Friday, July 22, 2011

On Family-Integrated Churches: Wisdom from Sproul, Jr.

Earlier, I posted a link to the film "Divided" that's recently come out.  The purpose of the film is to explore youth groups in churches, specifically whether they are biblical & helpful.  As a result of this movie, people are coming out in droves debating "Family-Integrated Churches".  I received a new "Ask R.C." in my email this morning that is quite pertinent to this discussion.  R.C. Sproul, Jr. receives questions from people on a whole host of biblical topics, & he posts the answers for the benefit of all.  I found his following words to be overflowing with timely wisdom.  I hope you enjoy them as well!

"Q:  Help! We can’t find a family integrated church in our area. What should we do?

A:  First, whenever the question is, “What should we do?” the best first answer is “Repent and believe the gospel.” God does not welcome into His kingdom only those who both trust in the finished work of Christ alone and don’t allow their children into youth group. Some, sad to say, get so excited about discovering that the notion that our children must attend youth group or Sunday School is nothing more than tradition with no biblical warrant, end up with a rather distorted sense of priorities. Some forget the vital distinction between primary and secondary issues. Some, I’m afraid, would rather be in a family-integrated Mormon “church” than a divided evangelical church. Even more, almost as bad, would rather not be in a church than be in a divided church. In order not to divide up their family, the whole family is divided from the church, as these families set up their own “churches” in their own homes. These are in turn cut off from the blessings of elders, pastors, the communion of the saints and the grace of discipline. They are divided from the church. It is madness.

Second, one can always be a family integrated family, even without a family integrated church. I know of no church that requires its members to send their children to youth group, or to Sunday School. You can keep your family together even when others don’t see the wisdom of doing so. You may have to miss Sunday School, or you could, graciously and kindly ask if your child or children might sit in on the adult Sunday School, or if you might sit in in theirs. You can always teach your family together at home before you go to join the saints in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day morning.

Third, you can relax. Though I am confident that a family-integrated church is the best way to go, though I would love to see many churches go back to how the church operated over the centuries, I know in turn that there are plenty of family integrated churches that have far deeper problems than some non family integrated churches. I know that most non family integrated churches have far deeper problems than not being family integrated. We are bodies made up of sinners, and so we ought not be surprised when sin shows its ugly head in our corporate life. When it does, our first instinct ought to be to look for the log in our own eyes. The youth leader is likely not secretly seeking to seduce your children to the dark side. He wants to help. The octogenarian Sunday School teacher isn’t the devil’s handmaiden. She wants to help. The elders who created these programs, even if those programs have some overlap with a Darwinian understanding of education, are not a cabal of Darwinians. They want to help.

With all the cancer my family has been through I have had countless deeply caring people suggest countless alternative therapies. Though they might be right, my response is a sincere, “No thank you.” I don’t need to make them agree with me. I don’t need to defeat their arguments or evidence. I don’t need to have internet wars over their theories. I just pass on what they offer. Sometimes I read their information. Sometimes I don’t. You certainly can feel free to talk to others about your commitment to keeping your family together. You can talk to your pastor and your elders about the issue. But if they don’t hear you as loving, gracious, relaxed, and committed to the well being of the congregation, then you have a bigger problem than age segregation. You have a Hebrews 13:17 problem.:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief for that is unprofitable for you.

So back to step one. Repent, and believe the gospel."


Lynn said...

We experienced this first-hand when KJ was in seminary. We were involved with a church plant that was started by several families who had a lot of children and home-schooled, and the church made people feel relaxed about having small children in the service. But one of the elders ended up leaving and they did start their own "home church" when the other elders wanted to bring in someone to do special things with older kids/youth. I am all about the family being together, but I'm with Sproul, maybe just keep your kids with you if you want to, but don't withdraw or treat others like "evil people".

The Boyds said...

Very well said, Lynn! I agree wholeheartedly! Keep the first things - the Gospel - first. It's dangerous to elevate secondary things, no matter how important they may be, to a greater significance than should be held by them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Sproul seems to have given a gospel-saturated and grace-filled answer to the question of a family-integrated church.

Thanks also for your kind and generous words in your earlier post on the "Divided" video.

By the way, Ben howdy and hello to you and Michael...blessings!