Unity in the Essentials

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. Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 4.49.07 PM

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.

What is the Network?

WE ARE the Network. If you are a leader in the EFCA, then you are a part of our Ministerial Association. We picture our movement as a cross-shaped tree for we are Christ-centered. The leaves represent the diversity and unity of our movement as we seek to multiply all kinds of churches among all people groups on earth, yet we are One EFCA.

We thank God for the faithful servant leaders who have built sturdy and efficient structures to support the growth of our movement. District offices, the National team, Reach Global and our chaplaincy program each provide a trellis on which the EFCA vine is growing.

The Network is the root system of our movement. Thousands of EFCA leaders, overlapping, intersecting and growing together in pursuit of our common mission to glorify God as we multiply transformational churches among all peoples.

The Ministerial Association has always been about connecting EFCA leaders with one another for three central purposes:

  1. Character
  2. Clarity in our theology
  3. Commitment to our mission

The first 37 EFCA pastors formed the Ministerial Association in 1894 to protect the character and integrity of our growing movement. Definition had to be given to who was a recognized Free Church Pastor and who was not. This was tightly bound to clarity in our theology – founded on the truth and authority of Scripture and centered on the essential doctrines of the faith. And those pastors knew they would be “better together” with joint commitment to collaborate on both national and international missions.

These remain our core values as a Network. We seek to promote the EFCA culture of Biblically-grounded, Gospel-centered partnership for the building of Jesus’ church and the unending glory of God. The main way we do this is simply by encouraging leaders in what makes us “Free Church” people. This is about our identity and our ethos. It is about deepening our roots in Scripture and the Gospel and about strengthening our ties with one another. The Network is the “one anothering” of the EFCA.

If the root system of the EFCA grows deeper and wider through a strong and diverse Network of interdependent leaders the vine will flourish! That is our prayer and our plan and we give thanks to our sovereign and creative God for each leader and what you bring to the family tree!

Evaluating a Sermon

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

In light of the fact that preaching is our Lord’s method of maturing his Church, here are nine points to help us evaluate our own sermons and to learn from other’s sermons.

  1. Scripturality
  • Is the main idea in the text?
  • Are the lateral ideas related to the text?
  • Are adjacent points at least consistent with that Scriptural text?
  1. Truth
  • Are theological conclusions and applications truthful?
  • Is the sermon Christocentric?
  1. Clarity
  • Are the preacher’s points clear and adequately argued?
  • Are his choices of words helpful?
  • Are key terms defined adequately?
  • Do his points provide a cogent sequential message?
  • Do his illustrations clarify or muddle?  
  1. Edification
  • Is it spiritually helpful?
  • Are hard to say truths couched in Christian love?
  • Is the application of the truth clear and practical?
  • Is the sermon geared for the variety of ages and circumstances for the congregation to understand?
  1. Godliness
  • Does the sermon promote holiness before God?
  • Does the sermon exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, or is it self-serving, unkind, trivial, slanderous, etc?  
  1. Importance
  • Does the main point address a spiritual need in that congregation?
  • Is the main idea recognized as important to the listeners?
  • If not, was the preacher able to convince the congregation of its importance?
  1. Profundity
  • Does the sermon wrestle with difficult, or only with easy issues and questions in the text?
  • Does it get to the heart of a matter?
  • Does it note subtle distinctions and nuances that are easy to ignore?
  • Is it thought provoking?
  1. Form and Style
  • Is it appropriate to the setting?   
  • Does it show creativity?
  • Is it delivered with poise, proper annunciation and grammar?
  • Does the preacher intentionally resemble others or is he genuine and being himself?
  • Is the preacher attentive to time?

By Pastor Paulo Freire

Hope  ChurchWantage, NJ

Download as a word doc.

Because we need each other

Why is the Ministerial Association Board recommending that we re-purpose and re-energize this 134 year old institution? When we have godly leaders and helpful structures in place at both the District and National level, why should we preserve (much less invest in) a grassroots network of pastors and leaders?

The simple answer: because we need each otherIMG_0346

Pastors need other pastors. Missionaries need other missionaries. Chaplains need other chaplains. Ministry Directors need other Ministry Directors. Just as believers need one another to encourage and stir each other up, so leaders need each other. And with leaders, the stakes are that much higher.

We’ve all seen the carnage that comes from a high profile pastor or leader who falls into sin. That is the result of disconnection and lack of accountability. The same thing happens all over the country every day in smaller churches and ministry settings – it just doesn’t make the news.

  • How many former pastors do you know?
  • How many former ministry leaders have you met?

I’ve only been in ministry twenty years but my number is at least that many who were once in ministry and now their marriage is over or their kids won’t talk to them or their ministry is ruined or all three (and more sometimes). The best case, sadly, is the ones who had the sense to drop out of ministry before those other outcomes resulted.

Praise God for our Recovery Church Ministry! Dozens of EFCA leaders have found hope and experienced healing through this proactive process. Two of many reasons we believe it is important to our movement to re-energize the MA is to support Recovery Church financially (it’s one of the primary items in our budget) and to mobilize peer-to-peer relationships among leaders that will reduce the need for this recovery ministry over time.

