Some have said that the Family Integrated Church is a fad. Even though this may be the case in individual instances, the true fad is programmed ministry. The Sunday School and youth ministry movements are relatively new. Sunday School was invented in the late 19th Century to teach illiterate street children to read. It was quickly observed that using the Bible to accomplish this task would also introduce them to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since their only day off from working in the factories was Sunday, it was called Sunday School.
Churches saw the impact of getting the Bible into children with little or no upbringing and they began attaching Sunday School ministries to the churches. These ministries were not for the children of believing parents but were intended as outreaches to orphans and street urchins. It was not long, however until the children of believing parents began placing their children in the Sunday Schools along with the other children. Wise pastors warned the parents and cried out against this. They said that it was the responsibility of parents to disciple their children and if they delegated this task, it would not be as effective. They were right. Today we find that 60% to 88% of children growing up attending Bible believing churches are leaving church when they leave high school never to return.
If we allow Scripture to be the sole authority for faith and practice in the local church we will find that discipleship is to take place in the church and in the home. We will also find it is the responsibility of parents to disciple their children with the help and under the care of Biblical shepherds in a local church.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
There is no way to delegate the responsibility commanded in this verse to anyone other than parents. This also clearly tells us where the discipleship must take place – in the home. It also tells us that teaching, training and discipling children is something that takes place throughout the day as we interact together with our families.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
This verse clearly places the responsibility of discipling children upon fathers. Had the Holy Spirit wanted to say parents, He could have done that quite easily. He did not, He said, “Fathers.”
With this said, we desire to return to the Bible and place the worship of God in our homes as well as in our churches. When we say “Family Worship” we mean that the family members that live together along with any others that may be visiting with them regularly stop the normal activity of their day and worship God. This takes place as three things happen in the home. The head of the household leads the family in singing praises to the LORD, reading the scriptures together as a family and praying together.
All the members of the family benefit from this in many different ways. The Lord is worshipped and glorified in the home and discipleship is accelerated as the head of the household leads the family and points them all to the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The role of father has leader of his household is restored. The children learn from the father and mother a genuine faith and the whole family is held accountable. If father teaches from the Word about following Christ, he will have all his family watching him to see if he means it. He will become more prayerful and studious about the Bible because he cannot ‘pass the buck’ to a youth pastor or Sunday School teacher. The parents will be able to monitor the spiritual growth of their children as they listen to the Bible discussions. More ‘teachable moments’ will arise as the lessons learned in the Word are applied throughout the day. The children will see their parents as knowledgeable of the Bible and will go to their parents with questions about life when they come up. When friends or neighbors visit they can be included and evangelism opportunities will abound. Brothers and sisters will grow up studying the Bible together and can hold one another accountable and encourage each other in the Word. Children will learn the meaning of the priesthood of the believer as they know that the Bible is a book for everyone. Parents can enforce the sermons their families hear by discussing them with their children and studying in greater detail questions that come up.
Contrast this with a family that is segregated in Sunday School and maybe even attends different worship services. There is no congruity or continuity in their church day. If this family does not read and study the Bible together, the father and mother are completely delegating their children’s spiritual development and growth to others. Even if the teachers and youth pastors are godly people and truly teaching the scriptures to the children there is still very little accountability between disciple and teacher. There is also no connection between parents and the Word of God except for conversations that arise. A few hours a week in a class are only able to convey a small amount of the Word.
Consider for example a person who attends Sunday School from birth until they are seventy years old. They have 3640 opportunities to hear the Word of God. Now take a young person who attends Sunday School weekly until they leave for college at eighteen years old. They receive 936 times of Bible teaching. Now consider a young person who grows up in a home that has family worship five times a week until they are eighteen years old. This person has 4680 times to hear the Word of God taught.
I used the term ‘head of household’ because I am well aware that there are several reasons for the father not leading. The father of the home might not be saved and could not lead in worship. He might not be willing to assume his leadership role that the Lord has given to him. There may b no father in the home due to death or divorce. The father may be away from the home for work and the worship of God continues as an older son the mother, a grandparent, or other relative leads in worship.
If we are honest we find family worship commanded and modeled in Scripture but we do not find the delegated, age segregated ministry commanded or demonstrated. For this reason we do not see a family integrated philosophy of ministry to be a fad. We see it as a repentant return to the Biblical pattern much like what the Reformers found in their day as they prayerfully compared their contemporary church belief and practice with the Scriptures.