Monthly Archives: September 2008
“Aren’t these comforting thoughts for mothers, especially for those of us who are homeschooling and who long to see God working in the lives of our children and grandchildren? God works through nations, He works through families, and he works through individuals whom he has redeemed and called to himself. We know that as believers, we were chosen for His inheritance.” Listen here to this week’s podcast entitled “The Sovereignty of God ~ Psalm 33, Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms
“One morning in November I awoke at 6:30am and looked out on a grey landscape that would have dispirited Gustave Dore: palpably damp, lunar in its deleafed desolation, it made my bone marrow feel as though I had somehow extracted it and left it in a dish on the back step all night. It was one of those mornings when a man could face the day only after warming himself with a mug of thick coffee beaded with steam, a good thick crust of bread, and a bowl of bean soup.” Richard Gehman
One of the perks I received when our son married into a Cuban family was the delightful exposure to a new world of cooking. I will never forget spending several days in Miami, being pampered by Janell’s family, tasting fruits we had never even heard of, and smelling that same combination of South American spices everywhere we went.
Not long after that visit I learned to make black beans and rice by watching Janell, the same way she had watched her mother and grandmother make it for years. Sometimes I really crave this dish and if I close my eyes I can feel that salty air breeze blowing up from the Caribbean and I long to dance to salsa music!
A while back I tasted a black bean soup that had the same affect on me so I decided it was time to make my own version of it. I serve it topped with crumbled white corn tortilla chips and cheese along with crusty bread and salad on the side. Adding chopped vegetables, sour cream or salsa also is delicious. I use canned beans and you can substitute a package or two of taco seasoning for the spices if you are in a hurry.
Cuban Black Bean Soup
2 15 oz. cans chicken broth
5 15 oz. cans black beans with liquid
1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper
1 large onion
2 TBS. minced garlic
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 bay leaf
oregano, basil, cumin, coarse salt to taste
Chop vegetables. Place all ingredients in pot and simmer for about an hour. Remove bay leaf. Place 1/2 to 2/3 of the mixture in the food processor for about 20 seconds and stir back into the soup. Mix well, heat through, and serve. Makes 10 servings and is even better the second day. Can also be served over rice.
You will be amazed at how delicious and rich this tastes considering it has less than one gram of fat per serving! Some recipes call for sauteing the vegetables and spices in olive oil first. Yum!
(For lots of really great soup recipes, I highly recommend the Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread book, written by Crescent Dragonwagon. She suggests putting a slice of French bread on top of each bowl of black bean soup, sprinkling it with cheese, and melting it briefly in a hot oven!)
(Please note that there is so much to say that I still have one more in this series coming. A letter to those in a family integrated church, Lord-willing, will be up in a day or two.)
I know there are many more things that could be said and I would certainly welcome any comments someone might want to add to the conversation. It is a thorny topic to address because I fully understand how difficult is to be part of a traditional church that doesn’t appreciate the importance of parents discipling their own children. I also understand that there are times when a church can actually work against the efforts of the parents and once that line is crossed, it is difficult, if not outright unwise, to remain in that sort of environment.
At the same time, I also recognize the dangers that are lurking within a family integrated church, especially as they are related to the leaders within the patriocentric movement. Again, I see this model as a severe and unnecessary overreaction to the traditional church and, knowing what I know at this time, would only recommend this type of congregation IF no other Bible teaching church was available.
All of that being said, here are some ways I think the traditional church might minister to families, especially homeschooling families who seek to disciple and mentor their own children.
Pastors ought to regularly preach and teach the importance of family worship at home and should inspire fathers to take the lead. I recognize that before this can happen, pastors must be convinced, themselves, that this is the most effective way of mentoring sons and daughters. Each pastor ought to prayerfully consider the programs and activities within his church and question whether they strengthen the hands of the parents in this task or if they compete with the parents. They may be surprised to learn that some things are actually undermining the discipling efforts of mom and dad.
