Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Epistemologically Self-Conscious House

Doug Phillips at Vision Forum has made a byword of the phrase "epistemologically self-conscious", meaning intentionally consistent with a Biblical world view in every respect. I first heard it in connection with the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (I haven't been but my son John Calvin has, so I've listened to the CDs).

At the Uniting Church & Family Conference this month, Doug extended the phrase to the home of Scott Brown. I wrote,
He also talked about the Browns' home as an epistemologically self-conscious family integrated home, designed to make a home where kids spend the least amount of time alone in their rooms and the most interacting with grandparents, guests, and their family. “It is a revolving door of evangelism,” he said, where there are always visitors being discipled.
One of my readers asked a question about it, and since I have been blessed to be a guest in Scott's home a number of times, I can offer a bit of first-hand observation.

The Browns live on a beautiful piece of rolling farmland in eastern Wake County, just a short drive out of Raleigh but totally in the country. Their home is affectionately called "The Barn" since the original pre-engineered structure -- it's a steel building, you see -- was designed for that purpose. I have heard different stories about the Browns' original plans for it, whether it was intended to be an actual livestock building or if they intended it as a meeting place for the church Scott pastored, but the slump in the investment market after 9/11 prompted the decision for them to make it their home instead.

Rather, their home in addition. You see, the central space of The Barn is truly a "great room", capable of seating over a hundred without overcrowding, so they still use it for church services as one plan had intended. The Browns have stocked it with Victorian sofas and armchairs, filling in the spaces with inexpensive stackable chairs when needed, so I've been there for several meetings and celebrations of the church. The big room is open to the gambrel roof, probably 24 feet or higher, and features a chandelier made of (simulated) deer antlers, a huge stone fireplace, and a rope swing, of all things. Word is that the children sometimes do get to use it, and at full arc they can touch the wall over the dining table.

The heavy wooden beams and rough stonework are balanced by feminine touches like a framed antique wedding dress, a collection of china plates on the wall, and lace curtains. Scott said the antler chandelier was a gift from a friend and arrived just as he was leaving for a trip. He rejoiced over this manly decoration but had to leave it crated until his return. While he was gone, though, his wife arranged to have it installed -- and hung her teacup collection on the points. Scott said after the initial shock he agreed to only remove some of them, so the "Theodore Roosevelt" effect is still moderated by "Edith" -- there are still a dozen or so cups hanging overhead.

Scott has an office partitioned off with bookshelves in one corner (I've seen the surfboards as well as the WWII invasion map of Iwo Jima), and there are bathrooms, an open kitchen, a parlor, and a couple of bedrooms in the "front end" of the building. On the opposite side of the big room (which feels like about 30x40 feet, though I may be overestimating) there is a mezzanine (think "hay loft") with the children's bedrooms upstairs.

There are many "self-conscious" aspects to this remarkable home. Doug's comment about designing for "family integration" was refreshing in its obviousness and uncommonness today. Anyone who has bought a recently-built home has probably experienced the feeling of a home that was not designed for a vibrant family life. Try doing a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner sometime. I have to agree, though; I've never seen the kid's rooms but with all the space and interesting things and people about the rest of the house, I can't imagine there's anything there as compelling as being part of the Browns' extended "family" on any given day.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Too good to miss

As we pulled into High Point for the International Home Furnishings Market* Friday, we were greeted by the encouraging sign:


and later, another directing us to the


Okay, granted there is much government involvement in promoting and maintaining this twice-annual extravaganza, it was still a pleasant thing to see out in the wild, so to speak.


* Yes, I know the name just changed to "High Point Market" this year but I like the old one. Besides, the convention centers still have signs saying "International". There's a cost to changing corporate identities, you know.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Samuel Adams, ever relevant

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

Samuel Adams, 1722-1803

Monday, October 09, 2006

"We know who the enemy is"

When you check Google tomorrow, I expect there will be statements time-stamped within 90 minutes of the event, pointing the pallid finger of indignation at the real culprit:

JOPLIN, Mo. [AP via WRAL)]-- A 13-year-old student wearing a mask and a long, black trenchcoat fired an AK-47 into the ceiling at his school Monday morning after confronting a pair of students and administrators, telling them "please don't
make me do this," officials said.

No one was injured, and the boy, who police said was following a well-thought out plan, was taken into custody.

Hint: It won't be the student.

2006 Uniting Church & Family Conference wrap-up

The 2006 edition of this event is now history and we're back from St. Louis after an all-night, 840-mile drive (eighteen hours and seven states), made much easier by the fellowship of the saints we enjoyed. Special thanks are due to Hope Baptist Church elder Jason Dohm who provided the van and much of the windshield time, assisted on the return trip by church planters Eddie Burroughs and Dan Horn. Sincere thanks to our friend and sponsor for the conference, Scott Brown, Jason's fellow elder at Hope and director of the National Council of Family-Integrated Churches, both for putting together such a great conference and for making our trip possible; may God richly bless you, Brother.

The posts below this are lengthy and Blogger requires some dancing in html to offer compressed posts ("Click here to read more") so I'm offering this as an index. I was not at the Conference as a journalist so I didn't try to cover every speaker and session, but did the best I could with the sessions I needed to hear. Due to a delay en route we missed the opening sessions Thursday but I can highly recommend Voddie Baucham's message for those who may get the CD.

Reports from the 2006 Uniting Church & Family Conference
St. Louis, MO - October 5-7, 2007

Friday, October 6

Alexander Strauch: Biblical eldership

Doug Phillips: The Reformation heritage of this movement

Scott Brown: Why the church should adopt this reformation

Don Hart and Wade Myers: Practical considerations when starting a church

William Einwechter: Should women be permitted to fill the role of deacon?

Panel Discussion: Do family-centered churches slight evangelism?

Kevin Swanson on building ministries of relationship ("Our Greatest Strength")

Saturday, October 7

William Einwechter on the covenantal nature of the local church

Jeff Pollard on the Puritans' vision of family worship

Scott Brown on Biblical thinking for the marriages of our sons and daughters

Closing Panel: Part 1 and Part 2

Caveats: I did my best to record the speakers' thoughts accurately but I'm not a professional transcriptionist. When it was very close, I put it in "quotations", plain text was summarized as we went along, and [my interpolations] are in braces. If you want to reference anything, particularly quotations from books or historical figures, from these postings, I suggest you use my notes only as a reference -- verify the exact wording from another source, or contact the speakers directly. My apologies to anyone who feels they were incorrectly quoted; contact me through the comment field and I'll make any needed corrections.

Update 9:41 a.m.: I looked up Blogger's instructions for compressed posts. Never mind.

Update 10/10/06: Comments on the Conference from Doug's Blog:

Doug Phillips recaps his presentation on the history of the Sunday School movement

Photos from the conference

Alexander Strauch on the plague of talebearing (from his comments in the closing panel)

Voddie Baucham defending the family integrated church model (photos and report)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Final closing

Second section, Closing Session ...

Phillips: No one seems to continually qualify for elder.

Strauch: ... Maybe there's an extreme where no one is able to qualify. Remember we are all saved sinners, no one perfect, all in the process of sanctification. [There may be other problems in the church, such as perfectionism ... but] Remember 1 Tim 3:1, if you desire this, it is commendable; don't eliminate yourself because you are not perfect.

Phillips: [Describes church situation uninterested in the family integrated model but knowing many community families who desire such; or a church whose new pastor is hostile to their family's homeschooling] At what point do we leave the body, when there seems to be nowhere to go?

Einwechter: We are called to give all diligence to live in peace with all men. When there is godly living and solid teaching, it can be dealt with if you are allowed liberty of conscience to do so. What I'm finding out is that many families are not given that opportunity, they are seen as a threat, so in that situation, we need to ask where God is leading us. The Separatists, when they saw a need for reformation and they were rebuffed, they saw the only alternative was to start again. [Not always, but] Sometimes that is what needs to be done.

Phillips: The concept of honor and respect is important. If you need to leave, you should desire to leave with grace, assuring the elder that you are not going to be a source of trouble, but that your heart is aching to do something different. May I have your blessing to leave and seek that alternative? I think more often than not, a shepherd would prefer to shake your hand and let you go in peace.

Swanson: Whatever you do, you want to live in peace, which is a good thing, but it depends on whether you handle disagreements properly or not. If you are an elder, you have more opportunity to influence elders over time. The larger issue that we miss, we are not about obliterating Sunday Schools, but about returning to relationships, and the modern world is not set up for that. Instead of youth groups and other things, begin to build relationships through hospitality. In many cases, they may never notice if you leave, if the church is that shallow. But try and leave in peace.

Phillips: What do you do with an elder who treats his family unlovingly?

Strauch: It comes back to accountability. If the elders do not confront one another, they lose credibility. The eldership is about confronting; when there has been a family problem with an elder, we ask them why not step aside and deal with it.

Confrontation and dealing with problems right away is the only way. Remember that it the natural tendency with males is not to confront -- [Even President Reagan had this flaw] -- but you need to deal with it.

Phillips: Is there anything you'd like to share for the good of the order?

