A Critique of Family Driven Faith: Part One
A Critique of Voddie Baucham's Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes To Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk With God
Our elders get asked all the time whether we would endorse a particular book, ministry resource, or popular teaching. Cultivating biblical discernment is one of the most crucial aspects of the believer’s growth in the Lord. What’s difficult is that trusted teachers and authors sometimes publish questionable viewpoints, even serious errors, which foster confusion and promote unbiblical ideas. It’s our burden as shepherds of the flock to bring biblical clarity to these challenges and help the sheep distinguish between truth and error. A critique of otherwise faithful, godly leaders should always be loving and gracious, but where a ministry’s output has become unsound it should be pointed out, corrected, and the body of Christ strongly cautioned if the error persists. In that spirit, below is a brief critique of the book Family Driven Faith, authored by the Family Integration Movement’s most well-known proponent, Voddie Bacham. While evangelicalism has benefitted greatly from Voddie’s preaching ministry and faithful gospel labors, we hope this brief review will help foster greater discernment regarding this influential teaching on the family and the church.
Voddie Baucham is the pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, a flagship ministry in the Family Integrated Church Movement. The distinctive of the Family Integrated Church (FIC) is its strong emphasis on equipping parents to fulfill their biblical responsibility to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). As a part of the FIC’s attempt to carry out that biblical mandate, churches insist that families are not separated by ages and are seated together for all public gatherings of the church (hence “integrated”) and roundly rejects all Sunday Schools, youth groups, or other age-graded “niche” ministries. Baucham’s book, Family Driven Faith, is an explanation of the philosophy behind the FIC’s ministry structure.
Baucham’s observation that many Christian parents have grossly neglected their God-given ministry of teaching the scriptures to their children is sadly accurate and his strong objection to the spiritually inane methods of many church youth groups is equally valid. But Family Driven Faith (FDF) offers solutions to these errors which are problematic on three fronts. First, FDF over-generalizes the issue by equating all involvement in age-graded ministry to children/students with abdication of parental responsibility. Second, FDF sets ministry within the family and within the church at odds. And third, FDF convolutes clear biblical mandates and Baucham’s personal application of those mandates so that, at times, the two are virtually indistinguishable.
The following excerpts and comments will substantiate these very real concerns:
1. Family Driven Faith equates having children involved in a church’s ministry to students with abdication of parental responsibility.
Baucham makes a clear case for the primacy of parents’ ministry in their children’s lives:
“Contrary to popular belief, the home, not the church, has been entrusted with the primary responsibility of teaching children the Bible.” (p. 95)
“This is the linchpin in every argument I have made or will make in this book. God has designed your family – not the youth group, not the children’s ministry, not the Christian School, but your family - as the principal agent in your children’s lives.” (p. 120)
The text also concedes that while a parent’s role is indeed primary it is not exclusive. FDF does allow a place for the involvement of others in the spiritual development of children:
“That is not to say that parents should reject any help. If I believed that, I wouldn’t have written this book. (p. 91)
“That doesn’t mean we would be the only ones who would teach, and nurture…on the contrary, we have had numerous partners in the process over the years. I am grateful for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends who have walked with us through the ups and downs.” (p. 93)
“…I’m not saying that I wouldn’t welcome help, advice, mentoring, and/or support from someone who has raised teenagers, has proven himself as a parent, and is well trained and competent in handling the scriptures. I am more than happy to rely on such help to assist and undergird me in my task.” (p. 179)
Inexplicably, however, Baucham contradicts himself by actually rejecting parenting-partnerships if it happens to come from the local church! FDF considers children or student ministry pastors as inappropriate “trained professionals” and uncharitably characterizes the church’s planned effort to teach scripture to children or teens as “systematic age-segregation” and “extra-biblical isolationism” (his terms, not evangelicalism’s p. 180 & 182). FDF and the FIC Movement seek to completely do away with any organized children’s/youth, even viewing them as threatening to the family and clearly equates age-graded teaching-formats with parental abdication as shown in the following excerpts:
