The church and the family are the two institutions that God has created for the spread of His gospel of grace and the discipleship of His people. This implies that these two institutions are the most important institutions on earth.
This Declaration attempts to draw biblical conclusions about the integration and interaction of these two God-ordained institutions in the hope of seeing biblical reform in our day. It defines and discusses the various roles and responsibilities of churches, families, and individuals for the glory of God.
We pray that the Lord will use this declaration to help His churches to remember and recover the Biblically defined complementary roles of church and family and to reform them accordingly. This includes exposing the errors of families that neglect or minimize the crucial role of the local church, as well as the errors of churches that neglect or minimize their responsibility to teach biblical manhood, womanhood, and family life.
The Bible paints a picture in which churches, individuals, and families are integrated, not segregated. This stands in sharp contrast to modern churches that fragment families, as well as to families that neglect or reject the authority of Christ’s churches, which is prevalent today. Therefore, this declaration defines and defends the importance of age-integration as a biblical model of church life to the glory of Christ, the good of His people, and the reform of His blood-bought churches.
We are praying that the 21st century church will see more of church integrated families and family integrated churches that fully embrace the Biblical doctrines that define them and beautify them.
Scott T. Brown, President Church & Family Life
A Declaration on the Complementary Roles of Church and Family
A 21st century statement based on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for the necessity of harmony and biblical order between the separate but complementary jurisdictions of the local church and the family.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe that the church and the family are institutions, ordained and established by the sovereign triune God who created the heavens and the earth. God’s infallible revelation, the Bible, reveals that both the church and the family are integral parts of the unfolding of His eternal purpose to glorify Himself, communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, and “ teach all nations,” teaching them to observe all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:16-20; 2 Tim. 3:16). This gospel of God’s grace, revealed through Jesus Christ, is delivered to each generation by the church’s faithful proclamation of the Word of God (Ps. 145:4; Luke 4:18; 1 Cor. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Furthermore, God commands Christian parents to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), which includes evangelizing their children in the gospel of grace, and teaching them the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that Christ has revealed and commanded in His Word (Deut. 6:1-8; Col. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:14-15). The complementary spheres and the biblical roles of the church and the family as set forth in Scripture are crucial for fulfilling the Great Commission. Because of this, the world, the flesh, and the Devil wage fierce and unrelenting warfare against the church of Jesus Christ and the biblical order of the family. Consequently, Christians must rise up to defend the biblical order of the church and the family without compromise.
A Time of Spiritual Warfare
This declaration arises out of an era of spiritual warfare where the church is embracing cultural norms and compromising on critical elements of church life, resulting in widespread collapse of biblical family life. A lack of understanding and unfaithfulness to God’s Word in local churches and in the homes of professing Christian families has contributed to this decline of biblical Christianity and has endangered the condition of biblical family life in our churches. Unfaithful (1 Tim. 4:1) or incompetent (2 Peter 3:16) handling of God’s Word in the church leads to unbiblical practices. These unbiblical practices and traditions of men contribute to the destruction of church and family life, which brings further harm to our children, and ultimately causes the collapse of a godly society. These traditions of men minimize and even replace God’s authoritative revelation (Col. 2:8). This has rendered the church of Jesus Christ more vulnerable to false teachings derived from Feminism, Secular Humanism, Secular Psychology, Darwinism, Marxism, and other unbiblical ideologies. These vain deceits are common in our society and have infiltrated many churches that have embraced worldly paradigms for church and family life. Rather than being defined by the unifying elements of biblical order for worship and discipleship, local churches are often conformed to contemporary, secular and pragmatic philosophies which segregate, divide and overthrow the biblical order (Phil. 1:27-28). Rather than the Word of God being our “wisdom and…understanding in the sight of the nations” (Deut. 4:6), we have adopted the ways of the unregenerate and have conformed to the conventions of contemporary culture. One of the bitter fruits of this compromise is weak, fragmented churches and families.
We believe that the biblical solution to this problem is confessing our wrong practices, repenting of our errors, and reforming to God’s revealed standard. We must confess our failures and reject the unbiblical traditions of men that make the Word of God of none effect (Mark 7:13). Then we must wholeheartedly believe, follow, and teach all that God has commanded in His Word. In this way, both the church and the family will have the strength to honor the commands, patterns, and precepts of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, and be strengthened to serve Him more faithfully in this world by lovingly obeying Him.
