[Editor's Note: The following excerpt is part two in a series taken from chapter 13 of the recently released God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, Second Edition by Andreas Köstenberger with David W. Jones, © 2010 Crossway Books]

 

Click on the following links to read part one and part two in the series.  

 

 

   

THE FAMILY-INTEGRATED CHURCH APPROACH

Having surveyed the basic biblical teaching on marriage and the family, having discussed the New Testament teaching on the church and its relationship with the natural family (along with their respective roles), and having suggested some ways in which the church can strengthen marriages and families, we turn to an evaluation of approaches that in recent years have sought to champion the cause of the family in the church. We do so with care, because, as will become clear, many of the concerns underlying these approaches are ones we share—in particular, a concern for the wellbeing and strengthening of the family. Ultimately, ecclesiology is the most poignant issue. Because these approaches are diverse and in many ways are still evolving, as will be seen in the discussion below, some important foundational doctrinal matters still are in need of further clarification.

Doubtless many are in churches with this philosophy of ministry because they care deeply for the family and are justly critical of traditional approaches to "doing church." A considerable number of these are homeschooling families who have a desire to duplicate the kind of close-knit family atmosphere in the church that they experience when educating their children at home. Some family-oriented churches appropriately adopt general principles such as multi-generational ministry, evangelizing entire households, encouraging fathers to be spiritual leaders in their homes, and so forth, without being philosophically and theologically committed to the more reactionary and at times even extreme core tenets of family integration. The critique of these approaches below applies to these groups only to the extent that they embrace the tenets of the movement on a more foundational theological and ecclesiological level.

While we share a deep conviction as to the importance of the family, we are committed to the biblical foundation for marriage and the family, and this includes a sound grasp of the New Testament teaching regarding the church. It is our tentative assessment that the family-integrated approach as defined below has elevated the family to an unduly high status that is unwarranted in light of the biblical teaching on the subject and that its view of the church as a "family of families" is not sufficiently supported by Scripture.17 We strongly urge the church to make families integral to the ministry of the church, supporting and strengthening them, but not in such a way that the New Testament teaching on the church is compromised or the family unduly elevated above the church.18