thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

part 10 of the pros and cons of the family integrated church model

During our last few months at the second family integrated church, our daughter and son-in-law decided to visit another church at the encouragement and invitation of some friends they knew from my son-in-law’s job. While they really liked being in the same church we were in, they had become frustrated, too, because, even though this was a church that was still in its infancy and, as such, had not yet clearly defined itself, there was little room for input or suggestions. And there was also little room for any of us to use our gifts.

Both of them had music degrees and had much to offer a church full of children, including experience directing a choir and teaching music to students. My son-in-law also had experience in orchestra directing and since there was a desire to begin an orchestra, he was excited about doing that. However, a music director from the mother church was asked to lead this ministry and he drove the 3 hours one way every week to do this, in spite of the fact that there was someone willing and able to do the same thing right in our own congregation. That seemed strange to us. Several times all of us spent Sunday afternoons talking about our concerns, mostly the ones I have already shared, and eventually our kids came to the conclusion that perhaps they needed to find another church home.

As time went on, our concerns grew and we realized they were shared by others who began to question their involvement in the church. When a family either stopped coming or their attendance waned, Clay talked to the dads and we soon learned that we were not alone in our disappointment at what a family integrated church appeared to be.

We even contacted the mother church, since there were no elders in our local church, to ask about some of the things we saw in our church that were so different than what we had seen in their church and we shared some of the comments visitors had been making to us. Their response was that, basically, our local pastor was authorized to make all the decisions and that they backed whatever he decided to do. Privately, we decided that we would stick it out and try to make an appeal to the pastor and the congregation to tweak some things that seemed to be off putting to visitors and that seemed inconsistent with the basic tenets of the family integrated church model as we understood them to be.

It was then that the mother church decided to place three of the men in the congregation in the position of leadership, not officially as elders since the church was not yet self-supporting, but as the ones who would serve in some capacity of leadership during the transition time. Clay was not chosen to be one of those men and the pastor approached him to tell him why he had been passed up. He said that though we were members in good standing in the local church and had been with them since day one, unless we were willing to go back to the traditional church who “defacto excommunicated us,” and seek forgiveness for questioning the elders, Clay would not ever be considered for any leadership. When we asked what we had done wrong there, it was suggested that we might just tell them that “in our frustration we…” and to think of something we could fill in that blank.

We then learned that the traditional church was threatening to publicly name the church plant as “an apostate church” for not upholding their church discipline of us. The pastor’s request was amazing to us, on one level, because we had been very forthright with what had happened in the past and had been told repeatedly that we certainly had not done anything that required repentance at that local church.

However, we also realized that we had been questioning the paradigm and that that had not been welcome, so not being in any leadership would certainly have solved that problem. We knew, then, that we had no input or influence to change any of the things that we knew were contrary to broadening the scope of the church plant beyond the inclusivity of homeschoolers only. It was with a great sense of sadness that we decided we would have to leave the church and also that we would need to leave the family integrated church model because we saw that the things that were important enough to us to make us leave were all the things that that model represented.

Our daughter and son-in-law had been encouraging us to visit their church for many months and so we finally did. Initially it was hard to assimilate ourselves into a church that was more than 10 times larger than the church plant. But within a few months, we came to see the Lord’s righteous hand of mercy in our lives. Experiencing God-honoring worship and challenging, expository preaching began to change our hearts and our minds. Our children started discussing the things we heard during the sermon and we soon began to see more clearly the mission of the church and the role that families have as part of that church, not as the center of the church.

We have often wondered why the Lord allowed us to wander as He did for so long. We have asked ourselves, many times, if the pain and struggle, especially in relationships, was worth the end result of where we are now and absolutely the answer has been “yes.” You see, I think we had to come full circle, back to a traditional church, through the path of experiencing family integrated churches, in order to really understand that there is an entirely different mindset you must embrace if you are in a family integrated ministry and that, as homeschoolers, that model seems so appealing. But, I believe it may be a siren song.

(to be continued)

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13 Comments»

  KellyH wrote @

Hi Karen! It may be a siren song of sorts. I think that one of the main reasons it (family integrated churches) appeals to homeschoolers mainly, is that they already take seriously the idea of educating their children with a Biblical worldview. It can be done otherways, this isn’t a homeschool arguement. However, I think it appeals to us our family, as it would bring family unity, dad into the picture and possibly some community and unity with a church body.

Jeff feels, and I do to, that the family integrated church, as such, is a severe overreaction to the comtemporary church in America. There are many things right with it. The mother church you speak of operates in a totally different manner than the plant.

Our problem is still with the current mindset that mom and dad aren’t capable of discipling their kids without Sunday school, youth group, group this, group that., etc. At least at the church we attend now, dads aren’t encouraged to do anything. There isn’t any community, unless you attend the local public school, or are related to another church goer. I think it comes down to two things. Others are on a totally different wavelength than we are about the importance of discipling their kids. We have compromised to try to assimilate into this church, and still it is surface level at best. The other is busyness. The time and effort the mother church spends on encouraging and planning hospitality, making the effort, and reaching out, is taken up by many churches in the many programs they have. If everyone is going here and going there , independently, there isn’t any time for getting together.

