Last September Shawn Mathis posted an article entitled NCFIC: A New Family Integrated Church Denomination? In this article he sets forth the evidence that the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) is continuing to look more and more like a new denomination, despite their assurances to the contrary. With Shawn’s permission, I have quoted the article here in its entirety:
Is the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) morphing into a quasi-denomination? Maybe something akin to a Presbyterian way of running things? As a group they unite together over children in worship (that is good) but denounce children in Sunday school (that’s bad).
Late last year, Scott Brown announced the formation of “regional facilitators.” These men coordinate area-wide events and leadership meetings to better cement inter-church relationships.
But Scott hastily assures his readers that this is not the formation of a denomination but an “organic way that brothers and sisters in churches are designed to love one another.”
Since when does an organic way have such a regional structure with regional leaders? Or when does an organic way include a publicly signed confession? Or when does an organic way involve a national church roll–all of which is coordinated by a central organization with one small board and one main leader?
This organic way seems a little more structured than many will admit.
But someone will quickly point out that Scott is not disciplining the churches like a bishop. Yes and no.
Consider the simple fact of signing the NCFIC declaration: to whom is the promise given that the church signing it agrees with the Nicene Creed and is in “substantial” agreement with the document itself? To the NCFIC. Or rather, to the board, I think (the details of the NCFIC are not clear). Thus there is an implicit moral (and now structural) authority to accept or reject the church’s signing. They hold the keys to membership.
It is true that the NCFIC has a stated hands-off policy toward member churches. But churches have been removed from the list.
Consider further, that a church can list any exceptions it has with the NFIC declaration. But who decides what exceptions are allowable? The NCFIC. They hold the keys to membership and to doctrinal purity.
But there is more. The goals of the NCFIC are eerily denomination-like:
1. To facilitate the creation of new churches: “Facilitate church planting…Wherefore [the undersigned NCFIC churches and individuals], in Light of This Our Faith, We Do Hereby Resolve to…Consult with biblically sound churches that will likewise plant [FIC] churches, which perpetuate faithfulness to the Word of God in matters of church and family life.” (Welcome Pastors, NCFIC declaration)
2. To maintain structural cohesion of said churches: “How important is the establishment of biblically-ordered local churches? It is very important, since the church is ‘the body of Christ,’ (Eph. 1:22-23) and ‘the pillar and ground of the truth,’ (1 Tim. 3:15). This is why the NCFIC maintains an online church network called the, ‘FIC Network.’ (Scott Brown, posting)
3. To preserve and spread the Gospel: “We have seven objectives at the NCFIC. The first and foremost is to preserve the spread of the true Gospel from one generation to the next, through biblically-ordered, Gospel-preaching, Christ-exalting churches and families” (Scott Brown, posting)
I rejoice that Scott Brown is moving toward something beyond Independency. It seems the NCFIC is becoming something akin to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with some regionalism of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) thrown in for good measure.
Both groups affirm the autonomy of the local body, while the CREC has regional presbyteries. And the CREC is a collection of Baptists and Presbyterians.
But there is more: “it seems to me that God would have many of these [FIC] churches be connected with one another for mutual help.” What does that help look like? Scott believes this help is found in the “pattern of the churches in the New Testament” and approvingly quotes the following:
“They shared love and greetings; They shared preachers and missionaries; They supported one another financially with joy and thanksgiving; They imitated one another in how to live the Christian life…They were cautioned about whom to receive as teachers; They were exhorted to pray for other churches and Christians.”
If these become implemented, there will be no doubt that the NCFIC has become a denomination. Part of this list is already being implemented:
“Kevin Swanson and I are going to be hosting a church leader’s luncheon for the church leaders in Englewood, CO…We greatly desire to see like-minded pastors and congregations within a small geographical area begin to (1) know each other, (2) actively encourage each other, and (3) join together in Great Commission labors.”
Functionally, the NCFIC is in a unique position to be a denomination-that-is-not-a-denomination, working across existing denominational boundaries. Will regional Presbyteries have to contend with a presbytery-within-a-presbytery if some of their churches join the NCFIC?
The question remains: is the National Center for Family Integrated Churches morphing into a quasi-denomination? Only time will tell.
I appreciate the work that Shawn has done over the years helping to correct the FICM and helping to warn the body of Christ about the dangers of some of their views. I have found in him an ally in supporting the truth and strengthening the churches against some of the aforementioned dangers involved with the FICM, and I hope the blog’s readers will consider his writings on the subject in addition to my own. He has written a very helpful book on the subject entitled Uniting Church and Family: Observations About the Current Family Crisis.