The Bad Fruit Of The FIC Movement

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rotten fruitOver the past several weeks the Parking Space 23 team has examined several issues relating to the Family Integrated Church (FIC) movement. I wrote an introduction to this series, Jason Vaughn wrote an excellent piece on the error of viewing the father as the priest of the home, Matt Tarr did the heavy lifting writing two great posts on the danger of homeschooling onlyism, while I also pitched in a piece about how the FIC movement gets both the family and the church wrong and I would commend all of these posts to you. And as the series unfolded, I have been contacted by many and asked why this series was necessary, and the answer is simple; because of the bad fruit of the FIC movement.

I want to be absolutely clear, I am not saying that everyone involved in the movement is bad, or dangerous much less unsaved, but I will say that this movement is a profound danger to the church, and it should be treated as such. I have previously written that I think the FIC is as dangerous as the Pentecostal movement, and I firmly stand behind those words, and in this post I want to elucidate them by looking at some of the fruit of the FIC movement that gravely concerns me.

Many In FIC Movement Ignore or Twist Scripture When It Suits Them

If there is one church document you would expect to be full of scripture references, it twist scripturewould be the church’s doctrinal statement (the doctrinal statement of Piedmont Bible Church, the church I pastor contains well over 400 individual scripture reference.) But oddly many FIC churches include a section in their doctrinal statement that includes either no scripture reference at all or contains only out of context citations, and unsurprisingly, that is the portion that pertains specifically to family integration. This is a very typical example from a large FIC church:

Wherever we find the family gathered for worship in Scripture, it is the family in its totality: father, mother, and child. The cumulative effect of many modern Sunday school, nursery care, and youth ministry programs has been to eliminate the role of the father and mother in the spiritual training of their children, hampering the family government established by God which often leads to the apostasy of the children later in life. Beyond the recovery of this role, we believe family integration in the life of the church accomplishes the following worthy goals: 1) it provides a model for observation of Biblical interaction, discipline, and training within the family; 2) it allows children to share in and experience the corporate worship of God’s people; 3) it eliminates the artificial “teen culture” which has encouraged such a widespread exodus of young men and women from the church; 4) it most closely matches Biblical patterns of worship and fellowship.[1]

Not only does this statement make no appeal to scripture as its source, it ignores what little scriptural data there is as well as the historical context in which the books of the bible were produced. One of the passages most often pointed to as a model of an exposition of scripture in a corporate worship setting is Nehemiah 8:1-8. After the completion of the walls of Jerusalem the people are assembled for the reading and explanation of the law. Verse two describes how the proceedings got under way:

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.

There are two key things to notice in this verse. First that the assembly is specifically identified as being made up of both men and women tells us this was not the norm. Secondly that “all those who could understand” are specifically mentioned as being present tells us that those who could not understand were not present. While I think a very strong and reasonable argument can be made that this is a reference to children to young to understand the message, what I can say for certain is that “those who could not understand” were members of a family. Thus one of the keystone passages that informs our understanding of corporate teaching is one in which men women and children were present yet families were not universally present as units.

Furthermore the Levitical holiness code mandates that menstruating women be considered ritually unclean, and thus they would be excluded from corporate worship (Leviticus 15:19-24).

Aside from the scriptural data, when the New Testament was written, all Jewish worship was gender segregated. The synagogues Jesus taught in (and that He and the Apostles were educated in, in age segregated classes no less) maintained a strict separation of the sexes during worship; Men on one side and women, girls and boys younger than the age of majority on the other. Even the temple was gender segregated, there was the court of the gentiles, the court of the women and the court of the men. And it is worth noting that when Jesus cleansed the temple He drove the money changers from the court of the gentiles, He didn’t break down the wall between the court of the women and the court of the men.

In a culture where all worship was gender segregated, it seems to me that if the division of the family were a great wickedness this would be addressed explicitly somewhere in the New Testament, but it is not. (Like the great wickedness of treating women as ontologically less than men – see Galatians 3:28.)

