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If you were to visit our church on Sunday, you might notice a few differences from what you’re used to. Often about half way through the service, the scent of carnitas roasting begins to waft from the Mexican restaurant next door. And that is just one of the various church plant oddities you might notice. A 12 year old boy runs the sound system; the bulletins are simple and printed on regular copier paper; and we even have two different kinds of chairs in the sanctuary. These are some of the quirks that go along with being a newish and growing church plant. But those things aren’t what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is the presence of children of all ages in the worship service, the absence of any church provided child care, and even, at times, specific application of the text aimed at children and teens from the pulpit. We have no nursery (although we have a nursing room; it shares a wall with the kitchen of the Mexican restaurant, so it start to smell really good in there about 11:30), we have no children’s church, and we have no special service for teenagers, and no midweek youth group either. Some visitors, seeing this, assume we are a “Family Integrated Church” (FIC). We are not, and for good reason, because the Family Integrated Church movement is dangerously unbiblical.
Over the coming weeks members of the PS 23 team will be looking at various aspects of the FIC movement and some of their serious errors where they depart from biblical theology. Personally I take no delight in polemics, but in this case, I think it is necessary. Although born as a reaction to real problems in the church (such as the no teaching culture of many youth ministries and the abdication of the responsibility to evangelize and disciple their children by many parents) the FIC movement has over corrected in places, and I believe it has become as serious a threat to the Church as the charismatic movement.
But before we get to those errors, it might be helpful to look at the identity and the history of the Family Integrated Church Movement. One of the most succinct expressions of the FIC core beliefs reads,
Christ set up His church with family integrated worship. This means that there is no segregation of children away from their parents. Christ also did not place any youth groups within His Church. In Christ’s Church, mothers, fathers, and their children all gathered together to worship and learn of God. Families worship on the level of the “house,” meaning everyone is gathered together. Christ’s body, His Church, is not divided. Therefore, worship should not be divided (emphasis mine).
This of course is not the sum total of what the FIC believes, but this is the under-girding of all of their beliefs, that by God’s design the family is never to be divided for any purpose, and with this as the starting point, the FIC movement has developed positions on the role of husbands/fathers, on education, and on other social issue that go well beyond the teaching of scripture.
The FIC movement as it exists today grew out of the “Summit on Uniting Church and Home” held in September 2001, jointly hosted by Vision Forum, the now defunct ministry founded by Doug Wilson that collapsed in the wake of a sexual scandal, and the National Center for the Family Integrated Church (NCFIC). Out of this conference the FIC movement emerged from the fringes to become a significant movement within conservative evangelicalism (the NCFIC website lists 20 churches within 100 miles of Piedmont Bible Church in Haymarket Virginia).
As the movement has grown it has been bolstered by well know evangelical thinkers including Joel Beeke, R.C. Sproul Jr, and Voddie Baucham associating themselves with the movement. The movement was further buoyed by the publication of Baucham’s Family Driven Faith in 2011, which winsomely and with erudition argued that the Family Integrated model was biblically mandated, and that all other approaches to ministry are unbiblical (for an excellent critique of this book, click here).
While the FIC movement does not rise to the level of heresy, much like the pentecostal movement, its myriad of errors provide a gateway to heresy and to the eclipsing of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. For this reason we are going to be looking at a number of the key errors of the FIC movement (which we are well aware and recognize is not monolithic), including their view of the church, their view of the role of fathers, and their view of education and evaluating them in light of Scripture over the coming weeks.
I would challenge you to join us as we discuss whether the FIC movement is biblical or whether it elevates preferences to the level of scripture. Whether it is calling fathers back to their biblical responsibilities or advocating a novel and unbiblical idea of fatherhood. And whether it is just another way of “doing church” or whether it is a radical redefinition of the body of Christ. Join us in biblically evaluating the Family Integrated Church movement.