Family-equipping churches are defined in this chapter as churches which retain some age-organized ministries but restructure the congregation to partner with parents at every level of ministry so that parents are acknowledged, equipped, and held accountable for the discipleship of their children (144).
At this point something interesting emerges. Here at HCBC, we tend to identify ourselves as family-integrated. Yet according to this definition, we could be considered "family-equipping" because we provide things like the children's Bible classes on Sundays and the Mighty Men training for young men in the making. Yet I have already indicated that I tend to agree more with the ideals of the family-integrated view. Are we being inconsistent, or is there something else going on?
I found it intriguing, as I read this book, that Paul Renfro's response from the family-integrated perspective was basically to critique family-equipping ministry in practice, not in theory. In other words, Renfro simply thinks that family-equipping ministry is not practically as good as family-integrated ministry for accomplishing discipleship. These kinds of practical considerations are always worth pondering. As far as which practices are superior, I guess time will tell. But I wonder if there are not theological views which would tend to throw the weight one direction or another, even though in themselves these theological views under-determine the specific practices which flow from them.
What are some of these theological views which will affect how one works out the practical issues of family ministry? Obviously that's a huge question, but let me just tick off a few.
- Theology of conversion
- Theology of sanctification
- Theology of the family (including things like the role of women in the church and society)
- Theology of human society
- Theology of the relationship of Christianity to culture and of the place and function of the church in the world in this age
- Theology of the created order in relation to God's redemptive order
- At a very deep level, the theology of the Trinity ought to shape one's practice in the church.
And in this regard, let me mention that this debate will never be ultimately resolved at the merely theoretical level, as important as that is. It is going to be worked out and tested and rejected and refined in real churches with real people living real lives before the face of God. I say this so that real, constant love for God and for our neighbor remains the driving force in this debate.
I wish I had time to say more. I'm thankful for the contributors to this book who have invested a great amount of time and energy into presenting and practicing their views. I am in their debt. In these blog posts I've undertaken the comparatively easy task of critiquing their views. It is always much more of a challenge to develop a positive statement of one's views, and they have risen to the challenge. I trust this will provoke earnest and fruitful ministry for Christ's sake.