Monday, October 21, 2013

He dances on streets of gold

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”-Ecclesiastes 3:1

In the early summer of 2007 my family and I were blessed to have been joined to a wonderful church family while living in Juneau, AK.  Many of the believers and their families left lasting impressions on us that cause us to smile at the mere mention of their names.  The Lord used my time pastoring that small congregation to teach me many important lessons; some were in chastising and others in edification that the ministry He called me to might bring Him honor.  Of all those who were members in that church, one couple ended up being the most memorable:  Otto and Verma Whitfield.

Otto was one of the first people to greet us when we first entered the doors of that church.  When we first saw him he was walking with the assistance of a cane and struggling to hold himself up yet was able to express his extreme pleasure in seeing our family.  Sometime later he would injure himself and be confined to a wheelchair yet able to wheel himself around with almost no assistance.  I can still picture him rolling into the sanctuary to his usual spot where we had removed a chair for him to sit beside his wife during the service. 

We were witness to Otto going through ups and downs during our three years there.  We were also witness to the tireless efforts of his wife, Verma, in assisting him in every way imaginable.  Her dedication to her husband was a constant reminder to us of the faithfulness and dedication of God to us and how it is to be reflected in marriage.  Even though she was tired and worn from her care of him I never heard her complain. 

Often times you would find Otto in the local hospital undergoing dialysis.  He would return home tired from the procedure and his wife would tell us that it would often take days for him to fully recover.  Even with this and the snowy/rainy weather of Juneau, Otto was almost never absent during the church services.  If the doors were open both he and his wife would be there.

While he was weary from the treatments he regularly admitted he believed God had not called him home yet because there was work for him to do here. 

Yesterday afternoon around 5:30 pm Alaska Standard Time, Otto entered into glory as His Lord called him home upon finishing his work on Earth.

He now dances on streets of gold where no ailment or physical limitation holds him back any longer.  I am humbled to have known him this side of Heaven and look forward to being reunited with him again one day as we eternally worship our King.  We love and miss you but know that you would not for a moment give up your time in the presence of Christ for anything.    Thank you Otto for the joy you brought my children, my wife, and myself.  Thank you for a true example of perseverance through pain and the endurance that I can only pray I will exhibit in my latter years.  May God continue to raise up such men as yourself to lead and inspire continuing generations of believers for His glory.

Rejoicing always,
Adam and family

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where are you?

At least once a month our church, Albemarle Reformed Church, ministers outside an abortion clinic in Norfolk, VA.  It is the closest clinic to our area so it is the most likely to be frequented by women in our part
of the state who are seeking an abortion.  Our children are always with us helping to hold signs and pass out material as well.  We have been blessed to be joined by other brothers and sisters in Christ but have yet to have anyone else from our area, other than the members of our own church, come to plead with us.

This past Saturday (the 21st) was an especially difficult day.  We set up our speaker, signs, and readied the material to hand out.  The clinic had just installed an outdoor speaker in the attempt to drown us out.  Fortunately, it was very poor and no match for the one we were using.  It was more of an annoyance than a deterrent.  The first hour or so very few cars pulled into the parking lot.  I was preaching and made note of this in my message praising God that they were at least not as busy as normal.

Suddenly I noticed a young woman walking up the road towards the clinic.  She had been dropped off by someone down the street rather than the person bringing her directly to the building (what I would later perceive as an act of cowardliness).  The young woman talked with us and told us that she was here for her pre-abortion appointment.  She was only 18, had a 1 year old son at home, and was 3 months pregnant.  Her justification for wanting to murder her child was "I can't have anymore kids right now".  We handed her the 180 movie, a book about the sanctity of life, and other material describing where she could find free services to help.  As is also our practice, I even offered her the option to let us adopt her child and assist in medical expenses along the way.  My wife chimed in noting that she could even take her baby to a "safe-zone" after birth to drop him/her off and they would not ask any questions.  She said that she would not want to just give her child to someone, showing that she had no logical understanding of how loving adoption was in light of murdering the child and it was just an issue of pride for her.