Pastors would do well to read the writings of Richard Baxter, a Puritan pastor in England who took very seriously his role in the discipling of families. His philosophy was that if he preached sound doctrine from the pulpit, making application as he did, and if met personally with his families every year to be certain that they were catechizing their children, he would need to spend less time in individual counseling. His books The Reformed Pastor and The Christian Directory both serve as a model, though some of topics seem archaic, for pastors today who understand the role sound teaching plays in instructing families, especially fathers.
Sometimes it is very easy to understand why pastors would be reluctant to abandon children’s ministries programs in their church. I can remember one time when I was on the ministry outreach board and we were faced with the problem of two AWANA buses that were in terrible need of costly repairs. The pastor talked with us and asked us if it wouldn’t be a better idea if we asked parents to bring their children to the church or if we would consider asking the club leaders or other church members to give rides to any of the children who ordinarily rode the bus. He felt that if we did this, we could make a better effort of reaching unchurched families with the Gospel rather than only the children who rode the bus. His goal was to find more opportunities for church members to make connections with entire families.
You would have thought the sky had fallen. Some members of the board thought that we couldn’t possibly expect parents to actually be responsible for the spiritual training of their children, let alone actually driving them to the church building. The truth was, some of the church members enjoyed using that time alone at home and THEY didn’t even want to bring their OWN children to the church.
The pastor used this as an opportunity to reassess the goals of the church and to preach about the responsibility of parents in spiritually training their own children. Frankly, it is much easier to just line up a bunch of people, buy some AWANA books, and give a portion of the church budget to a children’s ministry than it is to inspire some parents to train their own children. But, home discipleship should be taught as the norm and as what is expected of all Christian families.
Christian education boards should consider the many family worship guides that are now available and should include the purchase of them in their budgets. Pastors could take the opportunity at a men’s breakfast to instruct dads how to begin having devotions if they have never done so, bringing in a father or two to share a testimony of the benefits of having a regular worship time with your family. Testimonies could also be shared from the pulpit or printed as a bulletin insert. Encouraging home discipleship should be done regularly and purposefully at all levels of instruction throughout the traditional church.
An even better idea could be for homeschooling families who are already practicing this in their homes to take the opportunity to reach out to other families in their churches, inviting them over for a meal, singing, and prayer, even if it might be awkward at first. If it is included at the end of the meal while you are still around the table and no pressure is put on the guests, I believe it can go a long way toward encouraging others to make home discipleship seem doable and valuable in their own homes.
Something else the Christian education board or children’s ministries might sponsor is a family-integrated Sunday school class. This is another way to get parents to be more involved in the training of their children and it would give an option to parents who are not comfortable with age segregation. The options for doing this are endless and can involve older children who need to learn how to prepare and lead Bible studies and to work well with others. Many of the unit study materials that are used by homeschoolers could be adapted for family Sunday school use and if several families took turns preparing the lessons it wouldn’t be burdensome and could also give dads an opportunity to be creative as they teach, which is something most dads don’t have a lot of time to do on a regular basis.
Churches need to see homeschooling families as a valuable resource rather than “flies in their program ointment.” We have some awesome training materials for children and young adults that were purchased through homeschooling companies and that were written by homeschooling parents who understand how to teach. If you compare these resources with what is available in your average Christian bookstore, you quickly realize that there is no comparison. Homeschoolers don’t usually dummy down theology, but rather, encourage their children to think with maturity. Pastors and Christian education professionals ought to be able to humble themselves enough to seek Godly wisdom from Christian parents who have spent years mentoring and discipling young people.
Traditional churches need to step back and take a long look at their philosophy and methodology of youth ministry. Scripture has set before us a model that is too often ignored in the majority of churches, even the good Bible believing ones. Titus 2 instructs the older to teach the younger. It is really a perfect plan. So why don’t churches do this?
Typically, some young man whose best qualification for youth ministry is that he recently was one (a youth, that is) is hired to plan and execute activities for junior high and high school age young people. While the Bible studies may be really good and sometimes even meaty, there is typically no one in the room older than 25 who is having input into the topic. What a sad waste of the resources we often see in the church!
Traditional churches would be wise to begin their youth ministries with a team made up of parents and older retired Christians, those who have spent many years serving the Lord, asking them to brainstorm about those things that would have been the most valuable for them to know as they were growing up and becoming adults. This group should include both men and women and if some of them are grandparents, it is even better.
