Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FIC Church Start - Visit to GfBC

Well we got back, Monday (2/26) from visiting Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston and while my wife and I are pretty tired it was a great trip. I have been in contact with Matt Bullen, an elder at GfBC, prior to the trip and was able to stay with the Bullen family while we were in Houston. I will be up front about the fact that even prior to visiting Grace I was very much in agreement with how they function as a Family Integrated Church. So this trip was as much about clarifying how their ministry functions as getting new ideas and insights.

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:

- Singing
- Prayer
- 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 .

The Tomb of Jesus? – Should we really expect more from the world?

Should we really expect more from the world than the recent “Jesus Tomb” story? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 1:18-29:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Since Paul so forcefully ties together the cross and the resurrection in 1 Corinthians we should not be surprised when the world seeks to undermine the resurrection which it quite naturally sees as foolish. We should also not be surprised that this gets so much press even though it is not a new story. When Hollywood gets hold of a story that fits its world view they will do the best it can to promote it..

This to me once again shows the relevancy of scripture since Paul in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is stressing the importance of the resurrection and today we need to do the same. We do not have to fear the information being put out by Hollywood but as 1 Peter 3:15 says:

always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you

Here are some links to articles on the “Tomb of Jesus”.

The Jesus Tomb? “Titanic” Talipot Tomb Theory Sunk from the start - Ben Witherington

Oh Brother, Here We Go Again--or Do We? - James White

The Last Tomb of Jesus – James White

Who's Writing the Fiction Here? – Paul Maier on the Stand to Reason Blog

Transcript from the Larry King Live Show - You need to go about half way down to get to this part of the show.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Review of the movie "Amazing Grace"

I went to see the movie Amazing Grace this last weekend and it is very good. The cinematography was well done as well as the other cinematic aspects. The movie did a good job of showing the amount of desire Wilberforce had in seeking to abolish slave trading and the lack of respect for human life by those that fought to continue the slave trade. However, why does it seem there is always a however with “Christian” movies, I do think that the movie missed the true impetus of all that Wilberforce did. In the new February 24th issue of World Magazine is an article by John Piper that reflects on the true driving force behind William Wilberforce’s desire to abolish slavery and that was justification by faith alone.

The question is often raised as to what makes a movie Christian and I think that it has to be a focus on Christ, which this movie does not have. I am anxious to hear what believers and non-believers say about this movie as I am guessing that the non-believer will see one man’s desire for righting wrong and they may even see faith coming into play in some manner. However the faith they will see is not portrayed as not of being in Christ. The God displayed in the movie is nebulous enough to not offend so even if the non-believer sees Wilberforce’s faith as being in God it will be in such a way as not to create an issue in people’s hearts and minds.

The movie does mention Christ once when they repeat the famous line from John Newton: “I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” This is not enough to make a movie “Christian” but it might be a start.

This all said I highly recommend this movie and along with his movie I recommend reading about Wilberforce and being ready to answer questions you may get about this movie. I would even say this movie may allow you to talk to other Christians about the importance of doctrine because it was doctrine that drove Wilberforce to do what he did and not simply some “feeling” he had. Above all things I would hope this movie drives believers to seek to see how their faith actually interacts with their lives and if it does not then they would sit down and reflect as to why.

As far as books here are some I recommend.

Roots of Endurance by John Piper
Amazing Grace in the life of William Wilberforce by John Piper (free PDF online)
A Practical View of Christianity by William Wilberforce
Wilberforce by John Pollock (this is out of print but I found that it is going back into print in England so I am trying to find where it may be gotten in the US.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Piper's Biography on Andrew Fuller

I was listening to John Pipers biography of Andrew Fuller, which you can download here (as well as read a shorter transcript of the sermon), and I highly recommend it as I think Fuller is another of those men from the past most of us know little about.