Steven, a fellow Elder at our church, went through numerous explanations of what the current development of the baby was like.  His wife, who is 38 weeks pregnant, also pleaded with her in similar fashion.  When asked how much they were going to charge her for just today's appointment she stated that it would be $140.  We spent a good 10 minutes begging her not to go through with her appointment.  During the entire conversation she simply stood there smiling.  She slowly began walking to the building as we continued to beg her not to go.  Even after she disappeared around the corner I continued to plead with her through the speaker to come back out.

A month before we had received a wonderful report that a young woman in our area decided not to murder her child and went to Albemarle Pregnancy Resource Center where she was given a free ultrasound and information.  The center director had called me and said the woman had changed her mind when she heard us preaching at the clinic.  God graciously altered the course of this woman's life that day.  A few days later as we were outside the clinic we also witnessed another mother changing her mind as well.  We were blessed to be able to give her one of our "Welcome Baby" packages as she left smiling.

With these two wonderful praises I think the events of yesterday's outreach were a little more hard hitting.  How any mother could stand there, justifying the future murder of her child, and smile the entire time is beyond my comprehension.  Towards the end of the morning she came out of the clinic carrying a little brown bag which, I am told, holds medication and information to plan for the day of abortion.  I am assuming that the medication helps prepare her womb to make the slaughter a little easier on her.  Steven engaged her one last time but she kept walking.  When we saw a car stopping to pick her up about 30 yards away Stephen grabbed more material (since it seemed she had discarded what we had given her inside the clinic) and ran towards the car.  He was able to talk to whomever was in the vehicle for a few minutes before they left and give them the additional material.

As I think back on our encounter with the young woman a few questions run through my mind:

1) Where was her father?  Why did he not protect her from her adulterous actions to begin with?  Why was he not there at least after the first pregnancy to help her and call the man who fathered her child into account?  If he was not present in the home, then where was her mother or relatives to do this?

2) Who was the driver of the car?  Why was this person not brave enough to at least take her to the clinic instead of dropping her off down the road?  How cowardly must you be to hind behind a steering wheel and pretend that you are not an accomplice to murder?

Only God knows whether our preaching is still ringing in her ears.  Only He can turn her heart from murder and to Christ.  While I take comfort in this thought I still grieve knowing that if this woman goes through with the evil act a child's life will be snuffed out before he/she is even given the chance to truly live.

Make no mistake, this form of ministry takes a toll but it is one that is much needed.  On the one hand, I praise God that He is using us to reach these women with the Gospel.  Yet on the other hand, I am extremely frustrated that not a single church anywhere in our area is willing to do the same.  I have numerous friends on my Facebook that profess Christ and live locally.  Many of them post about church events, youth gatherings, and how much they love their churches.  So, in closing, if you are one of them and you are reading this right now here is my question to you:


Why are you so unwilling to plead for the life of the unborn?  What is it that is so important that you would forsake this opportunity to preach the Gospel in front of a house of murder on just one Saturday a month?  Why are you willing to spend countless dollars on silly youth events, spend 6 hours listening to pseudo rock music with a few Christian words inserted, travel over an hour to get there, and yet not devote a few hours a month to pour your heart out to these mothers, fathers, and clinic workers who are killing the next generation?  Why is it that you will entice the lost to visit your church with games, bounce houses, raffles and other worldly commercial antics and yet not speak out openly against this modern day holocaust?  Are you afraid of what other might think more than you are of what Christ commands?  Why is it that you are willing to post pictures and quotes on your FB page about Christ and yet not go and share Him with those who are seeking to kill their own children?  WHERE ARE YOU?




Saturday, July 20, 2013

A honest appeal to not grow weary

As a Christian father who desires to raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord I have often been overcome with a great sense of failure.  This comes not simply from the actions of my own children and whether they are obedient to my teachings and guidance but from the immensely overwhelming blogs, articles, posts, tweets, etc. of other Christian parents and parachurch ministries that seem almost spotless in their efforts and teachings.  While I know they are certainly not perfect, many of their posts can appear as such causing some to think they are woefully short of what other "faithful" parents are doing or what such ministries command them to.

