The Church is a “Family of Families” — Part 2

What we mean by “the church is a family of families”

 

It is a falsehood to say that the National Center for Family Integrated Churches advocates a “family of families” ecclesiology. In fact, our understanding of the nature of the church is consistent with the historic doctrinal statements of the faith including the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and many other orthodox statements on the church. It is the same understanding I received as a young man when I was in seminary. We do not advocate a “family of families” ecclesiology. Rather, our ecclesiology is as rich and clear as the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Westminster confession.

When we were writing the NCFIC Confession for Uniting Church and Family our intent was to explain the complementary roles of church and family. We wanted to reflect a biblical understanding of the way that church and family operate in a symbiotic manner. We also hoped it would help church leaders think more biblically about church and family life. In short, the “confession” tries to state the biblical case for the ways the church can be a blessing to the family and the family to the church. It also identifies various departures from biblical church and family life and calls for biblical clarity on these matters.

 

An excellent phrase when understood properly

 

What we mean when we say that “the church is a family of families” is that the family needs to be acknowledged in church life. We meant it the same way that Swindoll and Baucham did. We believe that it rightly raises the warning that in the modern church, family life often disappears and is swallowed up in institutional church life. We wanted to say that it was wrong to treat the family in this manner. At the same time we wanted to affirm that both are important and they need to be preserved. Therefore, it is improper to understand this statement as a redefinition of the nature of the church. Voddie Baucham explains, “When we use the term ‘family of families’ we are not addressing the nature of the church. Let me say that again V-E-R-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y… THE TERM FAMILY OF FAMILIES IS NOT A COMMENT ON THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH!”1

Baucham makes the point that his statement only comments on matters of church structure. He says,

 

“The difference between the FIC and the neo-traditional church is not a matter of the nature, but the structure of the church. In fact, we argue that our model is much more in keeping with the proper theological understanding of the nature of the church, which would explain why age integration was the model for the New Testament church for nearly 2,000 years before the neo-traditional, age segregated transformation turned the church into isolated segments as opposed to a single, unified body.Thus, those who divide the church into artificial, culturally-defined cliques (children, students, college/career, young marrieds, old marrieds, senior adults, etc.) are the ones who have a difficult time fitting their model into the understanding both Lawrence and I share.”2

The phrase, ‘family of families” was never meant to be a comprehensive ecclesiological statement; it only served to demonstrate that the church is not exclusively composed of individuals, by acknowledging that there is a second biblical authority and jurisdiction in the church when a family comes to church. We wanted to clarify an important matter that church leaders are charged, not only to equip individuals, but also family members. They come to church as fathers and mothers and children and they need help to function biblically in their relationships in their homes.


1Baucham, Voddie, “Is The Church a Family of Families?”, Part 1, can be accessed at www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2009/3/26_Is_the_church_A_Family_of_Families.html (Accessed 11/05/2009)

2Ibid. (Accessed 11/05/2009)

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How Can a Church Build Strong Families?

Here is the bottom line: You cannot minister to the weak families unless you have strong families. Strong families are dependent upon obedient men and holy women. If we never have healthy families, then we will never have healthy churches.

The following six things are biblically mandated elements of church and family life. Each one can help to foster healthy family life, and ultimately strong churches.

 

1. Provide biblically qualified elders

When a church establishes biblically qualified elders who manage their households well (1 Timothy 3), they are providing for long term social change. As these men lead by example, the whole church begins to understand how a biblically ordered family functions.

 

2. Encourage biblical headship in the home

How do you define a broken family? It starts with the role of the head of the house. Families are broken by men and women who do not fulfill their God ordained roles. If the church ever hopes to minister to broken families, it must start by going back to scripture to find how men should be spiritual leaders in their homes. We need to be about the business of equipping men for biblical manhood.

Who will minister to the lost youth of this generation? Families and churches must reach out to preach the gospel and teach all that Christ commanded.

 

3. Stop creating weak families through your programs

We believe that the modern church has missed the mark by doing things that keep families weak. The church has not maintained biblical priorities for family life. When we do this, we end up withholding adequate role models or worse, we have no good role models for our weak families. If you want to build strong families you have to stop creating weak families by maintaining unbiblical, family weakening practices. Until this changes in a church, families will remain weak and broken.