When I was listening to the biography I was struck by a section where Piper spoke of Fuller’s view of justification and faith and that justification by faith with a correct understanding of faith causes us to look away from ourselves towards Christ because faith is received from God. Piper then refers to Spurgeon speaking on people teaching children too much about loving Jesus rather than trusting Jesus. The idea of love can cause children, and us, to try and do something about it out of response but when one is properly focused on trust first they are forced to look away from themselves and look to Christ and so Piper ties this back to Fuller’s biblical view on faith. This whole issue with faith was, as the biography tells, formed around Fuller’s fights against Hyper-Calvinism (as correctly defined) and Sandemanianism both of which greatly misunderstand Biblical faith. Do we do today often propagate many of the same errors with faulty views of faith? We should learn from men such as Fuller about faith and the importance of understanding it.

You can get an understanding of Sandemanianism, which I knew little about, from the biography.

I encourage you to listen to this biography and the many other that can be found on the Desiring God site, you can find the biographies here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Are you homeschooling or schooling at home?

Matt Bullen of Blessed Families Ministries has an article on his blog entitled: Are you homeschooling or schooling at home? Do we homeschool to keep our kids away from bad stuff and to give them a better education, neither of which are necessarily bad, or do we homeschool because we see it as that which most pleases God.

One may accomplish both of the first two reasons if you start with the main reason being to obey and glorify God. However it is possible to see the first two reasons as prime and never accomplish the third reason, pleasing God. As homeschoolers we need to answer the “why” question and as Christian Homeschoolers the answer needs to rest on God and His revealed word. I am one who has taken a while to come to this realization as I constantly was concerned about if our kids were learning enough. But when I came to the realization, through scripture and things I read and heard, that the goal of homeschooling is to raise children that seek after God and that the educational aspect, from the worlds perspective of education, was secondary.

Here is an example of a question you can ask yourself: Why do we teach children to read and write? From a Christian world view it should not be to win a spelling bee or some writing award but foremost it should be so they can read, understand and convey God’s word to others. We need to do our best at all we do but my concern is that our best is all too often defined by the world and not by God.

I look forward to Matt’s next installment and I pray you will ask yourself why you homeschool. I believe that if you can come to an answer for homeschooling that is biblically based much of the usual pressures that are felt will be greatly diminished.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More on a Family Integrated Church Start

I have realized that there is an inherent problem with reading blogs, other than finding the time. The problem is that in general unless you have started reading a particular blog from the beginning you end up reading from the end of a stream of thought to the beginning. This may cause misunderstandings with such things as describing what I see a Family Integrated Church looking like. If someone started at my last installments they may wrongly assume that the main focus of the church is to be the family. While the family is very important, as God designed it, it is not the most important aspect of a local church. The most important thing one is to do when gathering together is to worship God and glorifying His name in all that is done, whether prayer praise or proclamation of His word.

So, I place this post here to encourage any that may misunderstand this to go back to the first article and read forward. Any church that places man first or for that matter any aspect of man’s activities has greatly failed to understand the overall message of the bible. The message of scripture from beginning to end is about Christ and redemptive history. Man has a part in this but only as God has designed him to be and man’s primary purpose is to worship God. Just as with the Israelites in Exodus 7:16, 8:1 & 20, 9:1 & 13 as well as 10:3 God desires us today to serve Him and going to church, the local gathering of believers, for any other reason is missing the point of worship.

Now this said how we live and act is also worship so another aspect of the church gathering is to equip believers to better worship God in their daily lives. This is where the family comes into play as scripture does not delegate the nurture of families to the church but the church is to equip the families to disciple their own members with the father to generally take the leadership role in this(Eph 6:4). So for us to worship God in a manner that glorifies his name we must also disciple in a manner that is in accordance with God’s word and that is primarily through the family.

This focus on the family as the main discipling entity of the church often leads to another mistaken understanding regarding the Family Integrated Church, that it is only for “typical” families. While I cannot deny that the family today falls far short of God’s desire that does not mean that a family that has been hurt by sin, as truly all families are, cannot still function as a family. I would even say that singles can function as part of a family in a local church and thus are not left out of this process. Probably one of the biggest differences in an FIC and other churches is that the goal is not for the church to do the discipling, per say, but for the church to equip the people to disciple their families as God has put them.