I have found that this can serve to over-encourage a parent to the point of becoming weary from attempting to remain diligent in their faithfulness to the Lord and to the discipling of their children.  This leads to not only discouragement but disillusion in the home.

This involves two elements that when combined together create the explosion that is toxic for fathers and mothers alike.  The first element comes along as the unintentional assertion to achieve an impossible level of sanctified discipleship at the sole effort of the parents.  I love reading soundly biblical authors who exegete Scripture and provide practical application of the text.  Many of these brothers and sisters constantly remind their readers that they too are sinners saved by grace and fall short of what they know if complete obedience to Christ.  They provide the most honest encouragement by revealing their own struggles within themselves and in their homes.  It is those who set a high bar and are not openly honest to their own struggles that paint a picture of perfected sanctification in their homes.  This can cause the reader or hearer of such a message to grow weary believing that their efforts fall short, not of the biblical model but of the model of the make-believe fully sanctified and glorified family that does not actually exist.  While these proponents may intend to encourage the fathers and mothers of homes to biblical standards, without open honesty of their own shortcomings and continual struggles, they inadvertently turn their encouragement into discouragement as some parents are left thinking they will never attain to that model of the perfect family.

The second element in this combination takes place more in the trenches of biblical parenting in regards to how Christian parents treat other Christian parents.  This particular ingredient must be preceded by the other and is the most painful for the struggling parent.  Instead of love and exhortation some parents overly criticize other parents for not holding to the pristine model of the smiling family on the cover of the latest parenting book in their local Christian bookstore.  What they miss are the struggles of those parents trying to not only raise their children but actually DISCIPLE them to Christ.  They miss the fact that God designs each of us uniquely, with personalities and preferences unlike any other.  Public schools fail to realize this by modeling an educational standard that only fits one personality type and educational model.  Those of us who homeschool rightly criticize such an approach yet we are the one who are almost always guilty of applying the same within our own circles of fellowship.  The energetic child is thus expected to fit into the same mold of outward obedience as the introverted child and are not discipled individually based on how God has designed and personalized them.  Children should display obedience to their parents (Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 1:8,9) but to suggest that such obedience must be tangibly as apparent every second and exactly the same in every child is to be dishonest regarding the reality of our sin nature and the depravity of all mankind.  For a while, I believed that I was the only one who saw this particularly in regard to the this second element, but another blog showed me that I am not.

Believe it or not, your child will never be like my child and my child will never be like the child of those parents over there.  Our children have unique skills, weaknesses, and strengths.  They should be treated as such!

Is there a perfect Christian home out there that is continually obedient to the commands of Scripture in every area of their walk?  Are the parents sanctified in all areas of their lives with a glimmering and unwavering plan for their families laid out in perfect order?  None of us would dare say yes...but then why do many of us act like those who do fall short of this are to be treated as heathen and distanced from rather than brought closer to us?  What should be the most encouraging of areas in Christian living has often proven to be the most discouraging, critical and, unloving.

Make no mistake, this in no way gives allowance to the slothful father or unfaithful mother who choose to  misuse grace for sinful laziness (Romans 6:1-3).  Those who willfully and regularly act in disobedience to the commands of Scripture in any area of their life and refuse to repent when such sin is exposed do not fall into this category to which I speak.  Such should be lovingly but boldly approached in their disobedience and admonished to repent.

But for the Christian parents whose heart breaks for their children, who desire to see all of their children come to repentance and faith in Christ and live lives to glorify Him, to these parents may I offer a single word of encouragement straight from the sufficient Word of God:  "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9, ESV) or as Paul restates such in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good".  Do not grow weary brothers and sisters!  Let us remain faithful, knowing that none of our children are perfect in their obedience and that we are never perfect in our parenting.  God will bring forth the fruit in due time.  Let us rely on Him and His grace in our parenting as we should in every area of our lives.