Our fervent prayer is that God will raise up churches in which the Scriptures are honored, proclaimed, and obeyed as the only rule for both doctrine and practice; resulting in the strengthening of churches and families through the rejection of all unbiblical doctrines and practices. As a result, the church and the family will be equipped to make disciples of Jesus Christ in a biblically faithful way and to build God’s house in accordance with His pleasure.
The Importance of This Statement
While this statement addresses important matters of church and family life with significant consequences for good and for evil, we do not believe that the way the church and family intersect is the most pressing issue before the modern church. Rather, the most pressing issue in the church today is the communication and acceptance of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, resulting in a full trust in and obedience to it as it is revealed in Scripture (Matt. 28:16-20). Thus, the need to speak to this issue of church and family life at this time in history arises from a significantly deeper problem than the complementary roles of church and family. This deeper problem is the modern day rejection of Scripture as fully sufficient for church and family life and the need to return to biblical order in the church and family. This underlying matter of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is at the heart of this declaration.
In this statement, we seek to identify specific biblical requirements for both the church and the family, to recognize various modern departures from the Word of God concerning the church and the family, and to present scriptural teaching that addresses some of the problems in church and family relations.
Article I - Scripture Is Sufficient
We affirm that our all-wise God has revealed Himself and His will in a completed revelation—the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments—which is fully adequate in both content and clarity for everything pertaining to life (salvation) and godliness (sanctification), including the ordering of the church and the family (Deut. 30:11-14; 1 Cor. 11:1-12; 14:34; Gal. 1:8-9; Eph. 5:22-6:4; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
We deny/reject that God’s Word is inadequate for church and family life and that we need to adopt the traditions of men from philosophy, psychology, pragmatism, entertainment, corporate business models, or modern marketing techniques.
Article II - Christ Is the Head Of the Church
We affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of His church, having purchased it with His own blood, and that He rules His church by His Holy Spirit through His Word in order to make known the manifold wisdom of God and to bring glory to Himself (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 28:18-20; John 17:17; Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:19-23; 3:10; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18).
We deny/reject all man-made inventions and rules that disregard the Word of God, exalt man, and usurp the Lord Jesus Christ’s headship of His church.
Article III - The Only Hope Is Jesus Christ and His Gospel
We affirm that the only hope for the church, the family, and the fallen world is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mal. 4:6; Luke 1:17; John 14:6; Acts 2:39; 4:12; 16:30–34; Eph. 2:12–13).
We deny/reject that there is any hope for the church, the family, and the fallen world apart from Jesus Christ and His gospel or that family members are able to perform their functions, be properly reformed, or experience true blessing except by the power of the gospel saving and sanctifying its members.
Article IV - God Created the Church and the Family
We affirm that almighty God is the sovereign Creator and Preserver of His people and all the institutions that bring blessing to mankind, including the church and the family, are thus deserving of our honor and humble obedience to His Word (Gen. 1:28; Pss. 46:1; 77:13-15; 95:6-7; 100:3; 119:73; Prov. 18:10; Matt. 16:18; 19:6; John 14:15; Col. 1:16-17; James 1:17; 1 Peter 4:19).
We deny/reject that we, being mere creatures, have a right to refashion the church and the family according to our vain imaginations by altering God’s prescribed government, worship, discipleship, gender roles, assignment of responsibilities, or any other normative patterns revealed in Scripture.
Article V - The Church Is Eternal While the Family Is Temporal
We affirm that the church is the bride of Christ and the family of God, and that in heaven people ‘neither marry nor are given in marriage,’ indicating that the family, which is part of the creation order, established for the fulfillment of the dominion mandate here on earth, ceases to exist in heaven, but that on earth and in Christ, the family becomes a vehicle for the demonstration of the relationship between Christ and His church and for raising children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Gen. 1:26-28; 18:19; Mal. 2:15; Matt. 22:29-32; Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1-4).
We deny/reject the notion that the family supersedes the church in time, function, or in the strategic and eternal place the church holds in the plan of redemption, the kingdom of Christ, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Article VI - Families May Be Divided by the Gospel
We affirm that the gospel may divide families, because the gospel can “set a man at variance against his father,” that “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” and that we ought to obey God rather than man if there be any conflict between the commands of a husband or parent and the commands of God (Matt. 10:35-37; Acts 4:19-21; 5:21).
