thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

part 5 of the pros and cons of the family integrated church model

Finally, after many months, our church building was repaired and we moved back into it, any discussion about purchasing the rental property lost in the midst of serious problems that had surfaced among the church elders. Though it didn’t directly involve those of us in the congregation at large, it put the entire church into a state of paralysis.

Some of the issues were theological, some were personal preferences being treated as essential doctrines of the faith. But underlying the problems and contention was the negative attitude that continued to be held against homeschoolers, with left over bitterness about the youth ministry and frustration at the lack of enthusiasm for the building program often surfacing in comments. In fact, relationships had disintegrated to the point that the pastor told people that his problems would all be gone if all the homeschoolers left. Had this been a divorce, homeschoolers could have sued for alienation of affection.

During this time, homeschooling families began to trickle out of the church and any who happened to visit quickly sensed that they were unwelcome. Eventually, after several years, only a couple homeschooling families remained and those who did welcomed the new building program and even supported a Christian school where the parents were involved.

At this point, we had grown weary of not only the anti-homeschooling attitude but the direct attacks from the pulpit against those who held to convictions that were different than the elders’. Pro-homeschooling rhetoric that had drawn us to the church, anti-homeschooling rhetoric had driven us out.

We spent a year in another traditional church, basically trying to recover from what had been a terribly painful experience. It was at this point that we heard that several families we knew, including the author of the original brochure that had brought us to the previous church, wanted to begin a family integrated church so we decided to join them. We still have a picture of that first day we gathered for worship, 3 families standing in front of a rented American Legion hall, smiling children and hopeful adults. I don’t presume to know what thoughts went through the minds of everyone else that day, but I remember thinking that maybe we could have peace, at least for a while. And for a while, we did.

I might want to back up at this point and share a couple things about where Clay and I were theologically on that day. Both of us had grown up in American Baptist churches and had gone to an American Baptist college but had been greatly influenced by the writings of Francis Schaeffer and the preaching of John McArthur. We both embraced the doctrines of grace and had been members of a Presbyterian congregation but neither of us was convinced of the necessity of infant baptism, although we didn’t have an issue with babies being baptized. We had no preferences for worship style, the singing of hymns, psalms, or choruses, or any combination of them. We did want to feel the freedom to direct our own family’s spiritual training and education, free from the continual negative attitudes and statements we had experienced previously.

In retrospect, we probably should have had many more questions than we did about the direction the other families thought the church would be taking but we had been under the assumption that there would be freedom of conscience in these areas as well as others.

To begin with, we didn’t realize the amount of influence that the teachings of Vision Forum had on some of the families, including new ones that joined us. Many times someone would bring a tape by Doug Phillips and we listened to it after the noon fellowship dinner. When he was in town for a homeschooling convention, Phillips was asked to preach during our worship service, though it turned out to be an hour and a half talk on keeping daughters from losing the vision for multi-generational family life rather than an expository message. Many visitors came that day, several who later privately told us that they were horrified at the things he had said and certainly would never consider returning. We began to wonder if the church could grow if others had this same opinion.

We also came to understand that everyone in the church, except for our family, held to what is known as the Civil War as a Theological War theology. We began to hear phrases like “Abraham Lincoln was a wicked man. I hate him” and “Had the south only won the war, we would have had a truly Christian nation” and “the war wasn’t about slavery” At one men’s Bible study, one of the men commented “The Klan has done some good things,” referring to the KKK, leaving us dumbfounded. It wasn’t until later that we learned that some of the members had participated in wearing black face for a homeschool co-op production and we also began to see all of the racist teachings in books recommended by Vision Forum and the lauding of men like Confederate chaplain R. L. Dabney. A growing discomfort began to nag at us.

In the midst of this, we learned that a church planter from the Chicago area was interested in helping us grow our family integrated church and the offer was made to bring in a pastor who believed he was called to minister in a home discipleship church. After hearing him preach and getting to know his sweet family, we were thrilled to support his move to our area. And in the back of our minds, Clay and I felt that this influence would help to temper the patriocentric and pro-south leanings we were witnessing.

(to be continued)

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14 Comments»

  Cindy K wrote @

Karen,

I have a picture in my head that the ministry that offered to help to grow your church just might be Henry Reyenga’s group.

