Monday, July 25, 2011

Response to Tim Challies' Review of Divided Movie

You can see Tim Challies original review HERE.

And my response:

Having done this, he finds the best and brightest of the FIC movement and allows them to interpret. This sets an intellectual like Voddie Baucham against a girl with a face full of piercings who partied so hard at the concert that her mohawk collapsed. It’s hardly a fair right. What Leclerc does is what so many documentarians do: he chooses his representatives very, very carefully. He chooses the intellectuals of theFIC to represent his view and chooses the young and foolish to represent the other side. It’s hardly subtle and not at all fair. He builds his case on a cliche.”

Challies has done nothing less here than compel his readers to ignore the reality of the vast majority of youth groups and youth conventions. The point of the documentary is to point out the foolishness of the youth that are produced by the modern youth group. In an age where one would commonly find the products of modern youth ministry falling so short of discipleship, I for one am glad there are men like Voddie Baucham and Scott Brown to cut through the culture and reveal Biblical truth. The truth is, the documentary has shown youth ministries to be full of foolishness, and rightly so.

Once he has set the two sides in opposition, he allows proponents of FIC to pile on. One by one Scott Brown and Voddie Baucham and Doug Phillips and Paul Washer and many others talk about how youth ministry has ruined the church—and not just youth ministry, but any kind of ministry that divides people by age. These men make the claim that the first 1800 years of the church knew no age segregation whatsoever; it is only in the past 200 years or so that anyone considered dividing children by age. They claim that any kind of age segregation stems directly from evolution and has roots in paganism. Any kind of age segregation therefore sows pagan seeds of division.

On must keep in mind that no one in this video would claim that youth ministry has ruined the church. Sin has ruined the church. The straw man given by Challies here is blown away like chaff when held up to the truth. Systematic age-segregated ministry is a symptom of the church having lost it’s responsibility to rely on scripture to define itself. Programatic age-segregation is in fact a recent invention, and Challies has failed to disprove that. The movie gives facts that back up it’s position regarding the innovation of modern youth ministry. The burden of proof should then be placed upon Challies to indict the movie based on facts, not an emotional rant.

These leaders claim that the Bible clearly teaches that we must not age segregate. Ever. The classroom is a pagan creation and so too is the Sunday school. Leclerc goes so far as to claim that the mass youth exodus may just be God’s hand of punishment upon the church for our active disobedience in ignoring what Scripture teaches.”

Another straw man argument. This documentary does nothing of the sort. It states that the model for programmatic age-segregated youth ministry is absent from the pages of scripture, proving that it is an invention of man, and therefore cannot be considered a viable method for the discipleship of youth.

“The solution is to raise up a new generation of fathers who will take responsibility for their children and stop outsourcing the raising of their children to youth pastors. Fathers who truly love the Lord and who truly love their children will know better than to allow them to participate in youth ministry or Sunday school. These are the central claims of the film.”

Keeping the hearts of your children cannot be underestimated. Having your child’s heart means they will come to you with a crisis of faith, or a besetting sin, or advice for the future. Having your child’s heart gives them a picture of the relationship they have or may have in the future with the Lord. The more time a child spends with another man in a mentor relationship, the more these feelings are divided. This was the sin of Rehoboam, who listened to the counsel of his peers rather than the ancient ways. How could he have gone so wrong? He had a king for a father. His time was spent with others. His heart was far from his father, and when push came to shove, his loyalties found themselves elsewhere.

“It is notable that the film does not offer any measured response to FIC. There are many conservative, biblical Christians who reject FIC and I am sure it would not have been difficult to interview a couple of them. Leclerc does not allow any of them to speak. Instead, he sets FIC against the girl with the mohawk. The purpose of the film is not primarily to call people away from youth ministry, but to call them toward FIC. After all, FIC is not the only valid response to the rowdy, win-them-with-fun kinds of youth ministry. I have been in conservative churches almost all my life—churches that deliberately offer age-appropriate classes. These classes have raised up a generation of godly young people who know and love the Lord. Divided says that all of these classes are founded upon paganism and will produce pagans. This is demonstrably untrue.”

