Family-Integrated Churches

On this episode, we welcome Dr. Sam Waldron to speak about the family-integrated church movement, which seeks to recover a biblical understanding of the family, especially in its relationship to the local church. You can read more about the movement from The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. Dr. Waldron explains several features of the movement, critically examining several strengths and shortcomings in light of Scripture. He has written on the subject before.

Dr. Waldron is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.


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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

51 Responses

  1. Bobby Crenshaw

    Great show. Dr. Waldron does an excellent job in making crucial distinctions and avoiding extremes. I agree wholeheartedly with his position and would encourage anyone looking at this issue to read his articles to go along with this audio recording.

  2. RW

    Fascinating discussion.

    May I humbly suggest that it would behoove you to learn the correct pronunciation of the names of individuals of whom you are discussing?

    1. Neophytos

      I was wondering about that as well. I believe Dr. Baucham’s first name is pronounced as “VOH-dee”, but throughout the podcast he’s referred to as “Vaugh-dee”. It’s one of those Ah-GUS-tin/Ah-gus-TEEN things, I guess… 🙂

  3. Neophytos

    I thought this podcast was good, but it really could have plunged the depths a little bit more, enough so that I think you did an injustice to the FIC model. One of the things I’ve noticed that’s very striking about the FIC model is the strong, reorientation of fathers as leaders of the family and the premium put on children (lots of ’em!) I currently attend a sleepy reformed church, composed of either empty-nesters or the two-kids-was-enough model, and I do sometimes miss that FIC framework of massive families raised in a warm homeschooling environment. The kids all sit with the parents, the girls dress modestly in long skirts and help with smaller children, boys are encouraged to be leaders, more manly, etc…

    It’s not a perfect model (particularly the propensity I’ve observed of FIC-churches to install lay-preachers to the pulpits, which is flat-out wrong), but there is still a lot I respect about this model.

    1. Dear Neophytos,

      I can appreciate (and have stated such in writing and speaking) the FIC’s reminder that the family is important and the fathers must lead. I think it is terrible that too many families are not duly supported by their churches. But…too many families do not like to submit to churchly instruction or discipline. And I think you would agree as well.

      More importantly, too many families have such a weak hold upon the basics of the faith, such as the Gospel, is it any wonder that they are feeling the effects of such ignorance (just find the Barna and Pew numbers)? This is the root cause, not age-segregation as such. Youth culture (which I eschew) is but the symptom of a deeper problem: Gospel ignorance.

      Lasty, you stated,

      “I currently attend a sleepy reformed church, composed of either empty-nesters or the two-kids-was-enough model, and I do sometimes miss that FIC framework of massive families raised in a warm homeschooling environment. The kids all sit with the parents, the girls dress modestly in long skirts and help with smaller children, boys are encouraged to be leaders, more manly, etc… ”

      First, I would encourage you to bring your zeal and God-given abilities to help your church become less “sleepy” (whatever you may mean by that). The Body of Christ is made up of many people from various backgrounds at various stages of maturity.

      Second, in helping your church become less “sleepy,” become more involved in some of the families (if you are not already). You may find out why they have only 2 kids.

      Third, are you saying that the sleepy Reformed church does not teach children (by example, by teaching or by the families) to obey, dress modestly, etc? You may have unintentionally created a contrast that is not true.

      Fourth, your picture of the FIC is a superficial picture as I understand it (again, with in-depth research and first-person interviews of FIC members). It is a misleading picture because a large portion of these families (per the church list of the NCFIC) seem ignorant: both doctrinally and in practice. They are not Reformed in their understanding of the Gospel (see Baran’s UnChristian) and are greatly tempted toward legalism–of which nice kids with appropirate attire who say “yes sir” is the greatest temptation of legalism in conservative circles. I know. I used to be one.

      Something to think about: Uniting Church and Familytext

      For peace and unity in the church,

      pastor Mathis

  4. My husband and I helped plant an FIC church a number of years ago and have come back to the traditional church in more recent years. Having and homeschooling a large family, we really understand the many practical reasons that people are drawn to this model. However, aberrant theology and heavy handed patriocentric ideals have taken over the teachings driving this movement and have caused some really severe problems. I recently did a series of podcasts on this topic which can be downloaded for free:


    And I also wrote a series of articles where I try to examine the pros and cons of FIC churches themselves.


  5. It is good that more people are learning about this radical movement. Too many people (especially in homeschooling) are attracted to the superficial presentation and are unaware of its inclination to promote this as the Biblical method (in the NCFIC in particular). I have witnessed this movement first-hand and dialogued with several church leaders promoting it or attracted to it.

    Consider Mr. Brown’s position (president of NCFIC):
    Mr. Brown explains the “regulative principle of discipleship”

    And consider the “confession” that hundreds of churches have signed, many in ignorance I fear:
    What is a Family Integrated Church?

    For fair, balanced and documented research on the NCFIC, their book, movie and confession:

    What is a Family Integrated Church?

    May the Spirit keep unity in the church,

    Pastor Mathis

  6. JOE T.

    I enjoyed the program and must confessed that I’ve benefitted greatly from FIC leaders in the specific area of family life and education. I think that some of the extremes in this movement stems from the churches lack of adequately teaching/preaching/discipling in this important area. For example when fathers are finally “called out” to be priests in their homes in the area of raising godly children they also learn that the “public” schools are fundamentally against that way of educating. So now you have a church member who either has to homeschool or provide a private christian education to the children and seems extreme in regular church life because these things aren’t discussed or expounded upon. I might be rambling but any comments or corrections is appreciated..

