John Chester began a series critiquing the Family Integrated Church movement (FIC) two weeks ago. Although the Supreme Court interrupted our regularly scheduled broadcast, it did not interrupt our concern for this mistaken ecclesiology (study of church).
I first read about the FIC when Voddie Baucham’s book Family Driven Faith hit the shelf and people were excited about his, What He Must Be book. I find myself agreeing with Baucham regarding many problems facing the church. Yet his solutions miss the mark. This is where we need to show discernment. Just because a man sees a problem, it does not mean he sees the solution. After reading his preface, I had concerns regarding Voddie’s ecclesiology. I believe his book is an over-reaction to his childhood and lack of parental leadership.
I am primarily concerned with how the FIC blurs the lines between the church and family. They have a wrong definition of the church; therefore they have a deficient view of the church (and family). How? I believe they view the family as a mini-church, which it is not. Yet I can understand how covenantalists blur this line not discerning the difference. “Perhaps most importantly, Baucham’s definition of the church flies in the face of one of the most significant discontinuities between the old and new covenants.” (9Marks.org book review).
“The church is not a family of families. The church is the family of God (1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Tim. 3:15)” (9Marks.org book review).
To be in the church, one must be born again. This means, if a couple has 3 boys and only the wife is saved, then only the wife is in the church. The other four are not in the church (yet). They may attend, but they are not qualified to be in the church due to lack of regeneration.
Before critiquing FIC, I do agree with Voddie and my FIC brothers on four related issues:
- I stand with Voddie who believes we need to minister the Gospel to our family. The FIC proponents I’ve read and heard are believers and preach Christ crucified.
- Men need to lead their wives. They need to have a discipleship mentality towards their wife and children. I agree with Voddie when he says we need to pray for our wives, support them in biblical growth, wash them in the Word, and shepherd them. In fact, he should be so concerned with his wife’s growth he supports her being plugged into the church with close relationships. Especially young couples, be plugged into an older couple for counsel and wisdom.
- Related to this topic, I agree parents need to focus on discipling their children. Every parent needs to realize there is no formula to save a child. We are faithful to teach, lead, live by example, and train our children about Christ. But none of those guarantee results. So we pray God saves our children.
- Church relationships should blend mature believers with less mature believers. The FIC ecclesiology insists age-segregated ministry is unbiblical. On one level I agree with them even though I haven’t swallowed the blue pill completely. I still see the value of youth groups as long as the leaders’ goal prepares the youth to be a fully functional church member. But in general I applaud their desire to see older believers train up younger believers (please note, this doesn’t always mean age).
The primary critique offered here concerns the father’s role in their ecclesiology. Here are some quotes regarding male headship in the family for believers advocated by FIC leaders and churches.
- “We are committed to equipping and expecting men to step into their God-given role as priest, prophet and provider in the home, and in turn, to lead their wives and teach their children in the ways of righteousness (Titus 2)” (http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/topics-and-issues/fic-ministry-model/)
- “If you study what the Bible says about fatherhood, you realize that fathers are representatives of Christ and that Christ is actually the picture of fatherhood. The puritan author, William Gurnall (1616-1679) speaks of a father as having three roles, each of them are also the roles of Christ.” (https://ncfic.org/blog/posts/father_as_prophet_king_priest_william_gurnall_1616_1679)
The FIC views the father as a priest, prophet, provider, king, and minister of the Gospel. Amen, men need to provide for their family. Amen, a man needs to evangelize his family and lead his wife. But their treatment of him, makes him something biblically he may not be (in fact most men are not pastors). This is the problem: FIC advocates the father as a pastor.
God gives pastors very specific responsibilities. “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints . . .” (Eph. 4:11-12). Notice, what is not mentioned there: husbands. Now, failure to mention the husband does not negate his ability to lead nor does it exclude him from teaching the family (because Eph 5:22ff teaches he is the head of the household and to teach his children). But in order for a husband to fulfill the role advocated by the FIC, he must be gifted as a pastor, something God doesn’t hand out to every man. Our families need the church and they need the pastors to shepherd us, equip us, and train us. Is there an overlap of duties between the husband and elder’s responsibilities? Yes. But a believing woman can live and grow without a husband, she can’t be faithful to the Lord without elder oversight. Voddie preached his daughter only has to submit to him until she is married. This is partially true. All believers have to submit to the elders of their church (Heb 13:17). There may come a time where she has to defy her father for biblical reasons.
Voddie says, “Our children are falling away because we are asking the church to do what God designed the family to accomplish. Discipleship and multi-generational faithfulness begins and ends at home. At best, the church is to play a supporting role as it ‘equips the saints for the work of ministry’ (Eph 4:12, ESV)” (Family Drive Faith, page 7). The irony of this quote seriously undermines Voddie’s exegetical work making it hard for him to be taken seriously. Ephesians 4:7-16 communicates about our relationship to the church and need to be equipped by pastors. Hebrews 6:9-12 teaches us serving the church produces hope and spiritual maturity (aka sanctification). Again, this does not allow us to relinquish responsibilities towards our family, but it also raises the significance and importance of the church for each individual believer.
Titus 2, often used by the FIC to validate their ecclesiology actually undermines it. “Older women are to be reverent in their behavior . . . teaching what is good, so that [purpose] they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:3-5). Notice, who does the teaching? Older women, not husbands, but older women. What are the older women doing with the younger women? Teaching. So, Paul, inspired by God, you mean women need their pastor and older, more mature, women to help teach wives? Not just husbands? “Yes.” You mean the church plays a significant role in training up younger women in marriage issues? Not just fathers and husbands? Yes!
William Gurnall’s arrangement of biblical material to make the husband a prophet, priest, and king in the home is interesting. Gurnall, supported by the FIC, sees husbands as the High Priest of the home. This is problematic. Yes, husbands need to read and pray for their family. Yes, husbands are responsible to lead their family. But no, husbands do not make sacrifices for their family like Christ’s high priestly role indicates. Hebrews says Christ is the High Priest because He intercedes for us everyday (Heb 2:16-18) and He both offered himself and was the perfect sacrifice (9:11-14). Just because there are an overlap of responsibilities and actions between Christ and the father, does not make the father a type of Christ. This blending over-reaches beyond any biblical fidelity creating a classification foreign to Scripture.
We can have strong, Christ exalting, male leadership in the home without the FIC church. The FIC sees the problems but their solutions over-react creating an ecclesiology foreign to Scripture.