And to the local church:  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) in times of trial and struggle and do not simply pack up and leave just because the families around you are not the perfected model others deceptively portray.  Part of being a church is to actually be the church by displaying the loving attributes outlines in Scripture.  If you wish to find a perfect church filled with perfect children guided by perfect families, you will certainly be searching until Christ calls you home.  Charles Spurgeon once said "If you wait for a perfect church, you must wait until you get to heaven; and even if you could find a perfect church on earth, I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship, for you yourself are not perfect."

Let us never be found guilty of portraying ourselves or others as perfectly sanctified in the discipling of our children.  Let us instead strengthen our bounds of unity in our churches, that they may be places of prayer and biblical exhortation.

For the glory of the risen Lord,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A 'somewhat' review of "A tale of two governments"

The end of last year my friend, and an Elder I consider to be a great mentor, Scott Brown sent me a few books.  Because I was in the middle of my second to the last semester in Seminary I was unable to read much of any of them until recently.  With the completion of my last seminary courses I have a little bit (emphasis on "little") more time on my hands.  I decided to start with the book "A tale of two governments: Church discipline, the courts, and the separation of church and state".  The book is written by Robert J. Renaud and Lael D. Weinberger with a forward by John MacArthur.  The authors take both the biblical and legal perspectives, which from a Christian worldview are one and the same, relying on their education as lawyers and practical experience in this area.

The forward by Dr. MacArthur is extremely relevant once one is introduced to the situation which he and Grace Community Church found themselves in 1980.  If you are unfamiliar with the situation you can either Google it or actually read the book; I recommend the latter.  

The title is a dead giveaway as to the content and subject of this writing.  The topic of this book arises out of the sincere concern regarding the legal ramifications of enacting church discipline and whether the disciplined party can legally sue the church.  The history of the biblical understanding and correct application as well as misapplication of the separation of the civil government from the church government created an impressive backdrop from which to build.  While I was prepared for the well-known "Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist" approach, the authors did an incredible job summarizing how this issue had played out in the centuries of Christian history beforehand.

The history of its impact in the Western world ends this section as the next brings it into the focus of how this relates to the churches in America today.  As would be expected of Christian lawyers, sound advice is given in this portion of the book that should be carefully read by every church Elder/Pastor.  The books concludes with practical application and advice presented in a clear and straightforward manner.

As noted in the title of this blog post, this is a "somewhat" review.  I call it that simply because I have chosen to quote what I perceived as the most important sections in the book rather than just giving you my perspective.  Below you will find these listed with their corresponding page number.

(p. 13) 
Separation of church and state, at its most basic, simply means that the church and the state are separate and distinct institutions.

The separation of church and state, as we shall see, is an important, healthy, and indeed biblical doctrine.

(p. 14)
Christ denies that the civil ruler has an absolute power over citizens.

…Caesar cannot be lord over all.  Only Christ can make that claim.

The church does not have the power of the sword, but it does have the power of church discipline.

(p. 15)
In the book of Exodus, the position of civil magistrate and priest are established separately.

(p. 24)
…the church under Pope Gregory VII clearly abandoned the doctrine of distinct spheres of authority for church and state.

(p. 25)
From the fifth through the eleventh centuries, the emperors had been called the “vicar of Christ”, and the popes were only called the “vicar of Saint Peter”.

(p. 32)
…magistrates in Zurich became involved in the process of church discipline itself. The churches could not excommunicate anyone without the permission of the town government.

Zwingli’s views represented a pendulum swing away from church supremacy toward the direction of excessive state involvement.

(p. 34)
God is over both church and state, even as church and state are distinct from each other.

(p. 36)
“He that will not honor the memory , and respect the influence of Calvin, knows little of the origin of American liberty”.-George Bancroft, 19th century American historian

(p. 39)
Although Calvin viewed church and state as separate, it is true that he did believe that the two spheres should cooperate…he had no qualms about reporting wrongdoing discovered by the church authorities to the civil authorities.

…in the 16th century, heresy was universally viewed as an offense against the state, not just the church.

(p. 40)
…Calvin believed that some Protestants were in danger of turning towards anarchy against civil government as they rejected the established order of things.

(p. 45)
In France, the Huguenots…went so far as to prohibit magistrates from serving as elders in the churches, in order to avoid blurring the lines.