  7. Jon Orcutt

    I’m covenantal and Presbyterian in my convictions. So, the notion that the church is family-based is not foreign to me. Dr. Ligon Duncan makes a case for this in some of the ICBMW literature. Google “family-based, ICBMW” and see what comes up. I would encourage CTC to consider hosting a guest such as Rev. Rob McCurly (Greenville Presbyterian Church) or Rev. Kevin Swanson(OPC) on the show to give a balanced, Biblical and distinctively Presbyterian and covenantal viewpoint on the matter. Frankly, the FIC movement is refreshingly Biblical in many regards. It resonates with so many Reformed Presbyterians because of its covenantal emphasis on the family. I would encourage CTC to give Scott Brown and/or Voddie Baucham an opportunity to explain their position and to answer some of the criticisms and questions raised by this program. How about it, gentlemen? At the least give Rev.McCurly or Rev. Swanson a shot. Seems only fair.

    1. I think if they pick anyone it should be Mr. Brown as the president of the NCFIC which represents hundreds of churches that signed their confession. He can best explain the confession and the movement. The other guys did not start nor write nor otherwise lead the movement the same way the NCFIC does.

    2. Hello Orcutt,

      I cannot find “family-based, ICBMW” or Duncan in relation to that. You probably meant the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

      What specifically did he say that non-FIC Reformed churches are not saying?


  8. Jon Orcutt

    You are correct. I must have had yogurt on my mind!:) It’s CBMW. My bad. I remember coming across an article in which the church was referred to as “family-based”. Baptists might take issue with this idea, but I don’t think Presbyterians do. I’m with Nick Batzig on this one. There is something about FIC that resonates with my covenantal understanding of the Church. Might it be that we have been out-reformed by the Reformed baptists? Won’t be the first time!:)

    1. Mark G

      This appears to be the sort of article to which you refer:


      It promotes the sort of practices one would find in traditional presbyterianism such as including families with their children in public worship (contra “childrens church”), catechesis, family worship (in addition to, not to the exclusion of public corporate worship, and not “family church” or “home church” as practice in our culture). This is all good IMHO, but this is not the is not the same as the FIC movement. The first little clue is that FIC as a parachurch organization inconsistant with biblical presbyterianism. They may have some valid concerns but the whole “movement” starts off on the wrong foot. I fail to see why CTC should give the FIC movement a platform.

      Also, CBMW is concerned with this whole complemenarity, biblical patriarchism (e.g., RC Sproul, Jr.), egalatarianism debate involving guys like Piper, Grudem, Roger Nicole, etc. rather than promoting the FIC movement. Althought there may be some overlapping concerns they aren’t the same thing. Duncan’s article is even more narrowly focused on the place of family & children in corporate worship, and family worship, catechesis, etc..

  9. Mr. Orcutt,

    I certainly agree that the church is “family-based” insofar as children are admitted by baptism. Yet, it is not merley “family-based” insofar as singles are admitted as well.

    Furthermore, the FIC that resonates is only a part of the story. The other part of the FIC that should not resonate is their insistence that age-segregation be virtually banned. The NCFIC confession is clear on that. The movie and book by Mr. Brown are clear on that. That is where the rubber hits the road.

    Some form of age-segregation is a part of the practice of the church as any serious student of Christian educational history can demostrate (please see the link of my name). And a responsible use of age-segregation is not forbidden by the bible. I would urge you to further educate yourself (if you are unaware of this distinctive) and read the full story of the NCFIC version of FICs as found in my articles above.

  10. Mark G

    I would add that the church, while in some senses may be said to be “family-based” the church is first and foremost Christ’s instrument and means for building His kingdom until he returns. This is not given to the family. Christ is Lord of His church and rules over it. To it He has given the keys of the kingdom (church discipline), and through it He dispenses the means of grace by his Holy Spirit; i.e., preaching the Word, Prayer, sacraments. Families should be under the authority of a church of which Christ is the head.

    1. F15Cricket

      Exactly, Mark G!

      We will be worshipping God in eternity with our church family, not our earthly family. While I pray all of mine in the latter will be in the former, I think as Americans we’ve made family our idol and many American Christians place family above church … which is something the NCFIC inclines towards.

      Also, if you study the whole package of Scott Brown / Doug Phillips and the NCFIC movement, add an unhealthy dose of theonomy, sprinkle in some “biblical” patriarchy movement, stir in some full-quiver ideas, and wrap it up in Vision Forum’s view of girls in jean jumpers and boys dressed like Daniel Boone, and you see how easily they lose sight of the gospel. Here are some quotes from their web-sites:
      – “the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.”
      – “Biblical patriarchy … is a scriptural doctrine, and faithfulness to Christ requires that it be believed, taught, and lived.”
      – “Christians should not send their children to public schools”
      – “The modern preference for grouping children exclusively with their age mates for educational and social purposes is contrary to scriptural wisdom and example.”
      – “Homeschooling will create revival in America to bring us as a country back to our Christian roots.”

      These extrabiblical movements are growing in conservative reformed circles, and I think a debate with Scott Brown and Pastor Mathis would be a healthy, interesting interchange!
      For His glory,
      Rob “Cricket” Renner

  11. Barry Rooney

    I would suggest they invite Dr. Joel Beeke to discuss this – he is heavily involved in the FIC movement. I am a bit surprised that CTC opted to go with someone that is against FIC then someone that is part of their own denomination and is heavily involved in the FIC movement, Kevin Swanson pastor of an OPC congregation in Colorado.

