real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

part 6 of the pros and cons of the family integrated church model

In a traditional church setting, the pastor’s presence and influence can set a tone, for good or for bad, that has far-reaching effects on everyone in the congregation. The same is true within the family integrated model church, in spite of the fact that most of these congregations are touted as being father-led or father-directed.

Depending on the polity of the individual church and the standards adopted by the denomination, if there is an affiliation with one, the expectations on the role of the pastor can be quite varied. So can the expectations of the local church leadership, especially as a new church is being established and when there are no “official” church officers.

In our first family integrated church experience, as I talked about yesterday, a pastor was brought in to an already organized congregation, one that was considered to be under the authority and care of an already established presbytery. However, because this presbytery was located 1000 miles away and the church, in all honesty, maintained its own autonomy, involvement with another denomination who saw us as a viable church plant seemed logical, especially given the fact that our church had initiated contact with and solicited assistance from a church in the Chicago area who wanted to plant a family integrated church locally. It appeared to be a win-win situation.

Since the church planter had spoken at a local homeschooling convention and had promoted the concept of family integrated church, our pastor had a list of contacts in the area. He opened his home to many on that list and we began to see visitors coming to the church every week. From the perspective that Clay and I had, it was encouraging because the people who came to visit were what we would categorize as “broadly evangelical,” mainstream Christian homeschool families. These were people who longed to have fellowship with other like-minded families and who desired to be encouraged in their home discipleship. There seemed to be less of a radical fringe-philosophy element.

And speaking of the phrase “home discipleship,” I would like to take a few minutes to talk about what that looks like in a family integrated church.

Clay and I both love the phrase and are big proponents of much of the home discipleship philosophy, having made this a regular part of our family life since our earliest days of homeschooling. Simply put, it is a model where families meet daily for family worship that includes reading the Bible, Scripture memory, prayer, and singing, with emphasis on teaching the great hymns of the faith, which also might include psalm singing, all led by dads.

Inviting other families to your home for fellowship and then sharing these practices is to be the means for growing your congregation and for opening the door to evangelism as you reach out to neighbors and unsaved loved ones.

Many FIC families then meet together for a monthly hymn sing and fellowship dinner where families can share the fruits of their Scripture memory efforts or musical abilities. I can’t begin to tell you what a blessing these evenings can be and what an encouragement it is to see so many precious children memorizing God’s word!

While it will naturally follow that these evenings take on the individual flavors of their particular congregation, we realized early on that the personal childhood experiences of the church planter who was involved with our group set the tone and example for many things that we did. His Dutch reformed heritage was one rich in home discipleship and it was a blessing to see how it influenced the entire ministry. While the principles in our own home had been the same, some of the particulars as he practiced them were foreign to us and we were certain that each family made their own adjustments as time went on, reflecting their own tastes and convictions.

But, as much unity as you would expect there would be among people who had similar goals for their families, there were still denominational and theological differences that needed to be addressed. Several of the men in the congregation had very strong convictions about certain things, including the use of the KJV Bible only, hymns and psalms used exclusively during worship, no overhead projector during worship, paedo-communion served by fathers, and one-household voting, excluding women from any decision making. The pastor and the church planter, on the other hand, preferred to use a more modern translation, wanted to include praise music, and the pastor preferred to use an overhead projector for his sermon outline, etc.

And then there was the problem of the church plant denomination and whether or not our church could really be a member of it. One of the men was being encouraged by long distance friends that this particular denomination was apostate because they allowed for women deacons and their denominational colleges had opened the discussion on how to deal with the issue of homosexuality. This translated into “if we go with this group, we will be known as the homosexual-woman church,” a phrase that sent me through the roof every time I heard it because it sent the message that choosing a homosexual lifestyle and the strong Biblical teaching that it is a sin somehow equates with being a woman, as though that is also sinful. While I would be certain that this man didn’t believe this to be true, this is just one example where the attitude that women are somehow lesser beings would repeatedly manifest itself.

These issues were unresolved until one of the men at the church decided that the solution would be to explore another option, that of bringing in another pastor. So he took it upon himself to write a letter to Phil Lancaster, one of the authors of the Basic Tenets of Patriarchy, asking him if he would consider coming to the area to pastor our church and, initially, Mr. Lancaster indicated that he would be open to the idea.

Though there were no elected or appointed elders at this point nor had Clay heard anything at all about this idea at any of the men’s meetings, it became obvious that this church, by this time a couple years old, was not really thought of as a part of the church planter’s efforts nor was it even a father-directed congregation. In fact, once again, we felt as though there had been a bait and switch, as we had experienced in that first church with the brochure.

But this time, we were really concerned not so much for ourselves but because our pastor had moved his family over 3600 miles to take this job, and we, as a church, had made a commitment to him and to the church planter to support him. And the truth was that the majority of families coming into the church weren’t interested in coming because of the regulated worship nor were they worried about any perceived concerns about the denomination. They simply wanted to be encouraged in their home discipleship efforts.

What happened next was amazing! The first church congregation who had come to disdain the influence of homeschoolers had now, in reality, become responsible for the planting of two family integrated churches, both made up entirely of homeschooling families!

(to be continued)


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