Did you know that not all of our pastors are credentialed in the EFCA? I have never quite understood that. I get that the ‘free’ in Evangelical Free Church can mean that no one can tell me what to do. But why not become credentialed in the EFCA? It’s like not getting a license to practice law or be a nurse or doctor or teacher in a certain state. How far would you get not getting a credential in some other denomination? Come on! It’s time to commit to the church with whom you are a member.
Okay. Enough of the rant.
Let me tell you why I think it is a great idea to be credentialed with the EFCA.
Theological purity. Some pastors will get a local church credential and think that is enough. I was originally licensed and ordained by my non-denominational home church in NH. When I became a pastor in the EFCA I thought, “I accepted Christ once, I was baptized once, I was ordained once. Why should I do it again?”
Then one day, the DS at the time, Paul Meiners, called to say that a member of my church with an ax to grind had suggested I was not orthodox in my beliefs. While he knew me, Paul knew nothing about my theology because I had not gone through the EFCA credentialing process. He asked me to send him a number of sermon tapes to let him listen to in order to determine my beliefs. I told him that if I was a Universalist as had been suggested by the disgruntled parishioner he needed to fire me, and I gladly sent him the tapes. (I checked out to be true-blue evangelical by the way).
It dawned on me at that point that the only way the EFCA has any quality control on their product is through the agreement we all share in a common Statement of Faith. And the credentialing process assured theological purity. If a church chooses to hire someone outside the EFCA credentialed pastors list, then there is no assurance that there will be Doctrinal orthodoxy and agreement with who we are as an association of churches. So I began the rigorous steps to become credentialed nationally with the EFCA.
National preference. A local church credential is just that – a credential for that local church and is often not recognized by another church when a pastor moves on. However, the EFCA credential will be recognized nationally. Those credentialed in the EFCA have been approved by a local EFC church, a district council and the national Board of Ministerial Standing in the areas of calling, character and biblical/theological competency that is rooted in our Statement of Faith. You know what you get when in the EFCA. The preaching will be centered Biblically around the doctrine in our Statement of Faith.
Ministry parity. When a church is trying to decide about hiring a new pastor or supporting a church planter, or partner with another congregation in a ministry endeavor it is reassuring that the credentialed pastor is like-minded.
Moral propriety. It is rare, but there have been an occasional situation in my tenure on the District team where a church has hired a non-EFCA pastor who then tried to remove the local church from us to join another denomination. Usually that does not end well, with anger and frustration all around. But when a church looks for a Free Church credentialed pastor, that will not happen. Also, if there is doctrinal compromise or moral failure with a non-credentialed pastoral staff person, the local church often has to address it alone. If a person is credentialed, it provides a national resource to the local church to address these matters intentionally, purposefully and redemptively.
Why should you consider being credentialed in the EFCA?
According to the EFCA website on credentialing, it will affirm God’s call upon your life. It will verify that you meet the qualifications and standards for ministry in the Evangelical Free Church of America. You will be approved for ministerial service under the auspices of the EFCA. It provides accountability to the local church and to the EFCA both doctrinally and morally. It offers you educational development. And it confirms legal status by the IRS.
If you are seeing the advantages of holding an EFCA Credential what should you do next to begin the process of becoming credentialed? Go online and follow the directions to apply. Also contact the District office to begin a folder that will be sent on to the National Board of Ministerial Standing for approval once completed. Finally, consider taking advantage of the EFCA History, Theology and Polity course being offered by National Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing Greg Strand on October 9-10 at the pre-conference of this year’s District conference in Allentown, PA.
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