EFCA Ordination: An Example

Greg Strand – November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

As a follow up to the earlier post on the importance and benefits of credentialing in the EFCA, I thought it might be insightful to hear from a few who actually participated in an ordination council of an EFCA pastor.

Prior to the ordination council, council members read the pastor’s 40 page ordination paper (you can see the credentialing process here). At the council, the pastor expounded his doctrinal beliefs as stated in the paper, and also responded to questions asked by council members.

After the ordination council, I asked a few of the members to include a few words about the importance of ordination in the EFCA, for the pastor, the local church where the pastor serves and the EFCA. This is stated from the perspective of members who are not pastors serving vocationally, with a couple of them also serving as elders in the local church.

Although the names and local church are not named, this is representative of ordination councils across the EFCA. I thought it would be fruitful for you to hear the testimonies from a few who participated in a council and affirm it and the process.

Here is one response from a member and elder in the local church where the pastor serves.

 As a lay leader in a local EFC I came away from my exposure to the EFCA credentialing process more deeply committed to being a part of the EFCA and deeply grateful for the protections it offers us as a local congregation. The group of EFC pastors and laymen from neighboring communities provided a depth and perspective through the ordination council for our pastor that we never could have assembled ourselves. Through a process that was both theologically rigorous and humbly gracious, they invested themselves selflessly to help us to establish a new level of confidence in what we had already observed in the life and ministry of our pastor. The moderator masterfully guided this process without inserting himself or his considerable experience inappropriately while setting a tone for the entire evening that was both challenging and genuinely encouraging. I came away very impressed with the caliber of EFC pastors and deeply grateful for the EFCA’s commitment to high standards of biblical faithfulness. 

Here is a response from one who is a member of another local EFC church that is nearby. He wrote it to the pastor who went through the credentialing process.

I am a layperson who attends a different church than the one in which you minister.  I was asked by our district superintendent to participate in your EFCA ordination council.  I’d never done that before.  As a person that is a member of an EFC church and one who entrusts my family to sit under the teaching and shepherding ministry of an EFCA pastor, I was very pleased to see the process that you and other EFCA pastors willingly submit yourselves to in order to become ordained pastors in the EFCA.  It was obvious that you worked very hard to get to know God’s Word over years of ministry and study.  You answered theological questions from other ordained pastors and from lay people competently.  You explained well how this theological competence translated into personal ministry within the congregation you serve and among the people in the community with whom you live.  You showed us that your life reflects your theology.  It was a long day of interacting with those of us on the council.  But I could see at the end of it that you and your wife were pleased with the affirmation you received from those you respect in the Lord.  It was a profitable time for you, and for me.

As I shepherd my own family, I want to know that the pastors and elders of the church we attend are lovers of God and lovers of His Word, leaders that I can depend upon in the Lord.  2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  Thank you for putting in the hard work to become a worker who has no need to be ashamed and one who rightly handles God’s Word.  Thank you for willingly submitting yourself to be tested and to be open to correction.  Thank you for being teachable and for being a teacher and minister of God.

Here, finally, is another response from one who is a member and serves as an elder of a neighboring EFC church.

I think Scripture is clear in Jude that we are to “contend for the faith”.  In Titus we see Paul instructing that we “must hold firm to the trustworthy word”.  In first Peter we are told to be “ready to give a defense”.  In 1 Timothy we are told that the church is to be the “pillar and buttress of the truth”.  Little of this will happen in a local church if the leadership, primarily the lead pastor(s), aren’t sound in their understanding of the truth. 

I was recently asked to take part in an EFCA ordination council for a local EFC church.  It was very encouraging to see how serious the EFCA takes the ordaining of their pastors.  The process requires pastors desiring to be ordained to be thoroughly knowledgeable in the Scriptures and to have had experience in applying this knowledge in daily practice.   It was a pleasure to be a part of such a process and it was also reassuring that by God’s grace and processes like this, we can have hope that God’s truth will continue in this often seemingly truth-less society 

I appreciate these testimonies giving personal insight into the importance of the credentialing process, for the pastor and the local church. This is a vital aspect of being committed to the spiritual health and well-being of local EFC churches, to remain faithful to Sound Doctrine, which, in turn, will do the same in the EFCA, both now and into the future.

