A couple weeks ago, while I was doing some research for a podcast, I was reminded that in Scripture, the number 12 represents perfection. So it is probably a good thing that I am now adding number 13 to the series on the pros and cons of the family integrated church model since, I believe, there is no perfect solution to the church crisis that many homeschooling families face.

Today I sincerely hope that those who are directing the family integrated church movement, the pastors, the elders, and the self-appointed leaders within the homeschooling community, are listening and are willing to honestly access the consequences of their agenda. I also pray that they would be willing to make changes in their approach to ministry to bring it back into alignment with the mission of the church universal. While I realize that not all churches who list themselves with the National Center for Family Integrated Churches practice the excesses I am writing about today, there is no doubt that the leadership within this movement promotes these teachings and is using homeschoolers to advance their agenda.

Since this is a movement birthed, incubated, and advanced within the culture of homeschooling, it is one that must be examined and held up for scrutiny, challenged and understood by those who dearly love home education and who do not want to see its demise. In all sincerity, I know that homeschoolers both outside and inside the FIC movement DO love home education and they do desire to see it flourish. But I also have to wonder if the steps the FIC movement is taking to narrowly define a biblical lifestyle and church life are done so out of naivete, ignorance, or a purposeful attempt at recreating an elite group of believers.

Perhaps it seems harsh to suggest that the very groups who have so long educated their children at home now have the potential within themselves to greatly damage its credibility. After all, since we began homeschooling some 23 years ago, not only are homeschooled graduates accepted into colleges and universities, but they are courted and wooed. Employers no longer dismiss us as unqualified workers. And even extended family members who were initially doubtful eventually became the biggest cheerleaders for homeschooling because they saw that it works. The fruits of our efforts have won the hearts of earlier skeptics and even our biggest critics are now cheering us on.

It is grievous to me to know that many within the FIC movement have maneuvered their way into the leadership of so many local and state homeschooling organizations and, as a result, a growing number of families are looking askance not only at this church movement but at homeschooling in general. They hear the ungracious rhetoric, the list of nonessentials taught in workshops as “biblical” steps of action for homeschoolers, and they see church body lifestyles that are exclusive and inbred. For all our efforts to demonstrate what a wonderful and viable option homeschooling is for Christian families, moms and dads are turning away because, quite frankly, they do not see the FIC-led message as one of compassion, grace, wisdom, or sound doctrine. And they certainly it as forgetting the Great Commission.

If I were the king of the forest (or in this case the queen), here are some things I would suggest to those in FIC churches.

I would first ask FIC groups to stop sowing discord among the brethren. Just look at the lines that have been drawn in the sand between biblical lifestyles that are actually commanded in the word of God and those things that are preferences. A prime example is this statement by R.C. Sproul Jr.:

“There is, in evangelical homeschooling circles, a growing divide. On the one side there are those of us who might be called movement homeschoolers. We homeschool because we believe it to be the Biblical choice, not because we merely prefer it. We tend to adopt many of the secondary lifestyle issues related to homeschooling, lots of children, modest dress, husbands as the heads of their homes, courtship, denim jumpers. On the other side are a different bunch of folks. These typically are homes where moms see homeschooling as a choice, an arena wherein they can excel by helping their children excel. The former are driven by issues of conviction, the latter by more practical matters.”

I have seen every one of the items on his lifestyle list used as a measuring stick within FIC churches to determine the motives and convictions within the body of Christ and, brothers and sisters, this is not right. In fact, others have embraced his thoughts, too, and promptly after this statement was made on R.C.’s blog, James and Stacy McDonald from Family Reformation reprinted and linked to it, advancing these notions as sound teaching. But Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides because they strained out gnats and swallowed camels. Are these church and homeschooling leaders any less blind for leading their congregations and their followers in drawing these lines of demarcation?

I would also ask them to stop using homeschooling conventions to promote their FIC agenda and to stop using careless rhetoric to create discontentment. Whether everyone realizes it or not, FIC speakers are using a venue that is intended for edifying and encouraging all homeschooling families as a means of advancing an FIC agenda held by a tiny minority of evangelicals and to plant seeds of doubt amongst those who do not attend FIC churches. It is an agenda that by its very nature condemns the local church and it is used to proselytize those who may be struggling. In fact, there are often times when homeschooling families are experiencing no insurmountable problems in their local churches but their fears are magnified so that FIC leaders can step in and offer their own agenda to calm those fears.

If the real goal is to encourage home discipleship, then that should be apparent and applauded. But since the only means of church growth of an FIC church is recruiting members from other congregations and playing on their concerns, it appears that they are being given a free ride at these conventions to promote their own churches and to take homeschooling families out of traditional fellowships.

I would also ask them to hold their own spokesmen accountable. A year ago I talked about the over-the-top rhetoric used by FIC promoter Kevin Swanson on his Generations program. The lack of grace and wisdom has disappointed me but even worse is the fact that broadcast after broadcast keeps getting worse and I only see more people giving him accolades, promoting him, participating in interviews with him, and even filling in for him when he is unavailable. Why is no one challenging his harsh and arrogant discourse? And adding to my disappointment is that Kevin, himself, is a homeschooling graduate.

