Posted by: reformbama | August 21, 2010

“Family Integrated Church Vs. Typical Church”

I have a guest blogger that has attended a “Typical” church and is now attending a “Family Integrated Church” and he has written about his experience of attending both “styles” of churches.  And now ladies and gentlemen our guest blogger. Now from the mind of Bret Wolfe

As a nineteen year-old college student who attends church every week, I am a rarity. This fact is difficult for me to fathom, as church attendance is as necessary to feed my spiritual hunger as are the three solid meals a day to feed the appetite of this young man. However, USA Today reported on a survey in 2007 revealing that 7 in 10 Protestants aged 18 to 30 stated that they had left the church by age 23. Considering that church attendance does not in itself imply that an individual is a believer, these statistics are sobering indeed. In the face of these statistics, many church leaders have resorted to creating an environment that appeals to young people in order to bring them back in- just as these same churches appeal to any other age group through entertainment, in order to keep them long enough to throw in a moral pep talk quaintly but erroneously considered a sermon.

From 2nd until 7th grade, my family attended what would be considered a “typical” church. There were three identical worship services at different times, with simultaneous Sunday School classes, so that members could work out a convenient schedule. On a typical Sunday, my family would attend the worship service together, then I would head to my Sunday school class, my parents would drop my little brother off at his class, and then they would go to their own class. An hour later my parents would pick us up and we would head home.

After a lunch and relaxing Sunday afternoon, we’d return to the church, where my little brother and I would sing in our respective choirs while my parents attended a class of some kind or other. Then we would meet for an evening service in the sanctuary.

Some of this changed when I entered sixth grade and became part of the youth group. For a while, I took part in a worship service at a different time than my parents and attended my Sunday school class with the youth, so I literally did not see my parents from the time we arrived at church until we left.

A Sunday such as this may seem normal to most churchgoers. I go to the length of detailing it in order to point out some of the flaws of such a “system”- not concerning the doctrine of the church, but simply the order of events. After examining those problems I will detail a Sunday as I experience them now.

The first problem is the separation of families. The family is clearly a spiritual unit, headed by the husband and father. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) And again: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) A father is responsible for washing his wife in the water of the Word, and for teaching his children the truth of Scripture. With this said, a typical Sunday morning at church separated my family from my father so that our instruction was without his knowledge and supervision. Our teachers could have instructed us with incorrect doctrine without my father present to set things straight for us.

The second problem with this system or structure was age segregation. When the adults are attending their own classes, and all of the children are separated to groups their own age, the Biblical principle of shared wisdom is impossible. The young people, so often prone to folly and ungodly influence from the world, are never around the church members who are older and more experienced in the faith than they are themselves. This prohibits the sharing of the wisdom of the elders with the youngsters who so desperately need it. We see an example of the older believers teaching those who are younger in Titus 2:3-5: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Third, we were subjected to peer pressure. When I first moved into the youth group, I was convinced by my friends to attend a weekend-long event where I stayed in a home with a group of other sixth grade boys. We went to a worship service a couple of times each day and held Bible studies in the home. The rest of the time was spent playing games, eating, playing guitar, eating, rock climbing, and eating. The last day, Sunday, ended with a worship service including the entire youth group. As we sang one of the praise and worship songs- with the lights dimmed to add to the emotionally-charged atmosphere- some of the youth began to hold their arms out in worship. Then the trend spread into every row and along each row. The wave of uplifted arms came to my row and passed it. Eventually I realized that, as far as I could see, I was the only one without my arms up. To me, raising my arms did not increase my sense of worship. It looked nice, but it meant nothing to me. However, I couldn’t just stand there and let everyone think me a heathen. I raised my arms- with a full realization that I was being a hypocrite.

Another negative point about the youth group was exposure to issues that were certainly not a problem for me in sixth grade. I attended a public school through fourth grade, and already at that tender age my fellow students were whispering and giggling about subjects that they shouldn’t have known anything about, but I was oblivious to most of it at the time. I was homeschooled beginning in fifth grade, and so wasn’t subjected to the bad influences that public school would have offered. Therefore, sitting in church with a youth group that included high school students and hearing about sexual temptation was more awkward and surprising than beneficial. This was one reason that my parents decided to bring me to their Sunday school class, which my father (who taught the class) gradually molded into the one family class in the church.