Botkin: From what I've heard, there has been a very balanced and thorough covering of the things you came to hear. There is probably very good practical information on the CDs ... but I believe the speakers and topics have covered most of the needs of the hour. I think it's a treasure of information that will help us in this transition period. ... We've been talking about Jonathan Edwards, and he said, "I have seen the happy effects of dealing with the souls of the people and the children". That's what we are about. There was a time of tremendous apostasy, just as we are facing now ... [quoted an introduction written for one of Edwards' books about the doleful state of the church before Edwards].

Einwechter: It's been a deeply gratifying experience for me. What has struck me is that reformation takes courageous men and women, and I've had conversation with such. [Relating how one man told him he had to leave a job and face the rejection of his father the past two years], we are talking about courageous men but we have to remember the courageous women, too. [Einwechter had to resign a pastorate over a confessional issue while his wife was expecting] It is the courage of godly women which enables us men to stand. [applause]

Hart: Number one, purpose to understand jurisdiction. We need to ask not just what God said is to be done, but also who is to do it. It is critical, and central to the heart of what we need to get on track today. Who has been told to do what God has said to be done? We must understand proper jurisdiction. I'd also like to build on what Bill just said; if we are to be part of healthy churches, bodies, families, we as a people have to understand honor, loyalty, friendship, and love to one another. We had better embrace maturity ... and purpose ahead of time what kind of churchmen, elders, friends, husbands, wives, and children we'll be.

Strauch: Jerome tells a legend that the Apostle John could no longer speak, but just repeat "Love one another". His disciples asked why, and he said, "Because if you love one another, you will solve many problems."

Swanson: Jesus really loves His bride. At Nancy's wedding last week, what would Chris's response have been if a ruffian of the neighborhood had come in and ripped up her veil, then attacker her with a 2x4. The bride of Christ has been trashed; we have adopted a man-center ethic that has systematically ripped apart the bride of Christ. That's why this is important; we have to love the bride ...

Phillips: Something that has been a tremendous blessing in our congregation has been a revamping and new approach to membership training. We have found 75% of the problems are eliminated by proper, pre-memberhsip training. When someone joins our body, they become a member of our family. We explain to them, you have to affirm before the body the duty of the people in the local church and sign a statement. [During that time], we go through our expectations of you, and your expectations of us; here's how you leave, so you know now ... if you join here, you need to understand we are not going to release you into nothingness. Here are our priorities, our approach to preaching, the procedures to hold me [the elder] accountable. We ask if you have any problems or issues with members of this congregation that are outstanding and unresolved; you must resolve them before you join, and if you can't we need to know so we can deal with it. Are there things about doctrine or practice that bug you? Let's put everything on the table right now.

People who are schismatics don't join. People who don't want to say to your face that they don't like your doctrine don't want to stay. It forces men to be reponsible and open, and to face expectations in advance.

[When you join a church] you are joining a body ... you should take steps to be a peacemaker.

If you like the work [of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches], I would formally ask that you pray for us ... as a missions outreach to the churches of America. ... that God will help, protect, guide, chasten us ... I am soliciting your help for that.

Brown: I was very affected by the questions we received because most of them had to do with different challenges to love in the church. It is always challenged because "the greatest of these are love" ... so this is our challenge, particularly critical in the church. How many of you are not in churches now which are not consistently in tune with these principles [about a third of the audience raises their hands]. My most prominent thought right now is the preservation of love between brothers in the church, and how that's accomplished in transition times.

[Tells story of a pastor calling about his struggles] This man never once made a deriding comment toward the deacons, people, or philosophy of his church; he was grieved at the thought he might have to separate. Instead of coming in and trying to rip the church apart with these different philosphies, he went to his deacons and resigned. He told them he loved them and expressed the love of Christ to them; he understood that God is sovereign over all things.

I want to see more ... [guys like him] among us. At the same time, there are hills to die on. You know, there are some unintended consequences to ideas, like I was talking about Gideon this weekend ... When you tear down your father's idols -- and there are idols associated with the principles we're discussing here -- often there is a backlash, and the backlash challenges love. In times like these we need to listen so carefully to the Apostle Paul in Phillipians 1:27, "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Let's exalt the gospel in all that we do and say. It has a way of destroying all pride in a person. Anyone who understands the gospel knows how bankrupt we are before God; and in the midst of our bankruptcy, that we would continue to ask Him for understanding how to destroy the idols in our heart and land, but in the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Doug Phillips closes the meeting with "a vision of hope", lavishly illustrated with the wedding of Peter and Kelly Bradrick -- almost as powerful in retrospect as it was to witness.

Closing Session

Doug Phillips remarks that the weekend has included twenty three different sessions. This will be a panel discussion with most of the presenters at this weekend's event: Alexander Strauch, Kevin Swanson, Don Hart, William Einwechter, Geoff Botkin, and Scott Brown (Dr. Baucham has already headed back to Houston). The following are as exact as I can transcribe them, but caveat reader.

Phillips: Can we have a simple biblical definition for gossip?

Strauch: Everyone has a burr under their saddle about something. Mine is people passing information around without the facts. Mr. D. E. Host who took over the China Inland Mission after Hudson Taylor said, "The greatest problem we have in this mission is talebearing ..." I can't tell you how many times in our local assembly I have heard [stories without basis] ... No judgment without the facts. Remember what the Scripture says about an elder; you're not even to entertain a report without witnesses.

Einwechter: In the church, gossip is sharing a prayer request about someone you're concerned about. An excuse is the skin of a truth, stuffed with a lie; that's what gossip is.

Botkin: What we use with our children ...: If a person would think less of a person after hearing it, that's gossip. A five year old child can understand that ... Private communication that does not belong or need to take place. There are places and times, jurisdictions and people, that need to deal with these things, and reports that need to be made, to the right people at the right time. But private whispering is not the right time or place to communicate these things.

Brown: There are normal sanctification problems, quirks, poor judgment; then there are egregious sins. When there are egregious sins, then there is a process to be used (Matt 18). But the principle of love covering a multitude of sins comes into play ...

Swanson: Perhaps a broader definition is unedifying conversation. My encouragement to my flock is to be a "building-up" kind of flock. How is this building up my brother? Me? The one we are talking about? ... [But often] they don't want to build up ... to love. ...

Phillips: How long should a gossip matter last after it's been taken to the leadership, and if it continues over many months, what should the individual or congregation do?

Brown: Titus 3:10 says to reject a factious man after a first and second warning, then this category of relationship called, "rejection".

Phillips: What if it simply is not addressed? I confess a challenge we have every single month there is some mild to very serious issue that needs to be addressed. There may be a half-dozen building up at any given time. ... You can't imagine the responsibility on leadership to work through problems and not to rush through it. ... Problem 1, leadership needs to act, but Problem 2, if you are not happy with their action, [how do you respond then?]. But what do you do if your grievance simply isn't being dealt with by the leadership?

Strauch: If you are in a position of leadership, you have to handle these things. If you don't, you lose credibility and authority with the congregation. I think the congregation learns to have confidence in their elders, and it lets the flock rest. If they don't have confidence, you hurt the whole flock and the leadership. I think the important thing is a lot of good communication. [Often] the elders are not communicating well. [Scandals have to be communicated to the congregation but questions directed to the elders] Deal with them right away; the faster you put the fire out the better.

Phillips: If you are grieved because you think a particular shepherd is not acting properly, you need to give your leader the benefit of the doubt, and if they don't deserve that, is that the right place for you to be? And so, you should walk up to the leader and ask, respectfully, [what progress is being made]. I think wise elders should also be willing to say if you have a fundamental grievance but are willing to work things out, we can bring in other men of the congregation ... it may be possible for leadership to become myopic -- though I wouldn't go there quickly. I think most loving leadership will be willing to work with you.

Strauch: We are told to esteem leaders very highly in love, triple intensive -- there is always conflict between leaders and followers. ... I find in the local church, if you will be a good listener and try gently to explain yourself, the thing will generally go away. People just want to be heard. But the gentle approach does work; most things subside after that [when people realize you will be reasonable with them].

Botkin: A kind of grievance that does not build confidence is grumbling. It can develop to the point confidence in the leadership is destroyed for no reason. Elders need to be careful to keep a lid on this. The grumblers [against Moses] were not grumbling against him but against God. Elders need to discern between that and a legitimate grievance.

Hart: It builds confidence when the flock knows that leadership takes gossip seriously, won't tolerate it, and will deal with it. Left unchecked and unaddressed, it will eat a church alive.

Phillips: When the gossips have left, it's like being born again as a body. When they left, it was like everything changed. That's why the Bible is clear, to get them out [if you can't help them]. At Vision Forum we have a maxim that there is only one unpardonable sin at Vision Forum; you are allowed to punch your brother in the face but not to talk about him behind his back. ... That's why we take fencing lessons. Men are able to knock each other over, get up and shake hands, but let that wormtongue out, this will destroy your life.

Body life is so fragile, one gossip can wreck your life and your family.

Scott Brown: Biblical thinking for the marriages of our sons and daughters

A few weeks ago my family was privileged to share the wedding of Scott's daughter Kelly to Peter Bradrick, a young man we had met through his work on the staff at Vision Forum. The ceremony and the subsequent feast -- yes, an actual wedding feast in the best ancient tradition! -- were Christ-centered and full of joy. Scott talks about that courtship and marriage in addition to broad principles below.

