to me have tried to go the FIC route over the last decade or so - and in these cases they are loosing their kids into the world a high %. Why? Well - yep - the dad did all or most of the teaching - the church was kept back in the background - when they went to church they emphasis that it was "we do church on the side because the home is most important." The kids are left primiarly with mom and dad - who are not as Godly or consistent as the pastor or children's church teachers who they have spurned and so the quiet kid who wore a nice tie at 17 in the FIC home and the FIC Church is running .... no swiming in the sins of the world.

I’ve seen exactly the opposite. But like I’ve said earlier, anecdotes are fairly irrelevant, whether positive or negative.

Quote:
The dangers for the FIC movement then are the same dangers in the hyper-fundamentalist movement. If the kids pick up methodology without Biblical principles and loyalty to the text you end up with twice the pharisee that the parents are or they see the hypocracy and run headlong into the world. So after 21 years of pastoral ministry - this is what I've seen thus far - for whatever it's worth.

I appreciate you taking the time to reply. I hope we can have a profitable discussion.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

If I may re-enter this fray -- even if against my better judgment... :~

1) Vision Forum offers lots of excellent materials. I recommend them highly for discerning readers and listeners -- which all of us should be. For instance, they carry some of Dr. Whitcomb's materials. Other resources such as the "Jonathan Park" radio drama are almost without peer.

2) A friendly admonition to both Joel and Charles: Seriously guys -- if you want people to read you and you are trying to make a point, you need to write concisely and densely. Cut the stream of consciousness down to a sound bite and try to be persuasive. If you don't have time to write something more concentrated than this, you can't realistically expect anyone to read it... Sorry :cry:

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Joel Tetreau's picture

Paul,

I most always write conciesly here at SI - take a look at the overwealming majority of my posts. The length of the exchange is because Charlie has asked for more detail - which is fair. Furthermore, in this case I'm not sure Charlie or I care too much if others "drop off." The conversation between us is actually meaningful and even helpful. All things being equal you are right - writing fewer words is usually the better way to go.

Stright Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Joel Tetreau's picture

Charles,

The rest of our interaction will be in private - Let me quickly answer a few of your questions from your follow-up from my follow-up:

1. Actually in addition to your gorup and VF, there are a ton of independent little groups and smaller fellowships that have adopted the FIC approach - Many of them are within the King James Only World. You would probably not know them because of their approach to separation - which is total.

2. I have respect for the regulative principle but am not convinced that there is not the ability to do much in worship. My view is that corporate worship should typically involve that which is commanded in the Scriptures - namely corporate song, prayer, proclamation and some kind of meaningful body-building koinonia. The intergration issues of when and where and how to teach children is commanded no where in the Scripture. The only command is to "disciple" ...... "teach." That means my view is a blend of Reg and Norm approach to worship.....which explains some of our difference here. I would say many of the decisions as to how and when congregants should be taught is for the elders to decide in most cases.

3. I'm thrilled you allow a single woman the authority to vote. It was my understanding that many FIC churches are essentially 3 point complementarians and as such do not allow single women.....or married women a vote. I'm thrilled to hear this is not the case with your group.

4. The overwealming interaction I've had with FIC Churches have not been confessional - I'm thinking that several of my concerns with non-confessional FIC churches may not be applicable with your kind - which again is a thrill. Frankly, almost every FIC ministry I've had contact with complain that the church is all over the map on theology.

The rest of the issues I'll respond in private. Any one else that wants that interaction just let me know and if Charlie gives me permission I'll share our private stuff back and forth. The last thing I want to do is hijack a thread - unless I really want to hijack a thread - which would not be the case in this case!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:
Furthermore, in this case I'm not sure Charlie or I care too much if others "drop off."

Joel, I'm not the Miss Manners of Internet protocol, nor even an administrator on SI, but I'm not sure that's what we're supposed to be doing here...sounds more like an e-mail to me...
When I write posts, my point is normally to attempt to persuade others of (or encourage others in) a particular viewpoint within the context of a thread of many replies. It's very enjoyable to read a series of well-thought-out posts that quickly follow this type of trail. I rather enjoy seeing what a variety of people think on a given issue such as this one -- where the reaction is actually quite mixed across all kinds of boundaries if you go back and read through it.
I just think it discourages that kind of interaction when you suddenly have a post that takes you 10 minutes to skim through.
(BTW, I would say the same thing when someone says something like, "You have to read the following five books or don't bother to reply to me..." H:))
My thoughts -- for what they're worth...

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
1) Vision Forum offers lots of excellent materials. I recommend them highly for discerning readers and listeners -- which all of us should be. For instance, they carry some of Dr. Whitcomb's materials. Other resources such as the "Jonathan Park" radio drama are almost without peer.

I agree that VF materials can be beneficial for discerning readers and listeners, but that is why I don't recommend them. I don't know many people IRL who are discerning readers. I know too many people whose faith was shaken by The Da Vinci Code.

I also agree that the Jonathan Park dramas are terrific, and we have all of those. I forgot that we got them from VF. When people level criticism against VF, they are, in my experience, usually thinking specifically of Doug Phillips and VF materials that emphasize patriarchy.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

But I can't buy the part about not recommending VF because people are not discerning enough to handle it. I might handle things that way -- with VF or anything else -- in the case of a specific individual. But overall I just can't live my life that way.
I guess I have been forever affected by the denomination I grew up in, where the code of ethics at the time was basically that if it does not have our name on it, it is not to be considered -- and if you do consider it you have just become suspect. I just could never go back to that type of mindset. Almost did for a while within fundamentalism -- then realized what I was doing and caught myself H:)

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

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