(p. 50)
Knox would carry a broad sword in order to protect Wishart as he preached the gospel.

(p. 60)
King James and King Charles believe that the state is above the church.  The Puritan struggle with James and Charles lead to the English Civil War.

(p. 63)
The Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641) established limits in the authority of civil authorities to be involved in church government. It provided that the magistrates could protect the peace and order of the churches so long as “it be done in a Civill and not in an Ecclesiastical way”.

(p. 66)
900,00 Scottish-Irish in America…saturated in the Scottish Presbyterian version of “two kingdoms” theology….American War for Independence, approximately two-thirds of the American population was comprised of non-Anglican (dissenting) groups, the majority of which had a Calvinist theological orientation.

(p. 71)
…the First Amendment…prohibited the national civil government as an institution from interfering with the church as an institution. It did nothing to restrain its framers from making public acknowledgements of God….created a distinction between the institution of the church and the institution of the civil government…prohibit Congress from involving itself in church affairs.

(p. 83)
As long as the church (or its lawyers) remembers to raise the defense of church autonomy at the outset of a lawsuit, the church is safe, and this confusing rule won’t cause the church any trouble.

(p. 86)
At the heart of church autonomy protection are the practical functions of church government-discipline and the election or appointment of church officers.

(p. 89)
The courts have recognized a related doctrine, known as the “ministerial exception”, which is applied in discrimination claims arising out of church hiring and firing decisions.

(p. 93)
…in a real-life case, a church found out that its full-time youth minister had had a civil commitment ceremony with a same-sex partner. The church leadership fired the youth minister for entering into an unbiblical same-sex partnership. The minister sued under the federal employment laws, arguing that this was a form of sexual harassment.

If the courts ruled against the church…then the federal government would be telling the church that it couldn't follow its own understanding of the Bible.

(p. 101)
…when the only way the court can determine that a civil wrong was committed is by making the doctrinal determination, the court does not have the jurisdiction.

(p. 108)
The terms “binding” and “loosing” were well understood in early Judaism…the power of the Sanhedrin to give out judicial sentences.

(p. 109)
(Procedures for church discipline: Dealing with private sins)
…the first step is to personally and privately confront the offender (Matthew 18:15)…it best preserves relationships while rectifying whatever problems had come up.  Most often, church leadership isn't even involved in this step.

…second step is to approach the sinning person with one or two additional parties as witnesses (Matthew 18:16)…this would be the stage where the additional part could be in church leadership.

…third step is to take the matter before the entire congregation (Matthew 18:17)…at each stage of the discipline process, the goal is repentance and restoration, not punishment for the sake of punishment.

(p. 110)
…more public correction can take place when the sin is public, such as open and notorious scandal or public propagation of false doctrine.

(p. 111)
Public sin “opens the door” to public rebuke….once you've gone public with your sin, you have opened the door. You can’t object to a public correction by the elders. (1 Corinthains 5:1-6; 1 Timothy 5:6, 6:3)

(p. 113)
A rebuke, as in 1 Thessalonians, is a form of discipline, but a milder one than disfellowship and excommunication.

…it would be possible to bar a church member from partaking of the Lord’s Table until a sin issue is resolved without disfellowshipping that individual.

(p. 115)
The Belgic Confession of 1561…The marks by which the true church is known…pure doctrine of the gospel is preached…pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ…church discipline.
Its (discipline) purposes are to bring a sinner to repentance, to restore that sinner in his or her walk with the Lord and fellowship with the church, and when necessary, to protect the church from danger, discord, and falsehood.

(p. 126)
“The decline of church discipline is perhaps the most visible failure of the contemporary church”.-Albert Mohler (1998)

(p. 129)
…a church is much more likely to get the protection of the church autonomy doctrine if the church government structure was in place at the time that the discipline procedures was initiated.

(p. 131)
…church leaders should be careful about promising absolute confidentiality to anyone.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  It is a vital tool in the arsenal of self-defense regarding the church.  The information provided within its pages should be openly shared with all members of the local church and digested regularly by its leaders.  