Scott opened discussing Calvin's Geneva. Under Calvin, they outlawed celibacy of the clergy, Roman Catholic laws about marriage and divorce were repealed in favor of Biblical models, and laws were enacted on matters from courtship and marriage to separation and dealing with broken engagements. There was an explosion of marriage, and people were traveling from all over Europe “to get in on the action”. Scott recommends an interesting book, Sex, Marriage and Family in John Calvin's Geneva, by John Witte and Robert Kingdon, which he said incorporates material and documents only uncovered in recent years.

The central portion of his message was based on Abraham's securing a wife, Rebekah, for his son Isaac. Abraham sent his oldest and most trusted servant to find a wife for his son, giving him specific instructions, a careful process, and taking a solemn oath. Compare that to the random process and absence of counsellors or guiding principles in the normal marriage pattern in college today. Criteria outside of our own feelings are almost not considered today.

Read this passage slowly (Gen 24) and consider why Abraham was so careful. Marriage is about so much more than just a couple. Isaac was Abraham's only hope for posterity. What is needed in the church today is powerful and principled thought about the importance of marriage.

Four marks of marriage making today: random engagement instead of strategic engagement; [the second I missed]; individualistic inclinations and passions instead of seed conscious thinking; romantic methodologies instead of principled methodologies.

Look, he said. Matthew Henry points out, “When he came to seek a wife for his master, he did not go the playhouse or the park, and pray that he might meet one there, but to the well of water, expecting to find one there well employed.” Do the math – how long would it take to water that many camels? He was looking for a woman with a heart to serve and work hard.

“Young people need help getting married, particularly in the culture we live in.” We have a whole generation of thirty-something women in the church who have not been encouraged and helped to be married. Al Mohler has an article on his website telling church leaders to urge their young people to get married. This was the ethic of Calvin's Geneva.

Rebekah has a good disposition and she is industrious. Scott said we have to urge men, do not raise picky, prima donna daughters. Train them to serve imperfect men and go to the ends of the earth to suffer what they suffer and help them through life.

Notice that this was an arranged marriage but not a forced marriage. Scott said he sees no evidence in Scripture for forced marriage, unlike the practice Calvin encountered and opposed in his day, when families would commit their infant children to future marriage, never consulting them further as they came of age.

Gen 24:60 – What a testimony of a spirit harmony with God's design. The brothers aren't allowing for a fling of childlessness or a time of career building, but of fruitfulness. Scott called for the young men under 15 present to memorize this speech and send out their older sisters with such a blessing. Rebekah seems to have the same spirit as Isaac's mother Sarah, too, being willing to leave home and follow her husband into the unknown.


  • Follow the best aspects of this example. Adam, Isaac, and Jacob, all had some peculiar circumstances which don't translate into modern days!
  • Parents ought to enter into the process of marrying your children
  • Bring the best resources to bear for the finding of mates for your children
  • Be affected by the trustful, worshipful, thankful childlikeness of Abraham's servant
  • Pray for the maririag of your children
  • Trust in God for providential meetings

Some personal thoughts about the process:

  • I believe Scripture applies to every aspect of courtship and marriage
  • I believe patterns of dating are fraught with destructive elements
  • I don't believe there are airtight biblical formulas to guide every part of the courtship process. There is diversity of application and flexibility in the process.

I hold five unbreakable principles for courtship in our family

A. The couple must honor parental authority and responsibility. Fathers are the head of sons and daughters. Suitors are not allowed to woo my daughters w/o permission, and not then until I'm convinced of the wisdom of moving forward. My sons are not allowed to court a young woman until I'm convinced that he is ready. I want to avoid premature twitterpations. The couple must be able to cheerfully place themselves under my timelines and requirements

B. Wise counsellors must be consulted and they should affirm the marriage. Gen 24, Pr 15.22

C. A process of screening is necessary to establish equal yoking and compatible values (2 Cor 6.14) There are questions to be asked and information to be gathered.

D. The couple should have passion for the marriage and not be forced into it. (Gen 24.67). This was a core principle in Calvin's Geneva. People will have different views of romance, both too much and too little.

E. Purity must be maintained. (Col 3.5)

I believe the reformation of the church in its discipleship methodologies is critical for biblical marriage formation.

Questions to ask yourselves

Are you in the process of becoming long-term thinking Christians, like Abraham? Kingdom oriented and principle driven? Working on a plan for your children's marriage?

Are you living a local church neglecting lifestyle? Some in the homeschooling movement don't have space in their life and heart for local churches and they become a throwaway. When you don't love the local church you have serious problems; many people are more picky than God about fellowship. There are heartbreaking practical implications as well, such as not having the relationships that you should have – not just about courtship but about fellowship within the Body.

Are you living an age-segregated lifestyle? How many of your friends are younger than you, and appropriate ages for future mates for your children? Are you calling boys into brotherhood, not just letting them run wild? Are you a friend of young men and women in the church? Make it your aim to be a godly resource to young men in the church, don't just wait until your daughter turns twenty and start looking.

Are you a marriage mercenary or a godly brother? When your daughter turns that age you tend to become a mercenary. If you have no other relationships with other younger men, you can be forced into that role. Perhaps you have not been a disciple maker like you should be. It's worrisome if a family becomes instantaneously hospitable. I would tell a young man to be cautious about accepting a dinner invitation from a family with daughters over sixteen. We must treat young men in a brotherly and honest fashion.

Have you unreasonably kept your child from marriage? By being too picky or too passive? Calvin took men to court, the Consistory, for being too picky in an ungodly way. It does happen!

Young men: Are you in the game? Press for early maturity and early accomplishment. Throw off the chains of childishness or foolishness.

Thoughts on courtship and marriage

Keep your minds on kingdom purposes – all thoughts should be on the Biblical purposes of marriage.

How important is attraction and twitterpation? Courtship is the best time to see whether that happens.

The opportunity for misunderstanding and miscommunication are massive. Almost nobody defines courtship the same; get it defined clearly. Ask the hard questions.

For the Browns, there are three phases to the process:

Inquiry – Father listens to acceptable inquirers and qualify candidates.

Courtship – A time of more formal relationship. The couple has the freedom to end it at any time. It is specifically exploratory. Ends in engagement.

Engagement – In Calvin's Geneva, you were only allowed to be engaged six weeks.

What did we do with Peter and Kelly? Two years of observation, visiting families at great expense and cost in time. Sometimes you have to take 200 hundred camels and go 500 miles to figure this thing out. I probably traveled 20,000 miles with Peter so I'd know him well. I had a list of specific topics to see what he thought – including examining the history on his computer.

Consider how long you have left before you need a husband or wife for your child?

What should I do if I don't know anyone suitable for your child? Move or build relationships, either locally or around the country.

Like Abraham, we have a responsibility to our sons and daughters to help them.

Jeff Pollard on the Puritan vision of family worship

Jeff Pollard was a member of First Baptist Church of Clinton, Louisiana, back in the mid-1990's when my family and I arrived as walking wounded from a very ugly church split elsewhere. Jeff had a long spiritual resume in those parts a decade ago, as his Baton Rouge Bible study was credited with leading numerous people to the Lord -- and their future spouses! He now pastors a church but the name escapes me this instant. His presentation on Puritan family worship was powerful and convicting.

“We live in dangerous times," Jeff opened. "Why is there such a decay of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is there such an obvious impotency in modern professing religion?”

These are not new questions. The Puritans faced them, but while they understood there were numerous enemies on the outside, they saw the heart of the problem was inside the home.

The Puritan Oscar Haywood wrote “The worship of God in families has a direct tendency to public reformation.” Writing of the “inundation of profaneness” he said “I know of no better remedy than family piety. ... In vain do you complain of magistrates and ministers while you as householders [neglect your charge] ... complain not so much to man as to God. Plead with Him for reformation.”

“From his perspective," said Jeff, "the cause of decay was not drugs, perversion, public schools, wicked politicians, television, or any of the modern culprits we rail against everyday. These are symptoms, not the cause. ... In other words, the path to spiritual reformation is family worship.”

Family worship consists of three things -- prayer (Puritans often referred to family worship simply as “family prayers”), the Word of God, and songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. “If under the leadership of the head of the home we offer up these things in Jesus Christ, then we are practicing family worship.”

“So what fueled the Puritan father for family worship? We can't understand this without understanding their view of the family. It sprang from their fervent study of the word of God and the writings of the reformers. Luther was truly the pioneer of the modern family; he fought mightily for a biblical view of the family. John Calvin strove for the same ideals.

“Their understanding of the first three chapters of Genesis gave them the unshakeable conviction that the purpose of the family was the glory of God. This radical concept, if truly taken to heart, shapes everything about the family. If you believe everything that takes place in the relationships between you and your wife and your children involves the glory of God, you have to start thinking biblically.”

The same thing applies to God's command to be fruitful and multiply. The Puritans believed that marriage and bearing children were high callings. "It did not cross their minds to farm their children out to someone to teach them the glories of Christ; it was to be done right there under their roof."