    I see the FIC argument much like I see the infant baptism argument – I can’t point to a single chapter and verse that would tell you infant baptism is correct. I found that when fathers grab hold of their God given roles as the primary disciplers of their family and the proper view of children of believers this begins to work itself out. With that said, I am thrilled to have the Godly men in my life teach my son (just by us being around these men they teach my son indirectly).

    Here is to hoping they grab someone from the other side to help explain the view.

    1. Mark G

      Beeke does regularly speak at FIC events, usually concerning family worship & the place of family in corporate worship, etc. I believe he worked on or is working on book on the Puritans with Scott Brown. He also speaks at “baptist events” but I don’t think that makes him a baptist.

    2. Barry, Nick, et. al.,

      The association of presbyterians with the NCFIC (Mr. Brown’s organization) is troublesome at the very least because of this confusion. The NCFIC seem to have a knack at inviting Presbyterians to talk who may or may not agree with the prime distinctive of the NCFIC (“age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking which have invaded the church” Article XI, NCFIC confession. cp. their official book, A Weed in the Church, and movie, Divided).

      Case in point: Mr. Morecraft was invited to talk but he wrote a book review of Wallace’s earlier pre-NCFIC book Uniting Church and Home that criticized the anti-age-segregation thesis of the book. I suspect Mr. Beeke would not agree with their virtual condemnation of age-segregated practices either (as the history of Christian education even among the Puritans is against the NCFIC).

      Thus, if anyone should be interviewed it should be Mr. Brown. In fact, after 10+ years of publicly calling for non-FIC churches to repent (again read the confession and the book) it is high time he and Mr. Phillips start defending their proposition in public debate (like in this website audio interviews). Less propogation of their views, more defense and interaction with their detractors.

  12. Barry Rooney

    Mr. Mathis –

    I have no problem with Presbyterians being involved int eh NCFIC – it’s how I became one 🙂 I had zero knowledge of the reformed faith save for soteriology which I learned at new Calvinism church (baptist). It was through the teaching of the **leaders** in the NCFIC that lead me to covenant theology to the point that I hold to the original WCF and am currently seeking a church that is Exclusive Psalmody. Scott Brown’s teaching on the Sabbath and RPW were big huge helps to me coming from a NPW/ semi-charismatic church that would “sabbath” any day of the week. It’s amazing how God uses ministries like these to call His own to Him. The key is what the leadership is teaching – which everyone involved will claim they are teaching things that are considered reformed. Of course I know we will disagree with some of what is said, like some of the R2K advocates.

    It seems that the biggest issue that most take is the position of age segregated Sunday School being unbiblical. Let’s put a pin in that for a second. I know we can agree that age segregated Sunday School is not explicitly or implicitly commanded. It’s a **tool** that is used by churches to teach the youth and adults (after a certain age we all adults, but I find that even breaks down to 20’s, 30’s, and so on at some churches). I found that people defend this method **as if** the results are amazing, especially regarding the youth. Seven out ten children will leave the church by the second year of college. Seven out of ten covenant children! Those numbers are just plain horrific! I would understand if seven out of ten where staying in church – at least there is a reason to want to defend it! 🙂

    My question is – why defend something with such sad results? Forget the biblical non biblical argument – sometimes that get’s us lost in the weeds although I do think there is some truth to that. I’ll post on that a little later….


    If I have time I’ll post another

    1. Dear Mr. Rooney,

      I rejoice that you learned much from the NCFIC. The truthful and good things they promote cannot be denied and should be pointed out.

      Unfortunately, the entire package is wrapped up in additions to the Word of God that the average person attracted to the NCFIC would have little discernment to reject. In fact, I fear too many people find what they say so new and counter-cultural (to their typical Evangelical background) that they seem to swallow everything they hear.

      Case in point: the assumption (never proven) by the NCFIC in its rhetoric is that the sad state of today’s church, especially the youth, is a result of age-segregation. So, in answer to your question (please forgive the formal and straight-foward interaction):

      1. You asked: “why defend something with such sad results?”
      a) You are mistaken if you think I am defending the typical youth group, SS, etc. of Evangelicalism. I actually argue for Christian liberty in this area (see my link in my name).
      b) That is the typical straw-man approach by the NCFIC. The opening section of the movie depends upon presenting the *worse* forms of youth groups, etc. And so does this question. Why not defend the best?
      c) This is a loaded-question like “why defend beating woman?”–(see point a).
      d) This is a poisoning of the well: your question was given after describing terrible statistics of youth groups, etc. making any response already on the defensive.
      e) This is a question-begging assertion: you have not proven that age-segregation is the cause of the sad state of youth in Christian churches.

      2. Since effects cannot always unequivocally point to its own cause, Christians are always obliged to ask “What sayeth the Lord?”

      3. Thus, I submit the question of the accuracy of these statistics, if they even describe Reformed churches, counter-examples of messed up youth from FIC churches, etc. should be set aside and the real question of the biblical grounds of the NCFIC assertions be explored.

      4. More precisely, what do you think the NCFIC position is regarding age-segregation and what is their defense? [It does little good arguing over every individual person’s reasoning. 800 churches signed the NCFIC. Proving their stance or disproving their stance will surely lead to more wide-reaching results].

      yours in Christ,

      pastor Mathis

      1. Mark G

        Also, NCFIC is unpresbyterian in its ecclesialogy. Issues concerning worship, such as the place of children in the worship, need to be addressed from within the authority structure of the church, not from an outside parachurch movement. Presbyterian promotion of a movement outside the church for the reform of worship seems to me like an oxymoron. One might me sympathetic with the concerns and desired ends of NCFIC but their approach to addressing the problem is problematic.

