With the prevalence of age segregation of all kinds in the modern church there can be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding, and sometimes even distrust, about what family integrated churches are and why we structure our churches in this way. While family integration may seem novel today, if we look at history we can see that the innovation is really the program driven, divided church - family integration is an attempt to return to a more historic, and biblical, way of doing church.
Well, it really is a joy for us to be here with you. I'm able to be here with my fellow elder, Jason Dome, and our other elders are back home holding down the fort. And, you know, we only go to places where we're invited and thank you so much for inviting us to come. I'm able to be here with my whole family. My wife, Deborah, is here and my two daughters and my son David are here.
I hope you're able to get to meet them. And also my own father and mother are here as well. And I hope you can also have some time with them during the conference. But thank you, thank you so much for allowing us to come and participate. It really is a happiness for us to be here.
Well, we've just read this text of scripture, Acts 2, 37 to 47. And this passage of scripture outlines a number of the beautiful aspects of the architecture of the people of God, how they function and what they do and it is for us it is for us to always be looking back to the architecture that's found in scripture that explains what it is that the people of God are and what it is that they should do. And I'm amazed that God has designed this way of rescuing sinners, that he convicts people from the heart that they have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They're pierced to the heart and they repent and no man can make a person repent, only God can do that. And then they are enfolded into this eternal family that also has its expression in a local church.
And so God has made it so that for all the people living in these pagan cities of the world, just like you and I, When we are pierced to the heart and when we repent, we come and are joined with this fellowship of believers. We are baptized into one body. There's one Lord. There's one faith and one baptism. And then He brings us into this precious family, and there, all lifelong, He takes care of us.
We may, hopefully, come to faith early on, and so that we might have decade after decade of life in the fellowship of believers in the local church and there we would be nursed, there we would have dozens of spiritual fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and God would extend our family in an absolutely marvelous way. And we would be into this new community formed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Last night, we were reading Psalm 89, and verse 15 and 16 just captured so much of what I hope to begin this session with where the psalmist says, blessed are the people who know the joyful sound. They walk in the light of your countenance and in your name they rejoice all day long and in your righteousness they are exalted. And so here we are, part of this great family of God.
Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound and who experience it together in the fellowship of believers. And As we consider what is a family integrated church we must be very very careful in the way that we describe the church Because the Bible says that the church is the body of Christ. And it would be a great sin against God to misrepresent the body of Christ. And therefore it's so important for us that as we describe the body of Christ that we find all of what we say about it to be rooted in scripture. And then as we explain it, as we get it in our minds what the body of Christ is, then it is for us, it's for every believer and for all of church leaders to represent the biblical model of the church in every generation.
And that model of the church represents a beautiful architecture of the building of God. And this evening I want to speak about an element of that architecture. Let me tell you where I'm going and then we'll take these points one by one. I want to give you four statements that explain what we mean by a family integrated church. First, I want to talk about the foundation and the preservation of that architecture requires fidelity to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
And then I would like to give you 14 characteristics of what we would describe as a family integrated church. And then finally, I would like to wrap up by talking about the product, the result of this kind of architecture. So that's where we're going. Well, let's go to the first point now. And that is this point.
Family integration is one element in a building with beautiful architectural design. And the picture that we've just seen here in Acts chapter 2 shows elements of this design. Here you see continual devotion to the apostles' teaching, continual devotion to fellowship and to worship and breaking bread. There's a spirit about it as well in that there's fear and there's awe in the congregation that we pray that God would give us in all of our congregations. And then there's unusual care for one another.
Those who had believed were selling their property and possessions and distributing it to those who had need and they were together with one mind and one heart and it was a gladness of heart that they had and they were having favor with all the people and the Lord was adding to their number day by day. They lived their lives together with a deep conviction of their sins and a sense of God's love and mercy and his saving grace that they had experienced by being baptized into the family of God. And so the church, the church is a rich tapestry or it's a well appointed building, it's a body of Christ, it's many, many things, but family integration is just one element in the building that God is building. And so the church is much bigger than her age integration. So the second statement that I want to make to explain what we mean by a family integrated church is this, and that is that the foundation, the preservation of this beautiful architecture depends on your beliefs about scripture.
How do you view scripture? And the biblical basis for an age integrated ministry sits upon, it sits on a doctrine and it's the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture which states that scripture alone is enough. That everything that we need to go forward in church life is found in scripture and we need nothing else. The Apostle Paul wanted Timothy to understand this with clarity. And he speaks of this idea a number of times in his letter to Timothy.
And I'll just give you three things that the Apostle Paul wanted Timothy to know. First of all, he wanted to know that scripture was perfect and he said to him, all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine and reproof and correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete thoroughly equipped for every good work." Paul wanted Timothy to know that if he would engage in handling the bride of Christ, that he would use scripture alone and that he would know that it was perfect. The second thing that the apostle wanted Timothy to know is that there was a way that we should engage ourselves in the church. He said in 1 Timothy 3.15, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The apostle not only wanted Timothy to know that Scripture was perfect and it was all he needed, but that there was a way that we ought to conduct ourselves in the household of God.