And this is just one area, I have seen Deuteronomy 6 twisted to support homeschooling onlyism, I have seen Deuteronomy 22:5 twisted into a prohibition of women wearing pants, and Ephesians 6:1-3 twisted so that a father can claim ultimate authority in an adult daughter’s life and characterize her as a “rebellious child” for following the leadership of her believing husband instead of her father (I have also seen Eph 6:4 twisted to say that a adult child who is exasperated by her father is only exasperated because she choose to be exasperated).

Many In The FIC Movement Sow Division In The Church

barbedwire2Ask any pastor if he knows of a church that has split (or come close) over FIC related issues and he is sure to say yes. And I think it is more than fair to say that they have been taught to sow division by FIC resources. One of the most reasonable voices in the FIC movement, Voddie Bauchman, in his book Family Driven Faith says this:

Begin to cry out to God for these truths to come to the fore in your church.  Talk about these things with your friends. Start to implement them in your home.  Perhaps God will use you as a catalyst to wake the sleeping giant and move your church toward family integration.[2]

Notice the advice is not to go to the elders of your church and ask about these issues, it is to “go to your friends.” If there were universal truths at stake shouldn’t the church leaders be approached? Isn’t going to “your friends” an undisguised effort to form a clique in the church around these issues? Isn’t creating a clique in the church for the purpose of being a catalyst for change inherently divisive?

Scripture has some very clear things to say about unity and its preservation. David wrote in Psalm 133 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” and Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Walking worthily of the calling with which you were called entails being eager to maintain the unity of the body, not forming cliques or being a change agent on preferential issues. And just to present the stark truth of this call to circumvent the leadership of the church and to form cliques for the purpose of being a change agent, this kind of behavior must be evaluated in light of Proverbs 6:16-19:

        There are six things that the Lord hates,

seven that are an abomination to him:

       haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

and hands that shed innocent blood,

        a heart that devises wicked plans,

feet that make haste to run to evil,

       a false witness who breathes out lies,

and one who sows discord among brothers.

 

God hates anyone who sows discord in the church, yet that is often just what FIC advocates do. And that is not just my opinion either. Recently the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Presbytery of the Dakotas) held a denominational trial in which a church pastored by a (formerly) vocal FIC advocate had to repent of their signing of the NCFIC declaration and of calling age segregated Sunday School sinful or leave the OPC. And the reason for the trial was the grossly divisive nature of the NCFIC declaration and the anti-Sunday School comments that permeate NCFIC materials.

Some In The FIC Display A Soft Misogyny

broad brushI may be accused of painting with a broad brush and being subjective here, but an awful lot within the FIC doesn’t seem to me to value women as highly as men, and especially daughters as highly as sons. If you were to google “family integrated church father son” the first result would be the page for the 2015 Father Son Retreat held in the mountains of Colorado, featuring speakers including the current president of the NCFIC Scott Brown, former FIC stalwart Kevin Swanson (who was forced to disassociate himself from the NCFIC in the above mentioned denominational trial) a retired Air Force fighter pilot and a wilderness rescue specialist. This father son retreat is described thusly:

This four-day Father Son retreat is a great opportunity for fathers and sons to enjoy time together, build their relationships, and enjoy the Christian fellowship of other men.

– Scrumptious hand-prepared meals served family-style in the dining hall
– Stunning first-class retreat center in Fraser, Colorado
– Beautiful log-built lodges nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains
– Challenging messages to encourage you in biblical manhood
– Plenty of adventurous activities and time for fellowship[3]

A similar search for “Family Integrated Church mother daughter” yields no similar results. As far as I can tell there is not one single mother daughter event planned by an FIC church in North America. Let that sink in. And if you think that is making much ado about nothing, try removing “family integrated” as search terms and compare the results.

While there is no mandate for a church to have either mother-daughter or father-son retreats or events, what is telling, to me, is that father son events are relatively common in FIC churches while mother-daughter events are unheard of, and this seems to me to fly in the face of the ontological equality of men and women that is expressed in Galatians 3:28.

