When You Can’t Find a Family-Integrated Church
 
Is it right for Christians to avoid going to church if they can’t find a family-integrated church?

 
By: Greg Thornberg   -   Published: 10/27/2015

Question: What should you do if you can’t find a family-integrated church?
Answer: Go to church.

    Family integration is not an essential doctrine as to what comprises a true church. It is, however, a defining characteristic of a church whose ecclesiology is rooted in the sufficiency of Scripture. In laymen’s terms: it’s the result of people who look to Scripture to answer the question “How should the interaction between leaders and lay members look in practice?” Being an essential doctrine is not the same thing as an important doctrine.

    What is an example of a non-essential doctrine? Tithing. Is it important to preach on tithing? You bet. But do many churches preach on it? Sadly no. Should that keep you from going to a church that refuses to preach on tithing? No. Why not? Because tithing is not an essential doctrine as to what makes a church a true church. It’s important but not essential.

    Because no church is perfect, the perfection standard cannot be applied when looking for a church. And if you do find a perfect church, leave it alone or you’ll ruin it by attending. I regularly meet people who refuse to go to church because they can’t find a family-integrated church. Two problems arise when people do this. First, they are in direct disobedience to Scripture which commands them to go to church. Hebrews 10:24-25 says,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

    If God uses the church to build love and obedience, the neglect of church will lead to less love and greater disobedience. The second problem is more serious. Those who refuse to attend church will fall into doctrinal error. The Bible calls the church “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). If God uses the church to uphold the truth, those outside of the church will fall into error. It’s that simple. Without truth, unsaved people (including children) remain in spiritual death.

    Consequently, not going to church because you can’t find a family-integrated church is like saying, “Because I can’t find perfection, I’m willing to endanger my family.” Bottom line, it’s a foolish stance to take.

    Criticizing the church is to criticize what Jesus Christ created (Matthew 16:18; Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 1:22; 4:15-16; 5:23; etc.). Are we really willing to say that an institution the perfect, good, infinite, all-wise, all-powerful Son of God created isnt good enough for us? Even if the people of Christs church are imperfect, His command is perfect. His ways are also gracious. The church is imperfect precisely because it is a manifestation of His grace. To be outside of the church is to deny your need for His grace and to show your ingratitude for it. 

    You will never find a church with perfect practice, perfect leadership, perfect doctrine and perfect people. I can think of a few of things I’d like to improve about our church. The fact is, submitting under imperfect authority is a test of our obedience to God. Are we willing to submit even if the pastor preaches too long, tells too many/not enough jokes or occasionally says something we disagree with? Submitting to the church despite imperfections is a testing ground for us to grow in grace, love and mutual edification. It’s good for us. Family-integrated churches are good (I think even better) but they fall short of the perfection standard also.

    What essential ingredients define a biblical church? Three things: The preaching of the gospel, practice of communion and baptism and exercise of church discipline. Lots of non-family-integrated churches have this in their practice. Why preaching of the Gospel? Because the Gospel is the only message leading people to Christ. Why communion and baptism? Because these are the church practices most explicitly commanded by Christ. Why church discipline? Because pastors are commanded to protect the flock against heresy. If all three of these are in place, you have found a true church. Would I prefer that you attend a family-integrated church? You bet! Do I think most family-integrated churches are superior in practice? Absolutely. But do I think that non-family-integrated churches are false churches? No way. So if you can’t find a family-integrated church, you must still go to church.

    What is family integration good for? Family integration allows for the younger to benefit from the older. It places the majority of the burden for child training in the home where it belongs and it promotes multi-generational faithfulness. Does going to a non-family-integrated church prevent this? Absolutely not. It makes it harder, but it doesn’t prevent it. Very few churches will tell you that your children cannot attend the service with you. Even fewer will prevent you from discipling your children at home. It may be that God has allowed you to attend a non-family-integrated church in order to promote family worship and discipleship. That would make you a tool of revival which, after all, is not so bad of a place to be.

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