The Evangelical Free Church of America movement was birthed from pietistic revivals that swept througH Norway and Sweden in the 1800s…
In those countries, the state church had become largely spiritually dead, with many pastors not even pretending to believe Scriptures were the inspired Word of God and some professing no relationship with God at all.
These revivals started as groups of believers began meeting together to study God’s Word for themselves. What had been dead orthodoxy (and sometimes unorthodoxy) became real to increasing numbers who discovered the joy of God’s Word, the reality of His personal presence and, in that personal presence, the indwelling and direction of the Holy Spirit. It was a radical transformation.
Many of these believers formed new churches called “free churches” as they broke away from the churches controlled by the state governments.
Thus was formed the beginning of what is now a worldwide Evangelical Free Church movement.
Key evangelists of these revivals soon crossed the ocean to minister to the many Swedes and Norwegians in the United States. Those from free churches in the old country formed free-church movements in the new country, and in 1950, the Swedish Free Church joined hands with the Norwegian Free Church to form the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Central to this new church were two key convictions that continue to shape our movement today:
The Word of God is His complete and final revelation to us as to who He is and who He desires us to become: like Him.
The Scriptures are true, inerrant and God’s authoritative Word for our lives.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The phrase “Where stands it written” has always been key to the EFCA. In other words, we believe what the Scriptures teach and only teach what the Scriptures teach. The Word of God is His complete and final revelation to us as to who He is and who He desires us to become: like Him.
The strength of this conviction has led to the private and public reading of Scripture being central to who we are. God has spoken definitively to us in His Word. As His followers we need to be saturated in His truth, as it is the source of our understanding of Him and the life to which He has called us.
God is a real presence in our lives through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
“When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you” (John 16:13-15).
This second conviction of our pietistic beginnings is that our faith is not a dead orthodoxy but a living relationship. We do not worship the Bible but this living God who has invaded our lives, and we live in communion with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that as the Holy Spirit resides in our hearts and becomes our moment-by-moment “counselor” (John 14:16), He speaks to us and guides us into all truth.
This is the wonderful gift of God that helps us apply the Word of God to our lives (His revealed truth) and gives us direction in the situations we face on a daily basis. When we feel the conviction of the Spirit in some area of our lives, it is Him speaking to us through His Spirit. When we sense Him leading us in a certain direction, it is Him speaking to us through His Spirit. When we ask for His wisdom and He drops solutions into our minds, it is Him speaking to us through His Spirit. The term spiritual discernment refers to us being sensitive to the Spirit’s voice.
God’s truth in Scripture, plus the living application of that truth in our lives through His Spirit, plus the life change that His Spirit brings—this is the new life in Christ of which the Scriptures speak. It is not simply truth but a living truth from a living God mediated in our lives by a living Spirit.
This dual gift of the Word and the Spirit brings vibrancy to our spiritual lives. We have the conviction of understanding God’s truth through the Word, and we have confidence that God will help us apply that truth through His Spirit. Then, we have the gift of His daily direction. This is life in the Spirit (Romans 8), which is characterized by “life and peace” (Romans 8:6). It is why Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that “we have the mind of Christ” because we have the gift of His Spirit.
The Word and the Spirit are both central to the Christian life. They form our roots as a movement coming out of dead orthodoxy and they form our lives today: We live in the presence of a living God who speaks truth through His Word and guides us through His Spirit. We are a movement that is Word-based and Spirit-empowered.