This is a rehash I know for you, we have talked about this before. I’m glad you guys have found a church. If it was just the older two, it wouldn’t be so frustrating. But with the 3 smaller ones, it’s going to be a struggle.

I wish there was a way to incorporate the positive things, and have there be some encouragement in churches.

Kelly

  Corrie wrote @

Karen,

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think many people can identify with your experiences. What comes to mind is the word “popery”. I see all these little upstarts and such as being heavy-handed and being concerned with exerting power and control over others where little popes dominate their pulpits. Question the pope and you are in big trouble.

I have seen people try and bring the FIC principles into established churches and it hasn’t been pretty. It turns out to be an us vs. them kind of situation.
I do think there are some good ideas that fly under the FIC banner but there is little flexibility within these systems.

I have been happy with the church we have been at. Great, sound teaching and flexibility to follow our own convictions as a family. I am trying to stay away from the extremes- the militant attitude that says that the children can never be out of their parents’ eyesight and that if you use the nursery or VBS you are “abdicating your duty as a parent” and the “children have to be shuffled off to their own age-segregated groups at all times”.

There are times we enjoy our children with us and there are times we enjoy being with just adults and discussing adult issues while the children are learning age-appropriate things.

  KellyH wrote @

I agree, there are times for having the kids with you, and times not too. The Sunday school for the little ones for us has been mixed. It would be nice to have adult fellowship, beyond the surface. That takes time, and hard to do with little ones around. I’m glad Karen has brought up this series, as there are good points with the FIC and with contemporary churches, now, how to blend them? KellyH

  thatmom wrote @

Kelly, “now how to blend them” is the question.

I have two more articles in this series and in the last one, #12, I will be listing some of my suggestions for blending.

And I agree that your situation is tricky because of the younger children. I have some thoughts on that, too, that I am still formulating. More later….

BTW, I got a note from Martha and she thanked me for this series. It is so interesting what our older children have learned from all of this isn’t it? We still have some great discussions, especially with Ben, about the pros and cons of it all. And really all my younger sons really do miss the friends that had made in the FIC churches and mention them often.

  thatmom wrote @

Corrie, you are correct that FIC churches are the perfect set up for control freaks. You are also correct that rarely can the FIC principles work in a traditional church. But I have come to the conclusion that the problem is one of character more than philosophy. Those who homeschool must learn to be gracious, which is a real challenge when you have so many in the homeschooling leadership using their blogs and books as bully pulpits to bring division. I find myself cringing so much of the time at the tone of the rhetoric, the name-calling, the extra-biblical lists, etc. Is it any wonder that churches respond to us the way we do? We are being taught that it is a them-against-us battle.

At the same time, so much of the church has just assumed that parents don’t have time to mentor their own children nor do they want to that they don’t know how to handle parents who actually want to disciple their own children. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could find good and productive and God-honoring ways to bring everyone together?

  KellyH wrote @

I am waiting to read the rest of your series. Your last comments about bringing everyone together is wonderful. I think it is true, most churches don’t know how to “handle” homeschoolers, and that any ideas they have are by default considered “subversive”.

Many of us who would like to disciple our kids, automatically assume, me included at the top of the list, that the church has other motives. The SS that the little ones are in, actually has some take home info for mom and dad. All the elementary kids are doing the same lesson, varying levels. this is helpful, as we can talk about it with them during the week. Dad can be involved also. For my dh, time is an issue, it is for all of us. So Having something already prepared for the little ones is very helpful, and helps him be involved. We use the SS in this manner, but not everyone has to do it.

We have decided to sit back and watch, do our own thing, and try to be involved in the church where we can. I apologize for venting earlier. As you guys have been, hopefully others aren’t , we are tired of the long journey for a church.

Kelly

  KellyH wrote @

Karen, I forgot to post this earlier. I had emailed martha the link to your blog when you posted the pictures of ben, joe and will when you took ben to school. I thought she would get a chuckle out of the car. If we didn’t know it, Will wasn’t standing next to him, you would think Joe was Jacob. They could be twins. How do we get such skinny kids? I’m glad Martha is reading through some of this. They certainly have a different perspective. But God is gracious, and our journey has been part of what has made our kids who they are.

Kelly

  Jack Brooks wrote @

Speaking as a Free Church pastor, one of the strongest objections I have in the church world is to dictatorial polities. but Christians are bored by polity, and don’t study it. Too many new churches today are adopting a Lord-and-serfs polity, where the elders are self-appointing, self-perpetuating grandees, and the congregation has only two real options — obey or leave (thus ensuring lots of church splits).

