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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Family-Integrated Church Movement

I try to keep up, I suppose, but there are still a lot of things going on in the world of which I'm wholly unaware. One of these is a concept of which I've just learned -- the "family-integrated church". There is a National Center for Family-Integrated Churches and websites dedicated to the proposition that "the biblical partnership between church and home, which is offered in what is commonly called the Family-Integrated Church model, affords a greater potential for a more effective implementation of the Great Commission –- both in witnessing to the world, and in making life-long disciples."

Okay, fine ... huh? No, I'm not complaining, mind you. I'm wondering what the question is. I mean, in what ways does the "family-integrated church" differ from other churches of the day? Most of it is pretty standard. Where is it not?
The family is the basic unit of society, as well as God’s intended "incubator" of healthy and responsible members of church and state.
No, that doesn't seem controversial. Of course, many these days infected with the self-centeredness of the world in which we live might think, without voicing it, "I am the basic unit of society and the church", but that can't really hold up very long, can it?
God has ordained unique roles for men & women in Scripture.
Okay, now that isn't nearly the popular certainty that it once was, is it? I mean, it is absolutely biblical, but no longer popular.
Marriage is the core family relational dynamic and is to be a picture and a reflection of the love relationship between Christ (the Groom) and the Church (His Bride).
Again, this is a biblical fact and irrefutable without dismantling Scripture. Of course, again, if you're going to operate from a worldly perspective, then terms like "marriage" and "family" will be redefined ... essentially into oblivion. But prior to our current culture, these questions of the centrality of the family, the unique roles of men and women, and the core family dynamic of marriage have never been in question.

(Note: For a clear and concise statement on what exactly the "Family-Integrated Church" movement is about, see NCFIC's Confession on the subject.)

It is, I suppose, then, these values of patriarchy, complementarianism (the notion that men and women are different and are given different roles), marriage and family that are all the sticking points, the defining issues of the "family-integrated church". That is, these are the issues with which people take issue. Because without these "issues" (which, oh, by the way, are biblical), I just don't see the point.

I suppose my real confusion comes when folks like Karen Campbell, in reviewing the concept, try to contrast the "family-integrated church" concept with "traditional churches". I grew up in a "traditional church" and we didn't actually segregate families. Our parents taught us how to behave in church and we learned not to disrupt it. Sure, there were special things -- Sunday school or youth activities-- along with it, but I don't think anyone is objecting to the church and the family cooperating. So this false dichotomy of "traditional" versus "family-integrated" is, well, misguided. On the other hand, I'm equally confused by churches that have decided to make this their "distinctive". "What makes you different than the church down the street?" "Well, we include families and they don't." I'm not sure that's accurate or helpful. Should churches do better at teaching parents to parent and holding fathers responsible to be fathers? Absolutely! Do churches that are "family-integrated" excel at this? Well, I can't tell. Is there a problem today between churches and family? I would say that, far more than most people recognize, there certainly is. But I'm not at all sure that labeling a church "family-integrated" solves those problems.

I don't know. Maybe all this is why I haven't heard of this until now.

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