The Case for Family Integration in the Church

The Case for Family Integration in the Church

Professor Timothy Paul Jones laments at what he calls the “one-eared Mickey Mouse” in the church. This one-eared Mickey Mouse refers to the phenomenon that the youth of the church end up becoming disconnected from the rest of the body. The youth group had might as well be its own church because those who attend on Wednesday night are generally not the same group that attend on Sunday morning. I believe that to be faithful to Scripture, we must integrate the teenagers and children of the church back into the life of the church.

Paul assumed that the children of the church would be present when his letter was read to the church at Ephesus: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). The Bible teaches that the older women should not be separated from the younger women of the church (Titus 2:3-4). The integration of the ages is necessary for mentoring relationships to flourish in the church. What young people need is to be around older, more mature Christians who can help train them in the faith. If we want our teenagers to become mature men and women of God, we need to place them with those who are mature so they can imitate their example. As Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Putting the least mature Christians all together in one room while separating them from those who are mature Christians is a recipe for breeding immaturity.

Jeremy Walker summarizes the biblical data on children in the church:

“The constant presumption of Scripture is that children were present in the worship of the people of God. In Nehemiah’s time, men and women and all those who could hear with understanding gathered to hear Ezra the scribe read the Law (Neh 8.1-3; Ezr 10.1). Moses certainly anticipated the literal “children” of Israel to be present when the Law was read (Dt 31.12-13). Paul’s letters, intended to be read to the churches, assume the intelligent presence of children (Eph 6.1-4; Col 3.20), and children were present when the Lord Jesus taught (Mt 18.1-5; 19.13-15)” (Banner of Truth, November 7, 2002).

If Jesus was the one preaching the sermon that morning, wouldn’t you want your children to hear him?

The modern Sunday school movement was started with good intentions by Robert Raikes as an evangelistic outreach to street children whose parents did not attend church. The assumption was that the children of those who were members of the church would be taught the Bible by their parents. Scott Brown explains how this outreach eventually evolved into a system which allowed parents to neglect being involved in the discipling of their children:

“At that time, it was largely unheard of and considered inappropriate for Christians to hand their children over to others to disciple them in gospel truth. However, the Sunday school movement, which was born as an outreach to the children of neglectful parents and not as a tool of discipling the children of believers, soon evolved into a vehicle of parental abdication by Christians. Busy or slothful parents realized that it was convenient to let other people teach their children than to take the time necessary to do it themselves. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution in America and England, more and more fathers were leaving the work environment at home for that in the city, which offered more opportunities and higher wages. This means fathers had less time with their children. It also meant a fracturing of the father-directed discipleship. The Sunday schools were in place and could provide a seemingly excellent substitute. Thus began a two-century long movement of decreasing involvement of parents in the instruction of their children and increasing shepherding by third parties, programs, and ecclesiastical innovations” (A Weed in the Church, 40-41).

The end result was that the biblical model of raising children to become disciples of Christ through daily family worship (Deut 6:6-9; Eph 6:4) became overshadowed by the programmatic method of the church. Parents who did not want to take the time to disciple their children could just hand them over to the church who were more than happy to do it for them. Besides, the pastoral staff have degrees from seminary. How could I ever compete with them? The professionalization of children’s discipleship created an attitude of “no amateurs allowed!” Because of this, churches that do not have amazing youth and children’s ministries cannot compete with the other churches in their area. Teenagers are drawn to the youth group through music, games, food, fellowship, and outings. But as it has been said, what you win them with is what you win them to. Once you stop entertaining them, they leave and go to a church that does a better job of appealing to their appetites. If their parents attend the church, they will leave as well since if their children are not happy, they are not happy.

It is no wonder then that so many of the youth in the church fall away from their profession of faith when they go to college. They were drawn to the church because of what it offered them and were never discipled by their parents. Since the Christian faith was not modeled in the home and was something they only did once a week, they did not see it as important enough to keep. When they did go to church, the hard doctrines of the Bible such as sin, repentance, self-denial, hell, God’s wrath, and the holiness of God were barely mentioned or neglected altogether.