We deny/reject that loyalty to the family should ever supersede obedience to God as set forth in His Word, and making the family into an idol.
Article VII - The Church and the Family Are Complementary in Role and Function
We affirm that the church and the family were designed to be complementary, compatible, and harmonious because the family is commanded to raise “godly seed,” for the next generation, and is the proving ground for church leaders, while the church is responsible to give the family her instruction, discipline, protection, fellowship, and worship (Mal. 2:15; Acts 2:42; Eph. 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9).
We deny/reject that the church and the family have competing purposes; and that the church or family may disregard God’s commands for the church and the family in worship, instruction, discipline, fellowship, or missions.
Article VIII - Elders Managing Their Households Well
We affirm that a biblically ordered home, including the way an elder loves his wife and raises his children, is of great importance to the church because elders are qualified and tested partly by how they manage their households as well as how the household responds to his rule. “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God” (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:5-9).
We deny/reject that the biblical qualifications for the home life of an elder or potential elder should be dismissed or minimized or that churches can ignore the equipping of fathers to lead their own houses according to the Word of God, bringing up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and having their “children in subjection with all gravity” (Ephesians 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:4).
Article IX - The Church and the Family Provide Overlapping Jurisdictions
We affirm that the local church and the family are separate, yet provide overlapping jurisdictions so that each member of the family who is a member of a local church is under the instruction and correction of that local body, where delegated divine authority is exercised for the equipping, maturation, admonition, and strengthening of the family and for the restraint of evil, while at the same time the local church must acknowledge and uphold the jurisdiction of the family (Matt. 16:18; 18:15-17; 28:19; 1 Cor. 4:15; 5:11-13; 7:3-5; Eph. 4:12; 5:22-33; 6:1-4; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 3:1, 14-15; 5:17; Titus 1:7, 9; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:3).
We deny/reject as unscriptural the concept of the autonomous family in total isolation from or insubordinate to the church, as well as the tyrannical church that tramples on or belittles the legitimate exercise of authority within the family.
Article X - The Church Is Essential for Biblical Family Life
We affirm that biblical involvement in local churches including her worship services, meetings, preaching, ordinances, relationships, evangelism, prayers and instruction, is required for the equipping of individuals and families to fulfill their God ordained mission (Rom. 12:10, 13; 15:5; 1 Cor. 11:33; 12:25; Eph. 4:11-12; 5:19; 1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 10:24-25; James 5:16; 1 Peter 4:10).
We deny/reject that the family can replace the church, that the local church should play a minor role in the life of a family, or that the family should neglect the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Article XI - The Church Is a Family of Believers that Includes Families
We affirm that local churches are spiritual households of faith, and that congregations of the visible church include individuals and family units that should be cared for and strengthened by the church to fulfill their God ordained roles, not only as individuals but also as families (Eph. 4:1-32; 5:22-33; 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Peter 3:1-7).
We deny/reject the current trend in churches that ignores the family unit, is blind to strengthening it, systematically segregates it, and does not properly equip her members to be faithful family members.
Article XII - The Biblical Revelation Is Sufficient for Worship and Discipleship
We affirm that the biblical doctrine, principles and precepts that God has revealed in His Word for corporate, family, and individual worship and discipleship are sufficient for knowing how to worship God in a manner acceptable to Him and for the effective edification of the saints. (1 Cor. 11:1-12; 14:34; Gal. 1:8-9; Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4;).
We deny/reject that the church should invent and institute her own principles and methods for corporate worship and discipleship that disregard or replace the explicit teaching of Scripture.
Article XIII - The Biblical Pattern Is Age-Integration
We affirm that there is a clear and consistent biblical pattern of worship and discipleship for the people of God that is age-integrated; and we believe that this pattern should be embraced and practiced (Ex. 12:21-27; Deut. 16:9-14; 32:46; Josh. 8:34-35; 2 Chron. 20:13; Ezra 10:1; Neh. 8:2; 12:43; Joel 2:15-16; Acts 20:7-12; 1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1-2, 16; 12:12-26; Eph. 6:1-4; Phil. 3:17; 1 Tim. 2:1-14; 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:15-17).
