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Friday, January 26, 2007

Family Integrated Churches

Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr. helps lead Grace Family Baptist Church - a Family Integrated Church. Dr. Baucham is a reformed baptist.

Here he answers the question... "What is a Family Integrated Church?"

Read the whole page to see how this works out in dealing with both families and singles and how it affects church programming and evangelism.

In general this is a sound approach and very reformed in its emphasis. The family is to be redeemed. As they note, planning for singleness and broken families is essential because of the fallenness of this world and the fact that our Lord warned that the Gospel and allegiance to His Lordship would, in fact, separate families.

He puts it like this: While we believe the ideal family involves two loving, godly parents, we do not consider single-parent families inferior to traditional, nuclear families. We understand that many people find themselves raising children without the help of a spouse for a variety of reasons beyond their control, and we embrace these families (Deuteronomy 10:18; 16:14; 24:19-21).

Because we are sinners, it is essential that we remember that this method of ministry like all the others are subject to idolatry.

It's easy to be smug when we recognize the Big Church's idolatry towards its building and lust for the biggest Dog and Pony show they call "worship".

But there's also a very subtle idolaltry related to feeling oneself to be "family centered" though I believe they can make a much better case for it than the mega church can for theirs.

The "family centered" approach CAN wrongly be used to justify single family house churches that have no connection to other Christian families around them. I've seen this breed isolation, exclusiveness, and an actual self-excommunication because the family assumes all the prerogatives of the church for itself, including the sacraments. Such families can - in the name of "protecting their family" - become heretical (theologically by wackiness and not just socially isolated) because it's just "them and the King James Version" or really their favorite far away profit who exerts no personal pastoral ministry to them at all . I've also seen that some men who consider themselves "family centered" do so to justify not any form of legitimate fatherly leadership but to justify tyranny, arrogance, and an unwillingness to listen to any "Preacher" who might disagree with their novel idiocies. There is also a tendency when such families are isolated from the church and never rub elbows with families that are less "perfect" to look down on others, try to keep their kids "pure" to the point of Pharisaisim, and so forth. At least that's what I've observed.

Dr. Baucham's model with its church centeredness is not the subject of my concern. It's the isolated families downloading sermons and considering themselves autonomous from the larger Body of Christ that are my concern.

Dr. Baucham's model should be more widely implemented in the church. The extremes I've noted are not the result of Baucham's model. They are caricatures - albeit factual ones - of this valuable model! And these caricatures are merely the opposite and miniscule extreme of the larger problem in our society of fatherlessness and the larger problem in the church of male passivity, homes not practicing the Christian faith Monday through Saturday, and the church's programming aping whatever the secular educational hierarchy suggests. (We must remember that professional education as a secular profession had the goal of alienating children from their families and the church because they "knew best". The church has betrayed its mission by failing to proclaim the Lordship of Christ over all education and allowing secularism to gut education of any transcendent content - but that's another posting or hundred. )

Here's another quote I agree with: One of the biggest distinctions of a FIC is the absence of age-graded ministries. We do not have segregated youth ministry, or children’s ministry. First, these ministries are not part of the biblical church model. The Bible is clear on whose job it is to disciple children... parents. Second, these ministries can work against the biblical mode. Parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job. Finally, these ministries have failed. We are losing 75-88% of Evangelical teens by the end of their freshman year in college. And as Dr. Alvin Reid has noticed, “The largest rise of youth professionals in history has been accompanied by a decline in youth evangelism effectiveness.” Ouch! But it's true isn't it... the more we've hired "youth ministers" with goatees, the less get's done because we're trusting the youth minister and abdicating parental responsibility!

People do grasp at such caricatures of "family centeredness" though to minimize the importance of implementing the things we should be learning from Family Integrated Churches.

Note: Rev. Anthony Carter's blog brought Dr. Baucham's work to my attention.