It's not our house, it's God's house. And it should be conducted in a way that's consistent with his thoughts. And then thirdly, he taught Timothy that there was a fixed pattern of church life. And this passage of scripture will be critical this weekend as we're together. And we will recite it together, we will memorize it together.
But in 2 Timothy 1.13, Paul says this to Timothy, hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. So Paul is saying there is a pattern. And he uses a word, a Greek word, tupos, which means to make an impression. And It's to strike and make a mark with a blow, just like a die would make on the minting of a coin, that this hard matter, this hard die, would come down and strike the metal and form an impression in it. That's the imagery that the Apostle Paul is using here.
And the die has to be harder than the metal, so that the metal is impressed, so that the metal moves, not that the metal becomes what it desires to become, but it becomes what God would have it become. And this is just another way of the apostle instructing Timothy that God has authority over his church through the word of God. So the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture is the critical and fundamental principle. If we can't accept that principle, then we'll have many arguments about what we should do in church life. What's the contemporary significance of this doctrine?
Well, in my generation, the baby boomers, we value one thing greater than all else. Creativity! Go do the next new thing! And whatever the mind can conceive, the body ought to do. That's the principle of my generation.
And I'm just going to call it creative Christianity. Now after 50 or 60 years of creative Christianity, what we have today in the church is that the church is indistinguishable from the world in the way that she conducts herself in the world. And many still believe that it's OK for modern Christians to create the church in every generation for that generation. And creative Christianity tries to find the best way to engage the culture, to find a need and meet it. But the only problem with this principle when you apply it to church life is that it has a fatal flaw.
And that fatal flaw in the DNA of creative Christianity is this, and that is that it starts with man. It does not start with God. Biblical Christianity, biblical church life begins with God. And so there is a way that God desires for His people to conduct themselves in His house, and it is not for each generation to recreate the church for every generation. On the contrary, it is for us to establish Christian culture and practice in our generation that comes from that which is eternal, that which is perfect, that which is the tupos, the pattern for church life.
In the confession that we use in the National Center for Family Integrated Churches where we try to explain these things, we've written it this way. We should not treat his word as inadequate for church and family life by supplementing his completed revelation with humanistic psychology, corporate business models, and modern marketing techniques. So this principle here, that all of what we desire in church life rests on a doctrine, the doctrine of sufficiency of scripture, makes it plain that the activities and the worship of the church should be shaped by the commands and the patterns of the word of God, and not the fruit of the inventions or the patterns of contemporary culture, and that we may only worship God as he has commanded us to worship. And that if we believe that it's for us to create the church and add all of our ideas, then we have to understand what that means for the church. That means that the church is subject to the next new great communicator or the next powerful personality or the next hot thing that makes people desire to come.
And it makes the church subject to the world. And that's the fatal flaw in the DNA of the Church today. And so we have to decide whether we will emphasize biblical patterns or pragmatic patterns that arise out of the creative brain of the next leader that comes to meet the church on her turf. So there's a third statement that I want to bring to us to help us to understand this whole subject. Now that we've laid this foundation, I wanted us to see, first of all, that this whole idea of family integration, it fits as a piece to a puzzle.
It's not the whole puzzle. And then secondly, that we can only speak authoritatively about this subject if we go back to scripture. And so that's what we'll be doing this weekend. So the third statement to explain family integrated churches, I would like to move through 14 characteristics of family integrated churches. And so what is a family integrated church?
Number one, A family integrated church is an orthodox church that is faithful to Biblical theology and practices. Now it ought to be obvious to everyone that this thing that people are calling a movement is a doctrinally oriented movement. And although many who identify with us have particular doctrinal orientations, we promote particular doctrines that need to be held to. And let me just give you some of the things that we promote in all of our ministry wherever we go. First of all, that the gospel is the central message of the church, that we have been charged with a duty, and that is to teach to all that we come across everything that Christ has taught.
Matthew 28 made that very clear in the Great Commission that we are to teach those that we encounter in the nations. And what do we teach? We teach the gospel. If the gospel is not the center of these churches, then these churches will fall and become just another piece of rubbish in the landscape of creative Christianity. Secondly, orthodox biblical ecclesiology is lived out, meaning that we look to scripture for the things that we do in the church.
Thirdly, that biblical preaching is Practiced. Preaching may be foolish as a style of communication, but God has commanded that we continue the practice of preaching the word of God until he comes again. Biblical church discipline is implemented. And by the way, our fathers in the faith of reformers believe that the true church was characterized by these things that scripture was being preached and that the sacraments were being celebrated and also that discipline in the church was implemented and those were the marks of the true church and they said wherever you find those things there you find the true church. Biblically qualified leaders are appointed and the biblical celebration of the Lord's table is demonstrated.