 

4. Make the church a true family

You must give broken families a biblical church family that exemplifies Christ’s love for the church. It is in a healthy church family that people with broken families learn something they did not know before – how to be a family (Mark 10:30).

 

5. Provide for the lifestyle of Titus 2 women in the church

Titus 2 gives a picture of women in strong families ministering to young families. When you promote Titus 2 women who will instruct the younger women you have provided a key component to church and family life that generates strong women and strong families. If you do not encourage women to be holy keepers at home you will never be able to have strong families. This is a culture defying act but it must be done because it is a key component to biblical Christianity.

 

6. Provide intergenerational worship and education

Families are strengthened by participation in biblical discipleship methodology that is intergenerational. This is the only pattern that we find in Scripture. There is no such thing as age specific ministry in the Bible. It needs to be admitted that putting thirteen year olds with thirteen year olds is a very foolish and unscriptural practice. Until churches change this and similar practices, the vicious cycle of decline will continue.

Two critical issues need to be addressed. First, refusing to give priority to making strong families in our churches ensures that we will always be calling people to weakness.

Second, neglecting the biblical directives for family life rejects the major biblical methods for ministry to youth.

Our failure to obey the word of God in ministry to youth is of enormous significance for the prosperity of the church. At this time, as we continue many unbiblical practices, we are systematically sending our young people on the path of destruction. It is fracturing our families. It is corrupting our churches. It is destroying the next generation.

If we ever expect to see change, it is important to stop doing the things that make for weak families and start practicing the things that strengthen them.

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Leader’s Luncheon at the Sufficiency of Scripture Conference

Please accept our invitation to a time of fellowship and encouragement just before the SOS conference begins. Paul Washer, Doug Phillips, Scott Brown and other church elders will share helpful insights on the life of a church leader. All manner of church leaders and aspiring church leaders are welcome.

The work of a church leader is often an intense form of spiritual warfare. It can include a life of rejection, betrayal, attack, loneliness, ostracism, misunderstanding and pressure on the family.

On the other hand, it does include investment in the precious Bride of Christ. Church ministry can also include blessed friendships and expressions of kindness and mercy that anyone is allowed to experience.

We will have three hours together, beginning with a very nicely appointed lunch at the hotel.

Click here to visit our SOS Leader’s Luncheon page where you can find our more information or register for this event.

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The Church is a “Family of Families” — A History, Part 1

 

In 2001, when Charles Swindoll wrote the foreword to Dennis Rainey’s book, Ministering to Twenty-First Century Families he said the church is “a family of families.” He was merely stating in his characteristic, winsome way that families are important in church life. He said,

“Most of the people in a local church are united in a smaller group called a family. In other words, the church is a ‘family of families.’ And of course, the local church is only as strong as its strongest families. Show me a healthy, vibrant local church, and I’ll show you an assembly filled with healthy, vibrant, fully functioning families.”1

No one thought he was redefining the nature of the church.

In 2002 when the National Center for Family Integrated Churches used the phrase “family of families” in its first version of A Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family,2 critics claimed we had fundamentally redefined the nature of the church and made it family based. They took these three little words out of their immediate context in a twelve point confession and ignored the wider context of our overall message. Thus in many cases, the phrase was intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented.

In 2007 Voddie Baucham used the phrase in his book, Family Driven Faith. He said,

“Our Church has no youth ministers, children’s ministers, or nursery. We do not divide families into component parts. We do not separate the mature women from the young teenage girls who need their guidance. We do not separate the toddler from his parents during worship. In fact, we don’t even do it in Bible study. We see the church as a family of families.”3

Those same three words became the center of criticism against his entire book. Although he thoroughly answered his critics in two articles posted on his blog,4 many speakers and writers still continue to ignore his explanation.

