Singles within the Family of Families?

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calvinich

Puritan Board Freshman
This has been an interesting conversation thus far.

I am not terribly well informed on this matter, though I did just recently read a critique of FIC, and also am familiar with some of its proponents as well.

As somewhat of an ignoramus on this, I don't want to say too much. But I can see good points within FIC and also within the ideas of its critics.

I think some of the potential problems with some versions of FIC might have more to do with the problem of imbalance rather than downright "bad ideas" persay.

As for headship, it seems to me to be a fully biblical concept, valid in our area, and no-doubt important! But maybe a wooden, abstract overly rigid conception of it could cause problems. It is genuinely difficult to apply nowdays. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that headship is more out of sync with the mainstream societal values nowadays than it was in other times and other places. Back in the day even most pagan societies had some sort of strong conception of headship or something related to it!

This certainly doesn't mean we ignore headship, but rather we probably need to think a bit more about how it works in practice. We have less intact families nowdays.... That doesn't mean discarding headship, it may even mean we need it all the more! But it probably means carrying it out will be trickier and more nuanced than it was in the past.

Here's something to ponder..I'm a single guy, and I live with my mom (I am capable of living on my own, but I've chosen to live with her). Am I the head of a house? :)

Just a few thoughts..

I don't know if this is the correct forum for this topic. I have a question about the "family of families" model that seems popular these days within the reformed camp. I was recently told that I, being single, am a family of one. How exactly does this work? I know some of you follow the FIC model, how are singles incorporated into your church?
 

nasa30

Puritan Board Sophomore
We do not have a singles ministry, we have a ministry-period. For example, when we have a mens study the men gather. All of the men. If a man has a son, he brings him, if not or if he is single, he comes and we all study together. It does not matter if they are married, single,college student,whatever. Same goes for the ladies.
Yes, they are full members and no, we do not start telling them they should get married.

Because we do not break off into separate Sunday School groups, no one is "singled" out (pun half way intended). No one feels out of the group because we are all the group. We have none of the "Well, you should go to this class or that class because you are not this or that" We all study together.
Why do you see it as appropriate to separate people by gender, but not by age or marital status?
I am very glad that you asked that question because I did leave it out there without a better explanation. The division of men and women is only on our Wednesday night gathering and not on the Lords day.

We do the division on Wed for a more focused teaching to help them where they are. Example- For married men, We expect the men to be leading in family worship at home and to some that is a new concept. We use Wed night to equip the saints and answer their questions on how to do it. For Singles, we expect them to disciple others and be able to defend the faith. We use that time to answer their questions about doctrine and the like.

Are singles fully included and treated as equals, or are they simply allowed to attend, or somewhere in between?
Yes, singles are fully included. We make no distinctions about marital status. We just get different questions from them because of where they are in life.

Does having everything open to those of all ages and both married and single mean that, in practice, most or all events are most suited to those who are married and have children (and have their children with them) and singles are expected to fit in around them?
We are not a program church. We meet on Sunday and on Wednesday. Sunday is a teaching and worship service were we all sit together and Wed is like I described above. No one is left out and no status is raised above another. We have a fellowship meal the first Sunday of the month and we all eat together. Again, no special treatment on marital status. When we have helped out in the community, it's " we are meeting at such and such time to help put a roof on this person in needs house" Whoever can make it, shows up with hammer in hand.

Also one more point to clarify. If you came and sat with us day in and day out, you would not hear us say, "family integrated". It is what we do, not what we preach. We preach Christ and Him crucified, not family integration. That is just our structure.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I am very glad that you asked that question because I did leave it out there without a better explanation. The division of men and women is only on our Wednesday night gathering and not on the Lords day.

We do the division on Wed for a more focused teaching to help them where they are. Example- For married men, We expect the men to be leading in family worship at home and to some that is a new concept. We use Wed night to equip the saints and answer their questions on how to do it. For Singles, we expect them to disciple others and be able to defend the faith. We use that time to answer their questions about doctrine and the like.
I hope my question won't seem disrespectful, as I don't mean it so: to an onlooker this seems a bit arbitrary, from what I have understood of the other positions involved. Could you explain a little more why it would be biblically justifiable to break up the family unit, for formal instruction in the church, into men and women on any day of the week (whereas if I understand correctly you would not sponsor a singles Bible study even on Thursdays), but not into children and adults etc?
 

nasa30

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am very glad that you asked that question because I did leave it out there without a better explanation. The division of men and women is only on our Wednesday night gathering and not on the Lords day.