I am always amused when you have someone who has been married five or ten years with a few toddlers at home teaching about marriage and raising children. (It is even more amusing when these same people are instructing the parents of these same youth about marriage and family life, but that is for another blog entry. hint: Look at those who are frequently “instructing” at homeschooling conventions!) You know that same guy who rides a skate board down the center aisle at church to get teens to attend some event or other? What qualifications do they have, really, to be giving counsel? Why not tap into the group of believers who have been married 40, or 50, or 60 years and see what they have to say? Why not pay attention to those Christians whose Bibles are worn and marked and who have come through many fiery trials through the decades? I think many parents would be open to “youth ministry” if youth described the age of the attendees rather than the age of those who are offering the “sage” counsel to their young people. And homeschooling families would be even more interested if parents were included in all aspects of any youth ministry.
And here is one other thing about youth ministry. I am the first one to think that young people ought to have fun. But, too many youth activities in the typical church, whether it is a traditional church or a family integrated church, are centered on having fun. Where are the service projects and the outreach programs to the local community? (And by that I don’t mean a youth group car wash with bikini clad youth group babes holding signs.) And are the ones that are being done really productive or are they mostly symbolism over substance? That is a tough question that must be asked.
And here is one more word to those in leadership in the local church. Please realize that most homeschoolers have very strong convictions about raising their children and they want the freedom to have their children in worship with them. If I had a dollar for every time I have been told “We have a lovely nursery” I could take every one to lunch. Please realize that some families want to have their children in worship and that being in worship is normal, not the exception. This is not to say that nurseries or children’s church is inherently evil, but all children ought to feel welcome and so should their parents. I remember hearing one pastor say “Any preacher who is worth his salt can preach over the top of a crying baby.” He said it often enough that moms felt comfortable being in the service with little ones and I never did see any parent remain when a child was inconsolable.
And now a word for homeschoolers in traditional churches: LIGHTEN UP!!! If you really believe that the responsibility for discipling your children is yours, why are you so bent out of shape that the ministry in your local church doesn’t meet your qualifications? Don’t participate if you don’t want to. Continue what you are doing with your own family. Develop your own philosophy of youth ministry and then follow through on it yourself. Ultimately, you are responsible before the Lord and quite honestly there are times when what the pastor is preaching in some churches is worse for children to hear than what they would get in a Sunday school class! You have to make the decision as parents as to what they will or will not be taught.
But here is the difficult part. Don’t grandstand about what you will and will not participate in. I have been there and done that, to my own shame and folly, and all it does is makes you look like a legalistic jerk and shines the spotlight on your own children, singling them out for ridicule, something we get too much of as homeschoolers to begin with.
I know there are often horrendous influences on our kids, even while they are in church. I can remember one time when our oldest two were in a high school Sunday school class and the teacher brought in a bottle of beer and proceeded to slowly pour it into a frosted glass. He wanted to get the kids talking about underage drinking and he assumed that all the kids there were doing it or were in situations that put them in that situation. He never once thought that there were several homeschooling families whose kids weren’t exposed to this in the same way as the public kids were. And it never occurred to him that there were people in the church who didn’t drink at all. This is the same teacher who decided that worship service was boring and so he took the kids joy riding after Sunday school for several weeks in a row until someone finally asked what was going on. And this was the same guy who read the verse “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees” and insisted that “woe” meant “stop” as in stopping a horse!
But as awful and as ignorant as someone like that is, it is best to simply choose not to participate and then to tell someone about it who can actually do something to fix the problem. Making a big deal out of it only further alienates others and gives people who are already uncomfortable with homeschooling a green light to dislike us. Again, if we really believe in home discipleship, then we ought to be practicing it whether anyone else in the church is or not.
In retrospect, some of the worst influences we would like to protect our children from are most often found in the family integrated church model. The isolationism that is bred, the misogyny and racism that are allowed to pass as “biblical” Christianity, and the Pharisaical system that is imposed are all far worse, to me, than an inept Sunday school teacher or a VBS ministry.
