Someone asked me the other day about my first review of this book, “You didn’t say what you disagreed with in the book.” My disagreement came at the end of the book and Baucham’s radical shift and reorientation of the church that he was suggesting. But I wasn’t really able to elucidate what that meant fully. Thanks to Michael Lawerence at 9Marks (and an associate at Capital Hill Baptist Church) I now can elucidate it better. Read part of what he has to say below.
The heart of Baucham’s book, aimed at parents and their responsibility, is about family discipleship, what it looks like and how to do it. I have nothing but praise for it. But in the final two chapters, Baucham turns from the family to the church. Much of this is on target as well, especially as he summarizes his thorough and excellent critique of a consumer church culture that has produced passive parents and pagan kids.
However, I couldn’t help but feel that his ultimate prescription for the church—as opposed to the family—operates on the same market-driven assumption that he critiques. He’s simply called for the church to respond to a different customer: the family rather than the individual.
The remainder of this review is going to explore this criticism, which, it must be stressed, responds to a matter of secondary significance in Baucham’s book…
The programmatic solution which Baucham prescribes is a radical abandonment of age-segregation. Baucham champions the “family-integrated church” which “is easily distinguishable in its insistence on [age] integration as an ecclesiological principle” (p. 194). Stated negatively, “there is no systematic age segregation in the family-integrated church!” (p. 195). This doesn’t just mean no youth group. This means no nursery, no children’s Sunday school, and Sunday services in which families sit together…
The church is not a family of families. The church is the family of God (1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Tim. 3:15). This means it’s a family of believers who have been grafted into Christ and so adopted into God’s family (see John 15; Eph. 1:4-6; 2:19; Gal. 4:1-7). It may seem like a small point, but the shift in emphasis makes a difference.
For one thing, it means that the focus of the church is on God, not on the biological families of church members, as such. Fundamentally, the church is not called to aid families; the church is called to be a display of God’s glory and wisdom (Eph 3:7-13). We do this as we are increasingly conformed to the image of Christ and live both individually and corporately in such a way that sets us apart from the world (Col. 3). Our marriages and families are one way we will demonstrate that we belong to God. But surely they are not the only way. To systematically and holistically define and organize the church around biological families is to put the church at the service of yet another customer and to insist that it provide what that customer needs. We’ve simply traded the individual religious consumer for a collective.
It is also reductionist, at the least, to say that “the family is the evangelism and discipleship arm of the family-integrated church” (p. 195). Parents should evangelize and disciple their children, and perhaps that’s all Baucham meant. But in the context, it doesn’t come across that way. The family isn’t God’s evangelism plan for the world. The local church is (John 13:34-35; 2 Cor. 5:16-21). The family isn’t God’s discipleship program. The local church is (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-13). Families have a role to play, and it’s an incredibly important one. But the Scriptures will not allow us to reduce the church and its mission to a family driven program.
Thank you, Michael. You hit the nail on the head for me. Read all of his review to get the full picture. In fact, I recommend reading the entire 9Marks eJournal for September/October, or subscribing to it.