Why does the EFCA need a Network of leaders? Because we need each other. As leaders, we need to encourage, connect with, exhort, support, partner with and counsel one another. Yes, this happens in our Districts. Yes, the National office is intentional about caring for us. But the Ministerial Association is our network. It is our way of standing together – of committing to each other.

Because we need each other.

Gospel E.Q.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 suggests that people are the combination of Intelligence Quotient, personality and emotional intelligence (E.Q.). I.Q. and personality are established and unchangeable. E.Q. can grow and develop. Bradbury and Greaves argue, therefore, that we should focus on increasing our emotional intelligence to better our lives and become more successful.  EQ4

Their book is insightful and helpful largely because it is so simple. By improving your self-awareness you can manage your strengths and weaknesses better. Similarly, by growing in social awareness you can manage your relationships better. It’s one of those books you read and then wonder why you didn’t read it long before, like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or Strengths Finder 2.0. Each chapter includes over a dozen practical, doable suggestions to grow in that quadrant of your E.Q.


As I read the book it struck me how perfectly this model of growth fits with Christian discipleship. If you place the Gospel at the center of the matrix, it changes from a self-help book into a handbook for total life transformation.


Accurate self-awareness should lead a person humbly to the cross of Jesus Christ to be forgiven. Experiencing the grace of God and becoming a new creation in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, provides the power for the believer to manage him or herself in line with God’s will. Similarly, clear social awareness – sensitivity to the needs of others – should lead us humbly to the cross of Jesus Christ to receive His power and direction for ministry.


So there it is: Gospel-centered Emotional Intelligence. Humble self-awareness that leads to conviction of sin and a life of confession and repentance connects the believer with the life-transforming power of the Gospel to live a holy life of wholehearted devotion to the Lord. Likewise, a heart filled with the love of God for hurting and broken people, when shaped by the cross of Christ produces a fruitful life of service and mission.

by Pastor Darin Anderson (Oakwood Community Church – Tampa, FL)

Letter to Non-Licensed Pastors

Dear Pastor,

Thank you for serving the Lord Jesus Christ as a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church!EvCon

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6

On behalf of the Ministerial Association of the EFCA (your fellow pastors), we are pleased to present you with a complimentary copy of Evangelical Convictions. This insightful exposition of our statement of faith will stir your heart to worship the Lord while helping you better appreciate and more effectively proclaim the gospel, which is “the power of God that brings  salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

We have asked your District Leadership to deliver this gift to you, and are sincerely grateful for the missional partnership we have with our District and National staff as we labor together to “multiply transformational churches among all peoples,” for the glory of God.

This letter is an appeal from the five EFCA pastors currently serving as the Board of Directors for the Ministerial Association – the grassroots network of EFCA Leaders that exists to encourage pastor-to-pastor relationships. The primary strength of our movement comes from our personal connections with one another, both locally and nationally. Consider this an invitation to more fully engage in the movement of which you are already a valuable part.

  • First, if you aren’t already regularly connected with EFCA pastors in your District, we urge you to start making that a priority. (If you are, please continue! We truly are “better together!”) Combined, the five of us have a total of nearly 100 years of experience serving EFCA churches, so we know the blessings of having brothers beside us and the dangers of walking alone. Plug in to a regional pastor meeting (some call it a cluster), attend your District Conference, get to know your brothers in the EFCA!
  • Second, we challenge you to start the credentialing process. Please don’t leave Evangelical Convictions on your shelf! Start reading a chapter or two every month, which will help you express your convictions in the paper that will lead to your license and in time, your ordination. We are a movement united by our theology and defined by our ethos of “unity in the essentials.” The licensing process will help you articulate the central doctrines of the faith and distinguish top tier issues from secondary matters. This exercise will strengthen your ministry, bless your church and protect the EFCA of the future. As Paul urged Timothy,Guard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20). You can start here: efca.org/ministries/office-president/efca-credentialing
  • Third, when you need help, ask for it! Servant leaders are available in your District, in the National office and all around you in the Ministerial Association. The EFCA Recovery Church ministry is there to pick up the pieces for our brothers and sisters who have burned out or had a moral failing. But don’t wait until you have no choice but to fall into that safety net. Our contact information is below to make it clear that in addition to the District and National leaders in place to serve you, and in addition to the pastors you already know, there are five EFCA pastors who are eager to hear what you are going through, to pray with you and help you find a way forward.

We thank God for you and consider it a privilege to labor with you in His harvest field. May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones and may your ministry bear much fruit as you preach the gospel and make disciples.

Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16

For the glory of God and the advance of the gospel,

Your MA Board

[This is a letter from the MA Board to encourage young or not-yet credentialed pastors to pursue a ministry license on their way toward ordination (if appropriate). It will be delivered by District Superintendents along with a complimentary copy of Evangelical Convictions to facilitate the process.]