We do the division on Wed for a more focused teaching to help them where they are. Example- For married men, We expect the men to be leading in family worship at home and to some that is a new concept. We use Wed night to equip the saints and answer their questions on how to do it. For Singles, we expect them to disciple others and be able to defend the faith. We use that time to answer their questions about doctrine and the like.
I hope my question won't seem disrespectful, as I don't mean it so: to an onlooker this seems a bit arbitrary, from what I have understood of the other positions involved. Could you explain a little more why it would be biblically justifiable to break up the family unit, for formal instruction in the church, into men and women on any day of the week (whereas if I understand correctly you would not sponsor a singles Bible study even on Thursdays), but not into children and adults etc?
No, I don't take it as a bad question at all. We are given different roles in scripture and those differences are usually based on gender not age. Men and women are different and have different duties but no where do we see that this teens should do this and High Schoolers should do this or that. We do see the older women teaching the younger but it is within a gender first.

You never see books on the Titus 2 Man or the Proverbs 31 husband.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
But surely we do have instruction for other biblical 'roles': children are to obey, fathers are not to provoke them: Paul makes a difference between the role of the single and the married in his treatment of those states. I am unable to see the rationale for dividing the family up along gender lines, but along no others, as not being somewhat arbitrary because of that (and I have also always thought the older women are instructed to teach the younger in informal settings, rather than necessarily as an official ministry of the church -- I'm not opposed to ladies' meetings, it's just that when one's view seems to require a sanction for a group meeting instead of the family, I'm not sure that an informal sanction is enough)?

Again, I mean no disrespect: I speak as a housewife, and will not argue my point :). Thank you sincerely for your kind response.
 

nasa30

Puritan Board Sophomore
But surely we do have instruction for other biblical 'roles': children are to obey, fathers are not to provoke them: Paul makes a difference between the role of the single and the married in his treatment of those states. I am unable to see the rationale for dividing the family up along gender lines, but along no others, as not being somewhat arbitrary because of that (and I have also always thought the older women are instructed to teach the younger in informal settings, rather than necessarily as an official ministry of the church -- I'm not opposed to ladies' meetings, it's just that when one's view seems to require a sanction for a group meeting instead of the family, I'm not sure that an informal sanction is enough)?

Again, I mean no disrespect: I speak as a housewife, and will not argue my point :). Thank you sincerely for your kind response.
No disrespect taken I assure you.

Yes, we do have/need instruction in the other biblical roles and those really fall under Christian living. That is our day to day and that is taught each Lords day or whenever questions are asked. I see the distinction being that the teaching for single and married is not different. The duties as Christian are the same for either and that goes for gender as well. But gender does have some uniqueness than can be better addressed by meeting together.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Yes, we do have/need instruction in the other biblical roles and those really fall under Christian living. That is our day to day and that is taught each Lords day or whenever questions are asked. I see the distinction being that the teaching for single and married is not different.
I'm so sorry, I've tried to keep my hands from plinking themselves down on the keys in keeping with my last post (though, in keeping with my last post, I won't argue that particular point further :) but having reread this a few times, I think it would be useful to the discussion to point out that perhaps this statement demonstrates why a single person might feel uncomfortable in the movement.

Surely the day to day duties of a single woman are not essentially the same as those of the married, minus the small detail of a husband to obey and please in all things? Paul says that the single person is free to please the Lord, whereas the married must care about the things of the world -- how to please their spouse -- if this is a minor irrelevance, not constituting 'some uniqueness' between married and single roles (as you acknowledge there to be between male and female), then Paul's argument preferring his single state would go out the window? I don't mean to imply that single people must then necessarily meet in their own groups on Wed. night etc; but that perhaps the approach stated above may be why single people have expressed that the movement makes them feel expected to conform to the pattern of the married -- and somewhat marginalised? Perhaps it was a misunderstanding on my part, in which case hopefully at least this will serve for clarification?

Thanks for your patience.
 

nasa30

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yes, we do have/need instruction in the other biblical roles and those really fall under Christian living. That is our day to day and that is taught each Lords day or whenever questions are asked. I see the distinction being that the teaching for single and married is not different.
I'm so sorry, I've tried to keep my hands from plinking themselves down on the keys in keeping with my last post (though, in keeping with my last post, I won't argue that particular point further :) but having reread this a few times, I think it would be useful to the discussion to point out that perhaps this statement demonstrates why a single person might feel uncomfortable in the movement.

Surely the day to day duties of a single woman are not essentially the same as those of the married, minus the small detail of a husband to obey and please in all things? Paul says that the single person is free to please the Lord, whereas the married must care about the things of the world -- how to please their spouse -- if this is a minor irrelevance, not constituting 'some uniqueness' between married and single roles (as you acknowledge there to be between male and female), then Paul's argument preferring his single state would go out the window? I don't mean to imply that single people must then necessarily meet in their own groups on Wed. night etc; but that perhaps the approach stated above may be why single people have expressed that the movement makes them feel expected to conform to the pattern of the married -- and somewhat marginalised? Perhaps it was a misunderstanding on my part, in which case hopefully at least this will serve for clarification?

