We have been asked many times to sum up what we saw and learned on the NCFIC Road Trip. Here are nine unusual realities we faced that reflect some of the forces at work around the nation.
I. Massive changes are taking place in many lives
There are seismic lifestyle shifts that are taking place in people’s lives all around the nation. They are megashift level transformations. People are changing the most significant areas of their lives – education, family life and church life. When you change the way you educate the younger generation, rejecting the government school method, everything about your life changes. If a father begins to conduct family worship, his whole schedule and value system for time allocation changes. When a family begins to be part of a church more than just on Sunday, but begins to show hospitality and mercy in the community, the whole priority system of the family schedule changes. We saw these massive lifestyle changes everywhere we went.
These changes are so profoundly transforming that those who are experiencing them are living lifestyles totally unrecognizable in the mainstream population.
These changes are so jarring, and so socially unusual to those who exhibit them, that they are almost always met with disdain and slander, even though they are explicitly Christian patterns.
One clear sign of a revival is that people’s lives change. A mark of true conversion is that people repent of pagan ways and turn to the living God by changing the way they live.
II. “Power families”
Everywhere we went we saw a particular kind of family in action. I am calling them “power families.” These families dedicated significant resources to serving the church in their communities. They cared about their communities, friends, pastors, and former pastors. They invited their whole community to come and then worked like beavers to make it a pleasant experience.
They advertised, organized, set up, and cleaned up. They fed hordes of people delicious food. We saw whole families working together to furnish these meetings. Instead of outsourcing these things to catering companies and other professionals, they did it themselves with every family member shouldering responsibility.
When we arrived we saw these hospitality machines cranking up. It was inspiring to see what an influence a family can have on a whole community. They organized events where people drove as far as eight hours to participate.
It was faithful, diligent families in local churches that made our regional meetings work.
These families are like beacons of light in their regions. They worked hard. They had a vision for reaching the people in their communities.
III. Progressive sanctification
It became clear to us that many of the churches that affiliate with us are getting stronger. This was one of the great joys of the trip. We saw that churches are adopting the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture and applying it to their church and family lives. As a result, they are working to progressively establish churches on the Word of God alone. They are adopting historic confessions of faith, engaging in expository preaching, implementing biblical church discipline and are growing in their understanding of how to apply the regulative principle of worship in their churches.
Some churches in these regions used to be what we have called “unbiblical, leaderless house churches.” Others were practicing what some call, “home churching” where a family or a loose collection of people meet yet without the marks of a biblical church. For many years, we have attempted to speak to these unbiblical expressions in Christian culture.
What encouraged us was that some of the churches we were at were in this condition even three years ago. But since they have adopted the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture, they have become biblical churches by patterning themselves to biblical practices.
IV. Leaders Heeding Biblical instruction regarding ecclesiology
We met many men along the way who are involved in our online webinar elder discipleship program. It was a joy to meet these men face to face. But our joy was supercharged by the fact that these men are attempting to put the things we are teaching into practice.
Our elder discipleship program attempts to cast a vision for biblical church life by reading books and discussing critical issues of church and family life.
V. Relationships bound together across America
We saw how God has knit a people together across the whole nation around biblical principles of church and family life. We saw how people were being connected via our web site and yearly conferences. While one of the motorhomes had to stay behind for repairs, our young men were able to stay with two families listed on the NCFIC web site – one in Wyoming and the other in Arkansas. One of those young men, Ryan Glick says, “one of the best parts of the Road trip was getting left behind… there was always a family within fifteen minutes or less. Most of them had never been to an NCFIC conference and had only seen our info online.” They ministered to Ryan by showing him hospitality giving him a place to stay, and feeding him until the vehicle was repaired. These families, though they had never met any of us personally, were kind enough to shower us with blessings.
VI. Hunger for answers
Extended times of personal interaction were the norm. We had many hours of Q&A time that revealed the longings, trials, and challenges that people are facing in matters of church and family life. Unfortunately, we never had enough time as the nights did not contain enough minutes for all of the questions people had.
Everywhere we went, the people were extremely attentive and interested in the message. I was surprised over and over again at the passion which was expressed.
There was significant diversity among the attendees. Some were thoroughly familiar with our message. Others were just realizing these things. Some had concerns and others were upset by the message and were not afraid to say so.
My prayer for these times was that Proverbs 15:28 would be fulfilled, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,” and that the experience would reflect Proverbs 15:23, “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is.”
VII. Bonds of love with young men across America
We were privileged with wonderful reunions with our former NCFIC interns from around the nation. This was such a happiness for us. We saw all except one of our former interns on the Road Trip. Our hearts burned within us that we could be together again. Our love for these young men was born out of service together in Wake Forest and at Hope Baptist Church. The memories flooded our minds and we were so thankful to be with these faithful and dear young men.
VIII. Eye opening personal testimonies with a common thread
We conducted many interviews with people in the cities we visited. These were stories of individual, family and church reformation. We interviewed pastors, youth pastors and individuals. The most consistent story we heard in the interviews went like this. A father is saying, “5 years ago we started reading the Word of God to my family and now our family is completely changed.” The testimonies bore witness to the power of the Word of God to change lives.
IX. The exegetical arguments against age segregation are gaining traction nationally
We spoke to many pastors and youth pastors who have come to the conclusion that age segregated youth ministry is unbiblical and should be abandoned. The discussion on this issue has been broadened significantly in the past three years. Two things have happened. There has been broad recognition that youth ministry is severely broken. Nearly everyone agrees with this proposition. This was not the case several years ago. Second, the exegetical arguments against age-segregation are being recognized. Now, for the first time in my lifetime, there are many within mainstream evangelicalism who are recognizing the difficulty of skirting the exegetical argument. The argument is this: there is not a shred of evidence for age-segregated ministry anywhere in the Bible. We were thankful to announce and show the trailer of our upcoming youth ministry film – Segregation! – A Critical Analysis of the Modern Youth Ministry Movement during the road trip. We hope to release the film this fall.
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