We live in a time when the government is encroaching more and more onto individual Christian rights and the autonomy rights of our churches.  We must be prepared when these issues come knocking at our doors.  They may come in the form of a disgruntled former member or simply as an unbiblical regulation being forced upon us by the government that once swore to protect our inalienable rights.  Either way, we must not be found unprepared.

Thanks for stopping by!

Serving the Savior,
Adam Gray

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lack of research in Christian Post article

I stumbled across an article at Christian Post regarding family idolatry.  I was intrigued by the title first but as I read more I found the writer's primary purpose was to attack FIC's.  Here is a link to the article directly:  "If the family is central Christ isn't"  Regardless of your opinion of FIC's I hope you will notice the repeated fallacies in this article.  Since this is rather long, I was unable to post it as a response on the article's site directly.  Instead, I simply posted a link back to this.

Let me start this response post first by saying that I fully agree with author’s conclusion regarding idolatry.  Family can become an idol just as your individual wife, husband, children, marriage, home, job, pastorate, church building, ministry, job, or anything can become an idol.  Idolatry is rampant today and not just in the world.  The most prevalent and unquestioned idol is that of tradition, by which I mean practices that are not found in Scripture yet are held up as though they are.  We cling so tightly to the idol of tradition in many churches that we refuse to take a step back and fully examine whether that tradition is in violation of the commands, ordinances, godly examples, or principles of Scripture.

With this said, another issue we find which I would like to address is the commonly committed Straw Man fallacy.  A Straw Man fallacy is “(a)nother way to stack the deck against the opposition is to draw a false picture of the opposing argument…if you set up a straw man , he is easier to knock down than a real man…(i)t avoids dealing with the real issues by changing the oppositions’ views.” (p. 101 “Come Let Us Reason” by Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks)  The primary purpose of this response is to address this and what is either the lack of research or the intentional deception (which I pray it is simply the former and not the latter).  Again, the purpose of this response is solely to address the misinformation it states regarding FIC's and the NCFIC.  This is not meant to be a full treatment and biblical exposition of the issue.

Before reading any further, please take time to hear directly from the director of the NCFIC as to what drove him and others to begin questioning age-segregated ministries.

With that, let’s look at the false statements made here:

“Hence, the "Family Integrated Church" (FIC) movement has arisen, calling for churches to be family centered”

Let’s examine the title he referenced here:  Family INTEGRATED Church not Family CENTERED Church.  Is the family the center of the church from the FIC perspective?  Certainly not.  Worse still, the writer did not provide reference clearly stating this.  He simply made an assumption from faulty conclusions.  Here is a quote from “A weed in the church” by Scott Brown (NOTE:  This quote answers this issue directly by posing the question beforehand):

No church should be centered on the family.  It is the work of Jesus Christ that matters most.”  (3387-3304 Kindle version)

So, right from the pen of the Director of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches we see that the author is clearly mistaken in his statement.

"FIC people say, it's worth forming entirely new churches on this distinctive alone."

The author again gives no reference for this claim.  While I have no direct quote to cite the contrary of this statement I can personally attest to its falsity.  In January of 2011 I visited the NCFIC office in Wake Forest, NC after being invited by Scott Brown.  I was struggling with an issue regarding sending my children back to junior church (I was the Associate Pastor of the church at that time).  I told him I loved my church but was given an ultimatum by the Senior Pastor (I will address this further in the post).  Scott told me to submit to my Senior Pastor but let him know that if I believed my children should remain with my wife and I in the service that was my decision to make as their father.  He reminded me to do this all with a loving heart.  He encouraged me to not cause division and stick it out in my church.  This church was the antithesis of an FIC yet not once was I ever advised or told to leave an work to form another church.  Clearly the author was unaware of this position by the NCFIC Director or else he would not have made such a statement.

"Scripture does not tell us that all meetings need to be "integrated"."

This is known as an argument from silence.  It is akin to saying “The Bible doesn’t say I can’t live with my girlfriend so it must be alright.”  We do not read Scripture looking for specific “do” and “don’t” commands with our specified wording. 

