Spring 2015

No Small Dreams

The shared vision of the EFCA

By T.J. Addington

Few things can focus a local church or a movement like a clear vision: a vision that is God-sized and God-given. People are not captivated by small dreams, and a God-sized dream can only be accomplished through God’s power. Vision takes seriously Paul’s words that He can do more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and focuses large numbers of people around that goal.

Some years ago, the senior leadership team of the EFCA pondered aloud whether there was a compelling vision that unified all of us and expressed what God had put on our hearts for the movement we serve. We each had pieces of a vision; we of course had the strength of our theological convictions in our Statement of Faith; and we also knew that many EFCA churches had a clear vision for their own ministries. The question was whether there was a common, succinct vision that could unify us around a defined, God-sized ask and help all of us focus on that goal.

This led us to many prayerful conversations and to an important decision: to initiate a national conversation about vision in every district of the EFCA, in partnership with our district superintendents, that included a representation of our pastors and churches. Out of this dialogue came the following defined vision for the EFCA in the years ahead: We are praying that God will raise up 1 million disciplemakers impacting millions with the gospel and transforming entire cities and regions globally.

This is obviously a God-sized ask. After all, if we can accomplish it by ourselves, it is not vision. True vision requires God’s direct involvement and requires faith. This new EFCA vision certainly does: Our movement in the United States involves not quite 1,500 churches and about 375,000 worshippers on any given Sunday. And our international missions “reach” through ReachGlobal involves 600 staff members across 75-plus countries, plus growing partnerships with national partners. Yet we are praying to reach millions.

It was clear through the national conversations and dialogue that our movement resonated deeply with the three focal points of this new vision: disciplemakers, gospel impact, and impact on entire cities and regions.

What is a disciple? One who understands and extends God’s grace; who thinks as Jesus thinks; who has aligned his or her lifestyle to reflect the priorities of Jesus; and who sees and loves people as Jesus sees and loves them. Someone who has done more than simply change outward behaviors. In other words, a disciple is one whose heart, mind, life and relationships have all been transformed by Jesus.

While our congregations do many things very well, we are significantly deficient in this act of developing disciplemakers.

Our new EFCA vision is to see all of God’s people become not only true disciples but also disciplemakers—men, women and young people who are actively engaged in impacting others with the gospel. Over the past decade, we have become increasingly aware that while our congregations do many things very well, we are significantly deficient in this act of developing disciplemakers, even though it’s a crucial part of our role in His Church (Ephesians 4:10-12).

That’s what Jesus means in His Great Commission, when He commands us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).

All of this has an exponential impact, which is why we are praying that together we will touch millions with the gospel. Amazingly, there are 7 billion people on the planet today. In 1900 there were fewer than 1.8 billion.* With globalization it has never been more possible to reach more people with the gospel than today.

Whether it is China and India, where the gospel is exploding, or the Middle East, where the soil is more difficult—we are seeing an amazing spread of the gospel in our day. We absolutely believe that God can use our movement to touch millions with the gospel as we live out the disciplemaking paradigm that Jesus gave to us.

The final piece of the vision statement involves asking God to allow us to have an impact on not simply our neighborhoods but also entire cities and regions. A biblical example of this is the planting and growth of the church in Ephesus (Acts 19), where the entire area of Asia Minor heard about the gospel.

Historically, the EFCA has participated in such efforts in Congo, Hong Kong and Venezuela. And this is what ReachGlobal is still doing today. For example, we are partnering with Together With Berlin (a coalition of German ministries) to see a gospel presence arise in every one of Berlin’s hundred-some neighborhoods. This requires us to place the Bride of Christ (His Church) above our particular brand (the EFCA) in a cooperative effort to see Jesus become well known and His presence lifted high in this influential city. And at the core of that strategy, again, is the making of disciples who will in turn be disciplemakers.

Similar strategies are taking place today in the United States, where gospel-centered churches are working across denominational and theological lines to reach their city or region.

Can you imagine all 1,500 churches in the EFCA focusing on the making of disciplemakers, who are focused on reaching their corner of the world and beyond with the gospel, and who are also cooperating with other likeminded churches to see God do more than any one of us could do alone? Add in the international efforts and the schools of the EFCA movement, and you soon have a powerful set of waves that God can use to transform individuals, communities, and cities and regions.

It is our prayer and hope that all EFCA churches will join together in seeing this happen. I think we can safely paraphrase: “The world has yet to see what God will do through a whole movement committed to the gospel of Jesus.” We would like to be that movement.

*According to the U.S. Census Bureau

T.J. Addington is a senior vice president with the EFCA and the leader of ReachGlobal, the international mission of the EFCA. He and his wife, Mary Ann, live in Oakdale, Minnesota, and are members of Rockpoint Church (EFCA) in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.