The church’s mission is to win the lost and make disciples. When it strays from its God-ordained mission, it ceases to be a church and becomes a social club. Churches have become so incredibly busy with all their programs and activities while neglecting what is most important. As Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson noted in their study of Willow Creek Church:

“We discovered that high levels of church activity did not predict increasing love for God or increasing love for other people. Now don’t misread this! This does not mean that people highly involved in church activities don’t love God. It simply means that they did not express a greater love for God than people who are less involved in church activities. In other words, an increasing level of activities did not predict an increase in love for God. Church activity alone made no direct impact on growing the heart . . . it was a flat line – and a stunning discovery for us” (Reveal: Where Are You?, 35–36).

The church’s main obligation when it comes to family discipleship is to equip parents to train their children so that they can fulfill the responsibility they have been given by God. As Voddie Baucham argues:

“While I believe the vast majority of those who shepherd segregated portions of congregations are well meaning and would never presume to replace parents in their biblical role, I believe the modern American practice of systematic age segregation goes beyond the biblical mandate. I believe it is a product of the American educational system, and in some instances it actually works against families as opposed to helping them pursue multigenerational faithfulness. The church’s emphasis ought to be on equipping parents to disciple their children instead of doing it on their behalf . . . there is no biblical mandate for the current approach” (Family Driven Faith, 180-81).

So, what should churches do to recover the biblical model for discipling children? Scott Brown lists ten ways churches can move toward family integration: 1. Lead your fathers to conduct family worship; 2. Encourage your families to study what the pastor is preaching on; 3. Embrace the sufficiency of Scripture; 4. Provide biblically qualified elders; 5. Build strong families through biblical methods; 6. Teach the church how to be a true family; 7. Work for biblical headship in the home; 8. Encourage biblical womanhood; 9. Minister to youth without creating a youth culture; 10. Begin the process of leading the church to unify and bring the ages together (A Weed in the Church, 182-86). The Bible is sufficient not just for matters of faith and practice, but also for how we are to do church.

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Sunday Meditation – A Great Wave of Love

Sunday Meditation – A Great Wave of Love

“Brethren, rest assured that in proportion as we are fully persuaded of God’s love to us, we shall be affected with love to him. Do not let the devil tempt you to believe that God does not love You because your love is feeble; for if he can in any way weaken your belief in God’s love to you, he cuts off or diminishes the flow of the streams which feed the sacred grace of love to God. If I lament that I do not love God as I ought, that is a holy regret; but if I, therefore, conclude that God’s love to me is the less because of this, I deny the light because my eye is dim, and I deprive myself also of the power to increase in love. Let me rather think more and more of the greatness of God’s love to me, as I see more and more my unworthiness of it; the more a sinner I am, let me the more fully see how great must be that love which embraces such a sinner as I am; and then, as I receive a deeper sense of the divine mercy, I shall feel the more bound to gratitude and constrained to affection. O for a great wave of love, to carry us right out into the ocean of love.”

Charles Spurgeon

What Is Leviathan in Job 41?

What Is Leviathan in Job 41?

The identity of Leviathan and Behemoth in the Book of Job has puzzled readers for centuries. Who or what were they? Were they real animals we could eat at a barbecue or are they mythological creatures which never really existed? I believe they must have been real creatures because God’s argument in this passage would collapse if they had no real existence. God calls upon Job to contemplate these magnificent creatures as evidence of his power. That would be rather difficult for Job to do if they never really existed. The rest of Scripture affirms that Job was a real human being who once lived, not a fictional character (Ezek 14:14, 20; Jas 5:11).

