When God created us, he placed us in families. Each family is a multi-generational unit, a mix of generations. When God refers to the church, he is referring to a group of families who worship and fellowship together regularly. This is what is known as the visible church.
So what is the purpose of the church?
The purpose of church is to meet together as believers to worship the Lord together through singing and the expository preaching of the Word of God. We also meet together for fellowship and the edification of the saints. The last two requirements of a Biblical church would be the administering of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, which is known as the ordinances.
So where did the Sunday School Movement start?
A simple history lesson will teach us that the age-segregated Sunday School movement started with the ideas and teachings of Charles Darwin; yes, the same Charles Darwin that taught the Darwinian theory of Evolution. Working from Darwin’s ideas of evolution, Ernst Haeckel developed the recapitulation theory. Haeckel stated that the human embryo “recapitulates” the evolutionary stages as an embryo. The theory was defeated by biologists, but before that took place another man, G. Stanley Hall formed his ideas based on the recapitulation theory, and the foundation was laid for the modern education system of today.
The modern education system flocked to this age-segregated model, and unfortunately the church followed right along. Today it is rare to find a church that does not divide the members into classes or groups based on their age.
So why should we worship together as multi-generational families?
First and foremost, because this is the pattern shown in Scripture.
- The Time of Moses: Deuteronomy 31:12-13;
- The Time of Nehemiah: Nehemiah 8:1-3, Ezra 10:1;
- The Time of Jesus: Matthew 18:1-5, 19:13-15; and
- The Time of Paul: Ephesians 6:1-4, Col 3:20.
These are only a few of the many Scriptures that show us that infants, children, young men and ladies, dads and moms and grandparents all attended the meeting of the early church together.
The second reason is that we as parents need to be training our children how to worship the Lord. I often hear the argument that young children do not learn anything in church, and it is far better that they are separated, allowing the adults to learn and the young ones to hear children’s stories that they can understand. I am not sure about you, but I know my children have the ability to learn and understand far more than we give them credit for.
Even if they are not understanding much of the sermon now at three years old, they are learning how to sit, listen and worship, something that will stay with them for the rest of their life. In our current system of age-segregation, children are removed from the meeting of the church at birth, placed in the nursery, early childhood education, Sunday School, Children’s Church and then onto the youth group.
Much of the teaching they are receiving at this time is peer based. Ten or twenty years ago, once a young man or lady would get to the age 18, they would then try to assimilate into the regular meeting of the church. This was often difficult, as the transition from youth entertainment to true worship of the Lord, caused many young people to rebel.
As the church began to lose more young people, they discovered that in order to keep these young people active in church membership, young people who had never learned to worship in the meeting of the church, they had to extend the youth entertainment to college and careers.
In many churches around the country, there continue to be age segregated, entertainment based groups for almost anyone that walks into the church. The young people never learn from the elderly, the elderly never get to see and be apart of the young families, encouraged by the smiles of babies, the youth are encouraged to be rebellious by their peers and the church sits around wondering why we are losing the next generation!
So what is a family integrated church and where do I find one?
A family integrated church is not a denomination, and as we have seen above, it is not new. A family integrated church is a church, made up of families who worships together through the preaching of the Word, worship through song, prayer, administration of the ordinances and through fellowship. Family integrated is also not the most important thing in identifying a Biblical church.
I know far to many families that are so set in attending a family integrated church that they are willing to attend a church with heretical doctrine. Family integration is a part of our orthopraxy, meaning it is "correct action or activity". Our orthodoxy, on the other hand, is "having a correct doctrine of belief". Our orthopraxy (action) always comes from our orthodoxy (doctrinal belief), or more simply, we will live what we believe!
If our church (group of families who are members of a local body) believes in a sufficiency of Scripture, or that Scripture speaks to all areas of life, then our church will be constantly studying God's Word and reforming in action and activity.
Many great resources