thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

part 13 of the pros and cons of the family integrated church model

A couple weeks ago, while I was doing some research for a podcast, I was reminded that in Scripture, the number 12 represents perfection. So it is probably a good thing that I am now adding number 13 to the series on the pros and cons of the family integrated church model since, I believe, there is no perfect solution to the church crisis that many homeschooling families face.

Today I sincerely hope that those who are directing the family integrated church movement, the pastors, the elders, and the self-appointed leaders within the homeschooling community, are listening and are willing to honestly access the consequences of their agenda. I also pray that they would be willing to make changes in their approach to ministry to bring it back into alignment with the mission of the church universal. While I realize that not all churches who list themselves with the National Center for Family Integrated Churches practice the excesses I am writing about today, there is no doubt that the leadership within this movement promotes these teachings and is using homeschoolers to advance their agenda.

Since this is a movement birthed, incubated, and advanced within the culture of homeschooling, it is one that must be examined and held up for scrutiny, challenged and understood by those who dearly love home education and who do not want to see its demise. In all sincerity, I know that homeschoolers both outside and inside the FIC movement DO love home education and they do desire to see it flourish. But I also have to wonder if the steps the FIC movement is taking to narrowly define a biblical lifestyle and church life are done so out of naivete, ignorance, or a purposeful attempt at recreating an elite group of believers.

Perhaps it seems harsh to suggest that the very groups who have so long educated their children at home now have the potential within themselves to greatly damage its credibility. After all, since we began homeschooling some 23 years ago, not only are homeschooled graduates accepted into colleges and universities, but they are courted and wooed. Employers no longer dismiss us as unqualified workers. And even extended family members who were initially doubtful eventually became the biggest cheerleaders for homeschooling because they saw that it works. The fruits of our efforts have won the hearts of earlier skeptics and even our biggest critics are now cheering us on.

It is grievous to me to know that many within the FIC movement have maneuvered their way into the leadership of so many local and state homeschooling organizations and, as a result, a growing number of families are looking askance not only at this church movement but at homeschooling in general. They hear the ungracious rhetoric, the list of nonessentials taught in workshops as “biblical” steps of action for homeschoolers, and they see church body lifestyles that are exclusive and inbred. For all our efforts to demonstrate what a wonderful and viable option homeschooling is for Christian families, moms and dads are turning away because, quite frankly, they do not see the FIC-led message as one of compassion, grace, wisdom, or sound doctrine. And they certainly it as forgetting the Great Commission.

If I were the king of the forest (or in this case the queen), here are some things I would suggest to those in FIC churches.

I would first ask FIC groups to stop sowing discord among the brethren. Just look at the lines that have been drawn in the sand between biblical lifestyles that are actually commanded in the word of God and those things that are preferences. A prime example is this statement by R.C. Sproul Jr.:

“There is, in evangelical homeschooling circles, a growing divide. On the one side there are those of us who might be called movement homeschoolers. We homeschool because we believe it to be the Biblical choice, not because we merely prefer it. We tend to adopt many of the secondary lifestyle issues related to homeschooling, lots of children, modest dress, husbands as the heads of their homes, courtship, denim jumpers. On the other side are a different bunch of folks. These typically are homes where moms see homeschooling as a choice, an arena wherein they can excel by helping their children excel. The former are driven by issues of conviction, the latter by more practical matters.”

I have seen every one of the items on his lifestyle list used as a measuring stick within FIC churches to determine the motives and convictions within the body of Christ and, brothers and sisters, this is not right. In fact, others have embraced his thoughts, too, and promptly after this statement was made on R.C.’s blog, James and Stacy McDonald from Family Reformation reprinted and linked to it, advancing these notions as sound teaching. But Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides because they strained out gnats and swallowed camels. Are these church and homeschooling leaders any less blind for leading their congregations and their followers in drawing these lines of demarcation?

