Dangers from the Home?

feature-article.gifSince the beginning of Christianity, believers have been warned of enemies from both outside and inside the church (Acts 20:29–30). Fundamental churches have long been aware of attacks in the form of apostate teaching and the social gospel. As well, fundamentalism has responded to brethren who have refused to separate from unbelieving and disobedient believers and ministries.

In recent years, new dangers to Christ’s Bride have arisen, oftentimes noticed but sometimes even promoted by men and ministries who should know better. Amazingly some of these threats originate from the most unlikely of sources—the Christian home!

These dangerous threats to the church believe that the family is the most important institution, resulting in a refusal to acknowledge the primary, central role God has given the local church in doing his will in this age. Frequently, the movements that allegedly seek to strengthen the Christian home bring either division in local churches or complete abandonment in favor of “home churching.”

Integrated Church Movement
The first danger to Christ’s Bride, the church, is the Integrated Church Movement. The main proponents of this movement are Vision Forum (led by Doug Phillips) and the Institute for Uniting Church and Home. This movement blames local churches for much of the decline of the family. Their charges are many and their solutions clearly stated:

  • Church exists for the family, and the family unit must shape, mold, and control everything about local church ministries.
  • Churches allegedly “destroy” family unity when they have grade or age-based classes and activities. They view such forced disruption of the family as evil.
  • If a local church does not meet the demands of the movement, its members must seek to change the church, even if division results.
  • If these efforts are unsuccessful, members committed to the primacy and centrality of the family are to separate from the church and either worship at home or start their own church.

Harold Camping
A second danger to the church is Harold Camping and Family Radio, the ministry he started almost fifty years ago. In the early 1990s, Camping predicted Christ’s return in 1994 (this obvious error has since been adjusted to the fall of 2011). Camping has been teaching during the last decade that God is now finished with the church era, so churches no longer have any divine authority. He teaches that the Great Tribulation has come and the Holy Spirit has left all the churches. Satan now rules in the churches, which are now the whore Babylon (Rev 17:1). Thus, Camping instructs believers to obey God’s command to come out of the churches (Rev 18:4). It does not matter how faithful a church may be, believers must obey God’s command and come out.

How are believers to grow in the faith? Of course, by listening to and supporting Family Radio! Rather than assembling with other believers, Christians should stay at home, read the Bible, and listen to Camping over the airwaves. Amazingly, Camping has said that the angel flying in the midst of heaven preaching the gospel (Rev 14:6–7) is the gospel going across the airwaves through radio!

Bill Gothard
A third current danger to Christ’s Bride is Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles. This ministry has been ecumenical since its beginning, including all groups who profess Christianity, even the Roman Catholic Church. Gothard has built up a solid following, reinforced and strengthened through its publications, annual homeschool meetings in Knoxville, TN, and homeschool education materials that perpetuate his distinctive teachings. He provides regular conferences for pastors, manuals for proper church order and structure, a complete outline for a church ministry, and a minister’s manual.

Too often families following Gothard’s teachings make his doctrines the determining factor in joining a church. Anyone in the church who does not follow Gothard or teaches against him is viewed with suspicion and distrust. Disagreeing with Gothard frequently fosters division in local churches. Frequently, Gothard’s followers demonstrate a greater loyalty to the man than to Christ’s church.

Homeschooling
A last, contemporary danger to the local church is the homeschool movement. To be sure, not all families that homeschool their children seek to undermine their local churches. Indeed, my children have always been educated at home! However, this movement is easily susceptible to the previous three movements or other dangers that can corrupt a biblical view of the local church. Often homeschooling families turn their complete focus toward themselves, distrust any outside authority (especially the church), or elevate family concerns over that of the corporate church and other believers. A self-sufficient and suspicious attitude affects their attitude toward the church: We do not need public or Christian schools and we do not need the church either.

Instead of sound doctrine guiding the activity and fellowship among families the uniting factor among homeschoolers is—homeschooling! It has been my frequent experience that families stop coming to church because of the negative peer pressure from homeschool families outside of our church that have unbiblical doctrinal beliefs and practices! I have had fathers tell me “Church is good for families that need help” and of course, theirs does not, so they do not fellowship. I have had others tell me “Our family is having problems, so we’re not going to come until we get these problems solved.” Two opposite beliefs, but one common denominator: family always trumps the church!

The Primacy of the Local Church
God expects believers to grow in their faith by growing together in God’s Word. The growth and protection Christians need to experience occurs as believers assemble as a local church—it will not happen by individuals or families attempting to do it on their own. Christians and Christian families need each other to grow in their Christian faith. God has established the church—the local church—as the means for fulfilling his ends in this age. 1 Timothy 3:15 is very clear—the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, not an individual or the family!

Believers are known as the church. In the New Testament, Christians are always identified with other Christians. The images used to describe this essential relationship between Christians are a body and a family (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:14–15, 21). Christians associate with and are committed to each other simply because they are Christians! That’s what Christians do because that’s who they are—a body and a family.

Believers assemble to grow in their faith. Believers grow by assembling together (Acts 2:42), learning from the pastors and teachers Christ gave for that purpose (Eph 4:12–13), and building up one another (1 Thess 5:11). The result of this every-member ministry is the maturity and protection of the whole body (Eph 4:14).

Believers assemble to obey Jesus Christ. The book of Acts shows that the Great Commission was fulfilled when the church preached the gospel, baptized believers, and organized them into local churches. Christians are to remember Christ’s death by observing the Lord’s Supper when they assemble with their local church until Christ comes (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:23–26).

Believers assemble to worship God. When the Bible speaks of believers worshiping they worship together (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 14:24–25; Jas 2:2). Almost every biblical reference to believers worshipping involves their assembling for that very purpose. These commands to worship God—whether through the Word, prayer, singing, or giving—cannot be fulfilled on a personal or family basis but only by the entire local body of believers.

Believers assemble to encourage each other to continue in the faith. The experience of people leaving or never joining a church is nothing new; it was present even in the New Testament! There were individuals then, as there are now, who wanted nothing to do with a good church, who steered clear of other believers, who kept away and stayed away. God’s command is clear: “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25). You cannot find a clearer statement from God about believers’ need to assemble with other believers. There were people who said they were Christians but made forsaking the assembly of believers a habit, and God uses them as a negative example, something not to do.

Movements that elevate themselves over Christ’s church to strengthen the Christian home actually have the opposite effect. Homes only become stronger in the Christian faith and protected from the world as they grow, serve, and follow the institution Christ established: the local church. Thankfully many families—including my own!—have come through some of these dangers to learn this lesson.

September 2007

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