I believe that Leviathan and Behemoth are extinct species of dinosaurs that once lived at the same time as man. While most scientists would laugh at the suggestion that humans and dinosaurs once coexisted at the same time, the scientific case for the recent origin of dinosaurs is growing stronger and stronger. Just do an internet search for “soft tissue in dinosaur bones” to see the evidence for yourself. At one time, many secular scientists tried to deny that what they were looking at was soft tissue from dinosaur bones, but that explanation has now been discarded. When these tissues are carbon-dated, Carbon-14 is still present in them meaning they are only thousands of years old, not millions. Scientists are finding more and more of these discoveries all the time. But if you are a scientist and try to argue that dinosaurs only lived thousands of years ago, you might lose your job. The discovery of dinosaur fossils with soft tissue provides us with scientific evidence that creatures like Leviathan and Behemoth walked the earth at the same time as humans giving us the most plausible explanation for the identity of these massive creatures.

Sunday Meditation – The Full Enjoyment of Life

Sunday Meditation – The Full Enjoyment of Life

“Let the soul obey God, let it be holy, pure, gracious, then is it happy, and truly living; but a soul sundered from God is a soul blasted, killed, destroyed; it exists in a dreadful death; all its true peace, dignity, and glory, are gone; it is a hideous ruin, the mere corpse of manhood. The new life brings us near to God, makes us think of him, makes us love him, and ultimately makes us like him. My brethren, it is in proportion as you get near to God that you enter into the full enjoyment of life — that life which Jesus Christ gives you, and which Jesus Christ preserves in you.”

Charles Spurgeon

Aristides on the Early Christians

Aristides on the Early Christians

Aristides’ Apology for the Christians is one of my favorite Christian writings from the second century. In it, he defends Christians from the false accusations made against them by the Romans in a letter to Emperor Hadrian. I encourage you to read the whole thing as well as the rest of the writings of the apostolic church fathers. The following excerpt shows how the early Christians conducted themselves:

“But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.”

Sunday Meditation – The Foundation of Your Confidence

Sunday Meditation – The Foundation of Your Confidence

“There is plenty for you to do for your Lord to show your love to Him, and to glorify His name. But you cannot add to the foundation of your confidence, nor should you dream of doing so. How could you improve what your Lord declares to be finished? Is not His work all-sufficient? Do you want to move the foundation? Does it not stand fast forever? Lean on it steadily and let this be your chief concern. O poor fainting believer, the more you can lean upon Jesus the better He will be pleased. ‘Lean hard,’ He cries, ‘and prove your love to Me.’ Trust Jesus for everything and trust Him at all times. Trust Him in life, in death and to eternity, and you shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end.”

Charles Spurgeon

Can Women Teach Men in the Church?

Can Women Teach Men in the Church?

I have written previously on the meaning of the verb “to have authority over” in 1 Timothy 2:12 with regard to the role of women in the church. Paul is prohibiting women in the church from teaching or having authority over men based on the order of creation rooted in the concept of primogeniture. But among complementarians who believe that there are certain roles in the church which are limited to men, some argue that women can still teach men in the church as long as they are under the authority of the elders or if their teaching is non-authoritative in nature. John Frame argues that women can teach men in the church as long as it is not the same kind of teaching that the pastors do. Jonathan Leeman responds by noting that this argument is rooted in a Presbyterian understanding of authority which Baptists do not share. As such, those who hold to congregational church government cannot consistently use Frame’s arguments.

In this article, I will be critiquing the arguments of Frame that women can teach men in the local church in a general or non-authoritative way. The main problem with his argument is the artificial distinction he makes between authoritative and non-authoritative teaching in the local church. The first text he uses to argue his point is Colossians 3:16:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”

Since we are commanded to teach and admonish one another, he argues that women are called to teach men in the local church. But the problem with this argument is he assumes that the command to teach “one another” means that everyone is called to teach everyone else. But this is not how we interpret Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:21 when he speaks of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” If Paul is teaching in this verse that everyone is called to submit to everyone else in the church, then that would mean parents are called to submit to their children. But since we know this is not how the parent-child relationship works, Paul’s words must be interpreted in light of the rest of Scripture. When he calls us to submit to one another, he means that those who occupy positions of submission in the church and home submit to those they are called to submit to: children to parents, wives to husbands, and slaves to masters. Likewise, husbands do not submit to their wives because that would reverse the God-ordained role of headship in marriage. The husband has authority over his wife because he is the head of her just as Christ is the head of his bride the church. Christ does not submit to the church, but the church to Christ.