        I “became reformed” in the United Methodist Church. That was a good thing, but I wouldn’t recommend that route.

  13. Barry Rooney

    Pastor Mathis – what do you feel the problem is or and how do we fix the problem with our youth and families assuming the Gospel is preached from the pulpit every Lords Day?


  14. Hello Barry,

    This is an excellent question.

    First of all, I do not believe that enough churches are preaching the Gospel clearly enough to begin with. Barna and Pew Forums demonstrate otherwise.

    Second, since this is the case, I believe a vigorous presentation and application of Law and Gospel is the crying need of the hour. The Law to convict and bring the average Evangelical to a better personal knowledge of the depravity of man. And the Gospel to bring renewal and salvation.

    Third, even if everything were as good as possible in our fallen churches, the answer still is Law and Gospel with the attending means of grace. Nothing more radical than that.

    Below are two short essays that flush these points out. Please read them and we can continue from there:

    This is my positive answer in reply to the FIC model: Uniting Church and Family

    The Family in Crisis: A Pastoral Response: This was last year’s Presbytery of the Dakota’s effort to interact with an FIC defender. My paper is the second one. (The first paper is similar to mine): Weak Gospel Creates Weak Families

    For a stronger church to preach the full Gospel to lost and dying families and peoples,

    pastor Mathis

  15. Mark G

    I think another reason is that churches and their members too often have a very weak view of the means of grace; e.g., preaching. Preaching is viewed in a pragmatic and rationalistic way whereas the effectiveness of preaching is a result of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirity. Thus people want “what works,” “something practical,” and they believe the best thing for the kiddos is a Veggie Tales worship service. I don’t think the solution is a new ecclesiology or new methods of preaching & worship, but faithfulness to the means Christ has given through the HS. This could be fleshed out but it is not new. The problem is that it may not result in glorious buildings and celebrity pastors that generate results that can be easily measured by headcounts and large budgets.

  16. Barry Rooney

    Pastor Mathis –

    I have looked over the links you provided along with your website. For the most part we are in agreement, however issues remain.

    For one, I will stand by you in your crusade to ensure that Churches get the Gospel “right”. Without the Gospel we labor in vain for we are busy building up our own self righteousness before God – which is useless. With that said, the Gospel, as glorious as it is, only gives the **why** for obedience, not the **how**. The **how** comes from the Whole Counsel of God. The Gospel in and of itself doesn’t tell me anything about the Sabbath or how I am to uphold the 4th commandment. It doesn’t define the duties of a Christian for any of the commandments for that matter (exhaustively at least). We need to be able to focus in on key areas in the Whole Counsel of God.

    I have seen many churches were the Gospel is being preached but there is no growing in Godliness because application is ignored or muddied. Christians are stuck on a milk diet because they are left with little to no meat from there Shepherds. As a matter of fact, the Shepherds (from what I have seen) mostly enable the fathers to continue with silly hobbies by insisting that they can teach the wife and children for him – and better at that!!!

    Clearly, you take issue with those that want to, after dig deeper into God’s word for family living, use the truth they have found and bringing it to bear on the Christian. I have zero problem looking to the Word as a lamp to guide my feet (I know you will agree with this btw) and bringing his precepts to light that other Christians, because they have been indoctrinated by the world or not told to bring those thoughts captive to Christ, are not aware of, and not to have a moment at every turn where the Gospel must be explained.

    I have no problem with Dr. Joesph Pipa writing a whole book on the Sabbath. Assuming the Gospel, he brings God’s truth to bear on the Christian. I have enjoyed reading those that have written extensively on EP, again very little explicate Gospel explanation, but assumed at every turn.

    I would suggest that one of the many reasons churches are struggle as they are is because we fail to honor the Sabbath. I would also say it is our failure to sing exclusively from God’s song book. We sing hymns with a theology no where near as defined by the Psalms. All of these assume the Gospel.

    We also shouldn’t be holding to a **justification only** Gospel – which at times it seems like you advocate. The Bible is profitable for all Godly living.

    After seeing your use of logical argumentation I was surprised that you set up a false dichotomy at the outset of your latest blog post – you give an account of a church that does all “those things” and compare them to a “place full of dead man’s bones”. I would propose to you that the two ideas ( “those things” and “The Gospel”) aren’t mutually exclusive at all. We are commanded to have both.

    The NCFIC seeks to bring unity back into family life that has been so sorely ripped apart by our culture. Why do they do this? Because of the Gospel. How do they do this? By looking to God’s Word.

    Is the NCFIC perfect? Of course not. If reformed pastors were not involved in creating and maintaining the NCFIC I would have written it off long ago.

    I trust you have had extensive conversations with Kevin Swanson (your denomination and lives in the same state). He is one of the primary leaders in calling Godly men to rally. If you have and still aren’t convinced then a lowly internet dweller is going to do nothing. 🙂


  17. Barry Rooney

    I also want to stress that there are many, many men that admire Dr. Joel Beeke. His sermons regarding the family have been amazing for my wife and I. Here is his recommendation of Scott Browns book, Weed in the Church:

    “Scott Brown offers a thoughtful and gracious challenge to the prevailing model of systematic age-segregation in church… This provocative book will challenge you to ask whether you are doing God’s work in God’s way.”
    Dr. Joel R. Beeke
    President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

    While you may still disagree with the conclusions that are drawn – it’s not as though ignorant men are found a hobby horse or are seeking to hurt others by not being diligent in their studies.

