Sermon of the week: “The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Gospel” by Paul Washer.

We who home educate, oppose youth ministries, believe Christians should dress modestly, etc. are often accused of believing this way of life makes one a Christian and makes one holy. And of course, we deny those baseless charges of “legalism” but nevertheless, the accusations are still hurled at us.

This is why I’m pleased to present this Thursday’s sermon of the week entitled The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Gospel. Paul Washer (a home education proponent and youth ministry abolitionist himself) proves that not everyone in this camp is a legalist, and to those in this camp who may tend to lean that way, he does for them in this sermon as he did for the lukewarm in his famous Shocking Sermon from 2003 (found here).

Paul Washer addresses the notion that these wonderful family oriented ideals (along with manners, modesty, etc.), albeit beautiful and virtuous and good, they in and of themselves do nothing to save a man’s soul. And he did this at a conference sponsored by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches.

This is classic Paul Washer.

Shame on Challies.

I have never been what you could call a “big fan” of Tim Challies but I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly why . . . that was until now, when I was recently made aware of a review he wrote concerning the film Divided.

Inaccurate. Distorted. Inflammatory. These are some of the words that come to mind that describe Challies’ review of the film.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect a favorable endorsement of Divided by a man who sends his own kids to the Canadian government schools to be educated, but his full frontal assault of the film was a little over the top. To say that Challies has a beef with the family-integrated model of church worship is a grave understatement.

Youth ministry proponents may disagree with the concept of families worshipping together during church services, and they may be oblivious (willfully or otherwise) to the evidence (statistically, empirically, or experientially) of the destructive nature of youth ministry, but please, I implore you to be reasonable about your arguments and refrain from resorting to less than accurate, wildly imaginative fabrications designed to persuade others away from a practice that was the norm for the church for almost 2,000 years.

If you think I’m being a little too sensitive about Challies’ hit-piece of the film (a conduit to advance his dislike of Family Integrated Churches), don’t miss the fact that even some of Challies’ own readers have disagreed with his scathing assessment of the film. On the comment thread for Challies’ review of Divided, a commenter named Matt said:

Wow. Tim, I will have to say, this review is uncharacteristically harsh, and even mean. The tone that you are stirring up here is not in any sense the tone that the movie has.

I’m flatly shocked and disappointed in such a brutal and uncharitable word from a brother that we’ve all known to have a real eloquence and gentleness even toward those with whom he differs.I really want to say this plainly. After having watched the film, your review could not be less accurate or more one-sided. I am so sad that you’ve chosen to behave publicly in ways that you have condemned when others participate in the same sort of activity.

Shame on you, Tim.

What makes Challies’ review even more disturbing is when you contrast his brass-knuckled review of Divided with his reviews of two culturally popular demonically inspired, and utterly anti-Christian works that have received acclaim from the world.

Berean Wife has astutely compared Challies’ reviews of The Shack and Twilight with that of Divided in her post simply titled Destructive in which she quotes Challies:

Divided The Movie

It’s a destructive message wrapped in a poorly-made documentary. The church would do well to ignore it.

The Shack

All this is not to say there is nothing of value in the book. However, it is undeniable to the reader who will look to the Bible, that there is a great deal of error within The Shack. There is too much error.

Twilight

My suggestion to parents would be to leave this book on the shelf instead of handing it to your teenage girl (and especially your young teenage girl). At the very least, read it yourself and see if your conscience is clear before you hand it to her.

Finding something of value in a book rife with doctrines of demons and blasphemes against God, and suggesting parents first read a lust-laden book (written by a Mormon) about teenage vampires in order to see if their consciences are clear before handing the book to their daughters, while conversely labeling a Christian film like Divided “destructive” and urging Christians to avoid it, renders the objectiveness of Challies’ reviews very suspect.

And while Challies encourages Christians to broaden their horizons by reading non-Christian, mainstream works because . . . 

Common grace tells us that Christians do not have the market cornered when it comes to what is true and what is wise.

and

To read widely is to engage with people who think differently and who approach very similar issues from a radically different worldview.

and

If you want to understand the people around you, why they are the way they are, what influences them, why they make the decisions they do, you will do well to read the books they read.

. . . he then tells the church that they’d be better off ignoring Divided. Is it just me or does this reveal not only a glaring hypocrisy, but also proves that Challies is operating with an obvious agenda?