Something else that I have come to believe is important is learning to serve those who are skeptical of what we are doing and finding ways to bless and encourage them along the way. During one of our first years of homeschooling, we were sensing some disapproval from people in the church, which was understandable since most people in our area had never heard of homeschooling before we started.
I remembered that when I was a little girl, one of my favorite days of the year was May Day because I had friends whose mom helped them make and deliver beautiful May baskets filled with candy or flowers. I would wake up early in the morning to find this beautiful surprise hanging on the front door knob and it delighted me so much that I thought it would be fun to have my children take part in the same sort of surprise.
Without telling the kids my reasons behind it, I picked out six or so ladies I knew who were talking negatively about homeschooling and they were to be the recipients of the baskets. We spent several days designing and assembling beautiful baskets decorated with doilies and ribbons, filling them with beautiful candies. We got up before dark and delivered them to each door. And we never told anyone we were the ones who had done it.
I don’t know if any of these ladies figured it out and I don’t remember if I heard any more gossip that came from them. But what I do know is that our attitude toward these ladies changed completely and we were able to love them and befriend them in spite of anything they didn’t like about how we educated our children.
I also think that we need to learn to be content where God has placed us. Of course there are times when it may become impossible to stay in a church. Maybe you have come to embrace doctrine that is contrary to what is being taught in your church. Maybe there is a genuine threat to your family where your convictions are being challenged or even purposefully undermined. Maybe you are in a situation where you have been singled out by the pastor and preached at from his “bully pulpit.” I have experienced all of the above.
But there also may be things that you just don’t like, that aren’t your preferences, that simply irritate you as a homeschooler. If that is the situation, I would encourage you to seek ways to not only grow in your walk with the Lord personally but to minister to others so that you can earn the right to influence other families who need to take responsibility for the spiritual guidance of their children. Seek to practice what you believe about ministering to and evangelizing the lost and caring for the widows and orphans in their affliction. Try not to be as focused on the local church as on the church universal and your part in fulfilling its mission. I believe that as you learn to be gracious and kind to others, the Lord will bless your family in ways you can’t even imagine.
I have said several times on this blog that I believe that homeschooling is an important part of the revival that is beginning to rumble across our nation. The Lord has opened the eyes to so many people inside and outside the homeschooling community to the importance of building solid relationships with children and in training them for God’s glory. To that end, neither the local church or homeschooling families within the body of Christ can afford to squander the momentum we have helped to set in motion.
(to be continued…I ended up having too much to say that I still have an entire entry that addresses the family integrated church itself!)
Going back and telling this story has prompted a lot of great discussion in our home over the past couple of weeks and one thing I keep realizing is that the pros and cons of the family integrated church model do not necessarily fall at the opposite end of the spectrum of the pros and cons of the traditional church model. In fact, in some instances, the pros are the same in both models, as are the cons, though they are very different and might appear to contradict each other. So as you read through my thoughts for today, please don’t think I am crazy and confused. On the contrary, I think I am beginning to sort through the pros and cons and am seeing something quite interesting emerge.
I would like to begin by summarizing those things that our family experienced as good things within the family integrated church model, those things that I would call the “pros.”
We loved being in a church setting where there were so many families who were serious about discipling their children. We all had similar educational and discipleship goals for our children so there wasn’t the tension we had experienced in the youth culture mentality that had permeated the traditional churches we had been in. Having regular times of family worship with dads leading those times was the norm and expected of every household.
We really enjoyed the emphasis on the times of family fellowship. Since in all three churches we knew sharing meals together, both at church and in each other’s homes, was integral to getting to know each other, we all looked forward to that time together and appreciated the fact that it was done weekly. We loved the openness that families had toward one another as they practiced hospitality and practical ministry to each other in times of need.
We loved the fact that children were welcomed into worship and their participation wasn’t considered unusual or a distraction to the adults present. We so appreciated the emphasis on learning hymns and particularly enjoyed learning to sing them in four parts as a family.