“Moses saw the home as the principle delivery system for the transmittal of God’s truth from generation to generation. There is no hint – here or anywhere else in the Bible– of the multigenerational teaching of the truths of God being abdicated by parents in favor of ‘trained professionals’… we must be careful not to shift the responsibility for our children’s biblical training onto anyone else.” (p.91)
“Nor is there anything inherently wrong with seeking help when we need it. However, we have gone beyond seeking help to abdicating our responsibility. Unfortunately, this abdication has become… common in spiritual matters.” (p. 95)
“I believe one of the greatest crutches in the church is the nursery. Parents who have neglected to train their children have very little encouragement to do so when there is a place to hide them.” P.147
“It is not the job of the youth pastor to evangelize my child - that’s my job. It is not the youth pastor’s job to equip (disciple) my child - its mine. And it is not the youth pastor’s job to send my child out to engage the world; you guessed it-that’s my job too… I am also pleased to have other significant adults in my teenager’s lives. However, I am not about to turn my child over to a youth pastor for their discipleship. Again, that is my job.” (p. 179)
“…It wouldn’t matter if the youth pastor were a forty-year-old Ph.D. with five children of his own whom he had raised successfully. That would still not justify the abdication of parental responsibility.” (p. 180)
“Parents who take their disciple-making mandate seriously are beginning to be skeptical about turning their children over to the youth ministry.” (p. 183)
Certainly, parents MUST NOT “abdicate” their primary teaching role to anyone else! However, it’s one thing to say that many parents neglect their spiritual responsibilities, “pawning” their children off to youth leaders and other teachers in the church. It’s quite another thing to imply that Scripture forbids a local church from teaching truth in various contexts, on the Lord’s Day, to someone else’s children. The FIC movement teaches that since God gives the primary role of truth-teaching to the parents, and because many (although they imply “all” outside the FIC fraternity) parents are guilty of using the church’s teachers as surrogates, therefore the Bible forbids formats on the Lord’s Day that allow others to teach truth to your children. Baucham may qualify such ideas during teaching venues or personal conversations, but his book attempts no such balance.
The concern about parental abdication is a legitimate one. Our culture breeds lazy, self-absorbed family life, resulting in the gross spiritual neglect of children and unchecked parental hypocrisy. We applaud any movement that challenges fathers and mothers to take up their spiritual mantle. Self-centered neglect of the family is patently unbiblical. But mandating that churches do away with multiple teaching contexts in favor of corporate integrated family worship is just as unbiblical! The idea that parent & child must always be taught together in a worship service is no more authoritative than “age-segregated” formats. Neither is the issue. To use Baucham’s logic and phraseology, there is “no hint…anywhere else in the Bible” commanding parents and children to always be sitting together while being taught the truth in a worship service. While Baucham vigorously charges that “the American practice of systematic age segregation goes beyond the biblical mandate” (p. 180), unfortunately he seems oblivious to fact that the FIC’s “insistence on integration as an ecclesiological principal” (p. 196) is also not grounded in scripture and therefore “goes beyond the biblical mandate.” Solving weaknesses in the church and family with another brand of extra-biblical, personal preferences is confusing and prone to further weaknesses. The answer to parental abdication is clear biblical instruction (God’s actual mandates for the family), godly mentoring/discipleship, and praying for strength in the grace of Christ. This can be accomplished through a wonderful variety of resources within the body of Christ. The issue is not one of ministry methodologies, teaching contexts, or the inexperience of youth pastors—as Baucham implicitly admits when he says: ““…It wouldn’t matter if the youth pastor were a forty-year-old Ph.D. with five children of his own whom he had raised successfully. That would still not justify the abdication of parental responsibility.” (p. 180)
Baucham’s fervor is commendable, but too often his diagnosis and cure is a confusing blend of general biblical principles and his own personal practice within his family.
Tomorrow we will address the second concern.
Jerry Wragg and Todd Murray (professors at The Expositors Seminary and pastors at Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, Florida) wrote this review of Family Driven Faith.