A Survey of Church/Family Worldviews

We live in a era when the basic building block society — the family — is breaking down. This family disfunction is invading the church. Different segments of the church have recognized different aspects of the problem and are addressing it in different ways. Here is a brief survey of family approaches I’m familiar with:

  1. The Vision Forum/Conservative Calvinist Approach — Some of the best Christian family resources available today are produced by a group called the Vision Forum. Doug Phillips and his team are producing a seemingly endless stream of resources to help rebuild families from the ground up. Their mindset is based on the Calvinist covenantal worldview. This view makes a direct correlation between the Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church. In Israel, everything was about family. Training your natural children was the future. The weakness of this approach in the New Testament era is that it tends to substitute family expectations for evangelistic expectations. A kind of Amish worldview develops where reaching or touching the outside world is secondary to training your children and your family. With time, the family line becomes more important than the Gospel witness, and you have a new culture (like the Amish) developed out of it, instead of a changed world.
  2. The Baptist/Assemblies of God Approach — In the Baptist worldview, everything is about evangelism. Where the calvinist emphasizes the covenant, and therefore often the infant in Baptism, the Baptists emphasize the believer in baptism, and therefore the Kingdom. The Baptists evangelize, including their children. They build schools, because they recognize the humanistic values of culture, and this helps a lot. Where they fall short however, is in the connection between the parents and the children. The idea of discipling their children through lifelong personal connection is weak, just as their idea of discipling believers is weak. The Assemblies of God is somewhat similar, except that they build colleges instead of schools to protect their children, which is also a major help but not a solution.
  3. The Prophetic/Charismatic Approach — Charismatics are often comprised of those who most needed a touch from God. Partly because of the isolating nature of this journey, Charismatics have tended to be very individualistic in their approach to life, and because what matters most is an spiritual encounter with God, this is what they seek to give their children. Charismatic churches often have 45 minute+ worship, including all ages followed by a “Kids church” which may include exposing or encouraging the children to move in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A few things seem to work strongly against Charismatic children though. First, the counter-intuitive way that Charismatics understand God as working can be damaging to children. “God told us” can include a wide variety of things which God may not have said, and when they don’t happen God seems fake, or gets the blame. Second, Charismatics place a lot of emphasis on women leading ministry, but very little on father’s leading homes. Combined with the flakey behavior, this usually means the father is checked out. Third, while exposure to the Spirit for children is very desirable, it is only one part of a comprehensive child raising strategy.
  4. The Sheherding/Charismatic Approach — The Sheperding Movement was like an antidote to the prophetic wing, but an antidote that was usually applied in such degree that it acted more like a poison. All Charismatics can be described by finding their place on the continuum between the two. In the Shepherding Movement, discipleship is everything. This includes family. The man runs the family, and it must be properly ordered as a primary qualification for ministry. Because the Shepherds valued authority and discipleship, they eliminated the charismatic problems, but ushered in a different kind of problem — over-involvement and control. Just as they violated the boundary of conscience with their disciples, so they also violate their children’s consciences.

This is only a starting point for a discussion, but a few observations emerge for me.

  1. First, a complementarian view of men and women’s roles is essential to the health of the family. Groups that emphasize women’s leadership at the expense of men fundamentally damage the family. Exactly what men’s and women’s roles are is a topic for another post, but I think it’s clear that male leadership is essential to family health.
  2. Second, emphasis of family cannot be done at the expense of the Kingdom, but as a part of the Kingdom. The vision forum has much to be admired, but I believe the first priority is reaching souls. We do not sacrifice our families for souls, but we engage them in the work. We cannot return to an Old Testament mindset where the family and the Kingdom are the same thing.
  3. Third, total family care involves a lot more than any single program. It is ministry to the parents, schools, youth groups, kids programs, sunday school etc. In fact, it is ministry to singles and young adults, since they are the building blocks of future families.
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  1. i’ve been reading some of your stuff and find it good.
    this specific article “A Survey of Church/Family Worldviews” speaks to something that is dear to us (our church, me as the pastor). A part of our vision concerns families:
    It is our vision to build up Godly families that encourage and stimulate Christian maturity, enabling them to thrive together in growth and ministry.
    “Change A Heart, Change A Family; Change A Family Impact A World”
    I see and preach that ministry to children must start at home and God wants a successful family. BUT also that families, including children, can minister as families. In our Kid’s Church right now children are learning to worship God and sense His presence, but also together in Family Worship(our Sun. morning worship service) we’re learning to do the same AND at the same time to establish the Kingdom in OUR world: family, local church, local community, etc.
    “…but I believe the first priority is reaching souls. We do not sacrifice our families for souls, but we engage them in the work. We cannot return to an Old Testament mindset where the family and the Kingdom are the same thing. ” We don’t become an “Amish” type community. How do you think we can “engage them in the work”?
    your thoughts & response is appreciated.
    (i’ve enjoyed and found useful your info on the prophetic & apostolic movements and church history. i like to see how things fit together and what we can/should learn from diff. emphasis and what we should be cautious of. God has a wonderful plan and design for His Body.)
    jerry bolton

  2. Jerry,

    Thanks for your comment and compliment. I took a look at your church website. I liked the flavor of your vision/values/mission a lot. I think it represented a nice balance between the different elements of the Kingdom, while putting people first.

    I think you have a good question too. In my opinion, the first issue is one of ultimate focus. Our ultimate focus should be outward toward the lost and the advancement of the Kingdom, not inward toward our family. I see that in Mat 12:46-48. But I think that traditionally this outward focus comes at the expense of the family — with one partner highly engaged in ministry activities while the other is disengaged or tending the home. I think we can find ways to make them complementary if we approach the family as a ministry vehicle — a unit designed to bless the world, not just bless itself.

    But the question really is “how”? I think there are different ways to express that heart, here are a few thoughts:
    1. A healthy family itself is a ministry if you invite others into it. Increasingly few people in our society grew up in a healthy family. For those that have the space and the grace to do so, we should make a proactive effort to invite others into that context. Having younger people live with us for a short term can bring great healing to them by giving a new model family. Some may have the grace to invite the mildly troubled, others only the grace to invite young ministry types, but either way, both are blessed.
    2. The children can be taught to reach out to their school and neighborhood peers. The parents then can use this as an opportunity to “adopt” the neighborhood kids from bad backgrounds, to lead kids to Christ, and also to reach out to parents.
    3. Fathers can take their (older) sons/daughters along with them in the work associated with the ministry. Instead of sidelining them or giving them only “youth” stuff, we can engage them together with us in the adult activities, for example, fixing up the church facility. Here then you have traditional father and son family time, but in a service context.
    4. Older couples reach out to younger couples. Lifelong marriages take lots of work. Older mentors can play a vital role in enabling the younger couples to fulfill the call of God on their lives. Again the focus here is not just the “healthy marriage” as an end unto itself, but it’s the healthy marriage AND it’s significance for advancing the Kingdom. This can be a win-win-win over the traditional mode of the pastor counseling a couple by himself, and usually only in crisis.

    So, in summary, I think a large part of it is hospitality — opening our families and homes to others so that others can be blessed by our family relationships, and I think the other part is doing things together. Finding ways to do things together that we might have done alone.

    Hope that helps. I’d enjoy hearing your reflections as a pastor as well.

    God bless.

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