Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Unity’ Category

IMG_2993

Made by a young pair of brothers, Divided the movie is the film version of the Family Integrated Church propaganda.  Careful oversight was given by Scott Brown, of the NCFIC, and he was also interviewed extensively in the documentary.  The film follows the research of Philip  Leclerc into the fruits, philosophies, and history of the youth ministry church model.

Divided consists mostly of interviews.  It begins by talking to the authors of Already Gone, Britt Beamer and Ken Ham, who discuss the statistics about youth leaving the Church and at what age they stopped believing orthodox Christianity.  One problem they identify with modern youth ministry is the lack of substance being presented in lessons and sermons at events.  This leads to man on the street shots of students after a Christian concert, and surveys of various youth leaders and conference directors for youth pastors, showing the pervading philosophies of being relevant and giving the students an emotional experience – intentionally not dealing with points of Christian doctrine beyond Jesus’ love and sacrificial death.

Some former pastors and youth leaders are interviewed about why they left the youth ministry model (much as the filmmaker’s parents had chosen to do).  An enlightening testimony suggested that teaching the “right things,” worldviews and Christian theology, still resulted in a majority of students leaving the faith by the end of high school.  This presents a contrast to the first segment, where the flawed worldview of average youth ministry was uncovered.  One church planter stated that if you just read the Bible, you would not think of doing church the way we do it today; his church is trying to function more biblically, and one aspect of that is to eliminate youth ministry.

Next is what I see as the strong point, the most useful part of the documentary, dealing with the history of age-segregated church, beginning with the origins of Sunday school classes for children.  The rest of the movie seems unlikely to enlighten or persuade anyone, as the philosophies of each side (pro-youth ministry and pro-family-based discipleship) are not tested against a biblical standard.

Afterward, Philip Leclerc interviews a series of leaders in the FamilyIntegratedChurchmovement, who point out that the Bible’s prescription for discipling children is that their parents train them up, and that youth ministry – separate from the main meetings and activities of the church – is never mentioned in the Bible.  Questions are brought forward, like the argument that since parents are not taking responsibility for training their own children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, if the Church doesn’t, the youth will fall through the cracks.

I found a few things lacking in Divided.  At the end of the movie, I felt that the criticism against youth ministry was directed at its fruit: people who abandon belief in God and the Bible.  But the alternative put forward is not judged by the same measure.  I remain curious how successful family-centered discipleship and family-integrated churches are at retaining the next generation.  The filmmaker’s mentors are full of ideals which they claim are biblically based.  If the fruit is different from what statistics show for youth in the past several decades, this gives us hope.  If the fruit is the same, perhaps more is going on than negligent parenting and segregated churches.

The movie relies on the worldview of its audience to refute the postmodernism of most youth ministries which is put on display in the first half of the film.  Though presented as the unwanted results of age-segregated ministry, we are left to judge what is wrong with the youth interviewed based on our own notions – whether we would judge them for their style of music or dress, for their poor communication skills, for holding to false doctrines about creation, for caring about authenticity and relationship, for lacking discernment, for laziness, for postmodern relativism.  And if we only notice a couple of these, perhaps we are absorbing the rest of their subtle messages as true – or maybe we are judging everything they say as wrong because of the other things they are packaged with.

This highlights the next difficulty I had with the movie: some of the youth and youth leaders made really good points about what is valuable to people, what they expect – even need – to find at church.  When a student says he is looking for people who will tell him the truth and be real with him, and that he values a mentor for being involved in his life, surely the Church could learn from those needs.  A woman who leads training for youth pastors points out that they need to be relevant to the everyday lives of kids.  True – who has more relevance to the ins and outs of a young person’s life than the family he lives with?  Who is more real to him than his own parents?  But this point was not made, this challenge not extended to parents who are choosing to take up the biblical mandate to be spiritual leaders to their children.  Also, those concerns recognized by the representatives of youth ministry are really universal needs, not applicable just to teenagers, but also to adults.

Throughout the movie, the experts skirt the issue that the way we do church is fundamentally unbiblical.  We have not sought God’s design for our gatherings and Christian life.  The Church that was intended to be a community has become an institution full of programs, and people fill slots and categories and statistics instead of being directed by needs and gifts in the Body.  Perhaps parents are abdicating their spiritual roles because the Church isn’t allowing discipleship to happen among its members, leaving parents ill-equipped to train their children – but also leaving pastors ill-equipped, unsupported by the edification they are supposed to receive from the rest of the Church.

Finally, there is the question of whether people who are middle school, high school, and college age ought to be considered adults, invited and expected to contribute their spiritual gifts (if they are believers*) to the unity and edification of the whole church just as the rest of adults ought to be (but often are not).   I say “the rest of” because until the last hundred years, people in their mid-teens and beyond were counted adults.  In the very least they were not considered children.  And on the assumption that youth ministries are dealing with children rests the crux of the argument made by the Family Integrated Church proponents.  They argue that parents own the responsibility for the spiritual growth of their kids.  But if they’re not kids, in the biblical sense to which the commands would apply…

And even if they are children, if they are saved*, they are members of the body of Christ and the instructions about Church should apply to them.  They ought to receive instruction and admonition from any believer who is so gifted and led.  Parents are responsible, and not to shirk their duties towards the children God has entrusted to them, but they are not alone, and do not own exclusive rights to their child’s discipleship.  Perhaps they ought to do “catechizing” and “worldview training” at home instead of expecting it to be done at church.

