In my last blog I gave my “Baptist” critique of the idea that the church is family-based or simply an extension of the family. I stand by it. Scott Brown and Voddie Baucham are, however, quite concerned to make the point that that this is not what they mean by calling the church a family of families. I cited Voddie’s blogs on this subject last time. Here is the link to Scott’s article entitled: Is the Church a “Family of Families?”
In these articles/blogs these brothers are quite concerned to make clear that when they call the church a “family of families,” they are not talking about either the nature of the church or the membership of the church, but to use Voddie’s language the structure of the church.
Now I have to confess that this is still not perfectly clear to me. Part of me wants to argue with Voddie and ask if he would not agree that the nature and membership of the church should control the structure of the church. I feel inclined, in other words, to quibble about the clarity of the word, structure.
On the other hand, I think after some reflection on their articles and blogs that Scott and Voddie are saying something like this. By saying that they are referring to the structure of the church in using the phrase, “family of families,” I believe they are referring to their convictions about how the church should structure its ministry and outreach program. Voddie at the end of his blog says: “As a church, we simply prefer this ‘biblical’ category to the ones forced upon us by the culture. Thus, if we have to choose between a structure that resembles the modernist, secular humanist government education system (divided by age/clique in a Sunday “school”) and the one found everywhere in Scripture, we choose the latter; not as an attempt to redefine the nature and essence of the church, but simply to reassess its structure. All of this is done with a view toward fulfilling the Great Commission with the greatest possible fidelity to the text. If our ‘family of families’ terminology has communicated anything else, please forgive us.”
I invite Scott and Voddie to correct me if I am wrong, but as I read them here is what I think they are saying. Every church should be concerned to fulfill the great commission in ways that go beyond simply preaching and administering the sacraments at the meetings of the church for worship. The “corporate church” or “the program-oriented church” common in our day seek to do ministry and outreach by creating a plethora of programs for every conceivable set of needs. In particular they seek to “do ministry” by creating age-segregated Sunday school classes and youth programs which tend to splinter and over-commit families. I hear them saying that such programs are counterproductive and what we need to do instead is to work on and through the family unit. They believe this focus is more biblical and will ultimately be more effective than the splintering of the family which is the effect (possibly un-intended) of the so-called “corporate church.” Hence, in the church they reject youth pastors, junior churches, age-segregated Sunday school classes, and even nurseries. Outside the church they encourage home-schooling, discourage women working outside the home, and anything else that tends to divide the family and hinder the discipleship of children and Christian outreach to which the home should be dedicated.
To make a long story short, I hear Scott and Voddie affirming that when they say the church the church is a family of families, they are referring to their ‘philosophy of church ministry.’ I think this is what they mean by the church being a “family of families.” I honestly would like to know from them if I have properly understood them.
If I am right about what they mean, I don’t think the description of the church as a “family of families” is a very clear way of saying this. I think Voddie is right to have owned some of the blame for the critiques that have been launched against them through the misunderstanding this phrase engenders. As I said above, I think that other wings of the family-integrated church movement actually mean a lot more than this when they speak of the church being “family-based” and “simply an extension of the family” and deserve the critique I summarized in the previous blog.
But I also think (again if I am right) that the movement represented by men like Scott and Voddie is to be critiqued, it should be based on what they actually intend to say—what they actually mean—and not on an honest, but mistaken, view of what they meant.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.