Baptism is performed. Singing is heard. Why? Because it's commanded. We only sing because the apostles told us that we should sing and in doing so we would be teaching one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
And that we would lift up prayers. Why do we pray? We pray because the Bible tells us to pray. Why do we do evangelism? Why do we send people to regions who have never heard the Gospel?
Because the Bible tells us so. And so a family integrated church is an Orthodox church that is faithful to biblical theology. The emphasis is upon the word of God. This is one of the gigantic focal points of all the things that we emphasize when we do our conferences on this subject. In fact, in Wake Forest for the last few years, we've done an annual conference to train expository preachers.
We believe that unless expository preaching is happening in the church, the churches will not become biblical churches. So we understand that everybody doesn't know how to preach expositionally in the church. And so it's our desire to encourage anyone who will come and join us and spend, you know, a couple of days spending time on this very, very important subject. Well, one of the problems with the church in the midst of all of her practices, she has lost the transgenerational thinking that is the world view of the Bible. And the church is suffering greatly because of this collapse in the family.
But This is just a symptom of a far larger problem. It's a symptom of the rejection of God. It's a symptom of removing the Bible from the center of the church and putting it off to the side and putting pragmatic methods in the forefront. It's the result of losing a sense of the Gospel and preaching the whole counsel of God. These things are just symptoms of this great problem.
This family breakdown is a critical problem that we have, but the family is not the purpose of the church. The glory of God is the purpose of the church. The family is only a means to the glory of God. We don't start with the family, we start with God. We give our energy to God and then we look at what He has commanded us to do and then we, with faithful hearts, desire to replicate it.
So, here we would just say that a family integrated church does not have its center in the family. In fact, if you came to our church, you would find that we preach the Word of God and it just happens to be that families are engaged in it all together. We don't preach about the family all the time, although we do recognize that our families need help and instruction for how to engage family life because most have not grown up understanding what the Bible has said about family life. So there are times, yes, that it's very appropriate for us to do that, but this is not the central focus of the church. So the second characteristic of a family integrated church is that families worship together.
I'm sure that's obvious to everyone that families worship together. We need to recognize that there's no indication from scripture that children were removed from the meetings designed for preaching, reading scripture, prayer, and worship. But in our culture, the removal of children from worship is almost comprehensive. And there are times when it's important for us to get historical perspective so that we can see our times a little bit more clearly. Historical patterns are often different than modern patterns.
You know, it's interesting to me that the critics of the family integrated church movement, they often forget that what we advocate was practiced by most of our treasured pastors and theologians of the past. When Luther and Calvin preached, there were no nurseries. When Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather preached, when George Whitefield preached in the great open theaters, the children were there. Look at the paintings of those gatherings. The children are there.
It's common knowledge that the Puritans experienced a great reformation of family life in their era because they were gathering their children together with them in worship. Let me tell you about some of my favorite family-integrated church pastors. Some of the most important church leaders in the last 400 years practiced family integrated worship and those ministers enjoyed lifelong ministries, preaching the Gospel in their congregations to an age-integrated gathering of people. The whole family was there. And week after week, they found great joy preaching the Word of God to the littlest child looking that one in the eye and then turning his gaze to the great grandfather there sitting in the meeting of the church together.
Let's talk about Richard Baxter. What a joy it must have been for these men to preach to these dear families as they sat there in the pews of their churches. Baxter said, all our teaching must be as plain and simple as possible. If you speak to them, and he was speaking of the children, if you speak to them as plainly as words can express them, as the easiest rules and grammar, most plainly taught, will not be understood by a child that is but learning his alphabet. In other words, Baxter was there, he was very conscious that he was preaching to children who were just barely learning their alphabet and yet he was, he was using Bible words which were beyond their ability to understand everything.
But he gloried in the fact that he was preaching to these dear children who were barely learning the alphabet. How about John Bunyan? How encouraging it must have been to explain the Gospel to whole families and anticipating the growth that would come as these, as John Bunyan would speak to the children in his church. Bunyan said this, you should labor to draw them out to God's public worship if perhaps God may convert their souls. John Bunyan did not like the idea that children would be staying home.
He wanted them in the meeting of the church to hear the preaching of the Word of God that they might be saved from their sins. We could talk about Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry, the great Bible expositor, grew up listening to his own father's sermons and his sermons in his home. Here's what Matthew Henry says. He says, little children should learn betimes to worship God.
Their parents should instruct them in His worship and bring them to it. Put them upon engaging in it as well as they can. And God will graciously accept them and teach them to do better. Think of all the children who sat under the ministry of this wonderful Bible expositor, Matthew Henry. Or how about Jonathan Edwards who is perhaps one of the great intellects in the history of Christianity.
In Northampton where Edwards was for 23 years the children were always present to hear his sermons. Edwards biographer Ian Murray says, no one in those days doubted whether children should be attenders throughout public worship. And there, as Edward was preaching during the Great Awakening, throngs would crush in to the church and they would have to find ways to get everybody in. And he would often have the children lined up on the stairways going up to get as many children in as he possibly could. He says, I have seen the happy effects of dealing plainly and thoroughly with children in the concerns of their souls.