This is our prayer, by God’s grace and for His glory.


EFCA Credentialing: Importance and Benefits

Greg Strand – November 23, 2015 2 Comments

In the EFCA, we have a national credential for those called to and engaged in pastoral (vocational) ministry. Being congregational (local church autonomy), credentialing begins in the context of a local church, which means that the process of credentialing cannot be done apart from a call to a qualifying EFC local church ministry. In the EFCA, once a person is in a qualifying EFC ministry, then they reflect their interdependence by encouraging those in pastoral (vocational) ministry to be credentialed in the EFCA.

In one of the Board of Ministerial Standing’s documents, they expound the importance and benefits of being credentialed in the EFCA. The Board of Ministerial Standing is approved by and accountable to the Conference of the EFCA, the congregational authority in the EFCA under Christ. Their responsibility is to implement the credentialing process on behalf of the Conference and through this give oversight to the doctrinal fidelity and moral purity of credentialed pastors.

Here, then, are a few statements explaining the importance and benefits of being credentialed in the EFCA, both to the candidate and the local church.

What are the benefits for the candidate of the credentialing process in the EFCA?  

The candidate will be affirmed beyond the local church regarding a calling to and gifting for ministry. Through this process, the candidate will have structure to guide the study and processing of biblical/theological truths and the pastoral applications of those truths in the lives of God’s people. It will also provide accountability, both doctrinally and morally.

What are the benefits to the local church?  

The local church leaders and membership will be assured that their pastoral staff is aligned with the EFCA, and is committed to serve within the EFCA. As members in a local church are under authority (of Christ and the leaders and members), so is the pastoral staff under the same authority, and also the EFCA. The pastoral staff is saying to the local church that we are all in the EFCA.

Why should the local church encourage/require their vocational ministry staff to be credentialed in the EFCA?

Because this is a national credential, it provides consistency and uniformity of standards and expectations for all those being credentialed. When a local church has a pastoral staff person who is credentialed in the EFCA, they can be reassured of the calling, character, and biblical/theological capacity of this person. This is true of their pastoral staff that has been credentialed while in ministry with them, and it is also true of those they may call at some point in the future. This is an important way the national EFCA serves local churches. Moreover, this is a very important step to ensure doctrinal fidelity and moral purity in lives of those who serve as pastoral staff. 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. This is also an important way in which the autonomous local church communicates their interdependency with other local EFC churches together known as the EFCA. This would be the difference between being a pastor of an EFC church and being an EFC pastor. Finally, this is one small step towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ high priestly prayer for believers to be one. 

How would this help the one who enters into the credentialing process as a means of ministerial and theological growth?

It provides structure for one’s study of biblical/theological truth with the EFCA Statement of Faith as the foundation. An avenue of further growth would be to teach this material to the local church as you are studying it, either in a sermon series, an adult Sunday school or in a small group. This has the dual benefit for both the person in the credentialing process and those in the local church to learn more about the EFCA and its gospel-centered, Christ-focused, God-glorifying biblical/theological commitments as expressed in the Statement of Faith. As is often the case, the teacher has the profound benefit of learning the most.

How about you?

  1. If you are in a qualifying ministry in the EFCA, are you credentialed? Why are you? What is the importance? What are the benefits to you and the church? If not, why not.
  2. For those who are leaders alongside pastors, have you encouraged (required) your pastor to pursue credentialing in the EFCA? If so, why did you? If not, why not?
  3. I encourage all in qualifying ministry in the EFCA to be credentialed. I encourage those members and leaders of local EFC churches to require their pastors and pastoral leaders (vocationally) to be credentialed in the EFCA. If you have any questions as you pursue this, please let me know.

Key Events of Church History

Greg Strand – November 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, has written a list of 18 Key Events of Church History (Although the title of the blog post lists 18 key events, the actual list contains 19.)