I would also ask them to stop using homeschooling conventions to promote their FIC agenda and to stop using careless rhetoric to create discontentment. Whether everyone realizes it or not, FIC speakers are using a venue that is intended for edifying and encouraging all homeschooling families as a means of advancing an FIC agenda held by a tiny minority of evangelicals and to plant seeds of doubt amongst those who do not attend FIC churches. It is an agenda that by its very nature condemns the local church and it is used to proselytize those who may be struggling. In fact, there are often times when homeschooling families are experiencing no insurmountable problems in their local churches but their fears are magnified so that FIC leaders can step in and offer their own agenda to calm those fears.

If the real goal is to encourage home discipleship, then that should be apparent and applauded. But since the only means of church growth of an FIC church is recruiting members from other congregations and playing on their concerns, it appears that they are being given a free ride at these conventions to promote their own churches and to take homeschooling families out of traditional fellowships.

I would also ask them to hold their own spokesmen accountable. A year ago I talked about the over-the-top rhetoric used by FIC promoter Kevin Swanson on his Generations program. The lack of grace and wisdom has disappointed me but even worse is the fact that broadcast after broadcast keeps getting worse and I only see more people giving him accolades, promoting him, participating in interviews with him, and even filling in for him when he is unavailable. Why is no one challenging his harsh and arrogant discourse? And adding to my disappointment is that Kevin, himself, is a homeschooling graduate.

I would ask the FIC movement to stop leading parents into a false sense of security, attempting to build a church model that will guarantee long-term relationships and provide a place for their children to find spouses and thus to reproduce the same church culture for future generations.
This puts pressure on young people to find a spouse within their church group, even though there may be no one that is suitable for them. So betrothal becomes the standard and is practiced in many churches. And along with that step comes the many extra biblical qualifications that are added on in order for someone to be a suitable partner.

A few years ago I remember hearing negative responses when a Christian homeschooler would marry a Christian who hadn’t been homeschooled, treating the nonhomeschoolers as thought they worshipped pagan deities. If that wasn’t bad enough, now, the list of biblical requirements for potential spouses has grown even more stringent within these groups. Young men worthy of marrying your daughter should be entrepreneurs and not employees “building the kingdom” of another, as it were. Young ladies who are considered appropriate helpmeets should have remained at home under their father’s protection until marriage since going to college might foster an independent spirit that would make it difficult for her to come under a husband’s authority. Voddie Baucham even goes so far as to describe for young men what kind of personality a potential wife must have, which, of course, means his interpretation of what a quiet and gentle spirit should look like. Of course, according to Kevin Swanson, we know that college girls will lose their moral purity, rendering them unacceptable as wives for homeschooled young men. And on top of all of this, the hypocrisy that turns a blind eye to the real Biblical standards for marriage and family life are glossed over as long as the outward appearance is good. It boggles the mind.

I would ask FIC churches why there is such a great emphasis on what they call “multi-generational faithfulness,” but there are typically only two generations represented in these churches, parents and their children. There are few if any elderly couples and single people are basically nonexistent. And probably the saddest aspect of the FIC church is that families who are really struggling with even basic issues of faith, let alone those who desperately need help in building relationships within their marriages or with their children, high maintenance families, as it were, would never darken the door of these churches. Sadly, even if they did, many of them would never come to understand what grace even looks like.

I would ask how welcome orphans (those without families) and widows might feel in an FIC church.
James 1:27 says “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Are they welcomed as part of the royal priesthood, joint heirs with Christ, or are they seen as projects needing to be fixed, added on to someone else’s family in order to be “normative,” which is defined in the FIC movement as married with children? It seems to me that the true “normative,” according to Scripture, is to welcome all believers, to minister to one another, and the assumption is that these things can and should be done without defiling any of God’s true standards for righteousness. The practice of father-served communion, as is common in FIC churches, is just one example of the loud and clear message that anyone outside of a human family within that congregation is not normal and needs reforming.

