Seven Suggested Problems with the "Family Integrated Church Movement" Plus one Extra: Eight Problems! The "Family Integrated Church" (FIC) movement insists on the necessity of families meeting together for the main service of the church and that if age and sex segregated ministries are to be tolerated at all, they should be done by family members, not by specialized youth ministers. They see these distinctives as important enough to form entire churches around. The problems with this, as I see them, are: (1) The sufficiency of scripture: To be "Reformed" is to believe in sola scriptura. I believe that the sufficiency of scripture means that scripture tells us everything that is sufficient for the essential operation of the church. Scripture does not tell us that all meetings need to be "integrated". Therefore, we have to wonder why the FIC is making such a major issue of it. For this reason I would question whether the FIC is outside the bounds of the "Reformed" camp. (2) Divisiveness: FIC makes an essential out of something that can't even be described as a secondary issue (perhaps a tertiary issue); whole churches are organized around something that there is not one command for the church to do. They believe their "family integration" is so important to the church that it is valid to differentiate their church from others on that basis alone. Whether they are "hyper-patriarchal" or not, the question is whether integrating every assembly of the church is a substantial enough an issue to organize a church around. Please note that practically, I prefer the advice of John Piper who doesn't support a separate "children's church" (The Family: Together in God's*Presence - Desiring God). Practically, I prefer that the children stay in the main service and that's the way our church has developed. But I don't think it is a dogmatic issue and would work with children's church if necessary. On the other hand, I would be insistent about the need to sing psalms (not exclusively) because that is a clear Biblical command. We should be insistent on those things that scripture clearly teaches us and flexible about things it does not. If, for example, I started the "Pew Sitting Church Movement" (PSCM); insisted that pew sitting was good enough for the church for centuries; that about the same time some churches started to use chairs the church declined (so they must be connected!); that chair sitting is "modernistic"; etc. Then I insisted that to be a sound church it must use pews; and encouraged people not to go to churches that used chairs. That would be absurd because there's not a hint of that in scripture. It’s not that it’s wrong to sit in pews. What is wrong is the elevation of an extra-Biblical opinion to the level of a Biblical conviction. (3) Contradicts Scripture: It appears to be in direct contradiction to the instruction of the Apostle Paul to the work of the pastor in Titus 2, where Paul tells Titus to address distinct age and gender segregated groups; the only group that Paul doesn't tell Titus to deal with directly illustrates even more vividly the lack of the patriarchal approach: young women are to be discipled by older women (not by their fathers or by their mothers). It is clear, in that the chapter begins and ends by mentioning the teaching role of Titus, that Paul is addressing the ministry of the church as a whole, not simply narrowly the discipleship-relationships outside the main assembly. Hence, that what the FIC insists on -- "family integration" -- is omitted completely in Titus 2 proves that the FIC’s emphasis is not a Biblical one. (4) Undermines the Authority of the Offices in the church: Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God has called particular officers ("gifts") to build up the church (who are the elect), namely (for our day) pastors/teachers. The FIC, on the other hand, frequently suggests that the pastor normally works through the heads of the households; they will say that the family is another authority in the church. This is unBiblical. (5) The FIC Misreads Church History: The FIC insists that the ministry of the church wasn’t focused on specific demographic groups until very recently and is therefore the product of “humanistic” marketing techniques. This appears to be the result of a lack of understanding church history. In the early history of the church, men and women would separate, and not only worship separately but live separately. Eventually this gave rise to the monasteries and convents. Perhaps a case can be made that age segregation didn't occur in Protestant churches for the worship service until relatively recently; that would likely be true. However, sound, conscientious pastors, like Jonathan Edwards, would frequently gather the youth together for specific instruction, distinct from the rest of the body of the church. That was in the mid-eighteenth century. In the early next century, the Sunday School movement arose to organize just that kind of approach, sensing a need of the children and youth to be addressed directly. Therefore, the suggestion of the FIC that age segregation is a new development and therefore arising out of humanistic marketing techniques is highly questionable. (6) The FIC is a Cure for a Disease that’s Not Prevalent: The suggestion that the “problem” they are addressing is really even a problem, also needs to be questioned. Today, only a few mega-churches segregate into highly niche-targeted demographics. I don't know of one church in my area that does that. Also, among those that have a “children’s church” during the main service how many would adamantly require children to leave even if a father wanted to keep them in the service? Surely very few, if any; I suspect that most churches with a “children’s church” would allow the children to stay in the service if the parents insisted that such was their preference. So this is not a widespread problem that deserves an entire movement (or even distinct churches) to address. In fact, the disease the FIC purports to be trying to cure isn't really there at all. (7) Misdefinition of the Church: Finally, as above, the definition of the church is flawed. It is not a "family of families". The church is the "household of God" (1 Tim. 3:15). The Lord puts people from all kinds of families and frequently (and sadly) often there are only some people from each family that are truly converted and made part of the church. The family is a creation institution that will end with the old creation. The Lord Jesus appears to say that "in heaven" that since there will be no marriage, there will be no family. The church, however, as the assembly of God's people, will last eternally. By making the church centered on or serving the family, the FICM subverts the church. (8) Familism: the Lord Jesus pitied loyalty to the family against loyalty to Him. When He was informed that his natural family was outside and wanted to speak with Him, rather than putting “integrating” with that family as a priority, he pointed to those around Him, listening to the Word of God (the church) and said, “ “Here are my mother and my brothers!” (Mt. 12:46ff.) In other words, the spiritual family of the church takes priority over the natural family. This is the practice the church is to follow. On the other hand, the FIC smacks of “familism”. Familism — the making the family the ultimate loyalty — is an idol, a competitor to the Lordship of Christ; hence, Jesus tells us we must be willing to “hate” the family to follow Him. On paper The National Center for Family-Intergrated Churches (NCFIC), the main source for FIC doctrine, affirms this, “We affirm that the gospel may divide families because the gospel can “set a man at variance against his father” and that “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” and that our duty is to obey God rather than man (Matt. 10:35-37; Acts 4:19-21). We deny/reject that loyalty to the family should ever supercede obedience to God which makes the family an idol.” While that would seem to answer my objection, keep in mind that errant movements usually profess, in formal doctrine, not to take their positions to the problematic extremes. The Catholic church claims it believes in salvation by grace (just not “alone”). It also claims not to practice idolatry, only that they are “venerating” images, etc. Practice and priorities speak volumes about what a group's true convictions are, notwithstanding their formal doctrinal statements. So, we must ask, if they are not making an idol out of the family, why are they making such a priority of something not at all found in scripture? Why do they think it is so important? I once had a prospective elder in a FIC church seriously suggest to me that Jesus didn’t know what they know about how to save whole families; that Jesus’ challenge to discipleship wouldn’t be necessary if we only follow the FIC model.