The missionary George Whitefield said that “critics are the unpaid guardians of the soul,” and so we are grateful for both dialog and diatribe. It has shown us that we see through “a glass darkly.” It has demonstrated that in our attempt to explain heavenly things, we often struggle to find human language that meets both the heavenly and the earthly standard. Sometimes we are genuinely misunderstood. Other times men do their best to twist our words, make us worse than we are and find themselves unable to correct their erroneous mischaracterizations. At the end of the day, we understand that we are imperfect men trying to be faithful to the faithful testimony of scripture.
We have no intention to abandon the use of the phrase or the concept behind it. It is a very important principle that undergirds a biblical understanding of church and family life. We think Swindoll said it very beautifully and Baucham explained it with the kind of precision that should answer every question for all to see that it fits within the range of biblical thinking. We think that Kostenberger explained one of the stunning aspects of this as he describes the importance of a marriage under the headship of Christ in God's redemptive plan.
Because of the tendency of critics to take these three words out of their context, misinterpret them and claim that we are advocating a new ecclesiology we kept trying to explain it better. We kept modifying the statement to make it clearer and more reflective of scripture. Today, the term “family of families” appears nowhere in current NCFIC literature. In 2008, we explained the same concept without using the words “family of families.” Even so, we believe the term has significant value in explaining one aspect of church and family life. In this spirit, we have tried to explain the idea rather than use the term.
Here is the old statement – one of twelve articles,
We affirm that our Heavenly Father designed His church to be a spiritual household — a “family of families and singles” where members know one another intimately, the shepherds understand the sheep effectively, and the various body parts function interactively (1 Tim. 3:15).
We deny/reject the current trend to value numbers and size more than intimacy and vitality by building impersonal mega-churches rather than the multiplication of family-like congregations.2
Our intent was not to redefine the church, but to acknowledge that when a family comes to church, a separate jurisdiction is there that needs to be strengthened to be faithful to their biblical callings and commands that govern family life.
In December 2008, the NCFIC updated the confession and removed these three words and replaced them with this statement, one of sixteen articles,
We affirm that local churches are spiritual households that include individual family units which are separate and distinct jurisdictions that should be cared for and strengthened to fulfill their God ordained roles, not only as individuals but also as families (1 Tim. 3:15, Ephesians 5:22-33, Ephesians 6:1-4).
We deny/reject the current trend in churches that ignores the family unit, is blind to strengthening it, systematically fragments it and does not actively work to equip her members to be faithful family members.3
3 The text for the original “A Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family” can be found at www.visionforumministries.org/home/about/a_biblical_confession_for_unit_1.aspx (Accessed 11/5/2009)