While much of worship would appear the same with some other orthodox biblical churches the difference you would see is everyone from the youngest to oldest worshiping God together and encouraging and exhorting each other. The elder teaching the younger and the younger serving the older in such a manner to further give God glory. Through this multigenerational aspect of worship I believe a much richer fellowship will be developed that brings greater glory to God.

I hope it is clear that even though I may refer to a “Family Integrated Church” it is only so as to differentiate a way of doing church that I think is the most biblical. I wish there was no need to even use such terms as FIC because it was accepted and every church worshipped God in this manner but it is not so and thus terms are often used to distinguish how one goes about worshipping God.

Past Posts on the Family Integrated Church

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Church Start Part 1

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More on Amazing Grace, the movie

If you are planning on going to see Amazing Grace, well even if your are not, there is a study guide on the movie at the movies website: (be aware that depending on your connection it may take a little time to download the PDF). The first part of the guide is good as it will give you some idea of the people involved in the movie and I am guessing that while many may know of John Newton few will know of William Wilberforce. All too often the fact that Christians were wrongly involved in slave trading overshadows the great contributions Christians, such as Wilberforce, played in stopping slave trading.

My prayer is that people will see the effects of true conversion and the part the cross played in the lives of Wilberforce and even John Newton. If you study the lives of both these men it becomes clear that they truly understood the depth of their sin and it was this understanding that allowed them to truly see the mercy and grace of God as it truly is. Again I pray that this comes out through the movie.

Keep in mind that no matter how good this movie is it is not the next great evangelistic event as so many movies have been touted as but I think it will be informative and if true to the men’s lives it portrays may show in some small way God’s effect on people’s lives through the cross and Christ’s substitutionary death for His people.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Small Children in the Corporate Worship

Pastor Paul Martin writes a good article called: Helping Little Ones Learn to Sit in Church: A Few Practical Suggestions on Moving from Nursery to "Big Church. The suggestions he gives for keeping young ones in the service are helpful. I would like to add something to a couple of his suggestions.

First is the suggestion: “You may start keeping your child in “big church” for the first half of the service.” This may be a good way to start but all too often I see parents keep this mentality. If we are not careful the children start to see the preaching of the word of God as not as important as the singing and other activities. This may not be intentional but children learn early how to worship. So while this may be a good way to start if you have never had young ones in a service I would encourage you to not keep this practice up too long. By the way there are many an adult that still check out for the preaching part of the service so this is not just an issue for children.

Second is the suggestion: “Some children will find sitting in church easier if they are given a few books to read.” While this also may be a good way to start children off who have not attended the regular service before if it is kept up too long they will soon see church as a place to do anything but listen to the word of God being preached. So my suggestion would be to try and engage them in the word in their bibles and have them draw and write things about what they hear. This, as with many things takes training and guidance but will better equip them for the future.

I linked to this before but John Piper also has an article that has suggestions on how to have small children in the service: The Family: Together in God's Presence.

Parents need to take Pastors Martin and Piper’s suggestions and implement them instead of unloading the kid’s in the nursery. How children are raised with regards to worship will greatly influence how they worship as adults. If they are led to avoid corporate worship as children they will in all likelihood find ways to avoid it as adults.

The article by Pastor Martin links to a good Banner of Truth article by GEOFF THOMAS called: A Child Was Bored in the Service .

