If the Family Is Central, Christ Is Not

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.

(8) Familism:

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): Churches, Christians Turn Marriage, Family, and Parenting Into Idols

(Link):  Sexism, Protecting Women, Family Values, and Christians Placing Biological Family Above Everyone Else

(Link): Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries (How Churches Are Ministering to Adult Singles in 2022)

(Link): This Headline Has My Fellow Conservatives In A Tizzy, but It Should Not: Just 18% of US households are ‘nuclear families’ with a married couple and children, down from 40% since 1970s and the lowest since 1959

(Link): Federalist Magazine Staff Annoyed that Other Outlets Publish the Down Side of Motherhood and Are Requesting Sunny Motherhood Propaganda Pieces – As If Conservatives Haven’t Pushed for Motherhood Enough? The Mind Boggles

(Link): Critique of Federalist Editorial “There Is One Pro-Women Camp In American Politics, And It’s The Right by Elle Reynolds” – Do Federalist Magazine Members Realize There Are Single, Childless Conservative Women?

(Link): Church Is a Family, Not an Event by K. Kandiah

(Link):Southern Baptist Al Mohler Intimates That Childless And Childfree Adults Are  Not Human (2019) – and He Thinks This is a Good and Biblical Worldview

(Link):  Facebook’s motherhood challenge makes me want to punch my computer screen by F. Everett

(Link): The Nuclear Family Was A Mistake – by David Brooks – and Related Links

(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): More married women are not having children, U.S. study finds – this will throw a monkey wrench into conservative Christian plans

(Link): Do You Rate Your Family Too High? (Christians Who Idolize the Family) (article)

(Link):  Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage

(Link):  Bethke: “Christians Do Not Need To Get Married To Live A Full And Flourishing Existence”

(Link):  Please Stop Shaming Me for Being Single by J. Vadnal

(Link): Really, It’s Okay To Be Single – In order to protect marriage, we should be careful not to denigrate singleness – by Peter Chin

(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): Christians: Please Stop Telling Singles that Their Singleness is “For God’s Glory” /  Owen Strachan’s “Being Single To Bring God Glory” Essay

(Link): ‘Why Are You Single’ Lists That Do Not Pathologize Singles by Bella DePaulo  

(Link):  Five Things Single Women Hate to Hear

(Link):  Christian Blogger About Divorce, Pastor Andrew Webb, Thinks All To Most Mid-Life Never – Married or Single – Again Adults Are Mal-Adjusted, Ugly Losers Who Have Too Much Baggage

(Link): Statistics Show Single Adults Now Outnumber Married Adults in the United States (2014)

(Link): Salvation By Marriage Alone – The Over Emphasis Upon Marriage (and “family”) by Conservative Christians Evangelicals Southern Baptists

(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): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy”

(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

5 thoughts on “If the Family Is Central, Christ Is Not”

  1. So true, Christian Pundit. I’ve been a member of my church for 10 years, and have in the last two or three begun to wonder if I even belong there anymore. It’s all about families now, and yes, it excludes people who are–gads–just couples or singles.

    1. @ CatherineK.
      Thank you for the comments – I also saw your other comments on other posts. Yes, many churches today are too marriage or family-centric.

      I am over 40 yrs of age, have never married or had kids, and when I resumed going to church mid-30s, it felt foreign.

      I was one of the only adult singles sitting alone. Most sermons are about how to have a great marriage, how to be a great parent, preachers pepper sermons with “my wife and I and my kids” examples.

      This over-40, never married, and childless person feels excluded, and like all the married pastors and people in churches cannot relate.

      Married Christian couples generally not interested in befriending adult singles, either, so I cannot make friends at church.

      I have kind of left the Christian faith, maybe not 100% but am almost there. Church holds nothing for me. Am probably leaving Christian faith for many reasons, though, NOT just single vs. marriage topic.
      thankx for comments

  2. Good article ChristianPundit. I’m afraid there are thousands of churches across this country that think they can evangelize the whole world with penny marches and Easter egg hunts. They bow down to their idols of women and children every Sunday morning and put Jesus on the back burner. Actually, the word “family” has become synonymous with the word “christian.” Family restaurant? Family Life Center? Family values? It will be sad one day when millions of people are shocked to find themselves standing before the judgement of God alone and without their spouses and children. Sad indeed.

    1. They bow down to their idols of women and children every Sunday morning and put Jesus on the back burner

      But that they would make women in general an idol, 🙂 , and allow them to serve fully, I wouldn’t feel so excluded from most conservative churches and denominations.

      I think the problem in that area is that they elevate only certain types of women (such as mothers and wives), and do not treat all women (regardless of marital or parenting status or gifting) equally.

      Most churches do the same thing with men: only married men, and especially fathers, count or or any import.

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