I highly recommend Fred Wolfe’s retort Response to Tim Challies’ Review of Divided Movie (HT: Theonomy Resources) as well as Berean Wife’s response to Challies’ in her article Reviewing a Review.

I also urge you to personally watch the film Divided in order to judge it for yourself. You can either purchase the DVD or watch it for free online (until September) here.

I conclude by offering some familiar advice to my readers: Regarding Challies’ review of Divided: “The church would do well to ignore it.”

 

My thoughts on youth ministry and Vacation Bible School.

Summertime means BBQ, swimming pools, fireworks, and lemonade. But it also means sweltering heat, mosquitoes, and Vacation Bible School.

For many Christians this is the time of the year when they’re all abuzz about the wildly popular week-long evangelical event known as Vacation Bible School (commonly referred to by its acronym, VBS).

In terms of the high level of anticipation, collective excitement, Madison-Avenue-style marketing, and pulpit-driven hype, this event has vaulted in importance within Christendom to rival that of Christmas and Easter. If there are only three events on the Christian calendar that get highlighted every year, VBS is certainly one of them.

Because of Vacation Bible School’s prominence in the church, I wanted to take this opportunity to make some observations about this annual cultural Christian phenomenon and (by extension) youth ministry as a whole.

Before we begin, allow me to be brutally honest.

First let me say that it is no secret to the readers of this blog (and those who know me personally) that I am a youth ministry abolitionist. I am passionate about this subject and I’ve pulled no punches in my conversations and my treatises about it, but at the same time I do recognize that many involved in these types of ministries are well-meaning and have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, pure motives and best intentions do not excuse or justify the wholly destructive nature of the extra-biblical model of youth ministry (and VBS).

I also want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe those engaging in various forms of youth ministry are in danger of Hell-fire because of their involvement or participation (for salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone). I also have dear Christian brothers who are involved in youth ministry (in fact one of them leads such a God honoring and holy life that I feel like a heathen next to him and despair that I will never reach his level of love, grace, and sanctification) and although I adamantly disagree with them on this subject, I can still have meaningful fellowship with them.

But I would appreciate the reciprocal consideration from youth ministry proponents regarding their misrepresenting and making a caricature out of those who oppose youth ministry (and those who encourage others to return to the biblical and traditional church model of raising and teaching children) as is so often done.

In their efforts to preserve youth ministry, critics of family integrated worship and family integrated churches (FICs) often defend their position by warning that proponents of family integration run the risk of becoming overbearingly patriarchal, Pharisaical, legalists who erroneously believe that worshiping together as a family ensures their children’s salvation, who refuse to evangelize anyone outside of their immediate family, and who place their family in higher regard than the Bride of Christ.

These are unfair depictions that I keep hearing levied against those who reject youth ministry for family based worship, yet these critics have failed to cite one example of these extreme wayward families they keep warning about (or claimed to have even met one).

Ironically, even though they reject the FIC model because they believe it has potential to be taken to extremes, youth ministry proponents overlook, make excuses for, or simply dismiss the problems inherent with youth ministry. These are not rare exceptions, they are very common and almost the standard. The mountain of dysfunctionality seen in so many youth groups can be cited (and many have been featured on this very blog) as well as the mind-numbing statistics that have proven the utter failure of youth ministry.

I have yet to become or meet even one of these types of families that youth ministry proponents keep warning that we have a great potential to become. Is it likely that there are some families out there who do fit that caricature? I’m sure there are, but these are the exception, whereas it seems to be the norm to see utter foolishness exhibited in youth ministries; so many of which resemble a scene out of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

I sincerely do not write this missive (some would call it a tome) with the intention to cause division or create animosity among my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I pray that this is not received as derision, but as a thoughtful critique; prompting us to examine why we do what we do. It is meant to shed light on a practice that many promulgate without ever examining or even considering what the results (or ramifications) are. I also hope that this will serve as a clarion call for readers to eventually abandon this practice and return to the biblical model of raising and teaching our children in the Lord. But to those who do not, I will still love you, still fellowship with you, and still consider you my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

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Sermon of the week: “What is a family integrated church?” by Scott Brown.

Tired of hearing what critics say family integrated churches believe? Dissuaded by the mischaracterization of what others claim family integrated churches teach? Want to hear what those in family integrated churches actually believe?

Then you will want to listen to what Scott Brown of The National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) has to say in his message entitled What is a family-integrated Church?