"It means that when scripture speaks, in prohibiting or commanding something, it should be followed. And when it doesn't speak it shouldn't be added to."

This argument falls into the same trap as the quote above.  How specific must Scripture speak to a particular situation?  Scripture doesn’t say that we can’t have a trapeze artist giving the sermon from the high wire every Sunday but does that mean it is a biblically wise and appropriate thing to do?  Scripture doesn’t say to hold services on a Sunday morning.  So does that mean every church which does is speaking where Scripture doesn’t and adding to it as the author supposes of FIC’s?  These are simply logical conclusions one must draw from these statements if the author is to be consistent with his assertions.

"The FIC believes their "family integration" is so important that it is valid to differentiate their church from others on that basis alone."

Here is a link to the NCFIC site where you can find a variety of FIC’s from different denominations:

Evidently, just being an FIC is not the sole “basis” of how these churches differentiate.

Now here is a link to the 9 Marks ministry page where you can look up church who hold to the 9Marks statement:  (NOTE:  I agree fully with 9Marks and am only using this to show that FIC’s are not the only extra-denominational classifications among churches.)

Does the author also think that 9Marks and the churches affiliated with it are wrong in their differentiation as well? 

"Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God has called particular officers ("gifts") to build up the church, namely (for our day) pastors/teachers. The FIC, on the other hand, frequently suggests that the pastor normally works through the heads of the households."

There is a key word in this quote:  “suggests”.  Just how the FIC suggests this is unknown to the reader since the author does not state or quote the reference.  This statement makes it seem as though there is no submission of the family to the teaching/equipping authority of the local church.  Step into many FIC’s and you will find families gathered together under the teaching of the Word and not simply preaching to the fathers as supposed here.

"Also, among those that have a "children's church" during the main service, how many would adamantly require children to leave even if a father wanted to keep them in the service? Surely very few."

While I understand that an Elder of a small church such as myself is likely not on the author’s interviewing radar, I think a few minutes with me would have shown him how too broad of a statement this is.  As indicated previously, I was serving as an Associate Pastor when I began to examine the biblical validity of age-segregated ministries.  I had no intentions of changing the church in which I pastored and willingly submitted to the leadership of my Senior Pastor. But I was given an ultimatum that I either send my children back to children’s church or I would not be accepted into the other ministries of the church.  This warning was given to me twice.  I was soon called into a meeting with the church deacons where I was screamed at and demeaned by a brother I once called a friend simply because my kids stay in the sanctuary with my wife and I.  The Senior Pastor did not stop the verbal onslaught during the meetings and I later figured out that that was by design.  I resigned peacefully and my family and I began searching for other churches.  We found a solid Reformed church in our area and began attending, still keeping our kids with us in the worship service.  After 6 weeks the Pastor approached me and said that while he appreciated my convictions our kids would need to join their children’s church so they could free up the chairs for others.  You read that correctly.  My kids were taking up too much space which could be used for adults. 

All this occurred within a series of 6 months and I am not the only one with a similar story.  I truly wanted to stay in my original church and it breaks my heart every time I think of the people we had to leave.  I submitted to the leadership but that was not enough for him.  There are numerous churches out there that are “adamant” about not having children in the worship service…and I can personally attest to it.

"Even if they've erased that formal definition, they act as though the church is not a gathering of individual believers around Jesus but of separate families. But in the Bible, there is eventually, ultimately one family. The church is the "household of God" (1 Tim. 3:15). The Lord puts people from all kinds of families and frequently (and sadly) often there are only some people from each family that are truly converted and made part of the church. The family is a creation institution that will end with the old creation. The church, however, as the assembly of God's people, will last eternally. Making the church centered on the family, subverts the church."

The error here is a little more subtle.  The position could be summed up this way “The church is eternal.  The family is temporal.  Stop focusing so much on the temporal and focus more on the eternal”.  The first two sentences of this syllogism are correct but the conclusion is a generalization.  This quote also concludes with the fallacious Straw Man that FIC’s/NCFIC are trying to make the church centered on the family, to which I have already answered in correction.