In Colossians 3:16, Paul does not mean that all Christians should teach all other Christians in the church because not all Christians have been given gifts of teaching and that would contradict his teaching on women in 1 Timothy 2:12. Rather, Paul means that those who have been given a gift of teaching use it to teach the church. For those women who have been given a gift of teaching, they are to use it to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-4). Their teaching is directed toward other women, not the men of the church. If Colossians 3:16 means all Christians are to teach all other Christians in the church, then we should allow believing children to teach as well because they too are part of the church.

Frame also cites Acts 18:26 when Apollos is instructed by the husband-wife team of Priscilla and Aquila to argue that women can teach men:

“He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

This is an important verse to bring up because it demonstrates that not all teaching that is done is that which takes place in the context of the local church such as in 1 Timothy 2:12. A woman can offer correction to a man from the Bible outside of the local church. This distinction is not one of authoritative versus non-authoritative teaching, but one of teaching publicly in the church versus teaching in a private encounter outside the church. And Priscilla was with her husband Apollos the whole time.

Another text Frame uses to establish this distinction is 1 Corinthians 14:26:

“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up”

The term “lesson” here is better translated as teaching or instruction to describe the act of teaching in the church. Because Paul says “each one” has one of these things, Frame argues that women must be able to present their teaching before men in the church. But the false assumption here is that anyone in the church can bring any of these things before the congregation. The only people in the church who can bring a revelation or tongue before the church are those who have been given the gift of prophecy or tongues. So likewise, the only people who can bring a teaching before the church are those who have been given the gift of teaching and are qualified to do so. Since Paul has placed limits on the role of women teaching men in the church, we must interpret this verse in light of 1 Timothy 2:12.

A final set of passages in the Bible Frame appeals to are those which speak of female prophets in the church who prophesied to both men and women (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor 11:5). But the gift of prophecy is completely different from the gift of teaching. When someone engages in prophecy, he or she is not the one doing the teaching. That person is merely a mouthpiece for the very words of God which are infallible. Every word from a prophet is the exact word of God which does not come from man. On the other hand, the content of teaching does come from man and is not infallible. The words that a pastor speaks are not the very words of God though he is called to base his teaching on the Word of God. When women engaged in prophecy in the first century, they were not teaching or having authority over men because it was not them who was speaking, but God. They merely acted as passive agents when God literally spoke through them.

The assumption of the New Testament is that it is the elders who are called to teach the church. If Sunday school is to be done in the church, it must be as an extension of the teaching authority of the elders in order to have biblical warrant. With the growth of Sunday schools, churches are in desperate need for teachers. As a result, many churches select teachers who do not meet the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3. But James warns us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1). The assumption is that each church would only have a few teachers in comparison to the rest of the church and all of them would have the gift of teaching.

If teaching in the church is based on God’s Word, then by definition it is authoritative because it is the teaching of God when rightly interpreted. Non-authoritative teaching is an oxymoron because the only authority Christians have is the Bible which is always authoritative. When Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” these are actions, not offices. Paul does not say, “I do not permit a woman to be a pastor,” but he prohibits actions that are contrary to the order of creation.

Others argue that women can teach men in the church as long as they are under the authority of the elders. But no one can give someone else permission to disobey the teachings of God’s Word. The result of Frame’s position is that he turns “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over men” into “I do permit a woman to teach men.” If he can do that, he can make the Bible say anything he wants. In fact, this is exactly what he does in his book Theology at the Movies where he says it is OK for Christians to look at nudity on film as long as they don’t actively seek it out:

“Similarly, if film actors wish to commit sin before the camera, that is their responsibility. I don’t believe I commit sin when I, in the normal course of my cultural pursuits, observe what they, without consulting me, have chosen to do in public.”

Disobedience to one of the commands of Scripture leads to disobedience in other areas.