We appreciated, for the most part, the fact that our weeks weren’t jam packed with other activities that could take us away from home in the evenings or on Saturdays. The exception to this was the direction that the second church plant appeared to be taking before we left. They were in the process of planning a co-op, and had family game nights, day time activities for families during the week, as well as women’s meetings and men’s meetings. Since nearly everyone had a long distance to drive to the church, these things would have become burdensome to our family and seemed to contradict the very purpose of home discipleship. Since relationship homeschooling is at the core of what we believe, all these home discipleship activities would have left little to no time for us to do all the things in our own home that fosters the building of those relationships.
We loved the fact that most people in the church had already wrestled with the concept of having a Biblical worldview and they had already come to have the proper understanding of issues like abortion and homosexuality. There was never a threat that theological liberalism would take over or that the excesses of the emergent church would influence the congregation. Initially, the essentials of the faith were present, though as time went on, it became obvious that some nonessentials were actually considered to be biblical orthodoxy, which I think is inevitable given the very nature of the family integrated movement.
We loved being able to get to know so many children by name, learning their interests and their likes and dislikes, watching them grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man! There was a sense of family, of even possibly the truth that, in spite of the priority of parents raising children, it is also true that is DOES take a “village,” ie the body of Christ, to raise children and that as we encouraged each other in our goals and spent time ministering to one another’s children, we saw ourselves as one unified group in so many ways.
The pros of the traditional church model are also many.
To begin with, there is an established doctrinal position that has been held by church leaders for many years and typically they are outlined in a written form so there are no surprises. When a new teaching is introduced into the church, there is usually a broad enough base of people who are able to discern whether or not the new teachings are biblical or not. (This is not always true and much of how anything new is presented will be a reflection of the type of character and integrity of the church leadership.) Within a smaller group that is so very like minded, cult-like mentality is able to slip in in ways that cannot happen in a traditional church setting.
And along those same lines, while there are “Christian celebrities” who the influence the traditional church, they do not have the overriding influence into all areas of family life that the “homeschooling celebrities” claim and so their influence is more apt to affect church leaders or Sunday school teachers than the average family who attends the church and has maybe or maybe not ever heard of those famous Christians. Also, their influence is rarely apt to actually have anything at all to do with the day to day lives of the average person in the pew, probably being more one of theological consequence than life application.
In a traditional church, members typically have a greater liberty to read the Word of God without having to mentally run the passages through the family integrated model paradigm meter. Instead, there is a greater emphasis on the mission of the church rather than the mission of the family. There are often programs that can prepare you for ministry, such as mission trips and Evangelism Explosion training and there is much encouragement to use every opportunity to witness for Christ within your community.
The joy of seeing new people come to Christ and participating in their discipleship and mentoring is an opportunity for everyone in the church. Because there is an emphasis on evangelism, church members are more inspired to share their faith and the Gospel message centers on building a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than winning someone over to a lifestyle.
The traditional church is able to financially provide for a pastor who is able to give many hours each week to Bible study and to prepare sermons for the edification of the church. Since there isn’t the continual need to preach topically on the various aspects of the family in order to keep the family integrated crowd coming in or the current membership indoctrinated, the church can be edified by expository preaching.
The traditional church has all sorts of families, not only homeschooling families, and there is a greater opportunity to get to know all sorts of people of all ages and backgrounds, which can build up everyone in their faith. Many of these families have exhibited multigenerational faithfulness without ever having heard the word and without homeschooling their children. I can think of one congregation I have known for years that has had the same families in it for a hundred or more years and it isn’t unusual to see four generations together on Sunday morning. In fact, many of the young people go away to college, get married, and bring their spouses back to live in the area to be a part of this church home.
I think I have adequately addressed the negative aspects of both of these types of churches through my own story, but I would like to add just a couple more things that have bothered me about the FIC model of church.
The first is that there tends to be a penchant for doctrinal goofiness, that is, a blending together of some of the teachings that are orthodox with ideas that came from ancient pagan cultures rather than from the Word of God.
One of the greatest areas where this has happened has been in the obsession with the gender issue. Fertility, the promotion of militant fecundity, the concept that dad is the prophet, priest, and king of the home, all have their roots in the pagan Greek and Roman cultures. The modern spin that is put on these subjects and how Scripture is twisted in order to embrace them and teach them as part of the “grand sweep of revelation” today is really quite frightening when you realize that they are taught to be doctrines as orthodox as the trinity or the virgin birth of Christ.
