We arrived Friday night to a great meal and then stayed up late conversing about ministry and how Grace started. This is not the first church started by Matt and it became clear that one of the great advantages that GfBC had from the beginning was that they had three elders; Matt Bullen, Paul Renfro and Voddie Baucham, who had a common vision to start a God glorifying multigenerational church. As I am looking to also start a church much like GfBC it revealed the need to have at least two other families equally committed to a church start as this does a couple things. First it helps to avoid church being a one man show and thus helps avoid burn out. Secondly, by starting with three elders they were already starting with what I consider a biblical model of multiple elders. Also, starting with three committed families helps with accountability on various issues as does having three elders.
Saturday we talked some more and then went to help a family that was moving into the area and was to attend GfBC move into a new home. A number of the deacons showed up to help the family move along with a number of other men as well as some of the children. It was evident that there was genuine care for this new family and that the GfBC members desired to help this new family get a good start in the area. Many churches show a similar care for people in helping them move so this simply shows that the family integrated church function similarly.
On Sunday we went to worship and got there early as there is some set up to do in the church which they rent from a 7th Day Adventist Church. The set up was done by many people and not simply a small few which was good to see. GfBC starts at around 10:30AM with about 15 minutes of fellowship prior to the start of the service. GfBC does not have Sunday School so this is the only gathering on the Lord’s Day. The service consists of many of the same elements of every other orthodox church which is significant as all too often many people see the concept of being a Family Integrated Church as having a sole focus on the family.
The announcements start with a mention of the church being a Family Integrated Church and letting people know they do not have an issue with cooing and restless babies and that there is no nursery. Also, announced was that they understand that sin affects even children and if anyone had to take their children out and deal with their sin they would not bother anyone. This mention of being an FIC was the only real mention of being a FIC so again the service is centered around Christ and not the family. The rest of the service contained:
- Reciting of a catechism by one of the children, with the church joining in on the answer to the catechism question
- The giving of an offering
- The Lord Supper is done weekly and is done in such a way that people are given time to get right with those around them and in their families and then is administered by the men of the church
- After the service the room is changed and tables are put up so that everyone can partake in a fellowship meal which is provided by the GfBC families.
On this particular Sunday there were numerous baptisms done after the fellowship meal. The testimonies of the people being baptized were inspiring to hear as they revealed people that had a good grasp of salvation and it being a gift of God.
As I have not had the privilege of worshiping with so many children, especially small ones, it did help me realize that some people would have to get used to this paradigm shift. When talking to Matt he agreed that they realized that worshiping in a multigenerational setting will not be for everyone but that being true to scripture was more important.
I readily see that functioning as a Family Integrated church is much easier to do from the beginning than trying to change the paradigm of an existing church. By GfBC starting using the biblical model they use they did not have to deal with the changes that an existing church would have to go through. Anyone who has talked to others about the FIC will quickly realize that age segregating in ministry is very ingrained in the minds of people.
GfBC does have midweek family bible studies as well as regular membership meetings for those desiring to join the church. GfBC does take membership seriously and I think this is what adds to their success as those who desire membership and go through the process are obviously going to be committed to the church and thus to each other.
This is a quick synopsis of our visit and as other things come to mind I will write more.
For those interested GfBC is hosting a Family Integrated Church Conference October 26th and 27th, 2007 .