I would ask what about evangelism? I would love to take a poll of those FIC churches that move into neighborhoods and find out how many of them have taken steps to reach out to those in their local community. How many have knocked on doors and presented the good news of Jesus Christ? My guess is that few if any have done that. Perhaps many of them are willing to financially support both foreign and local missions organizations, but what would they do with desperately needy folks who might walk in to their churches? Or would they ever consider allowing their children to go to the mission field? And if so, how are they preparing them to do that? You see, the Gospel within the FIC church is family reformation through homeschooling and lifestyle changes for man’s (the father’s) glory rather than the work of the Holy Spirit to transform lives for the glory of our Heavenly Father.

Finally, perhaps the greatest concern I have about FIC churches is that they are Trojan horses, enticing agendas offering fathers encouragement in leading their families but inside there is a battalion of false doctrine the pushes families further and further away from Biblical truth and a healthy Christian life toward heresy. Two of these heresies are especially dangerous because of their subtle appeal to families who sincerely want God’s best.

The first one is the heresy of patriocentricity. A year ago when I ran the first series of podcasts on the topic of patriarchy and patriocentricity within the homeschooling movement, I never would have dreamed of the response I have gotten. My concerns are shared by thousands of families who have been pulled down the patriocentric path toward father worship, having left behind the Biblical truth of husbands being the heads of their wives. Thankfully, they have recognized this idolatry for what it is, they have rejected these teachings and are beginning to delight in healthy families and real growing relationships within their marriages, with their children, and with other believers.

But over the past 12 months I have seen these patriocentric beliefs mutating into even more bizarre teachings and the dangers for families are even greater. Abhorrent perspectives on all things from protecting moms who have ectopic pregnancies, women not being encouraged to participate in the political process, kinists beliefs recognized as acceptable, redefining the Trinity so as to place all women in the place of subordination to all men, etc. have been added to the already disturbing teachings within the FIC culture.

The other false teaching to be aware of within FIC churches is that of ecclesiocentricity, the notion that all authority is given to the local church elders and the Christian life is not to be lived or practiced apart from their rule. Combined with patriocentricity, the priesthood of the believer and the mission of the church universal become lost in the agendas of men without any check and balances to hold leaders accountable. It becomes the perfect breeding ground for those who are attempting to build their own little fiefdoms. And sprinkled into this mix is a dominionist theology that preaches family reformation through government policies and militant fecundity rather than the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once again, I would encourage Christians to become Bereans, to daily search the Scripture as they seek God’s will for their families. I would encourage those within the homeschooling leadership to wisely consider whether or not they want to promote FIC teachings at their conferences. And I would challenge the FIC leaders to prayerfully consider the concerns I have listed as well as those coming from both within and without the homeschooling culture. I believe that the credibility of homeschooling is at stake and that the Gospel is being compromised.

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12 Comments»

  Jack Brooks wrote @

Dear Karen,

Have you ever seen situations where a family hid their involvement in all of this? Meaning, they were involved in a ‘normal’ church, but didn’t say what family-life conference that was they went to last fall, or one discovers that they’re leaders of some sort of big regional network, but they never, ever talk about it? Almost like hiding it.

  suzanne wrote @

One of your last comments about it being a Trojan Horse. I would say that is exactly what it was in my on marriage. We never even made it to the point of getting to a FIC church of sorts, but me,myself, and I bought into all of the check list and fears hook and bait. I nearly destroyed my on marriage and family in part because of the dog gone check list of expectations. A burden I couldn’t bare and my husband refused to bare. thanks for writing this.
Suzanne
Just another MOMYS
http://www.himhimthem.blogspot.com

  Sallie @ a quiet simple life wrote @

Karen,

Another major reason why there are only two generations in these churches is because many (most?) of these people have disowned their own parents. Why? Even if their parents are Christians – true followers of Christ – they aren’t the “right kind” of Christians and so they cannot fellowship with them until they get it together (as in, become patriocentric just. like. them.).

So, so sad…

  thatmom wrote @

Pastor Brooks,

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I am visiting my son and his family, including their new baby, in California this week and just now am getting a chance to check in.