I have a question about him. I’ve heard that his view of how to evangelize and plant new churches is actually based upon the principles that Amway uses. Living here in Amway country with Rick DeVos recently running for state governor and the fact that Rick Ross (cult exit counselor) teaches that the multi-level marketing systems are very cultic, I’m quite intrigued.

I know that you did attend a Reyenga church, and I wonder if there is any credence to the claim that Reyenga borrowed his plan from his friends in Amway here in Michigan?

(I don’t know how I keep moving to these weird places, save to say that submission doctrine and hierarchical Christianity is all over the place.) I did have a So. Baptist pastor in Bossier, LA tell me that there were no blacks in our huge church (where I attended only for a few months) because “they had their own churches,” hence the “Missionary Baptist Church” — according to him were started as missionary efforts of the white Baptist churches to create places for the blacks to go. God forbid that they church together. But I never did hear anyone utter anything favorable about the KKK, so I guess I’m ahead of the game? And we had the KKK in abundance there.

  Cindy K wrote @

Bill Britt is the other big Amway guru, the one that is said to have knowledge of manipulation and thought reform techniques. I’d heard that Reyenga had a friendship with someone in Amway. I’ve wondered if you’d ever heard Britt’s name or DeVos’ name while moving in Reyenga’s circles?

I don’t know if any of that is true or not. It would be quite telling to me to know if there was a connection between Reyenga and Amway, particularly if he was friends with Britt.

(Allow me to state what may not be obvious to some: many multi-level marketing groups –Amway being the first and foremost — use thought reform techniques just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do, just like the shepherding/discipleship churches did, just like Gothard does. They may not use the systematic techniques in the same way or use the same ones to the same degrees, but it is all the same stuff that we discussed when we did the spiritual abuse podcasts.

  Moorea wrote @

Thank you for taking the time to get your thoughts posted. I whole heartedly agree about the weird Southern thing VF is obsessed with. Ick! So not of the Lord. I do not want to be naive and think we do not have too much of that going on over here on the Left Coast, but I have not heard too much about it my circles, people just kind of shied away from VF. I am glad to know more about it!

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, though I haven’t read it myself, it is my understanding that Henry Reygena’s book on home discipleship uses the Amway pyramid method as an analogy of how to build a home discipleship church. I know that he was an Amway distributor himself at one time and may still be one. I also recall that the DeVos family has Christian Reformed Church ties and that is the denomination that Henry worked as a church planter in for many years. As I understand it, he has recently (within the last couple of years) started his own denomination. I would really be interested in knowing more about that if anyone else could bring us up to speed.

Yes, Henry is the one who helped to get the church plant in our area started. I will be writing more about that in part 6.

  thatmom wrote @

Moorea,

It is interesting to me. If you look at a list of homeschooling conventions, there are some where the keynote speakers ALL reflect the VF influence, year after year. Others have a variety of speakers and it is difficult to know what the philosophy is of the local board. It looks like others have chosen to broaden their approach and invite in more mainstream speakers. It really is interesting to watch and attempt to analyze. I, for one, would be interested in accurate statistic on what the attendance is like at conventions in subsequent years right after VF speakers are on the docket. I know many people travel for hours to listen to speakers like Phillips, Baucham, and Swanson, and I know people who wouldn’t attend a convention if any of those men were scheduled as keynotes!

  thatmom wrote @

The Board of Directors for Reyenga’s Christian Leadership organization that seeks to establish more home discipleship churches, from their website:

Henry Reyenga, Jr., President
Brian De Cook, Vice President
Steve Goudzwaard, Treasurer
Rich De Vos, Sr., National Board Member
Ron Parr, National Board Member
Marty Ozinga III., National Board Member

  thatmom wrote @

I would also add that someone recently told me that she had attended one of Henry Reyenga’s workshops at a homeschooling convention and he quoted extensively from De Vos. aka “Mr. Amway.”

  thatmom wrote @

And one more thing….Voddie Baucham and Steve Swanson are both listed as instructors in the Christian Leaders pastor training.

  thatmom wrote @

OK, I meant to say “Kevin” Swanson. I know a missionary named “Steve” Swanson. My bad, as they say.