And so what I would just like to submit, that what we're advocating here is nothing new, and it's nothing really odd to those great brothers of ours from another era. Jeremy Walker has summed it up this way. The constant presumption of Scripture is that children are present in the worship of God's people. And we will be speaking in detail about this tomorrow, as I'll spend an entire session speaking of the biblical case for age-integrated discipleship in the church, and we're just going to run from the beginning to the end of scripture to make that case. But it's obvious that the normative practice in Israel and in the early church was to integrate children into the normal practices and the gatherings of God's people.
Nowhere do we find teaching or example that mirrors our modern age-segregated approach to ministry. I'm so grateful that it was the Lord Jesus who said, let the little children come unto me. So what is the Family Integrated Church? It's a place where families worship together. Let me give you another note from the National Center for Family Integrated Church's confession.
The family is a building block. We affirm that biblical family is a scripturally ordered household of parents, children, and sometimes others, such as singles, widows, divorcees, and grandparents, forming the God-ordained building blocks of the Church. We deny the church's implementation of modern individualism by fragmenting the family through age-graded, peer-oriented, and special interest classes, thus preventing rather than promoting family unity and intergenerational relationships. And so we would just say, hold fast to the pattern of sound words because this pattern of age integration is something that we find all over the Bible. Well, so not only do we find families worshiping together, we also advocate that Singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of church life.
Singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of church life. In modern churches, singles are isolated into their own age categories generally. It was interesting, I was having lunch with a singles pastor recently, and he was expressing his concerns to me. He had become discouraged about the results of his ministry and he said that he was disheartened because he began to believe that when you put singles together their maturity is stifled. That's what he said.
He said these people's maturity is being stifled by the group that I have them in. He was a vocational singles pastor and he said that they get more and more selfish and they get more and more absorbed in their own needs and he was saying wouldn't it be okay to incorporate them into the larger fellowship of the church? And of course, you know, my answer to that would be obvious, but singles have a marvelous opportunity to minister in the church. They do not have the added burdens of family that the Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 7, he who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord, but he who is married cares about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. Well this is not an argument against marriage.
It's just an acknowledgement that there are certain freedoms that a single person has and when there is a single person in the church, they can be a blessing in an unusual way to all the members of the household of faith. So singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of life in the church. You know, it's critical that singles understand the opportunity that they have, that they have an enormous opportunity in their hands to bring glory to God through the time that they have. They can be more mobile, they can live on less, there are so many advantages. Of course, the apostle Paul himself was single, and we can't forget that the Lord Jesus Christ was single.
There are many famous singles in the Bible who are incredibly inspiring to us, but singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of church life. And then fathers are equipped to be spiritual leaders of their homes. And this acknowledges the fact that God has placed fathers as heads of their households. And he calls them to be the pastors, and the theologians, and the trainers of those in his household. And he stands in his house as the head of his household and that he is commanded by God that he would take the commandments of God into his heart and he would teach them diligently to his children and talk of them when he sits in the house, when he walks by the way, when he lies down, and when he rises up.
And so in a family integrated church, there would be encouragement for fathers to play this critical role in the life of their children in their households. And that they would love the word of God and that they would love their children and not a single day would pass in which the children were not instructed in the word of God and that prayers were lifted up and songs were sung to the Lord so that God would also be the center of their little household, their little church. You know, the Puritans said that every church is as, every house is as a little church and there is a head of that church that dispenses the knowledge of God in that little church called a household. Well, what's happened to us in our culture? Well, I think it's pretty obvious to most people that A meltdown has occurred in the church and there has been a meltdown of masculinity among the men in our culture.
Robert Lewis calls it a masculine meltdown of historic proportions. And a great part of manhood is to fill one's mind with the word of God and then to deliver it daily in the household. And so the Scriptures are perfectly clear that children should be trained in spiritual matters by their fathers and their father is the front line delivery system for the things of the kingdom of God. And when you bypass that father you have rejected the biblical order for church and home. But in our churches today, it's more common to bypass that father.
We put him on the shelf, we push him aside, and we do the job for him. In a family integrated church, we would advocate that the father's role would be promoted and there are a number of ways that it must be promoted. For example, if a father is so busy doing so many things in the church that he has no time to minister his family, those programs should be sliced out of the program because they're stealing from a father's discipleship responsibility. And so bypassing a Father has become the norm in the church. Look at where the bulk of the energy of human resources is directed in the average church.
Well, tremendous energy is exerted toward the great programs, the machinery of the church. But very little energy is directed to the equipping of fathers. And so our message is that there needs to be an energy shift in the church, and that fathers should remove whatever obstacles there are in their responsibility to deliver the message of the kingdom to their families when they sit in their house, when they walk by the way, when they lie down, and when they rise up. This is a command of Scripture that must be recovered in the churches. We so allow a disobedience to this command of Scripture that we have overtaken a father's role.
