Last Thursday, pastor Shawn Mathis, of Providence OPC in Denver, presented an irenic critique of the family integrated church movement which was well-received by a crowd of ministers, elders and families outside of Chicago. Presbytery of the Midwest's Christian Education Committee invited him to speak on this growing issue among their churches. His informative and in-depth lecture included a question and answer session.
Labeled a Pastoral Response to the Family Integrated Church Movement, the talk lasted a little over an hour, presenting the history of the movement's rejection of youth ministries, its confession, practices, goals and beliefs. The lecture included an outline of the history of Christian education, including the established use of Sunday school in Reformed churches before the 1800s. There was also a critique of the unbiblical hermeneutical approach of Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC).
The depth of the rejection of church-based educational ministries was highlighted by several minutes of quotes, including Scott Brown's denigration of Calvin's catechetical program. The claim that the family integrated church movement is part of a modern reformation of God was analyzed as well.
The irenic tone of the lecture was displayed in the pointed commendation of the movement's call back to familial responsibilities. The lecturer offered different ways in which the modern Reformed churches could learn from the movement. He also highlighted several negative aspects of the movement, especially its strident tone, as displayed in the NCFIC's movie, Divided, and some of its extended clips.
"encouraging us in the things that we need to hear about the family, while reminding us that what we need is the gospel, not an agenda that renders biblical doctrine less important than a congregation being 'family-integrated' and not 'age-segregated'...Shawn is right to speak out against this."