My family and I now attend a church that is far more family centered. We arrive at the church at 9AM for a Bible study, which is an exposition through a book of the Bible. The whole congregation sits in the sanctuary as families. When Bible study ends, the worship service begins at 10AM. Again, families are kept together in the sanctuary. There is a nursery available for families with small children who need the use of it, but even there, speakers relay the service from the sanctuary. During our service, we have a reading from the Old and New testaments that is relative to the message. The members of our church know where to turn in their Bibles, because we keep them open. We sing three hymns, accompanied by an organ or piano, which are chosen for their correct doctrine and deep meaning. We will never sing a hymn that has a doctrinal error- the message in a hymn must agree completely with Scripture. Finally, our dear pastor expounds the Word of God in an hour-long sermon, for which he has carefully prepared. Our pastor preaches completely through a book, verse by verse, using many references to other verses. In addition, every sermon points us to Christ, for all of Scripture points to the Son of God.

After the morning services, many members of our church family stay to share a meal. This is a time of great fellowship, and the many dozens of conversations I have taken part in have been a blessing, and are often as instructive as the sermon, as Scripture is applied to questions about all areas of life. Then in the afternoon, we are currently studying Psalm 119. This study was begun by our pastor, and is taught by men who volunteer to teach a section of the psalm. It is designed to teach the men in our church to study Scripture with the purpose of teaching it to others, and is thus helpful in training the men and in teaching the whole church family. After this study, families once again gather together in the sanctuary for an evening service almost identical to the first, except that the children recite a catechism question and Bible verse that they have memorized each week.

The “typical” church experience can hardly be compared to the instruction we receive and worship we offer at our church now. The problems of the separation of families, age segregation, peer pressure, and unwanted exposure or bad influences are eliminated. Instead, we worship together as families through rich hymns of the faith, we learn truth from the Word together as families during the services, and believers of all ages interact throughout the day, so that their wisdom can be shared with the next generation. I know that I have grown more spiritually in the few years that we have been members of this church than in all my years spent in “typical” churches before. And I’m thankful that the Lord has led us to such a family of believers.

By: Bret Wolfe

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Responses

  1. Outstanding exposition, Bret! You’ve got it, my friend!

  2. I am glad you are sharing your opinion of both the typical church and the family church, I appreciate your point of view.

    I have been going to church since I was in my mother’s womb, we attended this “typical” church you speak of, I have always attended a”typical” church, I do not consider my choice of worship to be non family oriented, yes my boys and I attend different SS classes but that doesn’t bother me nor do I feel that in OUR experience it hinders our family time together!
    You seem to make it sound like that the church you attend is perfect and allows you to grow in Christ but a “typical” church didn’t give you that, we each have our own opinions and I commend you for that and I am glad you find what you need in your church, my family and I find what we need in our church as well, it’s typical but I am still able to grow in Christ as I should be. I’m all for family togetherness and LOVE every moment I spend with my boys especially since my husband and their Daddy has passed away, my church is still a family of believers, we may be separated at certain times but we are ALL together on what matters most, God!

    Thanks for sharing your views of the typical church and the church you are a part of now but please don’t think that those of us who attend a typical church service are just going through the motions or “system” my worship experience in our typical service draws me just as close to God spiritually as your church does, God doesn’t grade on the service, he grades on our hearts.

    I commend you on being so deeply involved in church and God as you are, there is no greater JOY!

    • Robin,
      Bret wrote this as a request on my behalf since he is the only young man, I know well enough, that has experienced both sides of these style churches, and his article is not necessarily condescending toward other churches. It was a comparison piece.

      not concerning the doctrine of the church, but simply the order of events

      There are churches out there that can age segregate and families grow, etc. Keep in mind everything I talk about is about the church as a whole and not one church in particular. John MacArthur’s church and Jeff Noblit’s church up in Muscle Shoals down to Steve Lawson’s church in Mobile are a few of these that do. See this post to get an Idea of what that is like.

      The real question is “What is the Biblical model?” If you look at the church historically, the church as it is today is not typical, the non age segregated is.
      This goes beyond opinion though. What does Scripture say about it?

      I can go into this more, but there is another post coming soon that is going to cover it.
      Love your participation.
      Step back and read it again.


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