The good father: the family-centered church movement (2); water flows thicker than blood...

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Whether we speak of the "family-integrated" or "family-centered" church, there's a problem. The Church doesn't exist to please mothers. It is not the church's purpose to keep children in the home, safe and happy until they make a home of their own. If this happens and the church has helped it come to pass, that's all good, but the church has larger fish to fry.

The church is to make disciples who obey everything our Lord commanded, and although this work normally flows in the direction of keeping families together, this work will also split families apart.

Let's put a fine point on it...

If we're to speak about the family biblically, instead of speaking of the "family-integrated" or "family-centered chuch," we should speak of the "church-integrated" or "church-centered family." The church is to be the center of the family—not the family the center of the church. Why?

Because the church is the Bride of Christ and Christ's family is the First Family. Christ's family takes precedence over every other family, nuclear or extended, fraternal, military, geographical, racial, ethnic, or national. And narrowing our focus back to mother, father, and children, after years of observation as a pastor, I can say with certainty that one very reliable way to destroy the souls of our children is to work to make their allegiance to their father and mother absolute, trumping the church's fatherhood and motherhood.

In other words, children are kept safest when their father and mother teach them to love and submit to the church, and when the father and mother demonstrate this commitment themselves by loving and submitting to the church themselves. You can't fool children. If the children see this in their father and mother, they'll catch it and this love and commitment will continue from generation to generation. Or not.

This past week, I was talking to a man doing some work for me and asked him if he was a Christian. Matter-of-factly he responded, "Nope." Then I asked if he believed in God and he said "Yes." Then I asked if he knew he was a sinner and he said "Yes." His assistant standing about five feet away chimed in, "Who isn't a sinner?"

I kept at it: "So why aren't you a Christian?"

He answered, "My parents weren't church-going folks."

My point isn't that church-going parents is what kids need to be church-going themselves when they become fathers and mothers. 

My point is children learn what their parents teach them. Without fail. If parents teach their son not to go to church, he won't go to church. Unless God saves him.

More to the point for my flock, if parents teach their sons and daughters to change churches, trading in one church for another because there's a children's church, there's a youth group, the church's homeschool co-op isn't Classical Conversations, the junior high girls don't talk to their daughter, the senior high girls wear shorts, there's no other twelve-passenger van in the parking lot, and the pastor preaches that husbands must love their wives and wives should submit to their husbands, guess what?

As soon as their sons and daughters have sons and daughters of their own, they too will trade in one church for another because the new mothers don't nurse, some of the parents teach in the public school system, families eat store-bought bread, elders' wives work, some of the officers' kids are in daycare, no one has a chicken coop or eats brown eggs, and a couple of the high school girls are vegans.

But now let me get serious.

I speak of veganism and brown eggs and youth group, but those aren't the issues. Ever.

They're just the excuses.

The real issues are always love and submission to Christ's Bride.

We had a mother pull her husband and family out of our church a some years ago because of foodie stuff, but foodie stuff wasn't the issue. For fifteen years this mother had run her husband and home in an immodest way as the pastors and elders, along with our wives, tried to cope with the mother's bitterness and her family's sins. I won't name the sins; some of them were pretty and others were pretty ugly—just like most of us. But finally, the mother's bitterness came to a head and she left. Dragging her family behind her.


Because the mother decided she was done submitting to the elders. Of course, as she left she played the part of the submissive wife by having her husband tell the elders of their departure. It was very pathetic. He cried and confessed his sin as he met with the elders, but being the dutiful husband, he followed his wife as she ushered their children out the door.

I've watched this happen many times in the churches I've served and I've often listened to other pastors and elders tell the same story. In the end, these mothers choose a "family-centered church" and refuse to allow their husbands to love and lead their home to be a "church-centered family." Seven, eight, or nine-times-out-of-ten, it's the mother who is the idol that must be worshipped.

So they find a church that is no threat to her family and marriage, which is to say no threat to her own demand to be worshipped. 

So no, I don't believe in "family-centered churches." I believe in "church-centered families."


Because our Lord warned us very clearly:

For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:35-37)

Make no mistake: water flows thicker than blood. The water of Christian baptism. The water mixed with wine at the Table of our Lord.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!