The NT teaches congregationalism, which means that the congregation has realms of authority that can’t be overridden. The local flock has the authority to test what taught them from the pulpit, and to make the final; decisions in disciplinary matters — which includes removing elders.

What’s being followed today isn’t elder rule at all, it’s a cultic distortion. That’s why it attracts little tinpot dictators — men who would never be allowed to get away with what they do in normal, check-and-balance systems that use established doctrinal statements and constitutions. But you can justify any sort of sin by yammering about the opposite fault of somebody else.

I would never agree to pastor a church that refused to have a statement of faith, membership roll, and a constitution with by-laws. Human nature is evil and can’t be trusted. We need structure like this, to retard our own depravity. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. But men aren’t angels.

  Cindy K wrote @

Pastor Brooks,

“Tin pot dictator” is a perfect term. So many of these men are not just insignificant, in their attempt to be larger-than-life, they are terribly petty. I had not though of this before.

  Jack Brooks wrote @

Bad doctrine will turn even a good man bad. There are a lot of people around today, IMO, teaching elder-dictatorship as if the New Testament teaches that, and they justify with horror stories about out-of-control “carnal congregationalism.” The charismatics teach their cultic ideas about someone being the anointed leader who gets direct messages from God, and so who can never be questioned — “touch not God’s anointed.” If you teach a basically good man these kinds of warped ideas about church government, he will be corrupted by them, and end up lording it over the flock. I teach that the NT teaches a checks-and-balances congregationalism, where the congregation uses the Bible to vet and appoint leaders, vest them with authority (which means they need to be obeyed, Hebrews 13:17); but the congregation, not just the other elders, has the authority to remove them for valid cause, as long as the proper procedures are followed (1 Timothy 5:17).

But “church government is boring”, so we are ignorant of it, and just accept whatever we’re taught.

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, the description you shared of your response to the evangelism-through-childbearing emphasis is such an important aspect of this movement. It isn’t quite quite traditional covenant theology and some of the founders of the FIC movement are Baptist, so I don’t know really what you would call the theology behind it. What it does to women, whether they are single, married without children or married with them, is so sad. Yes, I obviously believe that children are precious gifts from the Lord and ought to be welcomed into our homes and churches. But why do we never hear a thing about adoption? Why is fertility so central in this movement? And why is evangelizing unsaved children and their families not EVER discussed or made of any importance?

  thatmom wrote @

Pastor Jack, thank you for your many insightful comments.

One of concerns regarding church polity and this movement is how many people are willing to set aside important doctrines and principles, even things they once held dear, in order to be part of this type of church. And one of the natural consequences of that is participating in a don’t ask/don’t tell policy regarding church constitutions, membership policies, history, etc. I can remember Clay once asking to see a church constitution at the traditional church I write about in this series, and the pastor kept putting him off while encouraging membership. We now understand why.

You point about church dictators is a good one. We have seen the abuses run both directions. We were once members of an E Free Church which we were attracted to be the pastor was such a fine preacher. Several years down the road we watched him be tarred and feathered and sent 1000 miles away along with his sweet family. In that situation, the church elders, one of whom we called “the church boss” decided it was time for him to go. Though we had congregational rule, few people wanted to buck the system and the church boss was so affective in schmoozing his way around behind the scenes that it almost seemed acceptable to to most of the congregation that this man be fired and left with little compensation until he found another church. It outrageous and abusive.

And then we have seen the abusers as elders or pastors, too. And this “touch not God’s anointed” verse that is always trotted out when anyone questions one of them is a handy tool to beat back the congregation. We saw it called rebellion when our church constitution allowed for a minimum of 20 people to call an all-church meeting but the elders declared that even gong to people and asking them to participate in that meeting was a sin. Those who were trying to get a group together to call for a meeting were threatened with being charged with sowing discord among the brethren in a church court.

We have long said that there needs to be a balance of powers and, unfortunately, that is impossible in a upstart church planting situation where you have one or two men who are calling all the shots and who are determined to make the church what they want it to be.

Again, a church will only be as successful as the integrity and honesty and good character of its leadership.

  Jack Brooks wrote @

Agreed. However, people of good character can be hamstrung or blocked by bad polity; and if the church planter is already committed to a sound polity, then the likelihood that the church will develop along a decent, orderly, and just path is much higher than if the church is started by some renegade set of families who couldn’t stand submitting to church rules.

The example you give of the church boss is all too common, but even that is as much the fault of the other people as it is of the church boss. Every adult Christian is obligated to know the Bible and follow it. The only way a church boss can get away with that sort of thing, assuming he’s not correct, is when the rest of the people are worldly.

I don’t know the details of the actual situation you cite, of course. I knew a situation in a nearby city where the pastor was also a good man, but his ministry ran out of gas but he wouldn’t let go. He caused heartache because he wouldn’t let go, even though it was evidently his time to go.


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