(And some of the misogyny is not so soft, out of the FIC movement has been birthed the Christian domestic discipline movement that advocates that husbands use corporal punishment not only on small children, but also on their adult wives when they fail to meet expectations. The primary organizational advocate for CDD, in their “manifesto”, include 18 pages of instruction on wife beating. For proprieties sake I won’t link to their website, but click here to listen to an episode of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals podcast The Mortification of Spin that deals with the issue. To be clear I am not equating the FIC with this movement, but this movement was birthed within the FIC movement and environment.)

Many In The FIC Elevate Preferences To Scriptural Mandates

It is not just in areas of the family or even ecclesiology where many in the FIC elevate their applespreferences to the level of Scripture. The prevalence of this blind spot was vividly put on display at an NCFIC conference on worship in December 2013. At that conference a panel consisting of many of the leading lights of the FIC movements, including Joel Beeke, the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, in response to a question about Christian rap, all condemned as sin the genre of Reformed Hip-Hop.

Most vociferous in his condemnation was Geoff Botkin, a faculty member at Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences which describes itself as “founded to equip Christians to examine the cultures of our lives, homes, churches, and communities in light of the transforming and unstoppable Gospel of Jesus Christ.”[4] Botkins said of reformed rappers:

“what concerns me about this this so-called “art form” – it’s a picture of weakness and surrender on the part of people who think they’re serving God. And they’re not. They’re serving their own flesh. They’re caving into the world. They are disobedient cowards.[5]

This outburst was met with enthusiastic applause from the crowd. I would share the video, but it has been scrubbed from the internet, but a transcript is available here.

What is concerning to me about this is not just their opinion of a musical genre (which full disclosure, I don’t particularly enjoy), but that to a man the panelists felt comfortable condemning the artists who produce the music, as well as those who listen to it as sinners, and that a large crowd at an NCFIC event applauded. And seemingly no one on the dais or in the room objected, or even realized that they had gone beyond scripture in their pronouncement.

Over the next month the NCFIC and the individual panelists sought to walk back those statements and control the damage, and to their credit said they were wrong, but in that moment a systemic problem in the FIC was revealed.

I could go on, and I could include many personal experiences I have had counseling people who have been deeply injured and scarred by the FIC movement, but I think the point is clear. The FIC movement bears bad fruit.

I am not saying that everyone involved in the FIC movement is guilty of all (or even any) of these errors. But what I am saying is that these errors are relatively common in the FIC movement. Are some in the FIC movement biblically grounded? Yes. Do some in the FIC movement produce valuable resources? Yes. But is the FIC movement a threat to the unity of the church? Yes. Does the FIC movement show evidence of consistently producing bad fruit? Again, yes.

For this reason you should be cautious of any FIC influence in your church or even on your family. When I introduced this series I made the statement that I viewed the FIC movement is a threat to the church on par with the Pentecostal movement, and I stand behind that statement. Just as Creflo Dollar wasn’t present at Azusa Street what the FIC will become over the course of 100+ years (if the Lord tarries) has not been revealed. But it is off to a very dangerous start, and for the sake of the church and Christ’s reputation we should vigorously oppose it if it tries to seep into our churches.

[1] http://www.covenant-presbyterian.org/about/distinctives/

[2] Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 204

[3] https://www.coloradofatherson.com/

[4] http://westernconservatory.com/about

[5] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/debatable-is-christian-hip-hop-ungodly

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John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.
  • Jason

    Thanks John.

    I think your too kind towards Voddie’s “encouragement” on how people should approach leadership. It seems like he is suggesting high-handed rebellion. I cannot imagine our Lord pleased over this tactic. I think your warning is spot on. I’d even say, if you think your church should be FIC, then you need to speak with your leaders. If you’re not open to being wrong, then I’d probably warn you that pride is involved. One should approach the leadership seeking to understand their philosophy of ministry. It might be biblical too. In general, I think we need to be really cautious and spend time seeking to understand. Our leaders may be wrong too. If so, present Scripture and give them time to think through it.

  • Hayley Rose

    This is a much needed assessment of the FIC. Thank you so much!

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