Out of Context: Ken Fong

"The nuclear family is not God's most important institution on earth. It is not the social agent that most significantly forms the character of Christians."

-Ken Fong is pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Rosemead, California

Taken from "Our Faith Village Family" in the Fall 2006 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

November 09, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 14 comments

John Mark

November 13, 2006  10:40am

"Out of Context" - obviously a tease. You need LJ to really get the point. (Hint, hint - go buy one!) The article is definitely worth the read, though. In a nutshell Ken concludes that the American church has accepted a definition of family that is "too small." It has at times mistakenly prioritized the "nuclear" family over the church family. Another quote from the article that perhaps sheds some more light here: "Jesus Christ had established, through his death and resurrection, a brand new concept of family, where belonging was about obedience and discipleship instead of merely blood. His church would not overlook nuclear families, but rather enfold them into the larger First Family consisting of all those adopted as God's sons and daughters."

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Roger Marshall

November 12, 2006  2:11am

The problem is that we confuse the family as the institution intended by God with the family made up of two parents and whatever number of kids all living under the same roof. The latter is definitely a Western idea which probably originated in Europe in the 18th century. In other cultures (including the middle-eastern cultures within which the Word of God was first heard) families were not "nuclear" in this sense: grandparents and other relatives as well as non-members all lived together with no distinction made between "nuclear" and "extended" families. This is not necessarily the paradigm that God wants us to live within either, but neither is the "bourgeois" nuclear family the ideal. There are a few pricilples that are clear of course: leaving one's father and mother and "cleaving" to one's wife. Nevertheless the fact that God was present, proclaiming, judging, guiding, healing, restoring, in Old Testament communities where there were concubines, and the fact that now so many people also now live outside the "nuclear family" model (whether because they are single, widowed or divorced) but not for that reason outside the body of Christ must mean that the family institution is not absolute. There are many possible variations on the theme, all of which might fall short of the ideal, but none of which would preclude the redemptive, life-restoring presence of God's grace and power among us.

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Alan Hirsch

November 11, 2006  7:49pm

The problem is that our definition of nuclear family simply does not square with the Biblical idea of household. The Biblical idea of family is much larger and far more inclusive that the defensive unit of the nuclear family–which by the way first emerged out of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century.

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November 10, 2006  10:12pm

I think that statement may just be true. Christ came to gather all men to himself, that our destiny, so surely it should be the most influencial of all social 'institutions.' Jesus said we should hate our fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers, putting him first instead - and since the church is his body, it could easily be inferred that we should put the church first. Also, while psychology shows that family largely determines religious and cultural developement, it also tells us that the family is not nearly as predominant in other areas as most of think it is. According to the prominant psychologist (and Christian) David G. Myers: "Nomal variations in well-meaning parenting matter less than most people suppose. The social ecology matters more than many suppose."

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scott hall

November 10, 2006  1:18am

also, to brent: what's the basis of your assertion that "God put the primary basis of religious instruction on the parents"? is that a biblical basis, or a western individualistic one?

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scott hall

November 10, 2006  1:14am

i have to agree with sam. i know it sounds "un-american" but the clear building block of christian community was the believers living together as the church. most of the non-western world seems to understand this. sometimes it seems to me that american christians get fuzzy on the difference between cultural traditions (which are often based on biblical values) and the biblical values themselves.

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Rick Shott

November 09, 2006  10:45pm

I must agree that family issues are overtaking our theology. The nuclear family is not what we aim for in life. Singleness is lost in most evangelical churches. Which is sad because Jesus was single. With groups named "focus on the family," I wonder where the rest of the church is in this mess. We need to focus on our discipleship and evangelism. The family situation will resolve itself. Putting the family first is putting the cart in front of the ox. It is not the right order of things. The family is not the ultimate place of theological instruction, only the beginning. To hold that the family is the main place ignores that not everyone has the gift of teaching. What needs to be taught in the family is the importance of faith and the meaning of faith for the parents. These influence the lives of the children and provide a basis for further learning in congregational life. Until we become serious about becoming a transformed people in our churches. A people that everyone sees as different in important ways, rather than a people who react with shock to the world around us, we will continue to be a diminishing group. We need to be presenting the gospel and how it changes our lives, not reacting to modern trends trying to cry foul. That would truly be leadership.

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November 09, 2006  9:54pm

Recent research shows that the nuclear family does indeed have the most significant influence on a child's faith development. Too bad you didn't print how he backs up this claim.

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Geoff Baggett

November 09, 2006  5:44pm

I think that Pastor Fong must have been quoted WAY out of context. I absolutely disagree with his premise. The nuclear family absolutely is God's most important social institution and structure on the earth. It was the first such institution that He created. It's priority has not changed. Pastor Fong was correct, however, from a pragmatic standpoint in the second portion of his statement. It is not the agent that most significantly forms the character of Christians today. It's not ... but it should be. Sam, I fear that you may have your societal cart before your horse. Healthy churches do not necessarily make for healthier families. But healthy families most assuredly lead to more healthy churches. I agree that we cannot continue on our same "church" path. But downplaying the immensely vital role of the family is not a new path that we need to take, either.

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November 09, 2006  5:39pm

I have to disagree. While the church SHOULD BE the most influential, and has the potential to be, reality tells us that family influences far more. For good or evil, whatever your nuclear family happens to be, has much much more influence. Even absent fathers influence their children by their non-involvement.

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