If the Family Is Central, Christ Is Not, by John B. Carpenter, CP Guest Contributor
In the firestorm of the culture war, no Christian wants to sound like he’s against the family.
Indeed, many Christians assume that what’s good for the “family” is good. Period.
Hence, the “Family Integrated Church” (FIC) movement has arisen, calling for churches to be family centered. By that FIC advocates mean that families should meet together for all functions of the church.
That means, no separate Sunday School classes, no “children’s church” and no “youth group”. The church meets as families, they say. This is so important, FIC people say, it’s worth forming entirely new churches on this distinctive alone. The problems with this, as I see them, are:
(7) Misdefinition of the Church:
The FICM has defined the church as a “family of families”. Even if they’ve erased that formal definition, they act as though the church is not a gathering of individual believers around Jesus but of separate families.
But in the Bible, there is eventually, ultimately one family. 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 church, however, as the assembly of God’s people, will last eternally. Making the church centered on the family, subverts the church.
The Lord Jesus pitted 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 supersede 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.
Traditions that use icons in their worship, bowing before and lighting candles to them, deny they are practicing idolatry; they say they are only “venerating” images, etc. Just because people can deny what they are doing, doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing it. 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.
Related posts, this blog:
(Link): Why Do Churches Treat Singleness Like a Problem? via Relevant Magazine
(Link): Salvation Army Bans Duggar / Quivering Cult’s ‘Retreat’ (Called ‘Get Them Married’) that Promoted Arranged Marriages for Teen Girls – Quivering Advocates Are Anti-Adult Singleness and Anti-Celibacy
(Link): Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church? by Gina Dalfonzo
(Link): Christian ‘Married People’ Privilege – Most Marrieds Remain Amazingly Blinded to Christian Discrimination Against Singles Or Write Unmarrieds’ Concerns Off, As Though They Are Nothing Compared to Marriage/ Parenting.
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): How Christians Have Failed on Teaching Maturity and Morality Vis A Vis Marriage / Parenthood – Used as Markers of Maturity Or Assumed to be Sanctifiers – Also: More Hypocrisy – Christians Teach You Need A Spouse to Be Purified, But Also Teach God Won’t Send You a Spouse Until You Become Purified