Building on a Firm Foundation
Taking our past into our future
Excavation can be an arduous and tedious experience. Yet when completed, it often reveals a new perspective as information is unearthed and history is brought to life.
What if we brush around the edges of the EFCA? What if we unearth the depths of this movement? What would we see?
In a 2012 issue of EFCA Today, author and consultant Will Mancini noted that effective movements know who they are. So, digging down to the foundation of the EFCA has been my aim since becoming president.
But at the same time I’m digging down, I’m looking forward. That’s because the direction in which we move is informed by who we are.
For example, living out our faith takes many forms, but we are called to sacrifice for each other, show compassion to the powerless and vulnerable, and work to bring justice on earth. This conviction led the EFCA in 2008 to add Article 8 to our Statement of Faith:
We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
If we excavate the depths of our EFCA movement, we’ll reach deep, solid bedrock.
When we take the Word of God seriously, we apply it, and we grow. In Evangelical Convictions, we read, “God’s saving work is not limited to the forgiveness of sins and our rescue from God’s wrath. The God who justifies us also works in us to conform us to the image of Christ, so that we might share in his glory (cf. Romans 8:29-30) in an on-going process we call sanctification.”1
On this adventure together
If we excavate the depths of our EFCA movement, I know that we’ll reach deep, solid bedrock—one established more than a hundred years ago and built upon year-after-year in faithful ministry. Over the past two years, I have been working to articulate the foundational values that the EFCA has been built upon from the beginning days of the Free Church movement. What are our “foundation stones”—the bedrock of who we are and how we live, and how we will continue to live and minister into the future?
Christianity is the outworking of ordinary men and women using their unique gifts to serve God and others.
My original list consisted of four foundation stones: abide, Word, gospel and mission. But in conversations with other leaders, I realized the necessity of each stone lived out in a community of believers unified by a set of essentials (with freedom for disagreement). That’s our history. Community is the context in which we abide in Christ, know and obey the Word, trust in the transforming work of the gospel, and live on-mission among all people.
Christianity isn’t lived out individually, it isn’t built on superstars and it allows freedom in nonessentials. It’s the outworking of ordinary men and women using their unique gifts to serve God and serve others. We are in this together and we are better together.
So that led me to add two more stones: community and unity. Each of the six builds upon the next and overlaps with the others:
Prayerful dependence on Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit
Know and obey God’s authoritative Scriptures
Centrality of the transforming work of Christ
Great Commandment and Great Commission disciplemaking among all people
Priesthood of all believers in appropriate interdependence
In essentials unity, in the rest charity
Prayerful dependence in Jesus (abide) leads us to the Word as we obey what it teaches and our faith is nourished (Word), which causes a renewal as we believe again and again in the saving work of Christ and its power to change one life after another (gospel). As we are changed, we feel an urgency to influence the world (mission). Out of what God has done in and through us, we move forward together (community), tethered to the essentials, with open arms that welcome others (unity).
God is calling us to develop disciplemaking leaders who live out these foundation stones.
I believe God is calling us to develop disciplemaking leaders who live out these foundation stones. We must multiply churches and ministries among all people everywhere. And as we work together in unity, may we create a new community for the next generation that’s anchored in the inerrant Word of God and demonstrates the transforming work of Christ.
Those are the stories you’ll see in the following articles. Stories of pastors, leaders and churches used by God to transform entire communities to the glory of God. Of course, each is only one example of how we are, together, building our current and future ministry upon the bedrock foundational values of our movement.
That’s why I’m excited about the future of the EFCA and why this issue is so important to me. The way we approach these foundation stones makes us who we are today and will build ministry for decades to come.
Kevin Kompelien is president of the Evangelical Free Church of America. He previously served more than 20 years as a local pastor in the EFCA, and then nine years as international leader of the Africa division with EFCA ReachGlobal. He and his wife, Becky, are members of Hillside EFC in San Jose, California.