What you have described, I think, is all to familiar to pastors who find out too late that their congregations are being hijacked by FIC sympathizers. In fact, there really are two methods that I have seen used. The first is to start a church plant and to solicit homeschoolers from a variety of church and denominational backgrounds. The second is to slowly take over an existing church. I have known of families who spend many weeks and much money traveling to conferences where the FIC agenda was being taught. Many times even other homeschoolers in the local church were kept in the dark about what they were doing. There is an attitude of “higher, secret knowledge” that comes with this movement, one that says that only certain folks are able to be the keepers of such knowledge. I can’t tell you how weary I became of that sort of thing. The truth is that once people were gone to these conferences anyone who could use the internet and learned how to work through the network could easily find ut where these people had been! It was kind of hilarous really.

As far as “leadership: is concerned, this is kind of hilarous too. These leaders are self-appointed. Truly, it is a sight to behold, in part because the same folks who are so adamantly pro-authority certainly don’t live as though they understand it.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head…I am sure I will have more later.

  thatmom wrote @

Susanne, it is testimonies like yours that inspire me on the days when I am so thoroughly disgusted with this entire movement. I am praising God today that His grace spared you and yours. {{{{{}}}}}

  thatmom wrote @

Sallie, you have brought up such a great point and one that must be addressed.

The patriocentric view of “honoring thy father and thy mother” is one I just don’t get. At all.

First of all, it is usually just all about chldren honoring the mom and dad in the house. THAT seems to be impressed upon everyone, especially honoring the dad. But how is that applied in the case of grandparents.

Years ago Clay and I heard a well-known college circuit speaker giving a “testimony” about his mother who had crecently died. In it, he shared all sorts of horrible details about her alcoholism, obesity, inability to parent well, etc. We were aghast and prayed that this man would never know the pain of havin such a dishonoring child himself.

And then, a few months ago, James McDonald wrote a “tribute” to his father, revealing all sorts of sordid details about this man’s life. I was in shock as I read it and appalled that a man who promotes “family reformation” would so handily report the things he did and would show such dishonor of his dad’s memory. In reality,the article was really all about his own parenting and I was embarressed for him. Now, last week, a radio program on the Moody network featured James along with RC Sproul Jr talking about honoring parents and as a preface to it, the radio host raved on about how moved he had been by that same article I found so offensive. I don’t get it. How is pulling your father’s pants down posthumously showing honor? In all sincerity, I would love to have someone explain this to me.

  Evangeline wrote @

I’ve only been home schooling for a couple years. Thank God I hadn’t been exposed to whackos like Kevin Swanson, RC Sproul Jr, Doug Phillips, etc until only recently. If I’d known about them before they might have easily scared me away from home schooling.

“Perhaps it seems harsh to suggest that the very groups who have so long educated their children at home now have the potential within themselves to greatly damage its credibility.”

That’s a very reasonable concern. From what I can tell it’s taken a long time for home schoolers to overcome the public image that we’re just a bunch of whacko holier than thou cultish isolationists. Home schooling may not yet be “mainstream” but at least we’ve gained a lot of respect. That respect was that had to be earned, and we all have to work hard at maintaining it. It wouldn’t take much to lose that respect.

Then along come a few nuts like Swanson, Sproul, Phillips, Brown, etc. that critics can point to and say, “Look at these nutty home school leaders. See, we’ve been warning everyone that home schoolers are dangerous cultish fringe extremist isolationist Kool-Aid drinkers.”

I think these men are the biggest threat there is to home schooling. They need to be marginalized and pushed as far to the fringes as possible, where they belong. Thank you for all your hard work in exposing them.

  Tonya Burke wrote @

I agree that men like Sproul and Swanson are a big threat to the Christian home school movement. The even bigger threat is what they do to people’s souls.

They call themselves Christians, but when I read the Bible the only people in there I see like them are the Pharisees. Just like the Pharisees they are very evil because they don’t understand anything about grace and mercy and kindness and love. Just like the Pharisees they only make disciples that are “two fold sons of Hell.”