Quite a stir

These words caused quite a stir. They became the favorite whipping boy of our critics for years on end. Three words became the oft repeated point in attempt to refute the message of the NCFIC and discredit anyone else connected to the family integrated church movement. Typically, critics would use the term, elaborate on a meaning we did not endorse, and make conclusions we have never made. This was done from conference speaking platforms, seminary classrooms, and radio show microphones. It was done in pulpits to warn church members in church meetings. It appeared in books and blogs. It was referenced in articles and masters theses. In fact we are aware of one particular Master’s thesis for a theological seminary which bases its whole argument against us on these three words pulled out of context.

All of this over three words which appear in one single place in the context of the NCFIC Confession for Uniting Church and Family,5 and in Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith.

Individual words and phrases matter. But as any faithful student of scripture should know, words and phrases have to be understood in context, and attention given to the author’s intent. This is the basis of journalistic integrity. Taken out of context words can be used to say almost anything including the exact opposite of what they were originally intended for. Most of the criticism that has been directed to us over these three words has been aimed at straw man interpretations of the phrase that we would heartily join in condemning.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of the “Family of Families” saga.


1Swindoll, Charles, Foreword to: [Rainey, Dennis Ministering to Twenty-first Century Families: Eight Big Ideas for Church Leaders, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, ©2001], p. XI

2The text for the original “A Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family” can be found at www.visionforumministries.org/home/about/a_biblical_confession_for_unit_1.aspx (Accessed 11/5/2009)

3Baucham, Voddie, Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters who Walk with God, Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois, ©2007, p.191

4“Is the Church a Family of Families?” Parts 1, 2, can be accessed at www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2009/3/26_Is_the_church_A_Family_of_Families.html and www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2009/3/27_Is_the_church_A_Family_of_Families_2.html successively. (Accessed 11/5/2009)

5www.ncfic.org/confession

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A Happy Engagement Announcement

It is with great pleasure that Deborah and I along with Barry and Nadine Daming announce the engagement of our son David Brown to their daughter, Monica Daming. David and Monica have spent the last four years getting to know one another at Hope Baptist Church. David spent several months in private conversation with Monica’s father, and then the next five months in a courtship. On October 23, they were engaged to be married. They have entered into this with the blessing of their parents and the whole congregation.

Proverbs 5:18
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.”

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Some Answers for Critics

Over the years, many people have written both positively and negatively about the NCFIC.  Here  are the seven most common mischaracterizations.

 

The NCFIC redefines the nature of the church as a “Family of Families.”


False. Our understanding of the nature of the church is consistent with the historic doctrinal statements of the faith including the second London Baptist Confession of 1689, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism and The Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Many years ago, we said, “the church is a spiritual family of families.” Some said we were presenting a new definition for the church when in fact we were not speaking of the nature of the church at all. All we meant is that a separate jurisdiction – a family – comes to church and it needs to be acknowledged as such and equipped to be a biblical family. We were not redefining the nature of the church.

 

The NCFIC believes that the church is an extension of the family.
False.  We do not believe the church is an extension of the family, rather they are separate yet complimentary institutions.

 

The NCFIC wrongfully places the family over the church in priority.


False. We have plainly stated that we believe the church is supreme among the institutions for it is eternal while the family is temporal.

 

The NCFIC believes that the church should be family based.
False. We do not believe that the church should be family based. We believe that the foundation and center of attention of the church ought to be the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. Further, we believe that families form critical building blocks of the church in the sense that families send their members to church and if you have weak and unbiblical family life, you will have a weak church.

 

The NCFIC believes that that the church can only relate to family members through the father.
False. We do not believe that the church must always work through or communicate through a father. We believe that the church has authority to discipline and instruct every individual believer in the family not just the head of the family, or through the head of the family.

 

The NCFIC believes that the whole family must always be together for all gatherings.
False. We have never said that the whole family must be together for all gatherings nor have we said that “the church has no right to teach its members and the children of its members in situations where the entire family is not present.”

 

The NCFIC believes that the biblical pattern for church life is age integrated.
True, we believe that the indisputable discipleship pattern presented in the bible is age integrated and not age segregated. Further, we maintain that the comprehensive age segregation that rules the church today is a violation of the patterns of scripture and that the biblical burden of proof lies with those who practice it.