Their homes were to be “little churches, Yea, even a kind of paradise on earth,” wrote another Puritan. Eph 2:5 (loved and gave himself) and Eph 6.4 were the foundation of the doctrine of male headship. “It gave them eyes to see husbands and fathers were the key to the spiritual condition of the wives and children; it wasn't the preacher's duty, it was Dad's.”

“The Puritans loved children and saw them as gifts from God, to be trained up for Him. Some of the most solemn warnings and stinging rebukes were for parents who neglect to train up their children for Jesus Christ.” Richard Mather painted a picture of Judgment Day of children who addressed parents who neglected to train them. “You should have taught us the things of God, and did not ... Woe unto us, that we had such carnal parents!”

The underlying doctrine guiding the Puritan view was radical depravity and original sin. Benjamin Wadsworth wrote that children “naturally an evil treasure from which proceed evil things ... their hearts are unspeakably wicked and estranged from God.”

Robert Cleaver and John Dodd wrote “The young child who lieth in the cradle is both wayward and full of affections ... [with a great heart] altogether inclined to evil. If this sparkle is allowed to increase, it will rage and burn down the whole house.”

It was a command of God, rooted in Gen 2, Eph 5, 1 Cor 11. They studied Abraham and the Patriarchs. Oliver Haywood pointed to Abraham and said “Even the poorest man that has a family is a prophet, priest, and king in his own house.”

Matthew Henry said “Masters .. must go before the household in the things of God, ... and as such must keep up family doctrine ...”

If you read these sermons, they have long lists of reasons in great Puritan fashion. One wrote that you should pray daily in your families
  • because we receive daily mercy from God
  • because there are sins committed every day in your family
  • because there are many daily needs which none but God can supply
  • because of your family's daily employments and labors
  • because you are all, every day, liable to temptations
  • liable to daily hazards, casualties, and afflictions,
  • for otherwise the very heathen will rise up against you and condemn you.
What greater happiness can you have than your family united in the worship of the Almighty? And to hear your children sing with you the songs of Zion, rather than the songs of the tavern?

D'Aubigne saw the consolation of “domestic piety” in times of trial. “If it is in the habit of meeting to invoke the holy name of God from whom comes every trial as well as every gift, how shall it be raised up!”

“Brethren, it is because we do not fervently love these things that our children often do not have a taste for them," Jeff said. "There is a firm foundation in Christ when they are daily lifting their voices in prayer and praise and adoration; that's where you go when you are suffering!”

Haywood wrote, “Sirs, have you not sin enough of your own, that you must draw upon yourself the sin of your whole family? ... I cannot judge that man a fit communicant at the Lord's table who maintains not such worship in his family.” The Church of Scotland actually excommunicated fathers who would not lead their family worship. How many of our fathers would be missing today?

The Particular Baptists in the 1689 LBC touched on the same thing. “May not the gross ignorance and instability of many ... be charged on the parents ...?” How many Baptist documents today begin like that? They considered this a major cause of the spiritual decline of England.

No wicked things of the world outside the home compared to a father who would not maintain family worship in the home.

Do you see that pastors are often pointing at the wickedness outside the church, but the true wickedness is within the home. The congregation at Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1677 covenanted in part, for “educating, instructing, and charging our children in our households to keep the way of the Lord.” Cotton Mather wrote, “Before and above all, it is the knowledge of the Christian religion which parents are to teach their children ... it is a million times more necessary [than other instruction] ...”

Your children need to see more than mouth religion. They need to see the love of Christ so burning in your heart that you repent of your daily sins. We are not perfect and we should not pretend in our pride that our flaws are not there. But do our children know that we need the Savior and that is why we preach him to them?

Children need to hear you pray for their souls. They need to see you trusting in Christ in trials and tragedies so they know there is an anchor for the soul. They need to see you walk in holiness.

Benjamin Wadsworth wrote, “Be sure you set a good example for your children. Other methods of instruction will probably not do much good if you do not set a godly example. ... If your instructions are good and your examples are evil, they are more likely to be hurt by the latter than helped by the former.”

“The link for uniting church and family is daily, fervent family worship. That unites church and home.” Without it, the health of the church will continue to decline, and we will look for programs and preachers to make up the difference, Jeff said.

Spurgeon, who inherited the Puritan vision of family worship, said, “We deeply lack a revival of family religion. In these evil times, hundreds of Christian families have no family worship, no restraint on growing sons and no wholesome instruction. How can we expect God's kingdom to advance ...”

Jeff concluded with a blessing and prayer. "May the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be pleased to raise up a generation of godly fathers and mothers to establish daily family worship in their homes for the glory of Jesus Christ and the expanding of His Kingdom. This is the Puritans' vision; may it be ours. Amen."

Another note for readers

I should mention here that I am doing my best to get these quotations exactly, but this, after all, a live seminar situation.

If you find anything especially interesting, particularly from the numerous citations speakers used, I recommend readers verify the exact wording of anything posted here rather than quoting it exactly from my very hurried notes.

The CDs for the conference are being prepared by Resounding Voice, and no doubt will be available through Vision Forum after the event.

William Einwechter: The church as covenantal

“We have to face issues among ourselves as we have sought to reform our existing churches and sought to raise up new ones. I contend much of the disagreement arises among us because of a disagreement in the definition of key terms – like 'family' and 'church'. But the goal is not to win the debate with our brothers in Christ, but rather, if you forgive me, that Christ will win His debate with us.”

The nature of the church: A covenantal institution

The New Testament word for church: ekklesia, from ek, out of or from, and klesia, for privilege or responsibilities.

The word was used for the citizens of a city who were called out to govern the affairs of their city. Note the association with government; it was not an ad hoc committee or loose association, but had structure and defined boundaries of jurisdiction and membership.

Consider the ekklesia of Jesus Christ. God did not choose the term arbitrarily. The church is a government consisting of believers called out to gather to conduct the business of the Kingdom of God. They are a government, with jurisdiction and responsibilities.

The LXX used the term to designate Israel as the assembly of God's people. As the NT was written, this word was already in use to refer to the covenant people of God. Act 7:38, Stephen refers to Israel as the ekklesia of God.

OT Israel was not a loose association or fellowship, but a people created by covenant, and an elect people called out of the world and called to govern themselves before God in a given jurisdiction. Like Israel, we are a people called together in a covenant, the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

The church and the Kingdom of God

It is a serious mistake to say that the church and the Kingdom are the same. The area covered by Christ's Lordship is much larger than that of the church. Mat 28.33 Phil 2.10 Col 1.20 It must extend over every part of Creation; if anything is outside His Lordship, He is not kyrios. (Oscar Coleman)

Ps 110, Ps 2, and see how fulfilled in the New Testament. Each family, church, and state is an appointed government in the world with a definite jurisdiction under Christ. The church is not appointed to take over the roles of the family or the state.

The church is universal and invisible, and local and visible. The universal church is all of God's elect from all ages, covering all nations and all of history; but the membership can only be known to God until the Great Day. The local church is the manifestation of the universal church in a specific congregation.

The NT ekklesia is a covenantal institution and society, meaning, it is formed by a covenant and exhibits elements of a covenantal institution – not a building but a people established by God's sovereign plan.

Covenant is a concept from God, not men. It is solemn binding agreement between persons, a mutual commitment sealed by an oath; all God's oaths are self-maledictory. It is reserved for very important relationships.

What are the structural parts of a covenant? One of the better summaries is a five point structure on the word THEOS:

Transcendence (being established by God's will)
Hierarchy (with leaders designated by God and given authority by Him)
Ethos (standards which are revealed by Scripture)
Oaths and Sanctions (definite blessings and cursings attached, done before witnesses)
Succession (a plan and program of inheritance from one generation to the next)

“There are three convenantal institutions to carry out God's plan and government on earth – family, church, and state, to exercise His authority and carry out His sanctions in a defined sphere.”

If you don't have these five aspects, then you don't have a church.

The sacramentum was the oath of a Roman soldier to die for his commander; that is why baptism and the Lord's Supper became known as sacraments, because they were renewals of our oath to follow our King Jesus even unto death.

The universal church is established through the covenant of Grace and men enter by God's sovereign call. The local church is based on a covenant established between those who have faith in Christ and have been baptized in His name. The local church covenant needs to exhibit the five aspects of the Biblical model above. Without it, it may be a fellowship but not an ekklesia.
Ekklesia points to a formal body of government established by covenant, not a haphazard gathering

It is the designation of Old Testament Israel, a congregation formed by covenant. The Old Testament visible church came into being at Mount Sinai as a covenant nation with all the features of a divine covenant. Exodus 19 and 24. In the book of Deuteronomy (see 29:1, 13) the covenant was renewed before entering the land.

The church of Jesus Christ exhibits all the features of a covenantal institution

Transcendence – the Lordship of Christ (He is the head of the body ... all things might have preeminence)
Hierarchy – Jesus as the chief shepherd 1 Pet 5.4
Ethos – (Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are my disciples) The primary word for Jesus' followers is disciples. It is not a follower of doctrine but of a person.
Oaths and Sanctions – Baptism, Lord's Supper, and church discipline. The process of discipline can only be just if ... justice is not just for the state, but also the family and church – if there is a violation of the standards of an established government in its jurisdiction and led by a authorized leaders
Succession – how the faith is passed on from one generation to the next

If the New Testament church shows all the signs of a covenantal institution, it likely is

The traditional definition of a true church calls for teaching of biblical doctrine, proper administration of the sacraments, and proper administration of discipline. Einwechter prefers a different definition -- submission to the Lord Jesus Christ; proper exercise of authority by elders and deacons in proper jurisdiction; sound doctrine and practice (including teaching and sacraments); a membership oath and proper administration of discipline; and a multi-generational vision.

How can a covenantal institution be brought into being without a covenant? A family cannot be formed without a marriage covenant. A civil government cannot be formed without a statement of fundamental principles. The Mayflower Compact shows all the signs of a covenant; the language can be easily adapted to a local church. The Separatists who drew up the Compact drew on their experience with establishing a church government to set up a civil government. An outstanding Edmond Morgan: Visible Saints: A History of the Puritan Idea. The Separatists realized there was no way to reform the Church of England into a Biblical pattern without starting over.

He quoted the Puritan William Ames' “The Marrow of Theology” discussing the visible church: point six, “a society of believers joined together in a special bond for the continual exercise of the communion of saints” point 15, “this bond is a covenant implied or explicit” ; 16, “a renewing of the covenant”, 17, “promise of obedience”, 18, “this joining together by a covenant makes a church.”

The church's government implies the church's beliefs are written down. You don't make a covenant and then change the terms. The teaching of the church must be explicit, and believers unite around a given interpretation. The Bible must be interpreted and the church covenant and confession is the agreed upon interpretation. You must have terms for revision, as well. Each church's duty “like minded, with one mind” Glorifying God is not singing praise choruses but standing fast with one mind (Phil 1.27)

Areas of liberty – we need to draw jurisdictional boundaries in our government of faith and practice. Where is there permissible liberty of conscience and where is there not.

Proper discipline

The one being disciplined must be under that church's jurisdiction; must have broken the Biblical established standards of that church; must follow Biblical procedure; and must follow Biblical sanctions. We have to specify what standards we apply, what procedure we will follow, and what sanctions we will mete.

This is true for family and state discipline as well.

Mat 18:17-19 established the ekklesia as the channel for biblical discipline.

“The covenantal bond among believers is a partial yet necessary aspect of fulfilling the command to love one another in the way that Jesus loves us.” He is our example; Jn 15, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” He entered into a covenant with us. The application of the benefits of His redemptive work are the result of a covenant. Our marital love is secure based on a covenant.

One of the leading terms for God's love for his people in the Old Testament is translated mercy or lovingkindness but in Hebrew it refers to covenantal relationship, not general kindness. It means loyalty to an oath and faithfulness. Our love for one another in the church should be convenantal and steadfast, even stubborn (also meanings of the word).

It is formed by covenant and exhibits the aspects of it. Where there is no church covenant there is no ekklesia. Ames, “Believers do not make a particular church, even though they meet in a particular place.” Some people speak of “home church” as they speak of their home school. The jurisdictions are different; you can just as logically say “home civil government”

All believers should be members of a local church and unite with it by covenant. “Therefore those who have opportunity to join the church and neglect it grievously sin against God ... they can scarcely be counted believers truly seeking the Kingdom of God.” -- Ames

If they are unwilling to unite with a church, they are in rebellion, and promoting attendance without membership is similar to advocating cohabitation without marriage.

He also recommended his address from the 2004 conference.

We're back

Note to those reading my live blog from the Uniting Church and Family Conference ... my apologies for the delayed update this morning. The morning session by Doug Phillips was followed by an excellent session on the need for church covenants by William Einwechter. Between the volume of information given and the need to pack and check out of the hotel, I wasn't able to get either of those posted earlier.

Geoff Botkin's breakout on the church in times of transition presented two other problems -- a tidal wave of speaking points, too fast to transcribe fully, and a failed Internet connection in the meeting room downstairs.

I'll see what I can do with each of these later. However, I'm in a different room with a stronger signal and my old friend Jeff Pollard, whom I know to have a more deliberate speaking style. He's starting now on the Puritan vision of family discipleship so I'll post and get to work.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Kevin Swanson: Our Greatest Strength

Kevin Swanson is the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado and pastor of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Castle Rock, CO.
Our Greatest Strength

We want to see change in a lasting reformation. In many years in ministry himself and with his missionary parents, Kevin has seen a desire for a ministry that doesn't dissipate when the blitz is over. His father summarized it as “a generational vision – a powerful message and a Reformation agenda: God is source of man's reality, ethics, and truth.” We say that God is God but reserve parts of our existence that we think God doesn't address.

Kevin's father wrote several books, his first being a translation of a creationist treatise into Japanese.

“It takes something more than ideas and an agenda to change the way we live.” Kevin said they started the church and preached the message strongly but it was not enough.

The challenge of a church: A strong vision is not enough. The problem with modern man – he is lost and lonely. The return of relationships is fraught with problems: our society is not built for relationships, due to its transiency and conflicts. The megachurch hopes by programs and sheer size to be a lasting institution; however, it actually produces short term relationships based on a shared interest groups.

“The inherent weakness of the small church is it forces people to get to know each other ... but as we come closer to each other, we find we desire to come deeper in the relationships with each other and with God. However, when you pursue these things, they tend to stir up conflict.”
Depth in relationship and depth in truth require longsuffering and love if you're going to survive.

“As I faced these monumental challenges and tried to ford these waters and preach these messages to God's people ... I didn't know how we were going to survive, but God had mercy on us.”

Kevin shared the stories of two boys with massive handicaps, one of whom starved to death in the hospital with the newspapers covering; the other is cared for and welcomed by the church in Castle Rock. The family of the one, with Christian parents, had his life support withdrawn by his parents and he died over a twenty-one day period. “The only way you can keep the law of God is to love God, and to love Dylan [the boy who died],” even though they are a trial and cause us pain, every day.

Simon's family, the Nelsons, continues to care for their profoundly troubling son. It stresses the family tremendously, as well as the church. Yet the death of Dylan was a failure of the body, his church.

“Brothers, the challenge that faces us in the modern world is whether or not I am going to support the Nelson family today.”

This is the blessing of Simon. He almost a church growth program:

“When you join our church, you join Simon. That's how central he is to the church, he defines us. Simon almost dies about once a month. We get the e-mail: 'Simon's dying again,' and we cry out to God, and He answers, and He heals him again. When you leave, you leave Simon. Simon worships with us. Simon has taught us to love, and not the fluffy stuff – but the self-immolating kind. But one thing I know about the church is it's very fragile, and any one person can roll a hand grenade in the church. But in our church, we've got Simon. Simon protects our church. Nobody is going to mess with our church because they're not going to blow up Simon. God's strength is made perfect in Simon.”

A few years ago, a widow indeed showed up. Heide was a homeschooling mother with no support from anywhere, and it became apparent that the only supporting organization was going to be the Castle Rock Church. The church now supports her to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 a year, while at the same time dealing with the spiritual issues she needs addressed as well.
Kevin also told of a single woman, Nancy, a new convert, who joined the church and wanted to be discipled and prepared for Christian marriage, without a family to help her at all. She has lived with four different elders' families to try and learn what Christian life is like, and they have invested hundreds and hundreds of hours in her, leading to her wedding two weeks ago. “That's our program for singles,” he said.

Their church is 99% homeschoolers, and they are concerned the church may become just another slot of 30-35 year old homeschoolers, like a megachurch program. How can they be relevant, and minister to the real world? What do you do when a family shows up with a difficult child? A widow needs support? A single woman wants to prepare for marriage? You cross the bridges, a church that engages in hospitality, a church that is willing to suffer in relationships. You do it the way Jesus did – you don't start a program, you invest your life in others.

“I was after Reformation. I thought it was about good ideas, or getting the right people elected to office, or a jurisdictional thing, and it's all that -- but it's impossible to have a reformation unless you're willing to serve a Simon, a Heide, or a Nancy.”

News from a far country

Encountered in the hallway -- Van Freeman, Steve Smith, and their pastor Boyd Dellinger from Heritage Bible Fellowship Church in Fayetteville. Van recognized me from a talk my wife and I gave for the HOPE support group in Fayetteville last year, and he flagged me down. They brought no less than 17 people from their church, which will be celebrating their third anniversary as a church this January (at the same time that South Smithfield Baptist Church is celebrating its first). Our church has three here; our sponsor for the trip, Hope Baptist Church in Rolesville, brought at least six adults and as many children -- not counting their pastor, Scott Brown, who doesn't count since he's the director of the National Council for Family Integrated Churches and it's his conference, after all.

Do family centered churches slight evangelism?

The afternoon session is a panel discussion asking, whether, in our focus on family-church integration, we are ignoring the Great Commission outside of our church walls. The panel includes Voddie Baucham, Kevin Swanson, Jeff Pollard, William Einwechter, Geoff Botkin, and Scott Brown. Doug Phillips is moderating.

Voddie Baucham says that making disciples of all nations (Mt 28), in the Greek, plainly means to gather a people from Rev 5:9? all peoples and national groups. Doug asks if that means every person, or every people group? Voddie says it is the old Calvinism/Arminianism debate, as well as the Pelagian/Augustinian debate. As a soteriological Calvinist, Voddie says he believes it does not refer to every individual else it would be universalism. Doug says this is why some efforts have been made to target entire nations by evangelizing the leaders, as happened in a five year period in Hawaii.

Einwechter says that Genesis shows God creates all people, the Flood destroys all but those on the ark, and then as national groups are formed after the Flood, God chose a single nation, the Jews. Now after Messiah's coming, Jesus says the time of preparation is now complete, and it is time to go and bring in every nation for the Kingdom.

What about making disciples and baptizing them, teaching them to observe all things? Genesis to Revelation? If the Bible teaches jurisdictions for family, fathers, and churches, as presented here, then doesn't the Great Commission demand the message of this conference?
Botkin, Col 1:28, admonishing and teaching every man requires we go back to Jesus' command to teach all things.

Phillips: A great concern launched against emphasizing the family is that it is distracting from the more important role of reaching all people. Maybe part of our problem is that our definitions aren't right in our understanding of the Great Commission. Comments?

Einwechter: There is only one imperative in the Commission, it is not to evangelize but to teach (to make disciples); the rest are other grammatical structures.

Pollard: The primary issue is the definition of the Gospel. The presentation “let Jesus come into your heart” is not the gospel. Evangelism is the declaration of the Gospel. It always begins with God; look at Paul in Acts. Christ makes no sense until you understand who God is. Judson had to explain who God is before he could reach the Buddhists for Christ. Secondly, we need to make men understand they are lost. Third, there are many false Jesuses but only the God-man is the Jesus who saves. Finally, the notion of discipline and discipleship is key. It is a message of people bowing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Phillips: How do you present the Gospel in ninety seconds?

Pollard: We don't see this, really, in Scripture. Paul taught, Peter taught. In ninety seconds, the most I could do would be to try and convince the man of how lost he is and what Christ has done to save sinners.

Phillips related a story of his conversation witnessing to a gang member in a parking lot, following up with his wife's talks with a stewardess on a plane who was amazed at their large family.

Brown: I've never been in a church in my life that didn't have a problem with evangelism. We tend to turn inward and isolate ourselves. This passage in Mt 28 encompasses a broad range of evangelistic activities, from the cradle to grave spiritually. One is sharing the gospel with one who has never been born again; one plants, another waters, and so forth.

Every church I've been in has problems with every stage of this process. But this is a word of inspiration and encouragement.

If we miss any part of the discipleship process. If you take a 4000-member church with the average birth rate and the average fall out rate of the youth, in five generations you only have one believer left. That's what happens if you leave out the discipleship factor.
From what we can see, the people who are homeschooling their kids are exactly opposite; we are retaining 70-80% of our children as disciples, while other families in the churches are losing 70-80%.

Phillips: My brother is a missionary in Kenya and has literally laid down his life for people that he doesn't know but loves nevertheless. We believe in missions. My question is what is more important, to send missionaries to Bolivia or to disciple our families?

Swanson: The Scripture says we can't lead the church unless we lead our families first. The Great Commission says not to make converts but to make disciples. Should we speak to 10,000 people for three hours, or three people for 10,000 hours? The Great Commission says we spend
the time to fully instruct the three disciples.

Phillips: Do any of you have hypotheses or comparison of holding big concerts and how many disciples are made that way versus slogging away at discipling our families.

Swanson: It should be obvious that the last 40-60 years Christianity has done absolutely nothing to impact the culture. The culture is even worse off than it was. I think the generations will tell.

Phillips: What does it look like in a family integrated church to see the full-orbed Great Commission played out? We've already said that home education is serious obedience to the Great Commission. What does evangelism outreach look like in a family integrated church?

Einwechter: We need to get an audience first. When Paul preached, he went to the synagogues first to the people who had been prepared, not just handing out tracts in the streets. In the New Testament, too, they had miracles. This is how they got an audience. Today the churches have lost their audience. I contend that a today, a well-ordered family is a miracle that will get an audience.

Baucham: We emphasize at GCBC that our hospitality is our witness. Most people haven't seen a family like that, and we have them at our table. Also, every week we pray for an unreached people, and pray that God will raise up families in our midst to go and live among these people. We hope that these homeschooled kids who have the training in language will gain the passion to translate the Bible into other languages. We hope that children who grow up in this kind of church will never lose a passion for reaching the nations.

Phillips spoke about a housebuilding project done as a family mission in Mexico. He also talked about the Browns' home as an epistemologically self conscious family integrated home, designed to make a home where kids spend the least amount of time alone in their rooms and the most interacting with grandparents, guests, and their family. “It is a revolving door of evangelism,” he said, where there are always visitors being discipled. He also encourages fathers to intentionally decorate and supply their homes; when visitors come, what books will they see? What music will they hear? What family routine will visitors be welcomed to?

Swanson: What homeschooling is to the family, hospitality is to the church.

Phillips: Is there something problematic about building churches which focus on overseas missions, which is God honoring and commanded in the Bible, but ignores the neighbors?
Swanson: We live in an age without relationships. People are afraid to build close personal relationships. We do that over the dinner table, and over time, that's where people get saved.

Botkin: About your (Doug's) message about recovering the jurisdictions of church, government, and family, I think if discipleship is central, we will do it. Voddie made it crystal clear: if we don't have obedient children, we have not discipled them and Christianity will die. One thing I see in my lifetime is that when men in the church are being trained to be leaders, then they become teams, and when they get out just a little bit, Jerusalem, Judea, just a little ways out, it seems a very full-orbed discipleship and relationship for those men and the church.

Brown: What does family worship have to do with evangelism? It has everything to do with it. When worship happens, there is joy in the Lord, satisfaction with God, happiness in all His ways. If a father can help his family along with that, there will be worshipers, and we talk about what we love. It is the cradle of evangelism because it opens the mouth.

Phillips: I have never told my children they need to accept Jesus in their heart, for reasons already mentioned, but I pray over them continually, “Lord, may these children understand the wickedness of their sin, and their need for forgiveness.” I tell them they need to fly to Jesus for that forgiveness.

He talks about the story in Christie's Old Organ, a book by Lamplighter, and how it impacted one of his sons.

How can we know what it will be, God's lynchpin moment? There is a mystery about how God works in our hearts. The simple act of reading, talking, exhorting, has an impact. Do you know where you stand before God? Not just because Daddy says it, but because you individually need to be sure? We each of us have the opportunities to shepherds, evangelists, and missionaries to our world.

John G. Paton led thousands to Christ, but the real story is his father. He was a sock maker and never got to leave his little town, but he dreamed of what he could do for Christ, and he led his family in worship. And his children led thousands to Christ.

Opening the afternoon session

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise
Thou my inheritance, now and always,
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art!

William Einwechter: Deaconnesses? No.

William Einwechter taught a smaller session on whether women should be permitted to serve in the office of deacon.

[Note: I think the lower attendance than the previous session reflected the settled nature of the question for many of the conference participants. I thought it would be helpful, though, especially since the families in our church have come from a diverse theological background -- a state I expect will only continue.]

He said that the term used for the office of deacon, diakonos, means to carry out the duties of a given role. Paul used the term of his service to the Gentiles, as a deacon or servant. Romans 12:4 speaks of our diaconate work, our service. 1 Tim 3:1 and 10 it is used both of elders and deacons. It refers to an ongoing, particular duty performed for the church.

There are only two such offices in the New Testament – elder and deacon. Apostles and prophets were temporary offices for the establishment period, and they were not chosen by the church but commissioned directly by the Head of the Church Himself.

Regarding elders, presbyteros refers to the man, the elder; the second, episkopos, refers to his function, oversight. The elder is a shepherd who feeds the church on the Word, governs (oversees) the church in its affairs, and protects the church from false doctrine by teaching the truth. There is no higher office under Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Qualifications are 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1.

Furthermore, the qualifications are given for men only, with responsibilities (particularly teaching) which are specifically withheld from women in other places.

What about deacons?

This is established in an official sense in Phil 1:1, Paul and Timothy are servants of Christ with the bishops and deacons. 1 Tim 3:8-13 elaborates on the deacons.

Note that the office of deacon is important to the local church. This is not just about whether women can be deacons, but also to recognize the significance of the diaconate itself. Diakonos does not refer to a slave, like doulos. That is a servant, assistant, or attendant. A deacon is “one who does something at the behest of a superior”, like a stewart. The Septuagint uses the term in the story of Esther, verses 1:10 and 2:2, of the chamberlains. Haman indeed was a diakonos of the king, and in fact was second to the king himself. They were very important government officials, but under the authority of the king. In the pagan literature, it was also used of a messenger; when Paul is a diakonos of Christ, he is charged with carrying a message for Him.

Who is really great in the church? The servant -- yet the deacon is more than simply the one making sure the lavatories are clean.

What is the origin of the office of deacon? Although some dispute it, it appears likely that Acts 6:1-7 is the origin. The goal was to relieve the apostles of the duties which interfered with their ministry of the Word.

What are the duties of the office? Take the duties given to the seven men in Acts 6, to care for the physical needs of the church members and take that burden off the elders. Einwechter, however, believes that is “much too narrow. I think it is better to follow the New Testament leading which is much broader in general service to the ministry.”

“We should see the office of deacon as one who gives assistance to the elders in any area which the elders deem necessary. This assistance may be temporary or permanent. In this view, deacons may have teaching responsibilities and shepherding responsibilities ...” This is consistent with the broad meaning of the word. “There is no explicit limitation to the deacons' service in the New Testament, but always under the direction and oversight of the elders.”
The examples of Stephen and Philip show deacons in preaching and evangelistic roles.

“I believe the office of deacon may involve any service that the elders do, but always under the elders, while the elders are under no higher earthly authority.”

Qualifications: 1 Tim 3:8-13. They are high qualifications. In character they are identical to elders, men of great responsibilities, except that deacons are not required to be able to teach, nor in Titus 1:9 does he have to be able to hold fast the faithful word against gainsayers. Surprisingly, they are not mentioned in terms of practicing hospitality, either.

If deacons are able to articulate sound doctrine in teaching, then elders are wise to recognize that, but they are not required to be able.

The selection of deacons is the same for choosing all officers. God gives His people three steps for selecting leaders – God gives the qualifications, the people choose from among themselves, and the leaders appoint them. (That seems to allow some sort of veto power, too.)

Now, should women be permitted to hold the office of deacon?

Evidence for

Rom 16:1-2 speaks of Phoebe as a diakonos, [most translations “servant”, RSV “deaconess”]. Does this refer to the office? Some argue that it does, or even extend it to justify women pastors.
1 Tim 3:11 says that the wives of deacons must have certain characters. Or does the language refer to women generally, in the context of diaconal qualifications? Einwechter points out the same transition occurs in discussion of wives of elders.

Evidence against

Rom 16:1-2 doesn't prove anything since the term is used to refer to others who were not deacons per se, such as Paul and Timothy. Rom 13:4 also refers to civil magistrates (“servants of God”) with the same term (again showing the importance of the office). This probably refers to Phoebe in the since of a messenger for Paul, as was Titus (Col 4:7) who was referred to as a faithful servant. Some conservative scholars suggest that Phoebe made actually have been charged with delivering the letter to the Romans.

1 Tim 3:11 is a stronger argument for the “pro” side, “but the evidence is not only uncertain but unlikely.” Verses 8-10 speak of men who are deacons, verse 12 speaks of men again, while verses 11-12 speak of the deacon's family relationships. This fits the context. If Paul were introducing a female office of deaconess, it would have made sense to complete the discussion of deacons before starting a section on the separate office. It may even be that Paul intended this to apply to the wives of elders, too.

And if there were to be deaconesses equal to deacons, then why would Paul have mentioned a separate category at all? If a deacon is a deacon is a deacon, and if male and female is immaterial in that office, he would not have highlighted the gender.

It is an office of responsibility, an office of leadership, and one that requires men of the same character as elders. There is no explicit evidence for women deacons in the New Testament, none. At best, Rom 16 and 1 Tim 3 are inconclusive. And in both elders and deacons, they are required to be “husbands of one wife”; would this not apply to a female aspirant to the office?
And the statement that women shall be “delivered through childbearing” [1 Tim 2:15] refers to being delivered from a position of “no position”, because it is their entry into their highest role.

“There are so many noble women serving in the New Testament, but yet I believe the greatest ministry of a woman in the kingdom of God is that of wife and mother in the raising of a family.”

Practical considerations for starting a local church

Don Hart and Wade Myers, both of Texas, have been through the process of starting family integrated churches in their respective towns. Don started out by discussing the important of starting well by first ending well at the previous church. "It is difficult for a project to finish well when it starts poorly," he said, "and it is not right to establish a church on a foundation of broken relationships in the previous places."

Don told how he left a church his grandparents founded and his father served as deacon for forty years. He said though he had deep roots in the church and loved it dearly, he began to realize that some of the church's practices were in opposition to his family's convictions about their household. Could they even hope to change the practices of this old church? He was convinced that the "disappearing act” was destructive, and that members have a duty to appeal for change first, so he and other men within the church petitioned for changes from their present leaders.

Ultimately the older church decided not to change, so Don sought their blessing in leaving to start a new congregation. This was given, and a new family integrated church was the result.

Don stressed that while there are valid reasons to leave a church, from job relocation to pastoral apostasy, but he said we don't have a right to disappear without appealing, nor to win in a fleshly manner. “We tend to think that good intentions make up for wrong methodologies," he said. "The proper way to seek change is not to build coalitions and work the system."

When starting a new church, there is usually a honeymoon as we celebrate our common beliefs, but eventually there will be conflicts on any number of issues, including music, dress, and doctrinal standards. The same process as a proper leave-taking apply – pray and work together in love and patience to establish a resolution. People can leave without hating those who stay behind.

It is important to set out your doctrinal beliefs. The whole church doesn't have to believe exactly the same thing, but the elders need to be very close. Both churches discussed today are using the 1689 Confession as their statement.

Wade Myers took the podium and shared his experience leaving a church and starting a new work in Houston with Don's counsel. Don and his father shared their view of critical issues to be maintained -- elder unity, inerrancy of Scripture, conflict resolution, family leadership of the fathers -- “the quality of the worship on Sunday has everything to do with the worship taking place in the family during the week.” --, well prepared messages, music, and hymnals.

One thing to consider is that the family integrated church model appeals mainly to homeschooling families because it is so consistent with what these families are already doing. It's not intended to start a homeschooling church, but that's the sort of families who tend to respond. Parents have to be committed to shepherding their children during the worship service, though.

Consistent prayers are for God to raise up elders among us and for men to be consistent leading their families in devotions. Both men pointed out that there are likely to be conflicts fairly early in the church's life, and that resolving them with Christlike maturity may result in some departures but a stronger body at the end.

On seeking elders, Wade said that frequently you will find men who really desire to be an elder but not with a Biblical desire; the best candidates are often humble enough that you may not notice them. They devised a candidate questionnaire to send to the elder candidate's references, they visited the candidates in their homes, and tested them from the 1689, chapter by chapter. After that, they named two men as provisional elders for a trial period; Wade suggested as much as 12 to 18 months to test the candidate in this role. The church, on the other hand, has to be aware of the tremendous burden of eldership, and minister to these men and their families as they are ministering to the church.

Scott Brown on why the church should adopt this reformation

I had a call from home during the break so came into Scott Brown's breakout session already in progress. He was teaching from the life of Gideon about the church's need to embrace this reformation in family/church relations.

The wickedness that Gideon confronted in Judges was nothing different that what is happening on MTV, with lewdness, godlessness, profanity -- nothing different that what we see today. And then Gideon touched the idol.

Scott said we have a number of idols of our own in the American church. He listed "church growth", tradition, support for public schools, and numerous church programs. "The idols are inside us," he warned.

Reformers, he said, experience tenstion and collateral problems. "There is always a backlash when you confront your father's idol. People feel threatened," he said, when their closely held but unbiblical traditions are challenged.

Reformers sometime suffer family problems when they confront particular idols. Jonathan Edwards experienced this in 1750 when family members worked against him for challenging “the half-way covenant”, and his congregation voted 230-30 to remove him from his decades-long tenure at the Northampton church. Scott read a long and touching quote from Edwards' farewell sermon, concluding:

“The minister may be removed to a distant place and they may never have any more to do with one another in this world. But if it be so, there is one meeting more that they must have, and that is in the last great day of accounts.” -- Jonathan Edwards, July 1, 1750

Times of reformation are times of testing; we need to understand clearly the laws of the tongue, of loving one another, of being transformed by the renewing of our minds, to repay no one evil for evil, [and] if it is possible, "as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” In times of reformation, there may be many unforeseen circumstances in families, churches, and nations.

We can look back on surprising methods God uses to get His work done, such as reducing Gideon's army from 32 thousand to 300. It is hard to realize how important we are individually in this process. God is able to work mightily through small groups of people. “Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord God of hosts.”

We can observe the miracle of God's help in the midst of the conflict. Gideon's strategy was questionable but God desired to work wonders.

We have to admit that the reformations do not last very long, such as chapter 8 shows. “So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals ...”

Scott said, "In every reformation, the next generation falls off the wagon. The secret to revival is for fathers to rise up and equip the next generation, or the reformation will not survive his death. The role of the father is critical to the continuing of the revival into the next generation.”

We need to identify the reforms that we are convinced of. What are the key reformations that are important for our day, and why should we be faithful to fulfill them?

= The core reformation is the father who will overcome all obstacles to draw his family together as a church. We may find similar oppositions to this reformation [as Gideon did].

= An understanding and a practical belief in the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture ... that all of life shall be governed and regulated by the life-giving stream of Scripture. We need the reforming ministry of God so we don't find ourselves wickedly angry with one another because we are only doing “all that we know”. The church desperately needs a refresher course in the sufficiency of Scripture, and from that, expository preaching.

= A defense of the creation order doctrines, which are under serious attack. The biblical doctrines of manhood and womanhood, marriage, sexuality. Why are they so attacked? Because they are the foundation of the delivery system of the Gospel

= A return to Biblical educational philosophy. Most people are not aware that what we do today, and have done for 150 years, departs from the Biblical model – which is to say, the Biblical content, the method (real world experience under the supervision of fathers), the objective (character growth), delivery (parents), location (home), context (age-integrated, not segregated).

= Admit a major driving force for a rolling trans-generational reformation is the influence of a father in his household. When Joshua and Gideon died, and will happen if we neglect this great calling?

"The work of a father is really for one purpose, to present to God at the end of the age millions who will enter his presence with exceding great joy.”

Doug Phillips: "A new vision for an old path"

Doug Phillips' presentation had the lengthy title, “Semper Reformanda: The reformation heritage of the movement to restore family and church to their complementary jurisdictions”

This is not to introduce new doctrine or say that the truths of the past need changing, but to say that we are fallible and need housekeeping in our brains. Christians should be always reforming as we seek to become more consistent to the Word of God.

“We are not revolutionaries but reformers, not taking a new path but an ancient path. Let's take the truth that has always been there and apply it.

“I regret that we don't have all day to talk about the Puritans. I consider myself a neopuritan, and we are essentially a neopuritan work, with neopuritan sympathies, not “puritanism” but in a common adherence to the sufficiency of the Scripture. From that tradition we have the United States of America. The founders especially at Plymouth made the same arguments in the same debate that we are today.

“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited ! What a Utopia; what a paradise would this region be!” -- John Adams

The Bible speaks to every aspect of life. This is the debate between Anglicanism and Puritanism, between the Reformation and Catholicism. Thomas Aquinas the Scholastic believed reason was not impaired by the fall and therefore was reliable for deriving secular issues; the Reformers said man's mind is tainted by his sin. William Blackstone's commentaries on the laws of England said that “the laws of general revelation are not sufficient to teach us to govern ourselves, and therefore God has given us a special revelation”, the Bible, and the rules of common law are based on the Pentateuch (and incorporated twice into the Constitution).

Church leaders are not comfortable with the idea of applying this kind of standard.
We have swear words in Christianity, don't we. They are designed as ad hominem arguments to neutralize the opponents. Just ban them as Legalist or Pharisee, so we don't have to discuss the issues they raise. We live in a culture of gossip and slander, and Christians are kings at this.
History is informative of the work of God over time. How can we be informed by the labors of those who have gone before? We care about history, but the Bible is our final stand. What history shows us is that modern evangelical Christianity is full of the traditions of man that have no Biblical foundation. The church today is largely the result of MTV culture, so that even lukewarm John Adams is seen as a right-wing radical legalistic theonomic Pharisee by the average pastor.

2 Tim 3:16-17 is a watershed passage for our fathers in the faith. If this is true, we're going to be living differently. He referenced the French Reformers Confession of Faith of 1599 on the primacy of Scripture [It might be findable by a search on “examined, regulated, and reformed according to them”]

When push came to shove, the Anglicans' view on vestments was if it wasn't expressly forbidden, it was expressly allowed.

Matt 15:3 – Why do you transgress for the sake of your tradition?

Caution of the tendency to a Talmudic attitude, but compare Christ's teaching that the principle of the matter – adultery in the mind – and the apostle's teaching about muzzled oxen with respect to compensating pastors. “Won't you look beyond this husk and look to the heart of the matter?”

“The movement to bring unity to church and home has its roots in the reformation as embraced by the Puritan tradition.

The theological conflict between the opponents and proponents of family integrated churches is the same theological which characterized the tension between the Church of England and the Puritans, Separatists, and Independents and Presbyterians of the 17th Century.”

Key issues of the Reformation: Key Issues Today

= Does the Bible speak to everything, and if not, what standard do we apply?
It is fallacious to say the because we don't see it mentioned in Scripture, we then have an ethics-free zone to live in. This is the hermeneutic today; where the Anglicans and Catholics said the Bible did not speak to everything, the Puritans said the Bible does speak principially to every issue.

= If something is not expressly forbidden in the Bible, it is expressly allowed?

= Are we free to introduce into worship traditions and practices not found in Scripture? He calls Finney and others “deleterious” in their influence on the modern church's marketing approach and “theology by statistics”. “It doesn't bother me that Christians disagree on what the Bible says, but that we disagree on what the authority is going to be, that bothers me a lot.” People died and the Pilgrims immigrated to avoid requirements to add non-Biblical traditions. Does it sound funny that America was founded by people didn't want to celebrate holidays or make the sign of the cross in worship?

Elements of the Reformation Movement

= Their doctrine was timely and confessional. They spoke to the issues of the day; Richard Baxter, for example, wrote against bear-baiting.

= Their preaching emphasized orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

= Their message and lifestyle prioritized holiness. They were the butt of jokes and mocking, and are today, because of this standard. Modern evangelical Christianity has obliterated the concept of holiness by making everything “holy”, or rather, as “neutral” such that we can take part. John Bunyan wrote against women's fashions of the day as exposing too much at the neckline.

= They had a high regard for the entire law-word of God and saw its applicability to issues as diverse as gambling to the rules of procedure to be employed by the civil magistrate. They dealt with so many of these issues 400 years ago, but men who quote Calvin in the pulpit would never read what he wrote on birth control, for example.

= The blessing of men like Calvin and William Bradford comes from their hermeneutics, even if we disagree on their application.

= They were sacrificial visionaries who emphasized covenant keeping and multi-generational faithfulness.

Sharper Iron . Com has officially pronounced an anathema on the family integrated church movement as false teaching that Christians should have nothing to do with. “I have compassion for our fundamentalist brethren and for anyone who is caught up in the whirlwind of pop culture; I don't think we need to be burning bridges but winning our friends. Homeschoolers experienced persecution from the government and more from the church; they simply out-blessed their critics. Ten years later “Maybe we don't like them, but maybe we can sell them books.”

"One of the greatest things that could happen would be if the death- and youth-obsessed culture imploded so we all went back to basics." Bradford and the Pilgrims chose to move into the land of natives who tortured their captives rather than compromise themselves to stay in England. We don't understand true persecution and commitment in the face of it.

= Their worship was regulative. Anything that was substantive to the worship of God, if it wasn't spoken and given, was not done. The Bible speaks to that and no man may alter that. No Sunday Schools, no nurseries, and their children sat with them sometimes for as long as three hours.

= They appealed to youth but not to youth culture. They wrote and spoke to the youth but spoke to them as adults, not as Veggie Tales-kids who couldn't handle the truth of God's word. They understood we are raising warriors for God and the way they thought and spoke was critical.

Samuel Willard (1682) “[You] will be unworthy heirs of your fathers' estates if you do not prosecute their begun designs.” He quoted six propositions of Thomas Cartwright 1571.

= Puritans were persecuted by execution, banishment, and acts of uniformity.

He outlined the Reformation heritage of training children, that the fathers are responsible, truth is not to be dumbed down, and parents are commanded to procreate.

If the Scriptural patterns, precepts, and principles all point to children with parents in the meeting of the church, what then is the argument for banning them from worship? He cited the London Baptist Confession marriage and polygamy, noting that none of the passages referenced specifically command not to take multiple wives; therefore, may preachers preach against polygamy? There's no explicit command forbidding it! But didn't God give us the positive pattern of how is should be, and examples of the foolishness of men who violated that principle? But you can't use that argument if you follow the pattern of Sharper Iron and others in their camp.

Doug took a few minutes to unleash the heavy guns in the debate of Reformation and birth control. “I need to show this to you; I want you to understand the next time you read some huge tome about the 'baby machines' and the rise of homeschoolers, we are a bunch of moderates compared to our forefathers.”

He included Martin Luther's famous comment starting “The purpose of marriage is not pleasure ... they despise the blessing of God, the Author of marriage.” This can probably be easily found online. He then went to a lengthy commentary by Calvin on the sin of Onan, who called it “an unforgiveable crime”. After a brief citation of Augustine against the Manichean perversion of marriage, he returned to Luther calling Onan “a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel” and his actions “a Sodomitic sin.” Heavy guns indeed.

“I want you to understand something. Many Christians are doing things that involve abortifacient potential; I wonder if, when Jesus says 'of such is the kingdom of heaven', does that include the millions who have died because of pastors and Christian who are practicing these things because they follow the pop culture” and look down on those who seek to hold the Biblical standard. See Vision Forum's position on fruitfulness on “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy”.

He wrapped up with a common topic among pastors of our acquaintance, gossip. Several prominent men in the past year have been seriously slandered online, impacting families, ministries, and reputations. “Let each of us be convicted on how we manage our tongues. The Reformers, largely speaking, defended their positions but did not use ad hominem arguments. They used strong language but great amounts of charity.” He quoted the Westminster Catechism, Q.145 on the ninth commandment. “Receiving evil reports is a violation. If you frequent websites that feature reviling and gossip, you are violating the Ninth Commandment if you receive these things.”

A new vision for an old path – not family idolatry, but going back to the Bible and living the way He tells us.