Interesting story on Kevin Swanson’s reaction to the defrocking of RC Sproul Jr is at http://ministrywatchman.com/?p=10

  Lorene wrote @

Hi Karen,

Wow! I just read your 13 part series. Thank you for that work.

It cleared up some questions I had. I worked with the church planter from Chicago you talk about for four years, very, very closely with him. I remember hearing your and Clay’s story, but was not told all the details. I never understood why they were requiring you to go back to the church that excommunicated you to talk it out or apologize or whatever. He never mentioned to me the threat toward him about being called an “apostate church.”

You did a good job of describing the church when you visited (the truck breakdown). The pastor tends to be much more open to differences in families and likes young people to meet and talk to each other on a regular basis. I was actually paid to work with him in that church and in his non-profit church planting organization, even as a woman, which shows his lack of legalism in that regard.

I have left that ministry and have a lot of questions of my own on the FIC, especially the extremes that are being talked about now. My youngest is 16 so we feel a little more freedom to look around at other kinds of churches. You give a gracious and pertinent warning.

  thatmom wrote @

Hi Lorene,

I remember talking to you once on the phone while we were with the church plant! Thanks for our input. I have prayed that I could graciously present our own experiences alongside the concerns I have about the FIC movement without coming across as bitter. We certainly are grateful for the times we had in the FIC churches and are so glad that the Lord has brought us safely to a place of confort and resting in Him in our choice of church.

I am wondering about something. You mentioned the church planter’s openness to women being involved in ministry and even in some leadership and that was what we had also perceived from him. But now I am wondering what the views are now that Voddie Baucham and Kevin Swanson are both listed as teachers in the church planter’s new denomination. Do you know or do you feel free to share that? Both of these men have some very strong views of women staying at home until they are married, going to college, etc.

  Lorene wrote @

In answer to your question, I do not know why he linked up with Voddie and Kevin. They are both teaching in his online school last time I checked. Also, as of last year he was using Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology as the text for the theology course.

In spite of what he told me and hired me to do, I suspect and guess he is closer to the patriarchial belief system than he let on to me.

The fact that he uses these two well-known men to advertise his school gives me an idea that he may be heading in the patriocentric direction or already be there, something he hid from me as long as he wanted to use my skills. Sad!

I certainly will not recommend anyone having anything to do with his organization or any of his projects for many reasons. I personally find Kevin offensive and disagree with Voddie’s teachings.

Last thing, he never indicated to me he was starting a new denomination, although we joked about it in the staff meetings. Just wondered where you picked up that language and wonder if he used that language with others.

  thatmom wrote @

Lorene, I really respect your input and your insights as someone who has been on the inside. Clay and I can’t remember now where we heard the word “denomination” used but I think he might have even used it when it talked with Jesse about a year ago when they first left the CRC. It was unclear to us then and still is unclear if the local church is part of any denomination. Is Monee? And then we wondered about the funding the CRC gave to begin the local church.

  Kathy wrote @

After writing Moody Radio with my concerns about them promoting patriocentric leaders and ministries, I thought they might have pulled back. Maybe they did or maybe they didn’t, because there were 3 more programs in the last several days dealing with the VF Film Festival and with the NCFIC. I haven’t listened to all of these, but it seems that at least in the second NCFIC interview there were a few criticisms brought up (for the NCFIC leaders to rebut, of course). And some of the websites which the patrio-leaning interviewer looked at for critiques were dismissed as mostly “gossip”–don’t know if this was one or not!
Anyway, if anyone wants to listen to podcasts of these interviews, here is the link. http://moodyradiopaulbutler.wordpress.com/2008/12/11/family-integrated-churches/

I also appreciated this pastor’s fairly unbiased examination of the pros and cons of the family-integrated model–I think he summarized many of the same concerns you did, Karen.
http://pastordefalco.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/the-family-integrated-ministry-model/


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