Family-Integrated Church 3: My Bona FidesSubscribe
Believe it or not (and perhaps I am being a little naive), my goal in these blogs is not to further divide brethren. My goal rather is in part to work for a greater level of mutual understanding and unity among brethren who agree doctrinally. This does not mean that I will hold back what I regard to be legitimate criticisms of family-integrated views. But it also does not mean that I will disregard much that they say, especially by way of critique of the modern church, that is good, helpful, and accurate.
Because I want my friends in this movement to listen to me, I want to share with them the fact that in many respects I share both their practice and their views. Let me give you some of my “bona fides” in order that you may know that I am sympathetic with much that you believe.
- My wife and I home-schooled all our children through 7th or 8th grade. (I did send our youngest to a conservative Christian elementary school because my wife was worn out and needed a break when the fifth of our five children was in fifth grade.)
- We home-schooled our children because we believed that this was the best way to seek to mold their souls into the image of Christ. We are glad we did and would not go back and change what we did. I believe that the example, instruction, and discipline of faithful parents is the most important human factor in the salvation of children.
- We home-schooled our children without informing the state government of Michigan that we were doing so and while, according to the state education department guidelines, it was possibly illegal to do so. This was years before a landmark case in Michigan legalized home-schooling there. We did all this because we believe the education of children is primarily a family duty and not a responsibility of the civil government.
- My wife even had a home business with which our children helped for about 10 years!
- My wife, therefore and of course, did not work outside the home while our children were small. (Well, there was this exception. For 9 months, while I began seminary in New Jersey, she worked three second shifts per week as an RN at a hospital while I cared for our infant son, but we soon decided it was better for me to work even under those conditions.)
- I do not believe in youth pastors. (There are no second tier pastoral qualifications for youth pastors. You are either a qualified elder or not. If you are an elder, you are an elder of the whole church and not just part of it.)
- I do not believe in junior church. (A gathering of children segregated from the local assembly of believers is not the church and does not possess the promise of Christ’s special presence made to the whole church assembled together. While I think nurseries for babies and very young children are helpful and permissible, children at a young age need to be trained to sit quietly in church and, as they grow older, to pay careful attention to and participate in what is going on.)
- I would allow and have allowed parents in churches where I have been a pastor to keep their children with them in Sunday School. I have done this myself.
I know I still fall short by some family-integrated standards. These bona fides will not satisfy everybody. I hope, however, that some at least will be convinced that I seriously hold many values articulated by family-integrated churches. Some, I hope, will be convinced that my wife and I have put “our money where our mouth is” and that my commitment to the values you hold is not just theory and talk. I want to assure people like this that there are many like me in Reformed Baptist churches.