Thursday, November 13, 2008

Family Integrated Church - Why?

Before I begin, let me confess. I myself have had periods of infatuation with the idea of a Family Integrated Church and as a result, have consumed in bulk, the opinions of those who both favor and oppose the idea.

I do not (did not) have a personal objection to my children being in the worship service with me. The reality is, that our church was low in resources (people) to meet the demands for nursery and Sunday School for every age group in both the SS and worship hours.
We did spend some time trying to figure out the best solution.

So, I talked about it. Quite a bit.

The conclusion that I have come to is there is not one thing inherently wrong with choosing to keep your children with you in service.

And there is not one thing inherently wrong with choosing to take your children to Sunday School or your little ones to a well-equipped nursery.

Keep in mind, that most folks who balk at the church nursery are more than willing to place their young ones in the care of friends and family on occasion.

So with that in mind, I will start with a basic introduction to this church model through the lens of Voddie Baucham. Here, in his own words, he gives an overview:

The Family Integrated Church is a church that is intentionally designed without age-segregated structures. Family Integrated Church come in all shapes, sizes, all denominations. But the one distinguishing characteristic common in Family Integrated Churches is that lack of age-segregated structures, and therefore, an emphasis on discipleship in and through homes.

So the family, the home, becomes the mechanism for discipleship within the context of the local church — as opposed to the church that would say that the mechanism for discipleship in the church is various age-group ministries: For this part of your life you disciple here, for that part of your life you disciple there, for that part of.... The Family Integrated Church is the opposite of that in its structure.

Sounds good. Makes sense. Let's break it down.

Here, Voddie gives "three basic flaws with systematic age-segregation":

1.) It's not found in scripture. He says, you can't go to the Bible and come away with this "young adults," "medium adults," "married", --you can't go to the Scriptures and come away with that kind of segregation as a church model.

2.) That kind of age segregation has proven to be detrimental to the biblical model of family discipleship.

3.) It hasn't worked. We're losing young people at a rate of somewhere between 70-80 percent by the end of their freshman year in college. What we're doing doesn't work.

These "flaws" were listed in an interview with Motte Brown published in May 2008. In all fairness, I have great respect for Voddie Baucham and his passion for preaching the Word of God. The motive behind this movement was an intentional move towards reforming the church family and moreover the family in church. His experience with the church youth group and the ever-growing number of disgruntled and/or apathetic parents were a catalyst for his passion to unite the family.

Again ... all good.

But isn't there also a disdain within the Reformed Church against the evangelical Big Church for creating "niches"that are catering to a particular group of people? We are quick to hurl accusations of "pragmatism" at these churches because they are willing to compromise the actual Word of God in order to accomplish and set in place their own personal preference or agenda.

Enter - The Family Integrated Church.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Richpo the Unmagnificent said...

Hi Kim,
#1 Love Voddie. I think I've listened to everything he's preached that's available online. Love him to death and he knows how to bring it! He has inspired me and made me reexamine many aspects of being a godly husband and father.

#2 I'm personally not buying the three arguments.

The first argument is one from silence and we just shouldn't do that. Just as the Bible does not say we have to have age segregated strucutures, it also does not condemn it. But Voddie seems to be saying that since it's not given as a rule in the Bible then it should get chucked out. If we follow that line of argument then rape and abortion must be OK because Jesus never explicitly condemned them. I also think the church 2,000 years ago was much different than how we Americans live today. We just don't have the same societal integration that carried over so well in the first century church and that hurts us. But that doesn't mean we can't get to where we're going without the family driven model.

I'll argue against point #2 as well. Show me the data that proves it and I might start to head in that direction. Today's church has MANY problems but to blame lack of discipleship and immaturity of believers on age segregation is reaching. The basic problem is that parents have given up the role of teaching their children. And since we spend 160 some hours per week with our families and only 2-4 at church, I think we can see why children are not living out a Biblical worldview. Much as people leave education (from history to sex and everything else) to the public school system, the parents in church have done largely the same thing; given up their role to train up their children. Add in a low view of Scripture and an inability to see the holiness of God and you have a recipe for disaster.

And I say that point #3 follows form the problems listed in point #2. But nowhere do I see the promise that banishing age segregated preaching and teaching will solve all our problems. This is not some form of Christian panacea for discipleship. Kids can get just as messed up in a famiy driven model if their parents are not doing their role while at home (where most of the training in life should come from).

Now I do see some good ideas coming out of what Voddie says but I simply can not buy into the fact that this model will solve all (or even many) of our problems. The basic problems still remain among sinful men and women who are not doing their jobs as parents, not hearing the proper preaching of Scripture and not holding a high view of God. And until we do, we'll just have children who end up being more messed up than their parents (given the pressures that our kids are under compared to when we were their age).

God's children need to mediate upon His law day and night. Children need to see their parents live out a Biblical worldview life day in and day out. They need to be taught some basic apologetics that helps them to prove that Christianity is the only viewpoint that makes sense morally, intellectually and spiritually. And then, maybe, they'll be better able to respond to critics and not be tossed about by every philosohpy and cult that tries to sway them away from Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria,