In August of last year I posted an article recommending Shawn Mathis’ series entitled “Pastoral Evaluation of the Family Integrated Church Movement” and his book entitled Uniting Church and Family, which is essentially a collection of his many previous online writings concerning the Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM). He has also written a review of the FICM movie Divided here. Yesterday, however, Shawn added another article to the list entitled Scott Brown’s New Family Integrated Church Declaration and Why You Should Care. Here is his conclusion:

So, the new declaration of the NCFIC has changed nothing, notwithstanding it kinder, gentler language.

You, dear reader, should care about this new declaration because it is subtly written to retain all its original radicalness while sounding attractive. It is a well-organized movement determined to create new churches in its own image. It is a public call for your church to follow the innovative regulative principle of discipleship.

It is aimed at reforming the family contrary to the history of the church and the freedom found in Christ. And that is why you should care.

Frankly, I suspect that the revision of the declaration might have something to do with allowing men like Kevin Swanson to be able to sign the declaration again without having to choose between their formal affiliation with the FICM versus their denominational affiliation. At any rate, I agree with Shawn’s assessment, and I recommend that you read his article.

For those who are new to this issue or to this blog, you may want to check out a few of my articles touching on the subject from a Reformed Baptist perspective:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Confronts Two Current Errors About Church and Family

Is Age Segregated Sunday School Biblical? – Part 1

Is Age Segregated Sunday School Biblical? – Part 2

Is Age Segregated Sunday School Biblical? – Part 3

As always, we welcome your comments.

9 thoughts on “"Scott Brown’s New Family Integrated Church Declaration and Why You Should Care " by Shawn Mathis

  1. Thanks for the post and posting a link to the full article. The article was interesting and made some really good points to consider further. I have attended several NCFIC conferences and have been helped tremendously by their teaching ministry. I am also aware of the criticism leveled at them about some of their doctrinal statements regarding the church, but I have not had the time to study the issue thoroughly.

    I have a couple of comments regarding the article by Shawn Mathis. Shawn is leveling criticism at the NCFIC’s stance on family and church. His last sentence of the article stated, in reference to the NCFIC’s goal, “It is aimed at reforming the family contrary to the history of the church and the freedom found in Christ.” Is the NCFIC aimed at reforming the family? In what way? Or did he mean reforming the church?

    My other comments have to do with the inflammatory language used by Shawn Mathis. The tone of his article, after commending them for their redeeming qualities, uses, I think, some overly harsh, critical, and inflammatory language.

    For example, Mr. Mathis states that “…..Scott Brown is rabidly against any and all things age- or family-segregated.” Rabid speech refers to violent, furious, and irrational speech. I have met Scott Brown and heard him defend his position and in all those interactions I found him to be kind, gentle, reasonable, and level headed. Never rabid.

    Secondly, Shawn Mathis stated the following, “That new family camp in your area may just be a guise for NCFIC propaganda”. The term propaganda brings to mind government information, either true or false, that is used to influence an opinion. If the NCFIC’s position on the use of the regulative principle to support family integrated worship is incorrect, then I would prefer it be called wrong or incorrect, but not propaganda. I don’t think their teaching rises to the level of propaganda.

    I consider Scott Brown and others in leadership at the NCFIC brothers in Christ. Ephesians 4:29 and Titus 3:1-2 admonish us that our speech should be gentle, kind, and loving. It should be instructive and constructive, not destructive. I would admonish Shawn Mathis to evaluate the NCFIC movement with a critical eye, but to do it with the intent of being constructive, not destructive.

    Thanks again for posting the article and bringing it to our attention. I always look forward to new postings on the blog and appreciate the time it takes to keep the blog informative, current, and instructive! May God continue to use it to bring glory to His name.

    Neal Adrian

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  2. I will allow Shawn to speak for himself, but I will just say that I obviously do agree with his position that the new declaration on the NCFIC website doesn't really represent a substantive change in their position. As to whether or not men such as Scott Brown can justly be referred to as “rabid” in their criticisms of the rest of us over the years, I suspect it depends upon which end of his criticisms you have been on and how that may have affected your ministry over the years. It is certainly not the word I would have used to describe Scott Brown, but I will say that I empathize with someone who might think it appropriate. After all, Scott has for years now accused those of us who practice any form of age segregated ministry in the churches of simply following humanistic philosophies based on secular humanism and evolution rather than Scripture. He has essentially portrayed us as sinning in this regard and as having little or no interest in being faithful to Scripture or of having no real understanding of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Even those of us who are of the same Reformed Baptist theological position have been consistently lumped together with the most liberal and worldly of churches, and then we have had to deal over and over again with folks who view us as being in need of repentance for our ministry activities. There has been no openness at all to the fact that we might actually have a Scriptural case for our ministry decisions, and, when men like myself have posted defenses and challenged men like Scott Brown to respond, we have been ignored while the persistent and insulting criticism of us has persisted. After years of this, I suppose I can at least understand a little better why someone might think of him as “rabid” in his criticism, even if I still might not have used the word myself.

    I agree that we should be kind, gentle, and loving in our criticism of a brother, and that we should seek to be constructive rather than destructive, but I think someone should probably remind Scott of this as well. After all, I find it rather lacking in kindness and love to accuse brothers of not caring about being faithful to Scripture or of not loving their families simply because they disagree with your position on the issue of age segregated ministry. And then, when you defend yourself, you are continually ignored while the insulting criticisms continue. To my knowledge, Scott has yet to respond to either Shawn's or my defenses against FIC criticisms, for example, and yet he persists in making or supporting the same criticisms against those who agree with our positions as though no defense could possibly be given. How kind or loving is that?

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  3. Neal:

    Part 2…

    3. “Ephesians 4:29 and Titus 3:1-2 admonish us that our speech should be gentle, kind, and loving. It should be instructive and constructive, not destructive. I would admonish Shawn Mathis to evaluate the NCFIC movement with a critical eye, but to do it with the intent of being constructive, not destructive.”

    You seem like a thoughtful man, but I must protest. The use of 'rabid' and 'propaganda' do not rise to the occasion of “destructive”. This is especially true give my multi-year, multi-essay track-record on this topic. This is only one essay. And it is “instructive”. Who else has offered so many quotes from so many different sources from one man? And given the links to the references? I have demonstrated a pattern. I would urge you to verify that pattern or disprove it.

    More importantly, where were the public outcries from the many years the NCFIC confession blantantly through their sister churches under the evolution/secular bus (read my original FIC article, What is an Family Integrated Church, for the original quote). I find it curious that so many people who like this parachurch organization are quick to defend it instead of defending their sister churches (I am not speaking of you, but moving beyond our discussion to remind you of the broader issues I am dealing with in deciding how to write my essays).

    Well, enough of my rant. I hope my reasoning seems reasonable even if you would have chosen different words. I have no malice toward Scott. Nor do I, nor my essays, ever intend to assume the worse in his heart. He is wrong. He is confused. But, unfortunately, he is unaccountable (even as an independent he could be accountable in the public sense of directly interacting with his detractors, like Keith has tried). And his “regulative principle of discipleship” is dangerous.

    Please feel free to ask more questions or engage with me on this topic.
    Have a good night.

    Shawn Mathis

    Thanks again for posting the article and bringing it to our attention. I always look forward to new postings on the blog and appreciate the time it takes to keep the blog informative, current, and instructive! May God continue to use it to bring glory to His name.

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  4. Neal,

    Here's the lost part 1 (I also noticed I have part of your quote at the end of my part 2! please ignore it):

    1. “His last sentence of the article stated, in reference to the NCFIC’s goal, “It is aimed at reforming the family contrary to the history of the church and the freedom found in Christ.” Is the NCFIC aimed at reforming the family? In what way? Or did he mean reforming the church?”

    I am referring to their effort to change the families open to using (or not using, ala Christian freedom) youth ministries, etc. into families against them. I have proven in my other essays (see links below the article) that the church and families used Sunday school classes from at least Calvin's time. And families that become suspicious of (otherwise healthy) churches simply over this age-segregation issue is harmful. It's already happened out here. There are more important things (which the NCFIC does cover and should just stick with). It also tends to downplay the importance of instruction from the church and the differing levels of understanding among age-groups broadly conceived (5 year old learning with 12 year olds?).

    2. To your concern about the two words “rabid” and “propaganda”: 'Rabid': (Merriam-Webster) “having or expressing a very extreme opinion about or interest in something”. I spent some time in a thesaurus but the other options seemed too weak.

    His opinion about family and age-segregation is “very extreme” from a conservative, confessional and historical view. The quotes I offered should be sufficient, eg. ” “age-segregated youth ministry is the result of apostasy in the church”. Let's see: 1. My church uses age-segregated youth ministry”. 2. such ministries are a result of apostasy in the church. 3. Therefore, the age-segregated youth ministry at my church is a result of apostasy. Whose apostasy? Must be my church's not the one down the street. Not only is that offensive, it is extreme–and I would point out much harsher than me labeling his view (not him!) 'rabid'.

    I also add it is extreme to start a movement on this “regulative principle of discipleship” and offer a confession for churches to sign (even the new one). Perhaps you have not read my details of this view, Pastoral Evaluation of the Family Integrated Church Movement (see above).

    As for the word 'propaganda' I purposefully used it because it was equivocal: it has a neutral meaning (denotation) but typically a negative application (connotation). I know because I teach this in my critical thinking class straight out of the Bluedorn's homeschooling book.

    The effort to push their views through the regional setup is a propaganda technique (in the good sense of the word). And if it is coupled with their standard movie, book and articles methods, then it will be propaganda in the negative sense. The movie is full of propaganda techniques as well as fallacious arguments (begging the question, hasty generalizations, etc.) even if I granted their position (others in favor of FIC have noted this as well).

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  5. I appreciate both of you taking the time to critically evaluate the NCFIC’s statements on family integrated churches. I can understand the frustration coming from you both when a brother doesn’t dialogue with you after repeated attempts.

    I have attended numerous NCFIC conferences that have been a tremendous inspiration to me. I would agree with you, Shawn, that they do have a high view of the Bible, family, and church, and the gospel. Their teaching has been very helpful to me. I had to go outside our local church to find this type of Christ centered teaching on marriage, fatherhood, and family.

    I did find Shawn’s article instructive and it accomplished what I’m sure Shawn’s goal was, to shine a light on a specific area of doctrine or teaching that they adhere to. While Scott Brown’s teaching and other’s in NCFIC leadership have been a significant help and encouragement to me, the concerns about the NCFIC as outlined in your post serve as a WARNING and a REMINDER that my allegiance and trust and faith is in Jesus Christ and his teaching, not to a family integrated church movement. I know there are others who associate with the family integrated church movement and place a greater priority on the family integrated church aspect rather than having a high view of scripture and Christ centered teaching on marriage, fatherhood and the family. Shawn made some important observations and I look forward to reading the other posts that Keith has links to.

    Finally, I have one last question and then a suggestion. Sam Waldron, who is well known in the reformed Baptist circles, has spoken on at least once occasion at a NCFIC conference. Do you know what his position is and whether he has commented on this issue at all?

    And then my comment for you both to consider. Scott Brown and Jeff Pollard are the authors of a book published by the NCFIC, “Theology of the Family”. I would be interested in knowing what you two thought about this book. Have you read it? How about doing a book review and posting it on the blog?

    Thanks again for both of you taking the time to bring these issues to light for the church. It takes a lot of time and I certainly appreciate the instructive nature of the postings.

    Neal

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  6. Thanks for the reply, Neal. I would begin by saying that I don't really feel frustrated that Scott hasn't responded to me. I just think it is wrong that he repeatedly criticizes his brethren for following practices that he claims actually go against Scriptural teaching — practices for which he says there is no Scriptural defense — but then he refuse to even acknowledge the fact that such a defense has been offered. So, he keeps the blog posts up on his website making the claim that the burden of proof is on us to show that age segregated ministry is Scriptural and that we cannot meet this burden. In doing he continues to give the impression to his readers that no such attempt has been made or could be made, all the while knowing that articles in defense of such practices have been written. I have offered such Biblically grounded arguments on this blog, and I have made this known to him, so I think it behooves him either to show that my arguments clearly are not Biblical or to revise his statements. He owes this much to the brethren he has either maligned or misrepresented, many of whom have been offended at the insinuation that they are sinning in their supposed refusal to heed Scripture.

    I have attended only one NCFIC conference (in Ashville, North Carolina), and I heard many good things there with which I wholeheartedly agree. But I also heard a number of things with which I took rather strong exception (such as the blanket statements that age segregated ministry in any form is against Biblical teaching, that wives don't have Christ as their example to follow as husbands do, or that men who allow their daughters to go to college actually hate them).

    I am aware of Sam's earlier critique of the Family Integrated Church Movement, but I am unaware of where he currently stands, since I haven't endeavored to follow him on the subject.

    I haven't read or purchased A Theology of the Family, although I have looked at the table of contents, and it looks more like an anthology of older writings on topics related to the family. The writings all appear to be written from the standpoint of Scripture, but I wouldn't personally think of this as a theology unless it offers a consistent and systematic presentation of Scriptural teaching on the subject. They may feel they have essentially done this by way of other men's writings collected in a certain topical fashion, but I would have to suspend judgment on the matter until I had time to actually read it. It certainly does look like it would be a very helpful resource in any case.

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  7. “While Scott Brown’s teaching and other’s in NCFIC leadership have been a significant help and encouragement to me, the concerns about the NCFIC as outlined in your post serve as a WARNING and a REMINDER that my allegiance and trust and faith is in Jesus Christ and his teaching, not to a family integrated church movement.” –That is good to hear. I know the attraction is the call to responsible family living that is too often missing in Christian circles And “movements” are attractive too in too many circles.

    Sam Waldron has an article series at his seminary website that critiques the movement (series of blog postings). But he did not seem to fully understand Scott's position in my opinion. That he spoke at the conference only means he was comfortable enough to do that. The NCFIC has had a knack at getting various people to speak who would be against this core-belief. I know because I have been in contact with on of them.

    As for their new book: I have it. It is just an anthology of essay snippets (some full excerpts) on various topics. I have not read it but scanned through it: seems fine and accurate *as far as it goes*. I say that because there is no section on formal education as such, neither week-day schooling (public, private, etc.) or ecclesiastical schooling (Sunday school, catechism classes, etc.). And I know a number of these men were in favor of both.

    Thank you for your congenial interaction with Keith and myself. Stay strong in the Lord.

    –shawn

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  8. Keith,
    I read through your blog post on family integration and very thankful for the information you provided. I have not bought any books on the subject as family integration has not a major issue. However, it has come up and read through several things on the internet to get a better grasp on the issues.
    Do you know if anyone a discussed the Lord’s supper?
    The reason I asked we came across a church that gives the father a small platter of bread and Juice, he then in turn administered to the family. Small bells went off and I began inquiring on why it was not administered as a church and began to realize some subtle differences. This led me to question to some other things, and low and behold my questions began to put others in the group on guard, and their answers became very carefully answered and a little vague. And no we do not attend but had friends that do, and it seems the subject of family integration has become a point of contrition. (Note: we are not the ones who seem to keep bringing it up.)

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  9. Robert, there has been a tendency among many within the Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM) toward minimizing the role of the elders and maximizing the role of fathers as shepherds over their families, and I think that this is a part of that trend. In fact, I have sometimes heard it said by FICM advocates that I have met here in central Illinois that fathers are the pastors of their families, and they have either said or implied that the primary spiritual authority of the family is the father and that the pastor's authority must be mediated through the father. Of course, such notions are nowhere to be found in Scripture. At any rate, I think this kind of thinking is probably at the heart of the matter, along with the idea that fathers are said to be in a better place to decide whether their family members are able to partake of the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner. The latter point goes directly against the teaching of Scripture, for the Apostle Paul clearly says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28 NKJ, italics mine). for more information on the roles of fathers and pastors with respect to families, you may find these articles helpful:

    http://reformedbaptist.blogspot.com/2013/05/is-age-segregated-sunday-school_24.html

    http://reformedbaptist.blogspot.com/2013/07/is-age-segregated-sunday-school.html

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