We have usurped it with youth groups and children's churches and things like that. And so the exemplary Father in our church today feels like He's bringing His children up in the training and the admonition of the Lord when He simply drops them off in a Sunday school class with a teacher he admires while he completely neglects to the harm of his family and the next generation his God-given responsibility. And then the fifth is that biblical roles and jurisdictions are in order. God has established three parallel jurisdictions that function in society. There's first of all the civil government, which is established by God to punish evildoers and to wield the sword.
Romans 13 gives the detail on that. The church has been charged to preach the word of God, to spread the Gospel, to administer the Lord's Supper, to baptize, to administer church discipline, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and bring the whole family together for worship and celebration. That's a separate jurisdiction under a separate headship of qualified elders. And then you have the jurisdiction of the family, this third parallel jurisdiction that we find established by God, which is to provide marriage and headship and care for children and the training of the next generation. The husband is the head of the wife and the head of the children and he is responsible for their care and their protection and their spiritual well-being.
Well, what we have in the modern church is a usurpation of jurisdictions. The church does what the family should do. The state does what the church should do. And this is a violation of the clear jurisdictional lines that are drawn in Scripture. So in a family-integrated church you would find a consciousness of the various jurisdictions and the roles and the responsibilities that exist there.
And there's honor for all of them at one time because they are parallel. Now I'm one of those people that believes that modern youth ministries subvert God's pattern for spiritual training because they assume a role that they were never intended to assume and that is the teaching of children. God specifically gave that task to fathers And then when those fathers bring their children in the meeting of the church, they sit under the teaching of qualified elders and they are also benefited by those others who have gifts, other men, the pastors and the evangelists and the teachers that are in the church in a relational way. Those aren't offices. Those are functions that roll naturally and relationally in the church.
Now, I just want to make a critical comment here. Some people have said that what we advocate, or this movement, if you want to call it that, is based on a wrong ecclesiological foundation. And to prove that statement, that we have our foundation wrong, they go to a statement on our website where we say in our confession that the church is a spiritual family of families and singles, that's what we say. The church is a spiritual family of families and singles. I'll show it to you right here.
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 and shepherds understand the sheep effectively and various body parts function interactively. We deny, we 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. And so what happens is that people will use this statement that we say that the church is a family of families and they slanderously use it against us and they say these people believe that the church is a family of families. That's the only thing they believe about the church. And that statement was never intended to become the irreducible statement that defines our understanding of the church.
It's just one little slice. And it's just to say that when a family walks into a church, it's more than individuals that are walking into that church. There's a father walking into that church who has a a separate jurisdiction. There's a mother and a wife, there are children and all of them have responsibilities and it's the responsibility of church leaders to recognize those biblical jurisdictions and roles to bless them, not destroy them and obliterate them in the meetings of the church and in everything, not by just treating everyone as a separate individual and sending them all their own way. So we're not saying that the irreducible principle of the church is that it's a family of families.
What we are saying, though, is that when a family walks into the meeting of the church, they walk in also as a family, and they are walking into their eternal family, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there in that church, these two separate jurisdictions, yet complementary and integrally important to one another, are there together in the church. And so we say that a family integrated church recognizes biblical roles and jurisdictions and we promote them so that the Church understands who they are and what their responsibilities are in a given environment. So not only do we promote biblical roles in jurisdictions, we also say that children are not isolated but incorporated as full participants in the life of the church. So we don't see any evidence that children form a separate society and put them into a tank of people just like them.
We don't see any evidence for that at all in scripture. Adolescence is regarded as a myth. We recognize that there's a wrong view of childhood afoot. You know, 100 years ago, adolescents barely existed. Before then, you know, children worked beside their parents and assumed adult responsibilities very, very early in life.
Now, We don't believe youth can do anything important or sophisticated. And we think that's totally against the testimony of scripture. In scripture, there is an acknowledgment of ages. But generally, what you find is you find there are two categories. There's the older and the younger.
Those are the two age categories. I'm not sure which one I'm part of. My father, who's 84 years old, he thinks I'm younger. I look at my son and my daughter and I think I'm older. Well I don't know but we're the older and the younger in the Bible.
And this age segregated world that we've created is a modern invention and it fights against the patterns of discipleship and relationship that we find in the Bible. I mean, Uzziah was 16 when he became king. David, you know, before he became king, was an accomplished musician and was, you know, was killing wild animals with his bare hands. These were people of responsibility and strength. They rose up and did things early in life.
And so we promote that. Children are not isolated, but they are incorporated as full participants among the people of God. And then biblical youth ministry is implemented. We know what modern youth ministry is, but What is biblical youth ministry? Where does the idea of a youth group come from?
Can you find it anywhere in this book? Search the scriptures. This is the most important information that we have regarding the ministry of our churches. Search the scriptures and find the concept of the youth group. Find the principle of the youth group.
Find a command for this practice that we spend so much money on. Find it. Well, you can't find it. That's the problem. And so when we search the scriptures, you do not find the principle, you do not find the practice, you don't find the word, you don't find an illustration of it anywhere.