Monday, February 12, 2007

9Marks Ministries on Elders

9Marks Ministries’ February newsletter, as well as the upcoming March edition, is devoted to the topic of elders. This appears to be one of those areas that is lacking in many churches. While some churches may have people they call elders often they are not elders from a biblical standard and other churches simply do not have elders at all. How can we as a people of God claim the Bible as our authority and then ignore God’s obvious call for the local church to have elders, and a plurality of elders at that.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Starting a Family Integrated Church

Over the last weeks and months God has led me to realize that He wants me to start a church, a Family Integrated Church, in the North Orange County area of Southern California. I have come to this conclusion through the many workings of God in both His word and in situations only God can orchestrate. The more I wrote on the Family Integrated Church and what I felt it would look like I became more aware that God was working through my writing to tell me to do something about what I was writing about, such as start a church. Over the next weeks and possibly months I will be transitioning this series from what I see a FIC looking like to the actual things being done to start one. I will still write on what a FIC looks like but these will be intermingled with writing on the actual starting of a church..

This whole process of starting a church is both exciting and scary. Not more than 6 months ago I would never have considered myself being a church planter as this was not how I saw God equipping me but how wrong I was. Not that I have suddenly seen God as equipping me for this but instead just seeing that God wants me to do this. It is only when we are at the point where we are unsure of our abilities that we will rely on God the most, when we rely on God as He desires us to be. So that is where I am right now.

One of the hardest aspects has been in letting my current church know what I will be doing. Leaving ones home church, where I have been for over 9 years, is always hard but as we are a small church even one family leaving is always a difficult thing. As I believe that we need to make sure we leave the churches we are at in a manner that is worthy of God I have spent much time in prayer and concern over how this would be done. Through God’s providence things at church began to work out so that my leaving would not be as much of an issue and that was an answer to prayer. In the last few days things at church have changed some but I know that God still desires me to move forward as in the end it is He who will work all things out.

In preparing to start a church I have spent time in e-mails with one of the elders, Matt Bullen, at Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston asking questions about how they started their church. I think having wise counsel from those that have traveled the road you are heading down is important. Matt’s wisdom has both made me think through what I will be doing and has also confirmed both the path I am on and many of the particulars of the journey ahead.

I have begun this process by sending out e-mails informing people of God’s call on me to start a Family Integrated church. Part of this informing people is making sure that I fully explain what an FIC is as I’m pretty sure there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation on what an FIC is. This was one of the reasons I started writing about my vision for an FIC as I would be able to turn people to the venue of my blog to answer many of the questions they may have.

The next step after informing people is to have a brain storming meeting for those that are interested. This is not just for those interested in being part of the start but also for those that may simply want to partner in prayer or other forms of support. For this particular start I plan on doing this shortly after my visit to GFBC in a couple weeks as I am praying that the visit will further solidify some of the thoughts I already have and make me question others, if need be. In all of this the most important thing I can do is keep vigilant in prayer as this makes God the center of all that is done.

So as I move along the path God has set before me I will post other installments.

Past Posts on Family Integrated Church:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reminder - The movie Amazing Grace comes out Feb 23rd

As a reminder, the moving Amazing Grace comes out February 23rd. It will be interesting to see how they show Christianities part in William Wilberforce's drive to stop the slave trade that England had such a large part in. I am always a little leery about promoting movies as they often fall far short of what they can be but this one is about a person that I dare say very few people know anything about, and should. I would hope this movie may help to inform us of our Christian heritage and to show people the influence Christianity had in the abolition of slavery.

Below is a trailer for the movie. If the trailer runs slow on my blog you can try it directly here.

If you want to read some more on Wilberforce you can do so in John Piper’s The Root of Endurance. You can also listen to an MP3 on Wilberforce by John Piper here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What does a Family Integrated Church look like to me - PT 6

One aspect of the Family Integrated Church that is often missed is that it is just plain simple. I am not saying it is easy as any ministry is difficult because it deals with sinful people but it is easier because the focus is not spread all over the place but is more focused. With less worry about how one has to divide up children and adults and any other of the various affinity group ideas that are out and about there is more time to truly focus on God. The church all too often gets so engrossed in how to do ministry that ministry does not get done. Then when something is not a success, whatever that means, they look to try something else rather than go back to the basics of simply worshiping God.