I would ask the FIC movement to stop leading parents into a false sense of security, attempting to build a church model that will guarantee long-term relationships and provide a place for their children to find spouses and thus to reproduce the same church culture for future generations. This puts pressure on young people to find a spouse within their church group, even though there may be no one that is suitable for them. So betrothal becomes the standard and is practiced in many churches. And along with that step comes the many extra biblical qualifications that are added on in order for someone to be a suitable partner.

A few years ago I remember hearing negative responses when a Christian homeschooler would marry a Christian who hadn’t been homeschooled, treating the nonhomeschoolers as thought they worshipped pagan deities. If that wasn’t bad enough, now, the list of biblical requirements for potential spouses has grown even more stringent within these groups. Young men worthy of marrying your daughter should be entrepreneurs and not employees “building the kingdom” of another, as it were. Young ladies who are considered appropriate helpmeets should have remained at home under their father’s protection until marriage since going to college might foster an independent spirit that would make it difficult for her to come under a husband’s authority. Voddie Baucham even goes so far as to describe for young men what kind of personality a potential wife must have, which, of course, means his interpretation of what a quiet and gentle spirit should look like. Of course, according to Kevin Swanson, we know that college girls will lose their moral purity, rendering them unacceptable as wives for homeschooled young men. And on top of all of this, the hypocrisy that turns a blind eye to the real Biblical standards for marriage and family life are glossed over as long as the outward appearance is good. It boggles the mind.

I would ask FIC churches why there is such a great emphasis on what they call “multi-generational faithfulness,” but there are typically only two generations represented in these churches, parents and their children. There are few if any elderly couples and single people are basically nonexistent. And probably the saddest aspect of the FIC church is that families who are really struggling with even basic issues of faith, let alone those who desperately need help in building relationships within their marriages or with their children, high maintenance families, as it were, would never darken the door of these churches. Sadly, even if they did, many of them would never come to understand what grace even looks like.

I would ask how welcome orphans (those without families) and widows might feel in an FIC church.
James 1:27 says “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Are they welcomed as part of the royal priesthood, joint heirs with Christ, or are they seen as projects needing to be fixed, added on to someone else’s family in order to be “normative,” which is defined in the FIC movement as married with children? It seems to me that the true “normative,” according to Scripture, is to welcome all believers, to minister to one another, and the assumption is that these things can and should be done without defiling any of God’s true standards for righteousness. The practice of father-served communion, as is common in FIC churches, is just one example of the loud and clear message that anyone outside of a human family within that congregation is not normal and needs reforming.

I would ask what about evangelism? I would love to take a poll of those FIC churches that move into neighborhoods and find out how many of them have taken steps to reach out to those in their local community. How many have knocked on doors and presented the good news of Jesus Christ? My guess is that few if any have done that. Perhaps many of them are willing to financially support both foreign and local missions organizations, but what would they do with desperately needy folks who might walk in to their churches? Or would they ever consider allowing their children to go to the mission field? And if so, how are they preparing them to do that? You see, the Gospel within the FIC church is family reformation through homeschooling and lifestyle changes for man’s (the father’s) glory rather than the work of the Holy Spirit to transform lives for the glory of our Heavenly Father.

Finally, perhaps the greatest concern I have about FIC churches is that they are Trojan horses, enticing agendas offering fathers encouragement in leading their families but inside there is a battalion of false doctrine the pushes families further and further away from Biblical truth and a healthy Christian life toward heresy. Two of these heresies are especially dangerous because of their subtle appeal to families who sincerely want God’s best.

The first one is the heresy of patriocentricity. A year ago when I ran the first series of podcasts on the topic of patriarchy and patriocentricity within the homeschooling movement, I never would have dreamed of the response I have gotten. My concerns are shared by thousands of families who have been pulled down the patriocentric path toward father worship, having left behind the Biblical truth of husbands being the heads of their wives. Thankfully, they have recognized this idolatry for what it is, they have rejected these teachings and are beginning to delight in healthy families and real growing relationships within their marriages, with their children, and with other believers.

But over the past 12 months I have seen these patriocentric beliefs mutating into even more bizarre teachings and the dangers for families are even greater. Abhorrent perspectives on all things from protecting moms who have ectopic pregnancies, women not being encouraged to participate in the political process, kinists beliefs recognized as acceptable, redefining the Trinity so as to place all women in the place of subordination to all men, etc. have been added to the already disturbing teachings within the FIC culture.

The other false teaching to be aware of within FIC churches is that of ecclesiocentricity, the notion that all authority is given to the local church elders and the Christian life is not to be lived or practiced apart from their rule. Combined with patriocentricity, the priesthood of the believer and the mission of the church universal become lost in the agendas of men without any check and balances to hold leaders accountable. It becomes the perfect breeding ground for those who are attempting to build their own little fiefdoms. And sprinkled into this mix is a dominionist theology that preaches family reformation through government policies and militant fecundity rather than the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once again, I would encourage Christians to become Bereans, to daily search the Scripture as they seek God’s will for their families. I would encourage those within the homeschooling leadership to wisely consider whether or not they want to promote FIC teachings at their conferences. And I would challenge the FIC leaders to prayerfully consider the concerns I have listed as well as those coming from both within and without the homeschooling culture. I believe that the credibility of homeschooling is at stake and that the Gospel is being compromised.

October 2, 2008 at 7:44 pm
Visit “thatmom” Karen Campbell’s at her website:  Thatmom:  Real Encouragement for Real Homeschooling Moms