The closest resemblance to a youth group in the Bible that I'm aware of happened in a 42 person youth group that's recorded in 2 Kings chapter 2. And there were 42 youth who were making fun of the prophet and Bears came and devoured all 42 in the youth group. That's the one place you can go to demonstrate a group of youth gathering together. And the passage gives a brilliant illustration of the impact of concentrated foolishness. And this concept of youth groups is absent from all biblical ecclesiological language.
And so we must first acknowledge this one thing, that however much we liked our youth group or how much we benefited from it that this idea does not come from the teaching of the apostles or the prophets or the Lord Jesus Christ. We could talk about the results of 6-year-olds learning culture from 6-year-olds and 13-year-olds learning culture from 13-year-olds, we could talk about that and I think the results of this are legendary and we don't really need to go over the disastrous situation that the church is in today. The church is absolutely losing the next generation. All the researchers say somewhere between 70 and 90% of the children in our most conservative youth groups will never return to church after their freshman year in college. So, I mean, I just think it's just a statistical reality.
You know, it's not being beaten out there in the world as far as I know anywhere. These are just broad trends and features of modern church life. You know, a friend of mine went to his friend who had several children and he said, you do know that three of your children you will lose in that church if normal life happens. And that's just a reality. Imagine that.
You almost face a guarantee of this in these modern churches. And somebody needs to stand up and yell fire and say, hey, wait, what is wrong with this picture? One thing that's wrong with this picture is that we're doing something that is not found in Scripture. So we say that biblical youth ministry should be implemented and biblical youth ministry is conducted by fathers and their households and the preaching and the teaching of qualified elders and the participation of the relational life in a local church. That's how biblical youth ministry should be conducted.
There is a way that you ought to conduct yourself in the Church of God. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that so clearly, and I believe he would have us understand it as well. And then, eighth, wives are functioning according to their biblical complementarian roles as helpers to their husbands and nurturers of children in home. Now, children in the home. Now, God has established gender-oriented roles.
And He has illustrated them, and he has commanded particular functions to be carried out by the various genders. And, you know, the apostles said, I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ and the head of woman is man and the head of Christ is God. There is an order, there's an order and authority that's critical. The head of Christ is God and the head of man is Christ and the head of woman is man. That's the order.
And if you get any of those out of order, you have big trouble. Imagine man becoming the head of Christ. What would that be called? That would be called apostasy. That would be called the Luciferian rebellion, that's what that would be called.
So it's not appropriate for man to be head of Christ or a head of God, neither is it proper for a woman to be head of man. There is an order and authority that God has established in all of life. And there are many commands that outline the particular roles and responsibilities of fathers and mothers. And there should be a promotion of these roles in the church. And because these roles that are so clear in scripture have been blurred so terribly.
I just completed a short book on this subject. I think we're going to be able to have some copies here. It's called Feminine by Design. It gives 12 pillars of biblical femininity. They're the things that I desired to teach my daughters when they were growing up so that they would know what it means to be a woman.
And what does that mean? Well, you're a woman, not a man. You're a help me. You're a keeper at home. These things define biblical femininity.
And unless you know those and love them and continue with them, you'll have all messed up gender roles in your church. And so it's appropriate for us to teach the various gender roles. And all of our little daughters and all of our men need to know what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man because you're not going to get that out there in the media anymore. But the Bible is very, very clear about it. And my belief is that every boy and every girl should be memorizing those texts of scripture so that they're not washed off of their moorings in this wicked and perverse generation that we live in today.
You know, one of the things that I'm so grateful for is to have daughters. Here's my daughter Claudia a few years ago. My daughter Claudia is in motherhood training. Civilization is hanging in the balance for what my daughter Claudia will do. Claudia, I trust, will save civilization one, you know, one child at a time.
She tells me that she would like to have the same number of children that Sarah Edwards had. Sarah Edwards, the wife of the Great Awakening preacher, Jonathan Edwards, had 16 children. And so my daughter, you know, from the time she was really little, has wanted to have 16 children just like Sarah Edwards. And we laugh about that. Well, if all of, if she does this and all of her children do this for five generations, my little daughter, Claudia, will have a million children on the ground.
If she does it for eight generations, it's four billion children. If it's ten generations, it's one trillion. Of course, that will never happen, right? It assumes that all of her children are going to have 16 children who will have 16 children who will have 16 children. But I'll tell you this, a daughter needs to understand that God has given her an amazing role in this world to carry and give birth to the next generation that will go on.
And she needs to know that this role of biblical femininity is so critical and she should let nothing get in the way of that role. She should let no friend, no church, no government, no one get in the role, in the way of the role that God has given to her. Because of the atmosphere of feminism that pervades our world today, this is a really, really critical issue because nobody grows up just understanding what biblical femininity is or biblical masculinity. So we have to, in our churches, teach these things. It's critical that we do it.