The Family Integrated Church does need to deal with the culture and such things as singles, youth and single parent families. However, this is done in the context of the church as a whole rather than sending those groups off on their own and separating them from others who can help them to grow in the Lord. How is a single mother or father to learn to have a family as God intends if they are deprived of having it modeled for them? True, the single father or mother is to first turn to God’s word but in the end they also need to see how it works out in real life. I am sure in the first century church that as they met together there was a common strength they gathered from each other that would not have been the same if they had met as singles, young something or others, College or career groups and so on.

I truly think that the more we divide up people the more they will seek to be divided. They will grow to see themselves as either superior or inferior or at the least simply different to the point of not gaining any benefit from other groups. How much more beneficial is it for a young single to actually see how a godly family deals with issues of life rather than to just read about it or hear about it from a “single pastor.” Often when I bring up the idea of a multigenerational church to people they balk at it simply out of reflex. We have become so ingrained with segregation in the church that anything that is contrary to it is seen as wrong or even detrimental.

So, back to the idea of simple. Why not simply have church, the gathering of believers, where the only focus is God and this being done in the context of all generations meeting together to encourage, exhort and even correct when needed. Why spend so much of our resources, not just money but also time, on extraneous things that in the end I think are detrimental even if they for the moment seem reasonable. The other aspect of this simplicity is that it allows for the family to have more time together, even while in church. Also, I think over time there will be more organic growth in fellowship outside of the church because it is not done in the context of a program or even ministry but flows out of a common worship experience.

Simple does not negate other meetings outside of the Lord’s Day but it does see other meetings as an outgrowth of the regular fellowship of believers. Also it is done in such a fashion so as not to infringe on family worship which in and of itself has been lost on the church for far too long.

As I continue to work through these things I realized I had even more questions from how to actually move ahead in starting a church to what church would look like once it started. I had some time ago thought about visiting Grace Family Baptist Church but had not really done more than think about it. Well a few weeks ago Bo Prather at The Kettering Fellowship wrote on his visit there and it got me to thinking that what better way to work though my thoughts than to go to a church that is actually ministering in the way I see ministry to function. So, that said my wife and I are off to Houston the end of this month. In the mean time I have been in contact with one of their elders, Matt Bullen (Matt also has a ministry called Blessed Family Ministries), and he has been very helpful. In Matt’s answers to my questions I can really sense his desire to see people worship God in a manner that most glorifies God and most edifies His people and that manner is in a multigenerational church setting. After reading what Bo had written and conversing with Matt through e-mail I am very excited about visiting Grace Family Baptist Church and seeing how God can use this visit to help me move ahead in a starting a Family Integrated Church in the North Orange County area of southern California.

Past Posts on Family Integrated Church:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

How much do we value GOD?

I was thinking this weekend as I was reading some statistics on the largest worship event in the US, the Super Bowl, about how much do we truly desire to worship God. In our local paper it was stated that the face value of a Super Bowl ticket, I am supposing this was the cheapest one, was $700. That made me wonder, would we place that same value on simply coming to worship God. Would we pay that much or more to come and be in His presence? I do not mean would we pay that much if the preaching was great in delivery, the music was inspiring in presentation, and the feeling generated was uplifting. No, I mean would we give all too be in a place that glorifies God simply by putting forth the word of God with out all of the bells and whistles so often added on today to entertain. Does our greatest pleasure come from God or from the things we do to try and generate pleasure for God?

We, me included, need to contemplate how much we value God. What would we give to worship Him? Would we give what the world worships most, our autonomy, ourselves, our possessions? I live near Disneyland and I see people that appear to have given much of what they have financially to spend a day or two with Mickey would we give even more to spend any time with God. Think about how much you value God and not just in word but in deed. Do our actions portray what we proclaim or do we as believers show that we are not much different than the world in what we value most.

Pray that God gives us a desire to worship Him simply because He is God and that we do not need to somehow be entertained into worshiping Him. Because remember that even thought the narcissistic mantra of the world is that “it is all about me” we need to always remember as believers that “IT IS ALL ABOUT HIM.”