Another area that I see within some FIC church models is the emphasis on the Old Testament as the standard for life rather than realizing that the coming of Jesus brought with it a new covenant and all that that entails. This week I came across this passage of Scripture that really brought this all home to me: “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:13-17
I do not mean to say that I believe that these church members are not born-again believers. but I do believe that a veil covers their hearts and they cannot see what they are missing by seeing Jesus in light of the new covenant that He made possible for us.
Finally, one other concern I have is that the family integrated church model, with its long list of requirements for “biblical family life” incites, in its us against them mentality, the temptation for families to compare themselves among themselves rather than enjoying the family that God has given to them and trusting that the Lord, in His timing, is working in the lives of every mom, dad, brother, and sister.
The paradigm that they have established leaves no room for personal convictions of young people in the areas of courtship, dating, college, etc. and many are forced to conform to ideals they don’t believe. The church ends up nurturing a generation of young Pharisees who haven’t been given the opportunity to embrace their own convictions about the important areas of life. Rather than teaching the absolutes of the Word of God, trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead each one into righteousness, churches that live within a paradigm make rules that force young people who are Christians but who don’t agree with the list into either being hypocrites or “rebellion.” Sadly, I have received several of those sorts of stories from lovely young believers who fell out of grace because they couldn’t agree on the nonessentials that their parents or their church embraced.
In trying to look at both the pros and cons of the family integrated church model, I have come to several conclusions. I believe that, while there are many commendable aspects of the FIC model, in its zeal to encourage home discipleship, it has reacted against the negative aspects of the traditional church model in such a way as to swing its pendulum far away from not only the negative things but the many good things as well. The only analogy I can compare to this is that of the modern feminist movement. In their zeal to right some of the wrongs of the past that were perpetrated against women, the radical feminists have rejected many of the good things that can come from men in leadership in their homes, the church, and in the culture. They have set men up as the bad guys, the ones who must bear all responsibility for what is wrong in the gender discussions and have determined that only a woman-run world will right these wrongs.
In the same way, the FIC model, while reacting against the often rightly described daycare mentality of the traditional church that has neglected the involvement of parents in the discipleship of their families, they have also neglected to keep their focus on the commands of Christ that He has given to the church. In their excitement for bearing and discipling their own children, they have neglected those who desperately need Jesus and who are outside the blessing of a godly family. And their appeal to homeschoolers is so great because, in our zeal to raise children who will love the Lord, we have forgotten that we are to take the Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus and His atoning work on the cross beyond Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth.
In the next and last installment in this series, I will be offering my own suggestions as to how I think the traditional church can reexamine its ministries and encourage parents to disciple their own children. And I will also be looking at how those who are promoting the family integrated church model are dividing the church of Christ along lines that should never divide true believers and offering suggestions on how this can be remedied.
(to be continued)
I came across this chicken recipe a while back and tried it, much to the delight of the whole family. I am going to make it again tonight, along with baked potatoes and a salad. Will has been asking for this pumpkin cake for a few weeks now so tonight is the night,since, of course, it is the first day of fall! Clay has had crazy busy work hours since we came home from vacation so this will be a good greeting when he comes in the door.
Vidalia Onion Chicken
Thaw, rinse, and pat dry desired number of chicken breasts. Place in oiled or greased baking dish and top each one with ¼ cup Creamy Vidalia Onion salad dressing from a bottle. Sprinkle well with unseasoned bread crumbs and fresh ground black pepper. Bake until tender at 350 degrees, about 45 minutes to an hour. (Can use more dressing to coat whole breast, if you prefer, which is what I did.) This is great with any kind of potato and would be delicious served over a bed of rice, too.
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cloves
1 cup oil
one 16 ounce can (2 cups) pumpkin
½ cup chopped nuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a jelly roll pan or a cookie sheet that has a rim around it. Combine all ingredients except nuts until moist. Beat for 2 minutes. Add nuts. Pour into pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on rack. I have had this recipe with a cream cheese frosting but I prefer icing it with a thin butter cream glaze.