And I really do believe that in many ways civilization hangs in the balance of what mothers do with their time and whether they will pour all of their heart into the next generation. We get a lot of criticism for this position that we take, but I will say I would rather be before the throne of God at the end of my life and have God say, where are the guys who said that women should stay home and pour all of their heart and soul into their precious children. Where are those men? I want to be one of those men on judgment day who said that women should be keepers at home, that they should be helpers of their husbands, that they should act and dress and live like women and not men, that we do not train our daughters to be corporate executives but we train them to be keepers at home. And this is so critical.
So we promote wives functioning according to their biblical complementarian roles as helpers to their husbands and nurturers of the children in the home. This is something that needs to be encouraged and promoted, and there's much fear in the hearts of men and women to engage this, to fearlessly embrace what God has said about womanhood. And He has said it as clearly as anything has ever been said. And then ninth, we say that a family integrated church means that biblical offices and biblical requirements for church leaders are applied. There are two offices prescribed in Scripture.
They are the Office of Elder and the Office of Deacon. And these are to be qualified in particular ways. There are two problems with this. First of all, there's no biblical basis for the office of the senior pastor. There's no biblical basis for the office of recreation pastor or youth pastor or children's minister in the Bible.
That's one great problem, is that we have invented, we have invented many offices of the church that are unbiblical. This is one of the features of the Roman Catholic Church. They've invented dozens and dozens of offices that were never prescribed by God. There are bishops and archbishops and archdeacons and canons, regular and canons, every other kind you can imagine. One new church function after another.
But God has said there are two. There are not three or ten or twenty. And so we promote biblical offices in the church. The second problem with biblical offices in the church is that many church leaders are currently leading their churches but they're disqualified because they're not managing their households well. In a state of the collapse of the family as we have today, one of the problems is that it puts a big hurt on church leaders.
And what we know today is that there are many, many church leaders who do not manage their households well. And because of this, they are disqualified by the word of God to be leading these congregations. And then not only are biblical offices and requirements for church leaders applied but family integration as a principle guides programs for equipping in evangelism. This means that, in general, families are walking together in discipleship and evangelism and missions, and they're not segregated. There's a beautiful picture of this in Acts chapter 21, where the Apostle Paul is leaving on a ship and all the families, all the children come and they pray with the apostle there on the beach.
Specifically mentioned are the children who were there at that time of prayer. That was the way that life in the church was engaged. And we believe that generally, you know, the functions and the programs of the church should be age integrated, should be family integrated. Now there are people who say they believe that the family never can be separated. That's absolutely ridiculous.
We don't believe that. We don't practice that in our own church. There are times when it is appropriate for the whole family not to be there. And so we're not saying that the family always has to be together in every single thing that happens in the church. That's not the message.
What is the message though is that age integration is a principle that you see across scripture, and we'll delve into this in depth tomorrow. But this principle is clear all over the Bible, and so we promote it. You know, how can the older women instruct the younger women if they're off in their age segregated classes? How can the elderly help the younger ones if they're off in their senior citizen class? How can they fulfill the command of God for the older to teach the younger?
And so church life should be age integrated and that principle of family integration should be promoted in a biblical church. And then number 11, the household and hospitality are the centerpiece of community ministry. There are many hospitality commands in scripture. One of the most fascinating studies you can engage in is the study of the use of the term household in the book of Acts. Study it sometime.
It's amazing what ministry happens in a household or flip back to the gospels, you'll find the same thing or keep going back and you'll find amazing things happening in households. The Passover itself was celebrated in the household to save the family from destruction. So there are, there is a loss of an understanding of the household and its prominence in the work of the kingdom of God in the earth. And so a biblical church should promote a biblical view of the household and not lead the people astray to think that ministry only happens in the four walls of a building. You know, in established churches that mentality really does run through most of the people that are there.
That if you're a faithful Christian, the ministry is going to happen in the building, but it doesn't happen in your home. And we need to see our homes differently. And then, twelfthly, the ministry is not primarily programmatic, but relational. Here we find the rich, relational texture of the church to be defined in a lot of ways. Here's one way in the one anothers that we find in the New Testament.
There are over 50 one anothers in the New Testament, and they, when obeyed and applied, provide for a blessed church life. The grace and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ is spread in the church relationally. And the church is not designed to be one program after another where people sit like cabbages listening to a talking head. The ministry of the church is very personal and it's very relational. And so we would advocate that biblical churches should be very careful to over-program their people so that the relational life is robbed from them.
And then 13, the fatherless are brought into the mainstream of church and family life. So the question is what do you do with youth without families? What do you do with that ocean of lost young men and that ocean of lost young women who do not have godly families, what will you do for them? And what we ought to do for them is to engage what God has given us toward them. The New Testament pattern explains what we should do.
And we find ministry to the fatherless explained in a number of places in Scripture. You know, we need more men who think like Job thought. In Job 29, he says, I delivered the poor and the fatherless. I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I was a father to the poor.