I appreciate the call Divided puts out to parents to fulfill their God-given roles in the family.  The documentary shows the variety of people who believe in family integration, and the different reasons people practice it.  Exhorting the Church to be unified by ending age segregation is a great start.  When asked about children whose parents are not believers (the original target of Sunday schools), Family Integration proponent Scott Brown suggested an intense, personal solution: sound families should bring those children into their home during the week to witness to them and disciple them (sending them back to their own families with deference to the parents’ authority), and have those children sit with their family during church meetings.  The family is upheld as an important player in education and morality.  Ultimately, Divided exalts God for designing well, however dismal the results of man’s corruptions of church and family.

*If a child is not yet a professing follower of Christ, should he be required to attend Church gatherings with his parents?  Should he be allowed to participate if he is there?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In the model of church I read in the New Testament, particularly 1 Corinthians, when the believers gather, a few bring something – not by design of man, but by movement of God: a word, a prophecy (directing the people to a truth they need to hear), an edification, a testimony, a song.  In the New Testament, I believe there were no worship leaders preparing several songs for their congregation to sing.  Our churches today put the pressure on these men to open the door to worship, to lay out the path and charge ahead, teaching us to follow.  At my church there is a stage, and those on it perform – whether performing a duty or a concert, they are not “one of us.”

If a church meeting was participatory, those who brought songs to sing would have reasons.  The song would express not necessarily what we should feel or believe, but what we do believe, or do want to feel.  If a song was less relevant to me, I could sing it because I knew it was relevant to my brother or sister.  The singing would draw us together, and edify each other.

You run into practical problems.  How do people know the lyrics?  What about the tune?  Do we have a pianist?  If it’s a new song, how do we learn?  These aren’t really problems.  For centuries there have been folk songs, these melodies and lyrics rarely written, seldom studied, and almost universally known.  If you don’t know it the first time, maybe you will learn after a few times.  We carry on this custom in the practice of Christmas caroling.  No instrument.  A leader or not.

Read Full Post »

“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister…” In verse 23 we see several aspects of the function of the Church.

  • The Church is made of individuals, who are continuing in the faith (by which alone we are saved).
  • In that faith individual disciples are grounded and settled.
  • The Church is not moved away from the hope of the gospel.
  • The gospel is heard.
  • The gospel, note, provides hope.
  • The gospel is heard because it is preached.
  • Paul was made a minister of the gospel.

This is the first mention, in the passage about Jesus, of His servants.  Up until Paul’s introduction mankind is only the recipient of grace.  Has anything changed?  Is Paul commending himself as offering some importance to God? “Who [Paul] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church: whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God…” No.  Paul sees even suffering in ministry as a cause for rejoicing.  He describes his calling as a dispensation, a giving from God.  He serves and suffers for the sake of the Church.  Note that Paul of the Church (from among?) was made a minister of the gospel. “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…” Whenever Paul talks about “the mystery,” he is talking about the Church, specifically the fact that grace and glory and salvation are offered to all men, not only to the Jews, and that even people who were once enemies are united in Christ, in one Body.  Saints are all believers, not only Jews, not only the miracle-workers or great teachers.

“Whom [Christ] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.” Christ is the focus of the preaching. But who is the “we”?  Paul makes a distinction near the end of the chapter, only in verse 28, of saying “we.”  We are the saints, the Church, the body, those in whom Christ is. It is all of us, therefore, who preach. The Church needs to be warning every man and teaching every man.  Christ’s Body must be wise that we may teach in all wisdom. Our object is to present every man perfect (grown up, complete) in Christ Jesus. Then Paul switches back to a personal testimony, saying that these are his goals though he only accomplishes them because God is at work in him.  But take heart.  God’s work is mighty.

Read Full Post »

Any discussion of the Church means nothing without first knowingWhom it’s all about.  Colossians 1, my favorite passage on my Savior, is the first I think of when answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” Verse 13 says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son…” Jesus is the Son of God. The kingdom that makes up the Church belongs to the Son of God. That Son is dear to God, attested by miraculous voices from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, again at His transfiguration; and ultimately proven by the resurrection.

“In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins…” (v.14) This same Son of God is the Redeemer, our Salvation, buying us back from God’s wrath over our sins. The means of the redemption was the very physical blood of Jesus, shed on the cross that we might be forgiven.

The following verses worship Jesus for who He has been from age to age.  They tell us about His nature in a way few had the privilege of observing even while He lived among us. “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him.  And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist: and He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” I can sense the excitement in Paul’s pen.  “Have you any idea who this is?!”  The Head of the Church, our Savior – is the image of a God who is invisible.  As much as we can see God, the glorious Eternal Creator, Jesus is that image. He is First. All things were created by Him, including not only nature, but also any power and all kingdoms.  Everything was created for Him.  That includes us.  That includes His Body, the Church. He is risen, in every area the First, having preeminence.  Is there any question why He and none other is the Head?  Could His ability be insufficient?

“For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Paul repeats it.  Jesus was fully God, because this pleased God.  Jesus is the incarnation of God.  There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.  By His blood, there is peace and reconciliation between God and all things.

This formerly estranged party includes us: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled.  In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight…” To the enemies of God, He showed grace, so that we are instead seen as holy.  I can’t move forward without rereading.

Who is this Head of the Church?  Who are we?  What did Jesus do?  Why?

Read Full Post »