my review of Voddie Baucham’s book Family Driven Faith a few weeks ago and since Voddie is probably the most “mainstream” proponent of the Family Integrated church movement (FICM) I think he is the best representative of the movement as a whole. As I mentioned in my review, while I am leery of any "movement" in the church, I have a lot of affinity with the FICM. I appreciate the serious way they approach and treat the Scriptures and their unapologetic stand on the teaching of the Bible in matters of gender. They have taken what is an unpopular but correct stance against the consumerist mentality that has given us the modern “youth ministry” and age-segregation model. By and large they are guys that I would love to sit around and have coffee with. However, while there is much to commend in the FICM there is also a lot left “un-Reformed”. There is no better example of this than in this paragraph from Voddie’s book…
First there is no clear biblical mandate for the current approach. I have to choose my words carefully here, since I do not wish to intimate that churches with youth ministries are heretical or unbiblical. I fully recognize that many of the things we do in church today are not found in the Bible. We would be hard pressed to find a church building (as we know it), a pulpit, or a microphone in the book of Acts. So I am not arguing that the fact that something is not specifically mentioned in Scripture means that it is absolutely forbidden in today’s church. (Family Driven Faith, pg. 179, emphasis added)
Mull that over for a moment if you will because it is an exceptionally honest statement from a well-known and generally respected guy in the church, someone who defends the so-called Regulative Principle of Worship. Many of the things we do in church today are not found in the Bible. He mentions pulpits and buildings. You can add clergy, monologue sermons, seminaries, ritualized “Lord’s Supper”, "church membership", on and on. In fact the more you study it, the less of the traditional church you find in the Bible. We aren’t talking here about some lib’ral “mainline” Protestant here, we are talking a Reformed, sola scriptura group of churches and an uber-conservative spokesman in Voddie Bacuham and he bluntly admits that we do lots of stuff that isn’t in the Bible. That raises this important question:
If we claim to believe what the Bible teaches but the stuff we do isn’t in the Bible, why do we do it?
The answers are all over the place. Some people will insist that in fact most church traditions are in the Bible, at least in their church traditions. It requires some exegetical gymnastics to find them but they are allegedly there nonetheless. Others will appeal to pragmatism or culture or tradition. How can we have an orderly meeting if everyone is allowed to talk? How can we have church discipline without membership lists? How can we prevent heresy if no one is "in authority"? These and other questions are understandable given the propensity for people to wander but they place little trust in the Holy Spirit and the ability of the "average" Christian to read and understand the Scriptures.
I am not saying any of these extra-biblical traditions are inherently bad but I would ask where we find the support for them and what do we do when these traditions impede what the Bible does describe and command, as they so often do. If our traditions impede "one anothering" or if our traditions prevent us from being in fellowship and community with other believers, isn't the solution to get rid of the traditions? Somehow the church survived and even thrived in a much simpler setting in spite of rampant persecution and it is hard to argue that as we have surrounded ourselves with traditions that church life has improved at all.
In the end while there is much to be commended about the Family Integrated Church Movement, it falls down where so many other reform movements have stumbled: a stubborn clinging to the most entrenched, and often the most harmful, traditions of the church. Like the magisterial reformers, Voddie and others like him are “Halfway men”, the moniker hung on the reformers by the Anabaptists. They do get credit for taking a stand against the prevailing winds of the religious culture that insists on age segregation and erasing gender distinctions but it as a whole doesn’t go nearly far enough and ends up with a slightly more Biblical gathering that ultimately is at odds with the Bible itself.