We deny/reject that there is any clear, positive, and scriptural pattern or positive institution for creating distinct, age-segregated cultures in the church through age-segregated worship and systematic and comprehensive age-segregated discipleship.
Article XIV - The Importance of Age-Integrated Discipleship
We affirm that returning to a biblically-ordered, age-integrated methodology for the worship of God and discipleship in a local church is consistent with Holy Scripture and critical for the restoration of the kind of worship and discipleship culture we see demonstrated in both the Old and New Testaments (Deut. 31:12-13; 2 Chron. 20:13; Ezra. 10:1; Ps. 148:12-13; Matt. 19:13-14; Mark. 9:36; 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17; Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1-4).
We deny/reject that an age integrated-ministry methodology should be the only or even the primary consideration for selecting or for establishing a local church because priority of consideration should be given to the preaching of the gospel and the teaching of sound doctrine while recognizing that the purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error.
Article XV - Discipleship in the Word of God Is by the Church and the Family
We affirm that the saints of God of all ages are to be equipped for spiritual ministry and maturity by the church through the preaching of the Word of God by qualified elders, that the body builds itself up in love through its members, and that in the Christian family, all fathers and mothers have the responsibility to teach the gospel and the truths of the faith to their children, that they may be saved and brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Deut. 6:4-7; Eph. 4:11-12, 16; 6:4; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 4:2).
We deny/reject that the church may usurp or undermine the role of the parents or the responsibilities of the family, or that the family may usurp or undermine the role of the elders or the ministry of the church.
Article XVI - The Mission of the Church and the Family Is Generational
We affirm that God commands churches, families, and individuals to teach the gospel and make disciples in every generation, “that thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son” (Ex. 12:26-27; 13:14; Deut. 4:9; 6:1-9; Pss. 78:1-8; 127; 135:13; 145:4-7; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 1:50; 24:45-47; Acts 16:10; Rom. 10:14-15; Eph. 6:4).
We deny/reject those contemporary, individualistic philosophies, that fail to convey the responsibility of the church and the family to proclaim the gospel to the next generation, thereby ignoring the mission of the church and the family to evangelize, teach, and equip every generation to worship and serve the Lord.
Article XVII - Church Ministry Facilitates Family Ministry
We affirm that God’s people must be nurtured through the example and instruction of their church’s elders and members in everyday life, and of the importance of fathers and mothers training their families to fulfill the Great Commission through ministry to the saints and witness to the lost (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:46-47; 8:4; 18:24-26; Eph. 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Titus 2:2-6; Heb. 3:13).
We deny/reject the emphasis on family-fragmenting methods or programs that disregard the nature of the church as God’s people in community and that displace or discourage family ministry outreach.
Article XVIII - Satan Is a Deceiver
We affirm the warning of Holy Scripture that since the Garden of Eden, Satan, the father of lies and deceiver of the brethren, has used and continues to use his subtle trickery to question God’s Word: “Yea, hath God said...?” (Gen. 3:1; Matt. 4:6; John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:3, 14; Rev. 12:9).
We deny/reject that God’s people, corporately or individually, should embrace and employ the unbiblical philosophies, goals, and methods of this fallen world in our churches and families, thus succumbing to Satan’s deception.
Article XIX - God Requires Examination
We affirm that God enjoins us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” and “let every man prove his own work,” particularly when the people of God are not thriving according to the biblical requirements (Rom. 12:2; Gal. 6:4; Eph. 5:10, 17; 1 Thess. 5:21).
We deny/reject that elders who shepherd the flock of Christ have no need to carefully examine God’s infallible Word regarding their role in their own church, the beliefs and practices of their own church, and the roles and relations of families—husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and individuals—to their own church.
Article XX - Judgment Begins with the Church
We affirm that God has declared “judgment must begin at the house of God” and thus, we Christians are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, looking to judge ourselves lest we be chastened all the more (1 Peter 4:17; 5:6).
We deny/reject that the church should continue disobeying God and delay repentance and reformation, or that she will escape the wrath of God for where the church has contributed to the disintegration and destruction of the family by ignoring or taking lightly biblical roles and responsibilities.
Wherefore, in Light of This Our Faith, We Do Hereby Resolve to:
- Preserve the true gospel from one generation to the next, through biblically-ordered, gospel-preaching, Christ-exalting churches and families.