    Here a great example of the Gospel being promoted by the family –

    Here Scott Brown promotes Same Waldron’s book about fathers –

    The first article on the NCFIC page – The Gospel defined:

    A wonderful sermon from Dr. Beeke at NCFIC confernce about “The Family at Church”

    Hopefully this presents some of the better things 🙂

  18. Dear Mr. Rooney,

    I once listen to some talks on the future of homeschooling and the like. The speakers talked about many and sundry problems in America from age-segregation to public schools and family economics. The Gospel was vaguely mentioned in passing. I asked one ruling elder who attended why the Reformed faith was not presented to this potentially open audience. He replied that he overheard some 7th Day Adventists ask each other “what is this ‘Reformed’ we heard about”?

    I suspect this is not your idea of keeping the Gospel in the foreground of this discussion. It is not mine either. And it is not in the foreground of the NCFIC, your links notwithstanding:

    1. It is not in the confession which calls for “reformation” for the church and family. Can you imagine Calvin and the Puritans calling for a “reformation” without the Reformed faith front and center?

    2. It is not part and parcel to their website. The link to the Gospel page you gave is new (as in last 2-3 months). I am glad it is there. The older website does not even have this article (see the internet wayback machine for 2012 and older). And the article is a series of helpful links to further resources. It itself offers no explanation.

    3. It is not part and parcel of their about/FAQ page. It has vague references to Christ and Lordship.

    4. It is not part and parcel of their many articles and talks and presentations I have followed for several years. Whenever I have heard them claim “revival” and “reformation” (especially Mr. Phillips) it is never in the context of challenging their audience to a purer Gospel but better practices.

    5. It is not part and parcel of their dream to “facilitate” more FIC churches. This is, frankly, dumbfounding. Seventh Day Adventists have signed the NCFIC confession.

    Even so, there is much that is good that I agree with (see my What is a FIC article above). But it is not that which we have in common that is the point of the discussion but where we differ. As you rightly point out above, the real question is “What sayeth the Lord?”

    So, I hope we can discuss the biblical and historical rationale against age-segregation (I will purposefully take the defensive position). Maybe a better approach is to ask you if my article What is a Family Integrated Church? faithfully represents the NCFIC and/or your position.

    There is no rush here. I think it is important enough to talk through with any and all people zealous for family and church reformation.

    Lastly, I encourage you to not assume that I cannot or will not learn from you. If you checked out the minority paper of the Presbytery of the Dakotas, you will see that there was no clear or substantive defense of the FIC, something Rev. Kingsbury pointed out during our public talk. So, please do assume that any substantive “extensive conversations” have taken place, making me somehow less pliable.

    Thank you for your patience,

  19. Barry Rooney

    Pastor Mathis –

    I suppose the heart of the disagreement is this, you feel the Gospel somehow has all the answers for the Christian. I’ll admit that the Gospel needs to be understood and understood rightly. We as Christians must always remember why it is that we obey (or even can obey fully for that matter) – it is because of the Gospel. The Christian never is to forget that he obeys The Lords commands not to build up his own self righteousness before God (he has none anyway), but to bear the fruit of Christ’s righteousness in our lives therefore becoming more and more righteous ourselves, but it’s His righteousness. We abide in Him and bear His fruit. How do bear His fruit? By obeying His commands – all His commands – for His commandments are not burdensome. I know this nothing new for you, but I want to clarify myself.

    Rightfully, many Christian men have seen problems in the Church and have attempted to correct these things. I mentioned Dr. Pipa and the Sabbath for one. Do you realize that I have heard some of the best sermons on the Sabbath my Scott Brown via the NCFIC website? Sadly he is more confessional on this point then most of the elders in my current denomination. Dr. Pipa assumes the Gospel and makes his argument about the Sabbath not being kept as to why many of our churches today are failing. I happen to agree. I think it is totally legitimate for Dr. Pipa to focus on this in books and radio debates. Again, I have no problem pointing out different areas where the church is failing besides the Gospel.

    You seem to imply that if the Gospel isn’t front and center as the fix then the endeavor shouldn’t be taken up. It’s as if by thinking of the Gospel or hearing it preached over and over again will somehow tell me **how** to glorify God in my role as a husband and father, or **how** to honor the Sabbath, or **how** to uphold the 6th commandment. It’s very quasi-mystical. I know first hand that if you get the Gospel right that it means the Christian will grow in Godliness. I have been in churches where the Gospel was faithfully proclaimed week in and week out…and that was about it. The church was full of baby Christians making the oddest choices – some down right sinful. Why? It’s wasn’t because they missed the Gospel, it was the lack of His commands being taught. They were perishing by their choices….The whole counsel of God must be taught to the Christian. His commands make us wiser then our foes and are the Christians delight. We are always to remember His great act of salvation for His people – it is the motivation God gives the Christian to obey His gracious commands.

    I am sure you would agree that reformation is not limited to the Gospel, but to all of life. I can reform my actions in light of God’s Word. I have no problem with people talking about wanting to reform the family or anything else for that matter.

    I would consider it a success on your part that the Gospel is more pronounced (perhaps not as much as you would like) on the NCFIC website. I see no reason to argue about something from 2012 that was on their site. If anything it shows that you and others might be making headway :).

    I am sure you are a more able historian of the Church then I, but with that said I am not as interested in what someone in Church History has done as much as I am in seeing what the Scriptures teach. For instance – Calvin was not an exclusive Psalm singer as were many other men of the reformation. I disagree with his conclusions from Scripture and have been persuaded otherwise. I am sure you will agree that just because the Church has done something historically that in and of itself doesn’t make it right. We should examine it of course – in light of Scripture.