 

 

The National Center for Family Integrated Churches has written a “confession” that explains its understanding of the necessity of harmony between the separate jurisdictions of church and family.

We have a number of free audio messages on these subjects where we plainly state our positions on the audio resources section of our web site. Check out messages entitled, “What is a Family Integrated Church” and “The Biblical Case for Family Integrated Discipleship.” Also, let me recommend that you listen to “What About Home Churching?” where we make a case for what is a true church and why many churches meeting in homes may be unbiblical.

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Early Bird Registration Ends October 24th

The early bird registration discount for the Sufficiency of Scripture 2009 Conference ends on October 24th. If you are planning to come, make sure to sign up soon.

Register HERE.

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SOS Men’s Chorale

PERFORMING AT THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE 2009…

…and you are invited to participate!
Announcing the SOS Men’s Chorale directed by Neil Craig. Twenty-five selected men will raise their voices together in praise to the Lord and perform all three nights of the Sufficiency of Scripture 2009 Conference. Auditions must be recorded and sent to Neil Craig for review and approval.
The final selected men will be sent recordings of their part to learn, and then will practice together on location at the conference before performing. Under the masterful direction of Neil Craig, amateur performers turn into a powerful Men’s Chorale that will raise the roof in song.

Click HERE for more information.

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Scripture For Meditations Before Bed and When You Wake Up

“With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; ” Isaiah 26:8-9

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Father/Son Retreat 2009

This past week, we had the privilage to once again hold our Father/Son Retreat at the Brown Family Farm. Messages included, Walking With Your Son, Scott Brown; The Biblical Doctrine of Fatherhood, Charles Churchill; Rejoicing with Your Son, Dan Horn; For a Generation of Boys who Fight, Peter Bradrick; The Seven Tests of David Brown, Scott Brown; David’s Valiant Men, Dan Horn

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Elder Discipleship: An Invitation from Scott Brown

View the Elder Discipleship page HERE to find out more about this online program.

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Sweet Dependency Upon God

Here is an amazing and beautiful revelation of our dependence upon God.

“You have also done all our works in us.” Isaiah 26:12

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Handling Controversy- Advice from John Newton

Times of reformation can be challenging because they usually include tests of love. Tempers can flare as “turf” is challenged and well worn practices are questioned. On the one hand, we ought to welcome Christlike debates on important matters, while at the same time, we ought to be aware of our responsibility to preserve love. Here is a letter from John Newton to a friend on how to handle the controversy at hand.

A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton… READ ARTICLE

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NCFIC Announces: Elder Discipleship – Training shepherds for the Church of God

The purpose of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches is to promote healthy, Christ centered, biblically ordered, family integrated churches. One of the critical components of this is equipping elders because a student becomes like his teacher (Luke 6:40) and the church will become like the elders who lead it.

One of the greatest needs in the church today is the supply of qualified elders. When I ask leaders what their churches need most, four out of five say, “qualified elders.” Everywhere I go, this is the cry.

In the same way that healthy families spring from healthy fathers and mothers, healthy churches are the result of godly elders. The appointment of godly elders is critical because they have a reforming influence on the church, for they “set in order the things that are lacking” (Titus 1:5).

The ultimate purpose of this elder discipleship program is to contribute to a rising generation of gospel centered leaders who will take care of the church of God – God’s way. For, without qualified, gospel centered leaders, how will we have gospel centered, God pleasing churches?

For a thorough overview, book reading list, and schedule visit:

WWW.NCFIC.ORG/ELDER-TRAINING

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Early Bird Registration Ends Soon!

 

 


Scott Brown

Ken Ham

Doug Phillips

Kevin Swanson

Paul Washer

Voddie Baucham

Joe Morecraft

Andy Davis

Early registration for the Sufficiency of Scripture 2009 conference ends on October 24th. At that time registration costs will be going up. Join Paul Washer, Ken Ham, Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, Voddie Baucham, Kevin Swanson, Joe Morecraft, Andy Davis, Bill Einwechter, and Jeff Pollard this December 10-12th. REGISTER SOON.

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