Thanks for your patience.
Trust me, there is so much confusion over this and FIC in general that explanations are needed.

For the sake of clarity, the bolded section about was in reference to being a Christian day to day and that teaching is not different. We are to be obedient to God and his commands, to spread the gospel, the stand up for the cause of Christ and that is what I am talking about that you reference above.

In previous posts I said:
Yes, singles are fully included. We make no distinctions about marital status. We just get different questions from them because of where they are in life.
Yes, the single folks do have different questions than married and we address those as well. We just do it together as a church body.

I also want to note that this is not just an FIC issue. FIC churches are not above it but we have it wrong in all kinds of churches and leave groups behind, Singles, Seniors, etc. That is one reason why we try so hard to not make something like marital status or age an issue.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Thanks much for the clarification.

I still see there being undeniably 'some uniqueness' in the biblical role here as well, but that would revert back to the question of on what basis one decides to divide a family to meet in groups. I do think I understand your position somewhat better now; you've been very gracious, thank you.
 

nasa30

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks much for the clarification.

I still see there being undeniably 'some uniqueness' in the biblical role here as well, but that would revert back to the question of on what basis one decides to divide a family to meet in groups. I do think I understand your position somewhat better now; you've been very gracious, thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to find out for yourself and asking questions.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I do find separate responsibilities laid out in Titus 2 concerning who should teach whom.

(Tit 2:1) But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

(Tit 2:2) That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

(Tit 2:3) The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

(Tit 2:4) That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

(Tit 2:5) To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

(Tit 2:6) Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

(Tit 2:7) In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

(Tit 2:8) Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

(Tit 2:9) Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;

(Tit 2:10) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Now you can call this a segregation of duty in my opinion. Maybe even of age as it relates to the older and younger receiving instruction. I see no problem with an older more mature instructing a group of younger people who have a certain set of particular issues in their lifes calling and station, whether it be one of adolescence, single adulthood, or marriage. Each need a different subset of particular topical teaching.

Pastor Keith Throop has been posting on this subject and giving Scott Brown his room to defend himself by posting links to his recent defenses.


Welcome to NCFIC.org - Promoting Biblical Harmony Between Churches and Families
It is a falsehood to say that the National Center for Family Integrated Churches advocates a “family of families” ecclesiology. In fact, our understanding of the nature of the church is consistent with the historic doctrinal statements of the faith including the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and many other orthodox statements on the church. It is the same understanding I received as a young man when I was in seminary. We do not advocate a “family of families” ecclesiology. Rather, our ecclesiology is as rich and clear as the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Westminster confession.
In the same blog Scott Brown states...
Let me say that again V-E-R-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y... THE TERM FAMILY OF FAMILIES IS NOT A COMMENT ON THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH!”1




Now in response to another blog by Jason Webb, Scott Brown sets the record straight.
Welcome to NCFIC.org - Promoting Biblical Harmony Between Churches and Families
Did the Puritans have a "Family of Families" Ecclesiology

It has been claimed that I wrote that the Puritans had a "family of families ecclesiology." This author cited my article, "My Top Four Favorite Family-Integrated Church Pastors," and used it to back up this assertion. However, if you read the article, you will notice that I never said the Puritans like Bunyan and Edwards had a “family of families” ecclesiology as the author maintains. His statement is unfounded and he wrongfully put those words in my mouth. My point was simply that the Puritans preached to age integrated church gatherings just like we do in family integrated churches today.
I still think Jason's blog has some merit for understanding what is going on in the confused language. Especially in relation to ecclesiology, the confessions, and they way the Puritans / Presbyterian's viewed their responsibilities and training up those who were in the faith.

THE HISTORICAL CRITIQUE FROM PURITAN ECCLESIOLOGY
The Family-Integrated Church Movement ? Part 4 Reformed Baptist Fellowship



And evidently it has been confusing as Pastor Throop has stated in his blog.

Reformed Baptist Blog: FICM Response to Reformed Baptist Critics
Update 17 November 2009

Scott Brown has posted yet another article in his series responding to Reformed Baptists objections. It is entitled The Church is a "Family of Families" -- Part 5 and is subtitled "What have we learned from this controversy over 'Family of Families'?" In this article Brown speaks to the way he believes FICM advocates have often been misunderstood and of the way NCFIC will make use of the phrase "family of families" in the future. Although he says that it no longer appears in current NCFIC literature and has been removed from their core document "A Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family," he also states that "We have no intention to abandon the use of the phrase or the concept behind it. It is a very important principle that undergirds a biblical understanding of church and family life."