    I will leave it at that for now. May you have blessed Lord’s Day Pastor.


  20. Barry Rooney

    I need to fix this statement as it was an important one:

    I know first hand that if you get the Gospel right that it means the Christian will grow in Godliness.

    Needs to read:

    I know first hand that if you get the Gospel right that it **does not** mean the Christian will grow in Godliness.

  21. Hello Rooney,

    Thank you for your clarifications.

    As I responded earlier, we are in agreement about the need for the Law in the Christian life for both conviction of sin and guidance toward holiness (as written in some of my articles above).

    Where we are not in agreement (unless I am wrong) is that when an organization’s long-standing public confession paints with a broad-brush the need for reformation and repentance (their words) for a number of possible sins without specifying the object of faith required in any act of repentance and reformation–the pure Gospel of Christ as summarized in the Reformed Gospel–they are a substantially deficient organization. They ought to specify this or drop the claims. All the leaders who make these claims are supposed to be ministers of the Gospel to an audience that is demonstrably Gospel-ignorant (see again the Pew polls, Barna here and Horton’s Christless Christianity).

    As a reminder, I agree on the need for family worship, discipline and instruction.

    But let us move forward in our discussion to the more overt differences of the NCFIC: the claim that “age segregated practices are based on unbiblical, evolutionary and secular thinking which have invaded the church.”

    Do you agree with this statement. If so, for what reason. If not, what do you believe?

    thank you and have a blessed Lord’s Day,

  22. Barry

    Hi again Pastor Mathis,

    I was glad to hear about your agreements – I have found that even the reformed camp there is a very low view of the law in regards to the Christian life post justification.

    I have thought over my comments and wanted to add some further clarification. I believe the NCFIC was started with the best the intentions. By no means do I think it was created perfectly and I think I can be charitable enough to say that those that started didn’t think so either. I wonder if they are realizing some of the deficiencies in the lack of a clear Gospel understanding by those that found some of their instructions helpful to their family. Perhaps that is why they are bringing the Gospel more to the forefront of their website. These are not infallible men and it always does my heart good to see Christians recognize error and adjust or use wisdom when they notice their audience is more then just deficient in family and church – they are missing the Gospel all together! With all that said – I have no idea what goes on behind the curtain and I can only be as charitable as possible with them as the men involved are Christians and are (for the most) reformed – although some are much further along then others 😉

    Now to age segregation being unbiblical – at first I hard time with that statement, really hard, but upon further examination I do think it is directly opposed to the institution of the family (which still continues until Christ comes again), especially against fathers as heads. I won’t argue about the evolutionary worldview aspect of it, although that may be true – I could see it as poisoning the well a bit – I am not saying it isn’t true though, I just don’t see the need to argue that point. A great number of ideas with horrible roots have invaded the church that we have just been very quick to except (please see the lack of Exclusive Psalmody being practiced in the modern church) Does that mean I am against Sabbath School? Not at all. Let me explain. The Church is to work with the State (I am an establishmentarian via the teachings of the original WCF) but not control the state or take authority away from the state. There are many ways the Church can take a little bit of authority without controlling the whole institution – this authority belongs to Christ but not to the Church. Likewise, the Church is not take authority from fathers and mothers, but instead strengthen them so that the use their authority **rightly**.

    I brought up the situation with an Elder regarding this. I brought up a situation where we find a man that brings his family to church. He himself isn’t a Christian, but thinks church might be a good thing for his wife and kids. Upon further review and three weeks of attendance he decides that it is not what he wants for his family. In that time his 12 year old son professes Christ as Lord. The Elders want to minster to this young man but the father will not allow out. What are the Elders to do? The Elder stated that if the conversation was unable to go anywhere and the father still refused the best they could do is pray for the young man.

    Why? Because the father has authority over that child – period. We understand this on a fundamental level, but as soon as the father is a Christian we seek to (with the best intentions) to take authority away from him and give to the church as an institution. I asked if that man (who is part of the church) would qualify as the “church” teaching his son – provided he is taught the faith by his elders or others at his church? At this point I want to make it clear that I am not advocating that children should never be taught be elders. What I am saying is that we have to define were authority lines should be by Scripture. I love when my son is around other men of our church and under my direction give way to another man teaching my son. However I am fully aware of the type of man he is and what most likely he will teach directly or indirectly to my son. That style is a far cry from the show up to Sunday School and send my 5 year old into a room with 15 other 5 year olds that are being taught like 5 year olds by a member of the church I most likely don’t even know. I would also like to ask if that person who was teaching my child could disciple me – if the answer is no, what business do they have teaching my children?

    So all that to say – if my sabbath school looked like this I find that much more of working **with** the family….


    Another Presbyterian Church states this:
    A Pattern of Respecting Family Integrity

    Ministry was seen as a family affair (1 Cor. 16:15). We believe that the family is the most fundamental unit of society, and that church and state must not erode the family’s integrity.
    By way of analogy, just as the states originally retained all powers not granted to the federal government in the Constitution, similarly, Dominion Covenant Church believes that the family retains all powers and all ministries that are not explicitly granted by the Scriptures to either the state or the church. “God sets the solitary in families” (Ps. 68:6), and we too want to minister to singles and make them welcome.


    4. We believe God deals with man in the context of covenant. We therefore strive to build up the families within the church. We will also in our life together as God’s people, honor the family structure by honoring the father as the head of his household and address the family through him. We will endeavor, in the context of our meetings, to provide an order that will work together with the family order.

