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Family-Integrated Church Review by Wendy Walker

By J. Mark Fox
Xulon Press, a part of Salem Communications
2180 West State Road 434
Suite 2140
Longwood, FL 32779

Are you a parent looking for a church that will encourage your child to sit with you during Sunday worship? Do you question the wisdom of sending your kids off to age-segregated classrooms for spiritual education when you believe God has assigned you that responsibility? Are you a leader looking to reform your church practices to reflect a more biblical model? In Xulon Press's Family-Integrated Church, Mark Fox uses examples from his own ministry at Antioch Community Church to give families food for thought, and give leaders Scripturally-supported encouragement for helping their churches "move towards a family-integrated model."

Over the last decade the "family-integrated model" has certainly gained recognition, particularly with regional "Uniting Church and Home Conferences," and a portion of Vision Forum's website is dedicated to listing churches that are family-oriented, not program-oriented. But many congregations, Mark Fox's included, have operated according to this inclusive model for some time, well before the term "family-integrated" grew in popularity. It is the experience from his own church, Antioch Community, and years of trial and error coupled with a passion for modeling ministry according to God's will, that Fox brings to his book.

In many ways, Family-Integrated Church is less a "how-to" guide and more a "here's what we've done" collection of sketches, Biblical references, and ministry principles. Some may be surprised to find that such a book might have fewer chapters about individual family units than it does about operating as a church family. But family-integrated churches cannot be "just" family-integrated churches. Churches built on family will fail; churches built on Christ will endure. Thus, while Fox stresses the importance of minimizing segregation and worshipping together, he doesn't fail to talk about other church-family issues, devoting attention to the need for a plurality of elders, the value of church discipline, the responsibilities of believers, the requirement to fulfill the Great Commission, and the sheep's need for shepherds.

Fox writes like a pastor. (I mean that as a compliment; I'm married to one.) His style is familiar, friendly, easy-to-read, and sprinkled with entertaining anecdotes. As part of a family-integrated church, I was interested to see what other local bodies were doing to encourage Biblical worship. (Not that I needed ideas--that's the beauty of having Godly leadership who lead well and in whom I have full confidence.) What I came away with at book's end was the reminder that God's Word has all the answers and that we've been blessed with men of vision at our fellowship. I agree with Fox that we should have a desire to see more churches operate under such wise counsel. He concludes his work by saying,

I . . . believe that what God is doing at Antioch Community Church and at many other local fellowships is much bigger than the label "family-integrated" can encompass. It is a work of family and church reformation. He is calling us to a biblical model. . . . I believe that there will be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new churches planted over the next few years that will call themselves family-integrated. They will be different in many, many ways. But my prayer is that there will be a desire and a dogged determination in each one to hold up the Scripture as sufficient and as a model.

Pick up a copy of Family Integrated Church and be inspired to participate in a church that returns to that model.

Product review by Wendy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2007