  Cindy K wrote @

Karen,

I goofed on first names also. Rich DeVos is the father of Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. I don’t know how I still get those names confused after being regaled with political adds on the evening news when he ran here a few years ago??!!!

And your post detailing who is on Reyenga’s board answers a question I had whether it was Dick or Rich DeVos that had influence with Reyenga. It appears to be the co-founder of Amway, Daddy Rich. (Oooh, I made an unintentional pun!)

If anyone has questions about my opinion about Amway’s questionable tactics, I generally defer to the page of documentation that the Rick A. Ross Institute (one of the original and most well-respected cult info sites) has accumulated on Amway. It offers editorials, info about the many law suits filed against them and the personal accounts of former distributors (listed at the bottom of the page).
http://www.rickross.com/groups/amway.html

  Susan T wrote @

Karen,
OT, but I remember being at the morning APACHE conference keynote when Henry Reyenga asked the audience to raise hands if they could recite such and so passage of scripture and then he proceeded to chastize the audience when the number of hands not raised displeased him. I thought him quite pompous. Then he proceeded to march his family or other practiced families out onto the stage and they all recited. It left a bad taste in my mouth and that was too bad because the goal of learning & memorizing scripture is wonderful but his attitude and approach was a real turn off. Just one of the many speakers in recent years who lacked humility. Thankfully the last 2 conferences have featured gracious keynote couples with humble presentations.

  thatmom wrote @

Susan, I am cringing as I read what you wrote! I am horrified that that sort of pressure was put on families and especially at the “comparing themselves among themselves” attitude. I remember seeing it and feeling embarrassed for Henry. Clay and I also agreed that it was not what we remembered when we visited his church in Monee nor was it quite like what we saw in Peoria. I think it was for show at convention and rather than sending an edifying message it DID come across as arrogant!

On thing that really bothered me regarding the emphasis on Scripture memory was the nearly accusatory question dads could be asked at random “What are you memorizing right now? Let’s hear it.” It was a wonderful, inspirational experience when it was voluntary but really obnoxious when forced. I will be addressing that as I get into some of the more negative aspects of the family integrated/home discipleship movement.

In part, and after listening to the comments Henry was making on the video I linked to in the first article in this series, I think he is trying to take family discipleship as seriously as the Puritan pastors did centuries ago. Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, whose writings I have greatly appreciated, believed that he wouldn’t need to spend a lot of time doing private family counseling if he preached expository sermons with application from the pulpit and if he visited his families once a year and checked to see if the children were being catechized. My guess is that pastors in the family integrated church movement are taking their cues from Baxter and others who saw family worship and discipleship as central to the life of the church. The problem comes when it is micro-managed, as we have seen. There was the expectation that everyone would read, study, and memorize the same passages with weekly hand-outs and questions being asked on those passages each week. Clay questioned this practice, believing that parents needed to be the ones who were directing their own times of worship and memory, based on what they thought their own children should be studying at that time. So we were often unprepared to answer the questions when put to us because we continued to do our own thing! 🙂

I am with you about the speakers the last couple of years. I loved the Lamberts, not just because I have such fond memories of 5 in a Row, but because he said so many things that really needed to be said regarding homeschoolers and their propensity to live in a paradigm. it was awesome, as was Diana Waring the year before!

  Connie wrote @

Re homeschool convention speakers:

We won’t be attending our state’s homeschool convention again unless the focus changes. Unfortunately, a change in direction doesn’t look to be forthcoming since the board members all seem to be fervent VF proponents. Recently we’ve had R.C. Jr., Kevin Swanson and the McDonalds (in same year, no less!!!!!). Next year’s keynote speaker: Voddie Baucham. No thanks.

  Anne2 wrote @

Ontario, Canada – OCHEC / Ontario Christian Home Educator’s Conference – April 2009 keynote is the excited Kevin Swanson.
A few years ago Doug Phillips keynoted.
I am so glad we saw the light and got out.
Rather, God got us out.

Oh my micromanagment here we come! A certain southern U.S denomination is making inroads in Canada. They adore Dabney. Patriarchy is huge. Micromanagement is huge. They have their noses everywhere it doesn’t belong. And you are right about UNIFORMITY vs. UNITY. They just can’t cope with anything that says thanks but no thanks. They want lockstep drones. Very wearisome. 😦


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