    And another:

    This means that we purposefully stay together as families and do not separate into peer-based programs, classes, and groups. We are committed to building-up strong families, and not breaking them apart. Thus, we respect the jurisdictions of home and church, and believe that they can be in a complementary relationship with one another. Moreover, we encourage every father to disciple his family by practicing daily family worship. We are convinced that this lost art must be relearned in our generation. Young children and youth are welcome in all of our worship services and all church events. We are keenly interested in assisting widows and fatherless children. In summary, our congregation believes that strong and well-governed Christian families will over time produce mature and faithful churches.

    I think we are not as far apart as you might think. I could be wrong though.

    Thanks again for the conversation Pastor.

  23. These are some great discussions on the family integrated church model. I think that it is fairly easy to come up with the shortcomings of the FIC as well as the mainstream, program driven models. I particularly agree with Barry’s previous post in that, if you were to visit a number of different FIC churches, you would not think we are as far apart as it seems. You would find plenty of serious, Biblical Christians who are trying to live out their faith, disciple their children and spread the gospel for the glory of God — just in a slightly different fashion than you. Since there are grey areas in many realms of church practice, in both the FIC and mainstream models, it is essential we remember one thing: Scripture contains much more wisdom about the importance of being loving than it does on the importance of being right.

  24. Barry

    Well said Tom – I have found that words are much better heard when dipped in honey then shot on the back of a flaming arrow. While strong words may be necessary and biblical at time – many Christians start with those because **they are right**.

    It’s something I have to watch for as well. I hope some of these fine Presbyterian churches I have linked to show that we aren’t thinking off the wall things.

  25. Greetings Barry,

    Thank you for your charitable, patient and open approach. In light of the number of conversations I’ve engaged in, this is a treat.

    You have a number of assumptions that require unpacking. And I think the best way (if you are patient) is the Socratic method. And it may be better for this website if we took our conversation to the PuritanBoard.com. You can sign-up via Facebook (I think). If not, we will continue here.

    You state: “At this point I want to make it clear that I am not advocating that children should never be taught be elders.” This leads one to wonder what would be acceptable for an elder to do.

    Let me offer a scenario as a question: May a teaching elder teach a class on Christian apologetics for a class of 12-18 year olds, one hour a week, once a week for 16 weeks?

    thank you,

  26. Dear Barry,

    I suppose I missed the cue that you are done discussing the issue (eg “thanks for the discussion”). If so, then I will conclude thusly. It would take too much to show the unbiblical and basically question-begging nature of the websites you quoted (IMHO), instead I wish to focus on three things:

    A. Your statement is confusing to me. One the one hand you state: “Now to age segregation being unbiblical – at first I hard time with that statement, really hard, but upon further examination I do think it is directly opposed to the institution of the family (which still continues until Christ comes again), especially against fathers as heads.”

    On the other hand you state: “Does that mean I am against Sabbath School? Not at all…At this point I want to make it clear that I am not advocating that children should never be taught be elders. What I am saying is that we have to define were authority lines should be by Scripture. I love when my son is around other men of our church and under my direction give way to another man teaching my son.”

    At first and second blush this looks contradictory: against age-segregation (ala Sunday school) but would allow Sunday school (ala *some form* of age-segregation?)? Hence my follow up question about teaching elders instructing a segment of the youth. (BTW: Mr. Phillips believes that is wrong: he is against virtually every form of age-segregation)

    B. The fact that you stress the father’s responsibility seems to indicate you strongly associate the FIC with fatherly responsibility. But then, I am not FIC and I stress it likewise. I think the point of contact with you (formally) is that the church should not usurp parental authority. But there may be a material difference: I believe the church as such has a responsibility–both as an organization (ala teaching elder) and as an organism (ala Titus 2 older teaching younger (age-differentiation)). The church (and the family) have the Christian liberty to use or not use age-segregation of various forms. Thus your formulation above I would take as falling short of the full biblical picture.

    Even if the parents are lazy, worldly and otherwise weak in instructing their children the church still has a responsibility to instruct the family and it individual members (children as such). This is Presbyterianism and the historical Christian faith (Roman Catholic, Anglican, etc). And, of course, to discipline the family leadership for being lazy, etc.

    C. This lead to the last point: you expressed a conservative concern: “I hope some of these fine Presbyterian churches I have linked to show that we aren’t thinking off the wall things.”

    And yet you stated at least twice you were not interested in exploring the history of Christian education (or the claims of evolutionary thought–a serious charge given by the NCFIC to your sister Presbyterian churches–assuming you would consider my church a sister). But the above statement is a concern of history: using recent history to affirm that “we aren’t thinking off the wall things.”

    Dear brother, you are. To the extent that novel argumentation is used (“the family retains all powers and all ministries that are not explicitly granted by the Scriptures [to others]”) you are off base and counter to Christian practice and theory of education for the last 2000 years. But to the extent that you faithfully affirm parental responsibility you and others are not “off the wall”.

    This is why this movement is a concern. It offers enough truth to attract those struggling but enough error to turn those who struggle into separatists from their sister churches–even to the point of giving a foreign parachurch the benefit of the doubt instead of giving it to their sister Presbyterian churches.

    I find that sad. And I hope I am more wrong than right.

    Please, at the least, read my Very Short History of Christian Education. You owe it to your sister Presbyterian churches to at least investigate the history of their practices.

    for peace and unity and a faithful new generation of believers,

    Pastor Mathis

  27. Michael

    The gentlemen who says that church history does not show a pattern of homeshooling because “Paul sat at the feet of Gamliel” needs to study more church history. The Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, the early church fathers, William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, Philipp Melancthon, Dwight L. Moody, John Newton, John Owen, Hudson Taylor, John & Charles Wesley, the founding fathers of the U.S., etc, etc.

