The following is the third and final part of a response to Dr. Douglas Brown and his article, “United Families Dividing Churches.” The response has been presented by Jeffrey Klick, Ph.D., and J. Mark Fox, M.Div.
Discipleship is the goal and the FIC community primarily believes that the parents are the best ones to train the children, to which Dr. Brown stated he agrees. Who better to lead the children to Christ than the ones charged by God to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of Lord (Ephesians 6:4)? The parents will have an opportunity to interact with the child for almost two decades. How many hours does the organized Church have per week with the children? The organized Church should be providing wonderful materials and instruction for the practical application of Christianity to be walked out every day in the home. It is a perfect partnership.
It would be impossible to prove where and why someone actually rejects Christ via studies and interviews. Blaming an organizational structure is an easy scapegoat, yet in light of the dismal results being experienced in faith retention, nothing should be overlooked, including structures. It is more likely that most young people reject Christ because they did not see the power or reality of their parent’s personal walk. Many studies point to hypocrisy in the home as the primary cause of teen rejection of Christ. Regardless of structure, if parents claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, yet there is no noticeable difference in how they live their daily lives, the young people observing them will most likely reject the need for salvation. As one young agnostic told me (Jeff) so clearly, “My parent’s faith made no difference in their life. Why should I even bother with it?” He had a point that we should not overlook.
Have there been judgmental, even inflammatory statements made by some proponents of the FIC? Sadly, yes. We believe their motives are good ones, in that their greatest concern is for the Gospel and for the next generation to run the race with endurance, but at times their zeal has provoked offense in the larger body of Christ. For these overstatements, we would ask those offended to please forgive and bear with the insensitive, overstated comments. There is a great deal to be gained by working together and little by separating and fighting.
On the other hand, many within the FIC have felt pushed out of the Church by the current age-segregated leaders. Pressure is put on the family to divide as soon as the family hits the door, and some would rather leave than endure the looks and comments from well-meaning ushers, or pastors. Some families have been told, “You may not bring your children into the sanctuary with you. We have another place for them.” Hurtful comments aimed at families who have a conviction about family-integrated worship range from the number of children they have to other personal choices such as clothing styles, education choices, lack of familiarity with pop culture, and a host of other non-biblical issues. Pressure is put on children and teens by Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and others to break away from the parents even though the family has clearly decided to worship and serve together. Respect for personal preferences should go both ways. It is easy to blame one side with causing division, but the truth is there is a need for more communication, sensitivity and understanding on both sides.
Our partnership is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether we believe in FIC or in age-segregation. We have more common ground than ground upon which we disagree. Our common goal is to see Jesus Christ glorified, the people of God edified, and the lost reached with the good news of the Gospel. We in the FIC do not elevate the family over the church, but believe that the church and family should work together for the glory of God. The fruit of family-integrated churches that have been faithfully equipping families and singles over the past twenty years is hard to ignore. We even believe it should be respected and celebrated in the larger body of Christ.
The Council for Family-Integrated Churches
J. Mark Fox, M.Div. Board Member
Jeffrey A. Klick, Ph.D. Board Member