So, while Brown obviously sees that the phrase "family of families" has been problematic when used as a descriptive term for the Church, so much so that it has been removed from all of the NCFIC literature, he nevertheless thinks that there is no need to abandon use of the phrase among FICM advocates.
I would like to make a few comments here concerning this again.

I see no problem with age segregated teaching... As in let the older teach they younger. Or to put it another way, let the mature teach the less mature. I say that remembering Paul's exhortation to Timothy considering his age, Let no man despise thy youth, at the same time remembering how Paul instructed us to relate to those who were older.

In the 1800's and I imagine much earlier. Schools of divinity and Schools in general were set up for appropriate learning. That obviously led to the Sabbath Schools and instruction for age appropriate and maturity level training. Ever since my kids were little they were involved with attending the worship service with me unless they were babes and couldn't receive cognizant instruction. When they were small enough to attend and not disrupt the order of the worship I brought them to service along with drawing utensils and paper.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Randy, that's an interesting point -- if I understand correctly -- that if one uses Titus 2 for biblical warrant, specially teaching 'the young' is equally as appropriate as teaching along lines of gender.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Scott Brown notes on his blog.
The phrase, ‘family of families” was never meant to be a comprehensive ecclesiological statement; it only served to demonstrate that the church is not exclusively composed of individuals, by acknowledging that there is a second biblical authority and jurisdiction in the church when a family comes to church. We wanted to clarify an important matter that church leaders are charged, not only to equip individuals, but also family members. They come to church as fathers and mothers and children and they need help to function biblically in their relationships in their homes.
First off..

The very word Church implies that the Church is composed of individuals. Each individual has an interdependent relationship with the other. The very word Church signifies this. As it cries, "OUR FATHER, who art in heaven." Each relationship is different from one individual to the next. But their is a connectedness. Why state the obvious?

I find charges like this to be way overboard and just plain silly. Especially in the evangelical churches I have been aware of. Every Pastor I have known and heard counsels and teaches to all applicably to their sheep.
 
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PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Randy, that's an interesting point -- if I understand correctly -- that if one uses Titus 2 for biblical warrant, specially teaching 'the young' is equally as appropriate as teaching along lines of gender.
That has how I always understood it. I refuse to counsel a woman based upon this passage. I will entreat them as sisters and give admonition but I always will refer to an older more mature woman.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Are you familiar with William Symington's work in Scotland. He was used of God in the venture of training poor children. I am not necessarily arguing for Government Schools or the concept of Government run schools.
 

Timothy William

Puritan Board Junior
Judson, thank you for your polite reply. My previous post was overly contentious in tone, and I imputed the problems I've experienced as a single man in conservative churches to the FIC movement, which was unfair of me and done without knowledge. I apologise.

I'm not convinced that it is always wrong to divide into groups based on age or marital status (or by other criteria such as introductory classes or catechism for new believers). I am glad that you strive to treat everyone equally, and I see that you have solid reasons for your beliefs and practices, in particular for necessity of communal worship for the whole church on the Lord's Day.

Do you think it reasonable or allowable for there to be purely social events for people in different categories, such as singles; groups where single people can meet one another (either to find partners or just to be sociable)?
 

nasa30

Puritan Board Sophomore
Judson, thank you for your polite reply. My previous post was overly contentious in tone, and I imputed the problems I've experienced as a single man in conservative churches to the FIC movement, which was unfair of me and done without knowledge. I apologise.
I understand that emotions do run high on this (especially when hurt in the past) so no offense is taken brother.


I'm not convinced that it is always wrong to divide into groups based on age or marital status (or by other criteria such as introductory classes or catechism for new believers). I am glad that you strive to treat everyone equally, and I see that you have solid reasons for your beliefs and practices, in particular for necessity of communal worship for the whole church on the Lord's Day.

Do you think it reasonable or allowable for there to be purely social events for people in different categories, such as singles; groups where single people can meet one another (either to find partners or just to be sociable)?
Yes, I believe that purely social events are a different thing all together and we should be free to have fun together. It just would not be considered teaching or worship (which I know you are not saying that it would be).

-----Added 11/19/2009 at 09:37:08 EST-----

Are you familiar with William Symington's work in Scotland. He was used of God in the venture of training poor children. I am not necessarily arguing for Government Schools or the concept of Government run schools.
I am somewhat familiar with his work. I have read some about him in some Covenanter books. I would agree that him teaching the poor in his area to read was a great thing. I also see that he did not set up a school for just children to read but taught adults as well so he used the school to teach those in need and not just an age group.

I would argue that his great work should not set up the standard we should strive for in our families. Just like I think that God used George Muller and his orphanage in a great service but again, we should not try to equate that to be our standard for our families.
 
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