    Yes, all these men got later education in colleges and seminaries, but in their early formative years they were trained at home.

    1. Dear Michael,

      It is a hobby of mine to collect historical information. I know it is common to assert that these and other men were homeschooled–depending on what is meant by “formative years”. But I would like to have any references to that fact that you can give me.

      thank you,

      1. Michael

        Pastor Mathis,

        Thank you for your reply. By “formative years” I mean their young years previous to college/university. For example, in Jonathan Edward’s day children went to college around 13-15 years old. As for sources, I’m sure you are familiar with the standard biographies on the above men (Marsden on Edwards, Beeke on the Puritans, etc.) You could also consult the all-knowing Wiki of Pedia.

      2. Dear Michael,

        I understand your qualification that it is not 100% of the time that the claim is based upon. I never assumed as much. Percentages are neigh impossible to prove since statistics on such matters are virtually missing.

        As for your claim that a “tutor in the home model [as] a form of homeschooling,” many would dispute that. I myself do not care one way or another as long as terms are clearly defined (which in the plethora of claims I’ve run across on this issue, homeschooling is used in an equivocal sense more often than not).

        I forgot to put in Owen. There is little to no official biographical material on him. But “There is reason to think he received the elements of a common education from the vicar himself under the domestic roof at Stadham while after a few years of home education he was transferred to a private academy at Oxford where he entered on his classical studies under the of Edward Sylvester a tutor of eminence…” Then he attended college at 13, an age the author points out as unique even in that time period. The Works of John Owen, Volume 1, By John Owen, Andrew Thomson

        Lastly, you assert “only that it is quite a common pattern, especially after the reformation.” I find that quite an assertion I would greatly be interested in verifying. Every resource I have combed through states the Reformation as a great boon for education, especially formal, non-parental schooling.

        I am curious as to your papers you are writing: are they for a class? are they research?

        take care,

        PS. It may be best to continue this discussion on the Puritanboard.com site if you so desire.

    2. Hello Michael,

      Thank you for your two references. I am aware of Edward’s home-based instruction as I have Murray’s biography. As for Beeke, I am not sure what work you are referring to. I do find that summaries of the saints lives do not give enough information to determine either way. And Wikipedia is the last place I would use as a reference other than a point of departure to seek out original resources.

      I had never heard of Melanchthon being homeschooled. So I looked up a now-republished biography of him. There is no mention of homeschooling beyond a private tutor, John Unger, and two forays into the local schools, the second time, of which, he learned Latin and Greek until entrance into college at age 13. I am sure he was ‘homeschooled’ by his mother (otherwise known as Christian nurture: taught manners, chores, etc.) but formal homeschooling by the parents is undocumented that I know of. The life of Philip Melanchthon, tr. by G.F. Krotel, By Karl Friedrich Ledderhose

      I had never heard of John Newton being homeschooled. Finding his letters, he does explain that early on (from about 3-7) his mother formally instructed him in reading and numbers. So he was homeschooled. He spent two years or so at a formal school. At age eleven his father took him to sea. So some outside schooling then apprenticeship of sorts. The Life of Rev. John Newton: Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, By John Newton, American Tract Society

      William Carey stated, in one biography, “He himself says: “My education was that which is generally considered good in country villages, and my father being school master, I had some advantages which the other children of my ago had not. In the first fourteen years of my life, I had many advantages of a religious nature, but was wholly unacquainted with the way of salvation by Christ.” William Carey: A Biography, By Joseph Belcher

      Of special note is that the other students had a school-master. Likely Carey was homeschooled but this does not state at such.

      I am less informed of the lives of later men such as Hudson. But in his own words he was educated at home until eleven then attended school until 13. Hudson Taylor in Early Years: The Growth of a Soul, By Howard Taylor, Mrs. Howard Taylor

      When the Puritans as a whole are considered, it would require many books to verify many names. But I had occasion a few years back to go through Reid’s Memoirs of the Westminster Divines. Of the 104 commissioners, 24 had sufficient historical detail. The remainder of the men have no known history of education before college. The vast majority attended college. And they were English, with a few French and five Scots.

      Four of that number may have been exclusively homeschooled but that is unclear. One more may have been tutored at home and homeschooled. The rest of the 19 men were clearly schooled outside the home (79%). In all fairness, this does not preclude any homeschooling that may have attended their outside education, but such is not recorded.

      Thus a pattern of homeschooling is there in the evidence above if that means people did homeschool. But it is equally clear many people did not or that both methods were combined.

      More details of the history of Christian education can be found in the website linked in my name.

      your in Christ,

      1. Michael

        Pastor Mathis, thank you for your more thorough research. I would not say that 100% of all those in church history were homeschooled, only that it is quite a common pattern, especially after the reformation. I consider the tutor in the home model also a form of homeschooling, much like we hire a piano teacher to come and teach our girls that subject. I will be writing papers soon on Taylor and Owen, so if I come across the specific citations regarding home education I will post them here.

  28. Shawn Mathis

    My book on Family Integrated Churches, radical homeschooling and the history of Christian education:

    Uniting Church and Family: Observations about the Current Family Crisis, Amazon
    Kindle version

    The Christian family is divided. The church is weak. Will homeschooling protect us? Will eliminating Sunday school strengthen us? Will “family integration” unite us? This collection of essays will explore these timely questions with thought-provoking analysis from history and biblical common-sense.

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