No, this is not demonstratably untrue. If children make it out of the kind of youth ministry that is in the vast majority of this country as godly young people, it is in spite of a system that works against this end. If a youth group has a solid youth minister who teaches the Word of God, Challies would call this a success. He would also miss the point. The point of youth ministry and all of Churchdom for that matter is to Glorify God. Ministry to youth, if one would agree then, should be practiced according to the infallible revealed Word. Since modern youth ministry is absent in scripture, I for one, would not presume that it in fact Glorifies the Lord. Modern youth ministries detract from family identity, and destroy the beautiful picture of Fathers raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

“Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the film, then, is it lumps all non-integrated churches together. Those that have Wednesday evening classes for children end up in the same category as churches that have entire Sunday morning services geared specifically to entertaining the teenagers. Churches that have an evening set aside for youth fellowship end up in the same category as the churches that build their whole youth ministry around partying and Christian rock. This is not only uncharitable but also utterly ridiculous. According to the subtle suggestions of this documentary, even the best youth programs are utterly unbiblical and will cause most of the young people to fall away from the faith. That is complete and utter nonsense.”

The documentary is concerning systematic age-segregated ministry. Of course it lumps all churches who practice this together. This is not uncharitable, unless Challies is claiming that his church is more Family Integrated than others. In that case, he is putting FIC in a very positive light, and I summarily accept his compliment for the rest of the group.

We also need to see that the claims of FIC extend far beyond Sunday school. The film even suggests (not too subtly) that allowing your children to participate in any kind of program led by someone other than the father is a way in which you turn their hearts away from the father and toward someone else. This talk of “turning their hearts toward” is foundational to FIC and other associated movements. But can a person’s heart only be inclined in one direction? Does a young person who comes to love and respect his pastor necessarily mean that it comes at the expense of love and respect for his father? This sets up a false and unfair dichotomy.

Could Mr. Challies explain why he might not let his son hang out with an axe murderer for one hour a week? Though this is an outlandish example, it does prove a point. People your children hang around have an effect on them. Modern youth ministry utilizes youth ministers, volunteer sponsors, counselors, and most dangerous of all, the other youth to impress the love of Christ on children. Without their father, how will they know which example to follow? Should they trust their own foolish hearts? In modern youth ministry, this is often the case. I want my son to grow up to be a man, so I want him to spend his time with his father, talking with other men. This does not mean that he will never be taught by other men in the church. The problem is in the programmatic, systematic discipling of children in the youth ministry model. This type of ministry is designed specifically to win the hearts of the children so they can be teachable. Unwittingly, they are then pitting themselves against the fathers of these children.

“And finally, we need to reject the claim that the Bible demands FIC. Despite the claims of FIC leaders, it is clear that the Bible does not explicitly forbid all kinds of division by age. Voddie Baucham offers Ephesians and Colossians as examples of God’s command that the entire family be present in any church setting. That is a tenuous claim at best and one that is easily disproven. As Christians we have freedom to act with wisdom in areas where Scripture is silent. FIC would take this freedom from us.”

If the Bible has many examples of age integrated ministry, and is devoid of all examples of systematic age segregated ministry, and the youth being released from these youth groups are turning from their faith in droves, then why on earth would anyone call this an issue of freedom? To continue down this path is neither wise nor safe.

“It is beyond dispute that young people are abandoning the church, but the heart of this problem is not youth ministry or Sunday school. The heart of the problem is that many young people are being raised in homes and in churches where the gospel is absent. They are being raised by hypocrites and are rejecting that life of hypocrisy. I see young people abandoning the church and, though I am saddened by it, I Am Unalarmed.”

I am saddened that a man of God would be unalarmed that the church of Jesus Christ in America, whose discipleship of youth is a failed innovation, has seen many children turning from the faith. If he is not alarmed by this, what in the world ever would cause him alarm? We cannot equate apathy with faith.

“The sad irony of Divided is that this film and the movement it supports will undoubtedly cause plenty of its own division. And, indeed, it must! It majors on the minors, making family integration the pivotal and central doctrine for the church. It identifies a genuine problem but attempts to solve it in a way that elevates methodology instead of the gospel message. It’s a destructive message wrapped in a poorly-made documentary. The church would do well to ignore it.”

The discipleship of youth is not a minor. As a father Challies would do well not to be so flip about it. This documentary is about methodology. The gospel message must be conveyed to the next generation, and it will take a serious approach to Biblical methodology along with a solid gospel message to win them. If our aim in that is to Glorify God, then cries for “freedom” are nothing more than selfish attempts to hold on to a failing model that falters in that purpose.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You nailed this right on the head! I was going to write my own review of his review, but you have done a great job in refuting his bad logic and un-use of Scripture.

Thanks for this! It's too bad that he has already influenced thousands of people away from this needed reformation in the Church. Hopefully articles like yours and faithful preaching of the Gospel and Biblical discipleship of the next generation will win these people over.

Thank you for not using ad hominem, as that is such a detriment to winning people over (2 Timothy 2:25).

We must remember to keep preaching and keep praying all with the fruit of the Holy Spirit so that the whole world hears and submits to the Lordship of Christ.