Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Critique of the Family-Integrated Church Movement

A Critique of the Family-Integrated Church Movement

Brian Borgman

This critique concerns a specific church model which has grown into a movement. The movement’s visible leader is Doug Philips of Vision Forum. This brief critique does not address the various other issues that revolve around Phillips, but simply his structure of family-integrated churches.

Another preliminary point should be made as well. Our church does have Sunday School and various other age-segregated ministries, but we also have the children sit in both morning and afternoon services with their families.

I would personally share the concerns with FIC over the cultural forces which wage war against the family. However, my complaint is that their remedy to the attacks on the family are unbiblical, unhelpful and may be worse than the societal diseases they seek to fight.

1) FIC exalts the nuclear family to an unbiblical place

The nuclear family is seen as central to life and the life of the church. The primacy of the family, family roles, domestic order subtly undermine the truth that the family of Christ is central and primary for the Christian (Mk. 3:31-35; Lk. 11:27-28; 14:26-27).

Although there is much Old and New Testament instruction to the family, it is the spiritual family that supersedes because of loyalty to Christ.

2) FIC redefines the church under the NC as a family of families

Under the Old Covenant, Israel was a family of families, held together by blood lines and circumcision. Under the New Covenant, the Church is the family of God, not a family of families (Gal. 3:28-29; Eph. 2:19-22). In fact, under the New Covenant, nuclear families may be fragmented because of loyalty to Jesus (Matt. 10:34-39).

3) FIC inadvertently excludes or marginalizes singles and others, which is contrary to the principles of Christ's Kingdom (Matt. 19:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:7).

Ask if a single person would feel welcomed as a brother or sister in Christ and a real part of the church family in a FIC.

4) FIC elevate certain principles of liberty or personal conviction to the standard of holiness and/or church polity (homeschooling, no women working outside the home, full quiver, no daughters in college, courtship only), which amounts to legalism. In such a church culture it is very easy for the Gospel not to be the main thing and to communicate to the next generation that being a Christian means you do these things (Mk. 7:13).

My overall evaluation assessment of this movement is not positive. I am aware that there are some churches in the movement which have identified these weaknesses and have sought to address them. Nevertheless, there are subtle inroads the movement makes through Vision Forum and their homeschooling and family-oriented materials. Although much (not all) of Vision Forum’s material is helpful, it promotes a Victorian vision of patriarchy, rather than a biblical one. Many people are exposed to the materials and confuse biblical principles and ethics with those promoted by VF. They are not one and same.

For those families who use VF materials, I would simply caution them to be on guard against an unbiblical exaltation of the family, an unbiblical view of the church, and the subtle elevation of “family-centered” principles to the place of “the teaching of God’s Word.”

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