The Evangelical Free Church is known for its commitment to the authority of Scripture and the centrality of the Gospel. The Bible is our foundation and the cross of Jesus Christ is our center. This dual commitment gives us fierce clarity on the essential doctrines of the faith and broad freedom when it comes to secondary matters.
We are a centrist movement – committed to keeping the main thing the main thing. Pastor Brian Walker of Lake Morton Community Church (an EFC in Lakeland, FL) presented this beautifully in a recent message. He said, “If we downplay the importance of doctrine and don’t draw any lines on essential beliefs we can slide into liberalism. But if we make every single point of doctrine an essential teaching we can slide into fundamentalism.”
Unity in the essentials and “dialogue in our differences” (Greg Strand) protects us from either error. There are some hills that are worth dying on such as the inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of Scripture, the Trinity, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone. But most other theological hills are simply not worth fighting over – the age of the earth, the timing and mode of baptism, the use of the supernatural gifts, the nature of Jesus’ return relative to the Millennium, etc.
It is good for us to have beliefs and convictions on issues like this – but they are not worth dividing over. There is so much for us to celebrate that we have in common with brothers and sisters from other traditions who share our central beliefs on the Bible, the Trinity and the Gospel. Let’s make room for people with different views on secondary matters and sharpen each other with our differences. And let’s partner together with everyone we can to bring the love and truth of Jesus to every part of our city and every people group on earth!
For more on “theological triage” check out this helpful article from the Gospel Coalition (a wonderfully unifying and evangelically centrist network).
Brian preached this sermon as part of a five way pulpit swap among EFCA pastors in central Florida. Ryan Schmitz (Trinity E Free in Eustis, FL) suggested the idea at a spring pastor gathering in order to promote more prayer for one another. The five pastors chose to speak on five core convictions in our movement, including Brian’s topic of unity in the essentials. We also addressed our ultimate purpose to glorify God, our focus on multiplying disciples, our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel and our foundation in the Word of God.