Soften ¼ cup butter in microwave and add to it several cups of powdered sugar, a tsp. of vanilla, and milk or half and half to get a thin consistency for drizzling on top of cake.
During our last few months at the second family integrated church, our daughter and son-in-law decided to visit another church at the encouragement and invitation of some friends they knew from my son-in-law’s job. While they really liked being in the same church we were in, they had become frustrated, too, because, even though this was a church that was still in its infancy and, as such, had not yet clearly defined itself, there was little room for input or suggestions. And there was also little room for any of us to use our gifts.
Both of them had music degrees and had much to offer a church full of children, including experience directing a choir and teaching music to students. My son-in-law also had experience in orchestra directing and since there was a desire to begin an orchestra, he was excited about doing that. However, a music director from the mother church was asked to lead this ministry and he drove the 3 hours one way every week to do this, in spite of the fact that there was someone willing and able to do the same thing right in our own congregation. That seemed strange to us. Several times all of us spent Sunday afternoons talking about our concerns, mostly the ones I have already shared, and eventually our kids came to the conclusion that perhaps they needed to find another church home.
As time went on, our concerns grew and we realized they were shared by others who began to question their involvement in the church. When a family either stopped coming or their attendance waned, Clay talked to the dads and we soon learned that we were not alone in our disappointment at what a family integrated church appeared to be.
We even contacted the mother church, since there were no elders in our local church, to ask about some of the things we saw in our church that were so different than what we had seen in their church and we shared some of the comments visitors had been making to us. Their response was that, basically, our local pastor was authorized to make all the decisions and that they backed whatever he decided to do. Privately, we decided that we would stick it out and try to make an appeal to the pastor and the congregation to tweak some things that seemed to be off putting to visitors and that seemed inconsistent with the basic tenets of the family integrated church model as we understood them to be.
It was then that the mother church decided to place three of the men in the congregation in the position of leadership, not officially as elders since the church was not yet self-supporting, but as the ones who would serve in some capacity of leadership during the transition time. Clay was not chosen to be one of those men and the pastor approached him to tell him why he had been passed up. He said that though we were members in good standing in the local church and had been with them since day one, unless we were willing to go back to the traditional church who “defacto excommunicated us,” and seek forgiveness for questioning the elders, Clay would not ever be considered for any leadership. When we asked what we had done wrong there, it was suggested that we might just tell them that “in our frustration we…” and to think of something we could fill in that blank.
We then learned that the traditional church was threatening to publicly name the church plant as “an apostate church” for not upholding their church discipline of us. The pastor’s request was amazing to us, on one level, because we had been very forthright with what had happened in the past and had been told repeatedly that we certainly had not done anything that required repentance at that local church.
However, we also realized that we had been questioning the paradigm and that that had not been welcome, so not being in any leadership would certainly have solved that problem. We knew, then, that we had no input or influence to change any of the things that we knew were contrary to broadening the scope of the church plant beyond the inclusivity of homeschoolers only. It was with a great sense of sadness that we decided we would have to leave the church and also that we would need to leave the family integrated church model because we saw that the things that were important enough to us to make us leave were all the things that that model represented.
Our daughter and son-in-law had been encouraging us to visit their church for many months and so we finally did. Initially it was hard to assimilate ourselves into a church that was more than 10 times larger than the church plant. But within a few months, we came to see the Lord’s righteous hand of mercy in our lives. Experiencing God-honoring worship and challenging, expository preaching began to change our hearts and our minds. Our children started discussing the things we heard during the sermon and we soon began to see more clearly the mission of the church and the role that families have as part of that church, not as the center of the church.
We have often wondered why the Lord allowed us to wander as He did for so long. We have asked ourselves, many times, if the pain and struggle, especially in relationships, was worth the end result of where we are now and absolutely the answer has been “yes.” You see, I think we had to come full circle, back to a traditional church, through the path of experiencing family integrated churches, in order to really understand that there is an entirely different mindset you must embrace if you are in a family integrated ministry and that, as homeschoolers, that model seems so appealing. But, I believe it may be a siren song.
(to be continued)