- Rely upon the Scriptures alone for “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), obeying the Bible as fully sufficient for the ordering of the church and the family and resisting Satan’s deception designed to supplant God’s goals and methods with the world’s methods.
- Focus churches and families on the Word of God by restoring the practice of teaching the whole counsel of God through exegetical preaching of Scripture in the church by biblically qualified elders and daily instruction in homes by fathers and mothers.
- Establish the central importance of the local church for the equipping of individuals and families.
- Revive the biblically defined role and functionality of the family where fathers diligently teach their children when they “ sittest in thine house,” when they “walkest by the way,” when they “liest down” and when they “risest up,” and where biblical manhood and womanhood is restored (Deut. 6:7; Tit. 2:1-8).
- Recover the relationally rich nature of the local church as the family of God by following the biblical patterns for worship, discipleship, and hospitality.
- Consult with biblically sound churches that will likewise plant churches, which perpetuate faithfulness to the Word of God in matters of church and family life.
When we use this word, we are referring to the gatherings which are governed by what is called the “regulative principle of worship.” This principle speaks to the sacred gathering of the people of God on the Lord’s Day where there is the preaching of the Word, the reading of the Word, singing, praying, gathering of tithes and offerings, and the observance of the Lord’s Supper. We believe that the corporate worship of God is more highly regulated than the other activities of the church, including what the Bible refers to as “discipleship, fellowship, and evangelism.”
When we use this term we are speaking of gatherings that are distinct from the corporate worship of God (although discipleship does happen in corporate worship), but which provide various opportunities for learning and teaching in the Body of Christ, such as fellowship, instruction, service, baptism, church discipline, and evangelism. To be involved in discipleship is to be a learner (Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 6:40). It is the role of the church to “make disciples’ or literally, learners. We believe that discipleship experiences are not designed by God to be as tightly regulated compared to corporate worship. Examples of this are alluded to in many places in Scripture (Matt. 24:14; 26:32; 28:18-20; Mark 6:7; Luke 5:10; 10:1-3; John 14:12; 15:16; Acts 1:8, 15; 2:41; 14:21; 1 Cor. 9:20; 16:1, 15; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 4:7-16; 2 Tim. 2:2, 19). When we say that they are not as tightly regulated, we do not mean that Scripture presents no pattern. In fact, we believe that the clear patterns of discipleship in Scripture are age-integrated, but it is our understanding that it is not always necessary to insure that every meeting for discipleship is age-integrated.
By this we mean the consistent, but not implicitly exclusive method that is discernible in the teaching and examples in Scripture. These patterns of Scripture communicate the will of God for His church and must be taken very seriously and followed, yet there may be from time to time legitimate variations to the pattern that do not overthrow other doctrines and practices (Phil. 3:16).
When we use this term we are referring to a biblical characteristic in the Body of Christ that is expressed in the oneness of the body. The church is a diverse yet unified body that includes all ages, ethnicities, social standings, and economic statuses (Acts 1:14; 4:24, 32; 1 Cor. 12:12-26; Eph. 4:1-6).
Sufficiency of Scripture
When we use this term we are referring to our belief that the Word of God is all that the church needs for doctrine, life, and practice. We mean that all things should be governed by Scripture because it is the one and only inspired, infallible standard for discipleship, church life, family life, gender roles, work life, and everything else. We hold that Scripture should be used to govern all of life as the historic confessions argue:
The French Confession of Faith, 1559 States This Doctrine Clearly:
“We believe that the doctrine contained in these books proceeded from God, from whom only and not from man it derives its authority. And for as much as it is the rule of all truth, containing all matters necessarily required for the worship of God and our salvation, it is no wise lawful for men or angels to add unto or to take from this doctrine or to change it. And here upon it follows that it is not lawful to oppose either antiquity or custom or multitude, or human wisdom, judgments, edicts, or any decrees or councils or visions or miracles unto this Holy Scripture: but rather that all things ought to be examined and tried by the rule and square thereof.”1
Similarly the London Baptist Confession of 1689 affirms:
“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience…”2
The Westminster Confession of Faith Explains That:
“The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”3
1. “From The French Confession (1559),” in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 2, 1552-1566 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 142.
2. The Baptist Confession of Faith and The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books and Carlisle, PA: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010), 1.
3. Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow City G3 6LE, UK: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1994), 24.