I plucked the victims from its teeth." And, you know, the New Testament has a roadmap for the care of the fatherless and the widow. We know what pure and undefiled religion is. That means that the families of the church should be bringing these people into their homes and feeding them and taking them on outings and taking them to the church, bring them into an eternal family, a family so far better than any family they'll ever see, the family of God. It is for families to incorporate the lost children of this world into their family life. Who is your neighbor?
And that's the question that we need to be asking. So the fatherless should be brought into the mainstream of church and family life. What do you do with those lost youth? Well, you don't take them to a rock and roll concert. You bring them into your family and you expose them to family worship.
You read the Bible to them. You have them for meals and you take them to the blessed meetings of the church so that they will know that there is a God who has created a wonderful family for them for all eternity. And then lastly, number 14, multigenerational faithfulness is promoted. There is a multigenerational mentality that runs throughout Scripture. You, your son and your grandson all the days of your life.
And you find that kind of language all throughout Scripture. And there is a way that you ought to conduct yourself in the household of God. And it does include a consciousness of the importance of age or of multi-generational faithfulness. And so families need to understand that they have a purpose in this world that goes beyond their own lifespan, that they must pour their energy into the next generation so that the gospel would be preached in all the neighborhoods that their children might live in, that in every neighborhood that their children go to, there is a light, there is a source of blessing that there is a demonstration of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There's a dinner table in which the lost of this world can come and receive food and encouragement and happiness from those people who love the kingdom of God.
And so multi-generational faithfulness must be promoted. Now the investment that we are making has returns. And I want to tell you that I personally am extremely hopeful for the returns that I'm seeing from an age-integrated ministry. My heart is full of encouragement because I'm seeing dozens and dozens of wonderful effects of age integrated ministry. I want to talk about the product of the architecture of the church, This one little piece of the architecture of the great building of God, this age-integrated discipleship methodology that we see.
And I want to give you an illustration and try to explain it by giving this illustration. A couple of years ago my daughter was married and I had the amazing privilege of walking her down the aisle. I dreamed about this moment for a long time. And before this time though, she brought me her vows just a few weeks before the wedding and she said, Papa, I want you to look over these vows and tell me what you think. And I read the vows, I'll never forget the moment, I was in our kitchen and I was just overcome with emotion because all of her vows were extracted from the various phrases and words of Scripture.
She wanted her vows to read like a running stream of Scripture, not varying from it at all. She desired that her life with her husband would be a reflection of what God had said in Scripture. You know, there are, you know, when you're writing your vows, there are two places you can get them. You can just go make them up, or you can go get them from somewhere. And my daughter went to scripture.
And so she was married, and they said their vows. And it was just a very, very happy, happy occasion. But one of the things that was so encouraging to me was here was one of the dear daughters of Zion who had been raised in an age-integrated ministry that had an understanding of multi-generational faithfulness which had a sense of the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture. And there she was with her vows coming directly out of Scripture. And here's what I'm seeing.
I'm seeing that there is a rising generation, and this generation of sons and daughters desire to build their lives out of this holy, sufficient, perfect book. And they desire to engage their lives in that way. Here are some of their vows. This, her husband Peter did the same thing and I had the privilege of sitting down with he and his father going over these vows. It was one of the most blessed experiences of my life.
The vows read like this, you and to provide for you in the fear of the Lord. I vow to love you as my wife even as Christ loved the church, to lay down my life for you, to wash you with the water of the word, to love you as my own body, and to nourish and cherish you even as the Lord does the church. To render unto you the affection due you, knowing that I do not have authority over my own body, but you do. To dwell with you according to knowledge, giving honor unto you as unto the weaker vessel and living together with you as heirs, together of the grace of life. You alone will be my delight and the wife of my youth.
I will fight for you for our sons, for our daughters, and for our household. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death, part you in me. I will be yours in times of plenty and in times of want, in times of sickness, in times of health, in times of joy, in times of sorrow, in times of failure, in times of triumph. I pledge to you my life as a loyal and faithful husband." What I love about these vows is that they had the imprint, they had the pattern, they had the tupos, the pattern of sound doctrine that they had learned day after day in their houses. And so There is a complementary pattern for family and church life.
There is a design and God is the great designer of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in the architecture of this great family of God. Families are brought together and every aspect of the design is not meant to exalt the family, but to use the family for the glory of God and to communicate the gospel from one generation to the next. And I would just like to say that family integration is only one architectural element of biblical church life. But if you lose that one element, you lose much.
Some of you are suffering even now. Some of you are losing your children to the youth culture in your churches and the wrong, unbiblical, worldly discipleship methods that have become part of the architecture. And so it is for us to examine the architecture and look to that great designer and ask him, O Lord, we are ready for the imprint of the pattern of sound words. May that be so among us. Would you pray with me?
Lord, I give thanks to you for the church which has nursed me and corrected me and comforted me all of the days since I first was converted so many years ago. I praise you for your church and I pray that You would help each one of us to treat this bride, this body, this family, ever so well until You take us home. In Jesus' name, amen.