What follows is a response to Dr. Douglas Brown, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, Ankeny, Iowa and his article titled “United Families Dividing Churches.” The response is presented by Jeffrey Klick, Ph.D., and J. Mark Fox, M.Div.
First, we would congratulate Dr. Brown on his well-written article and commend him on his reasonable presentation. There is much to be agreed upon as well as some areas to clarify.
The family-integrated church (FIC) movement is indeed making progress and is having an impact in many areas of the country. With the goal of restoration of the family at its core, it is hard not to have a measure of success given the dismal condition of the family unit in our time. Families are the heartbeat of the nation and church, and they are falling apart in record numbers. The fallout continues to be disastrous to both Christ’s name, and on those torn apart from the pain and heartache. Any sincere effort to help stop the tide of destruction must be applauded.
My own (Jeff Klick) FIC church was planted in December 1993 as a direct result of seeing the “fruit” of eleven years of ministry in a more neo-traditional, department-oriented church. After feeling powerless to make a difference in so many families’ lives, we decided to take a new path to help restore the family unit. I am grateful for the experience received in age-segregated type ministry for it became the foundation for trying something different.
Not all FIC proponents are hostile to the currently acceptable methods of ministry that dominate the church structures. Nor do all of us regard the current model of age-segregation as evil. In fact, many FIC churches typically practice some sort of age-segregation through men’s and women’s meetings, and other age/gender appropriate type teaching settings, like Bright Lights, Boy Scouts, or sports teams. Although most of the characteristics of the FIC that Brown mention are true, it seems that he bases his entire understanding of FIC characteristics on a single text which only represents one flavor of the FIC. Brown is not alone in this practice. Although Scott Brown has more recently released his self-published text, A Weed in the Church, Voddie Baucham’s book, Family-Driven Faith (Crossway, 2007), is often viewed as the authority on the FIC, yet the text by itself cannot fairly represent the overall FIC. It would be just as slippery to suggest that all Baptist congregations or all Lutheran congregations are defined by a single text, save the Bible alone.
In a similar vain, it seems imprudent for Dr. Brown to commend to his readers the text by Andreas Kostenberger and David Jones, God, Marriage, and Family 2nd Ed. (Crossway, 2010). The section on the FIC (which Brown identifies as pp. 260-267) has received nothing but criticism from the major contributors to the FIC movement that Brown himself identifies (see this article here), not to mention the critique by scholars who themselves do not subscribe to FIC (see this artcile here). It seems safe to presume that with a more careful reading of Kostenberger and Jones, Brown himself would raise concern over the inclusion of all forms of family ministry, to include his own family-based form, as family-integration. In Brown’s defense, the publications on FIC are limited, but to recommend a section of a book before careful analysis of its contents should be avoided by scholars of any degree.
The leaders Dr. Brown mentioned are the most well known, but they are by no means the only men attempting to minister to the family unit in this ministry model. In fact, both Jeff and Mark, and a host of other men, were pastoring family-integrated churches almost a decade before NCFIC was formally established and almost a decade and a half before Voddie Baucham embraced the FIC. As Brown correctly stated, “the FICM (sic) is not a denomination” and therefore the generalities mentioned are simply that, general statements. These men have their views but they do not necessarily reflect the entire picture or views of many leaders across the nation to include a significant number of family-integrated churches (see www.hofcc.org, www.antiochchurch.cc, www.hopefamilyfellowship.org, www.harvestva.org/hws).
While serving as an administrative pastor for a large church (3,500 members) I (Jeff) had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of young people and their parents. I served as a youth pastor for two years, an elder (pastor) in charge of our Christian school (600 students) and was instrumental in designing the departmental approach to the entire ministry. This period allowed me the opportunity to see the results of the church’s impact through our ministry over a ten-year window. We had many of the children in our programs from the time they were born until the time they left the church. Our results would be in line with most of the studies you mentioned. We had invested millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours, yet the rate of faith rejection was on the high end. While we may argue over the reasons why, the truth of the rejection cannot be ignored. A large percentage of the young people walked away from Christ by the time they finished high school, even though they had been in our programs from birth. This reality prompted some soul searching and became the seedbed of a desire to attempt a different type of ministry.
Since there is much we agree on, it would be better to move on to Dr. Brown’s evaluation and summary comments regarding this ministry model. First, I would concur with Dr. Brown’s five areas of agreement with the FIC. Most are biblically oriented, Christ-centered, Church loving, holiness desiring, and are attempting to address the fundamental problem of family destruction. These are indeed some things to be grateful for in the FIC movement.
Dr. Brown is correct in his hesitancy about making dogmatic statements on biblical silence. Neither age-segregation nor integration is specifically addressed in Scripture, although the fact that Paul addresses children in his letters to the Colossian and Ephesian churches gives rise to the idea that these same children would have been present in the public gathering for worship, when the Apostle’s letter was to be read. The Bible supports the idea that the family is the fundamental building block of society, but that does not mean that every Church that practices age-segregation is in error. On this, we would agree. Biblical silence on specifics regarding age-segregation or integration also means that age-integration is not forbidden, nor should this model be regarded with disapproval because it is different.
As Dr. Brown states, “The mandate to ‘make disciples’ is given to the church (Matt. 28:19, 20),” but if we are to be technical at this point, the command was actually given to Jesus’ disciples and to those watching Him ascend into heaven. If by “Church” Dr. Brown means the organized church rather than the individuals that make up the church, then we will have to agree to disagree. The organized church did not develop until a bit later. At this point, when Jesus gave His final commission to His followers, the disciples were told to go, and make disciples. After they went proclaiming the Gospel, issues were encountered, for example, it took some time to figure out what to do with the Gentile problem (Acts 15), how to take care of the poor (Acts 6), who was to lead, how to deal with false prophets, etc. These issues and others had to be dealt with long before the Church settled into some sort of unified form, so to state that the exclusive job of discipling is the territory of the organized church is not entirely accurate. The command to make disciples is everyone’s job, and not simply the responsibility of the leadership of the organized church.
Continued in next post. . .