"When He was informed that his natural family was outside and wanted to speak with Him, rather than putting "integrating" with that family as a priority, he pointed to those around Him, listening to the Word of God (the church) and said,  "Here are my mother and my brothers!" (Mt. 12:46ff.) In other words, the spiritual family of the church takes priority over the natural family."

Without realizing it the author has just created a hierarchy system not found in Scripture.  Is the spiritual family of the church in a higher priority than the natural family in this world?  Try telling that to the Pastor whose wife rarely sees him because he is in countless meetings and counselings with little time for his family.  Without directly addressing the passage of Scripture referenced, one only needs to examine the context to know that the point Christ was making was not to demean the family as the author has.  The family does submit to the church but not in the way which this writer expresses here.

"Familism - the making the family the ultimate loyalty - is an idol, a competitor to the Lordship of Christ; hence, Jesus tells us we must be willing to "hate" the family to follow Him"

AMEN!  This is absolutely correct…it’s just not what FIC’s/NCFIC is trying to do.  This is the repeating Straw Man of the article…making it sound like FIC’s are making the family the center of what the church is about. 

"So, we must ask, if they are not making an idol out of the family, why are they making such a priority of something not at all found in scripture? Why do they think it is so important? I once had a prospective elder in a FIC church seriously suggest to me that Jesus didn't know what they know about how to save whole families; that Jesus' challenge to discipleship wouldn't be necessary if we only follow the FIC model."

Let’s answer these first two questions.  The priority is on defining the roles of the family and the church and how the two are to function biblically together.  It is so important because many in the church have taken on the role of the parents and many of the parents have willingly allowed it to happen.  As for his exchange with the prospective elder in an FIC, since his previously statements were not well researched or cited I find it hard to believe the accuracy of his quoting of this other brother.  However, I will admit that there are FIC’s out there who are not functioning biblically.  Yet this does not mean that they are representative of them all.  If I attend a Reformed Baptist church, which I believe the writer is pastoring in, and that church treated me like dirt would I then be accurate in stating that all RBC’s treat people like dirt?  No.  That is a generalization and unfair to other RBC’s which likely desire to love God and their neighbors.

"Certainly, a healthy church should be creating healthy families. But a church can only be healthy if it is Christ centered. A "family centered church" is, by definition, not Christ centered and so won't be healthy and will, tragically, not create healthy families, or disciples"

And we conclude this article with the same Straw Man.  It is repeated enough times that it is evident that the definition is completely constructed from the author’s perspective.  In summary, the article shows an uninformed bias toward FIC’s which seems more akin to a personal attack (possibly an ad hominem fallacy) than actual research.  In a day when we can Google answers, respond to social media posts in seconds, and rely on Wikipedia for authority, true Berean –type research and discernment has fallen by the wayside.  Understandably though, the author’s own church has a youth group and other age-graded ministries which make him somewhat bias in how he would examine and deconstruct the workings and biblical precedence for FIC’s.

So I challenge you reader.  Study this issue for yourself.  Go to the NCFIC site, buy the “A weed in the church”, watch the free movie "Divided" online , and spend a little more time than a few days digging through this issue.  Voddie Baucham and other ministries such as Vision Forum have numerous articles and sermons dealing with family-integration in our churches.  It took me months of prayer and study before I was even able to begin understanding this issue and almost a year before I fully grasped it.  Take it from some who created an entire Children’s ministry department from scratch, worked directly with the youth group, and was one of the most outspoken advocates for age-segregated ministries, sometimes we just need to put aside our assumptions and traditions in order to see the real issues at hand.

And to the author, brother I appreciate your zeal and apparent passion.  I respect you as a fellow Pastor and your humility to shepherd the flock to which God has appointed you.  Since your church is only a little over 2 hours away from where the NCFIC office is in Wake Forest I would highly recommend at least setting aside some time to actually talk to the people you are writing about, especially since they live so close by!  I am sure that Scott would be love to have you come to the NCFIC office and spend as much time as needed to answer any of your sincere questions.  I would recommend getting a copy of his book as well.

May God grant you the wisdom to seek  to glorify Him.