  1. Conversion of Paul
  2. Irenaeus defence of the Faith against Gnosticism (‎preserves OT as canonical)
  3. Constantine and the edict of Milan (313)
  4. Augustine’s baptism in 387 and his Confessions (399)
  5. Patrick’s mission to Ireland 430-460 and the creation of the Celtic Church
  6. Rise of Islam
  7. Cyril and Methodius’ mission to the Slavic countries
  8. 1054 schism between Rome and Orthodoxy
  9. Luther and his 95 Theses (1517)
  10. William Tyndale and his New Testament (1526)
  11. Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan victory in the English Civil Wars (1640s and the 1650s)
  12. ‎Act of Toleration (1689)
  13. Great Awakening (1740s-1750s)
  14. The Formation of the Baptist Missionary Society (1792)
  15. Intellectual work of Marx, Freud, Nietzsche
  16. World War I
  17. The Fundamentalist- Modernist controversy (1920s-1930s)
  18. The decision of Martyn Lloyd-Jones to go to Westminster Chapel (1938)
  19. The Billy Graham 1959 NY Crusade.

A few questions to ponder:

  • How much do you know of each of these events?
  • What do you know of the historical, cultural, spiritual and political climate surrounding these key events?
  • What is the longer term impact of these events?
  • What would you include and why?

“Spot-finders” or Honor

Greg Strand – November 18, 2015 Leave a comment

When we engage with other believers, do we generally assume the best or the worst of them? I would guess that if we know that person and consider that person a friend, we would assume the best. How about if there is a disagreement? How would that affect your thinking or mental response to that person, much less one with whom you do not necessarily get along?

The biblical ethic of love means that we will love our fellow brother and/or sister in the Lord. Our response is a moral matter.

Think of Paul’s words: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:29-32).

And think of James’ words: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (Jms. 5:9).

And finally, ponder John’s words: “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn. 4:19-21).

With these biblical texts in mind, read slowly the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon as he applies this truth (Treasury of the New Testament; HT: Ray Ortlund):

We should be merciful to one another in seeking never to look at the worst side of a brother’s character.  Oh, how quick some are to spy out other people’s faults!  They hear that Mr. So-and-so is very useful in the church, and they say, ‘Yes, he is, but he has a very curious way of going to work, has he not?  And he is so eccentric.’  Well, did you ever know a good man who was very successful, who was not a little eccentric? . . .

Do you go out when the sun is shining brightly and say, ‘Yes, this sun is a very good illuminator, but I remark that it has spots’?  If you do, you had better keep your remark to yourself, for it gives more light than you do, whatever spots you may have or may not have.  And many excellent persons in the world have spots, but yet they do good service to God and to their age.

So let us not always be the spot-finders, but let us look at the bright side of the brother’s character rather than the dark one, and feel that we rise in repute when other Christians rise in repute, and that, as they have honor through their holiness, our Lord has the glory of it, and we share in some of the comfort of it. 

May we not be “spot-finders” but rather give honor to the other in love.


J. I. Packer’s Living Epitaph

Greg Strand – November 16, 2015 3 Comments

J.I. Packer has been greatly used of God for many years. His books have served the people of God in the church of Christ for many years. I have read many of them, including his classic Knowing God numerous times. He refers to himself as an ecclesial theologian, i.e. a theologian of the church not the academy, and an adult catechist, i.e., one who teaches and instructs adults.

In conjunction with the release of a couple of new biographies of Packer, a 20 minute documentary was filmed of him. Although we do not determine what others will say about our legacy, what we say and the way we live our lives are what determine that legacy. We desire to be faithful to the Lord, entrusting ourselves to him, and we do not become concerned about what others will or will not say about us. The “well done” is sought by the Lord alone.

When Packer was asked how he would like to be remembered, he stated the following:

As I look back on the life that I have lived, I would like to be remembered as a voice, a voice that focused on

  • the authority of the Bible,
  • the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • the wonder of his substitutionary sacrifice and atonement for our sins

I would like to be remembered as a voice calling Christian people to holiness and challenging lapses in Christian moral standards.

I should like to be remembered as someone who was always courteous in controversy, but without compromise.

I ask you to thank God with me for the way that he has led me and I wish, hope, pray that you will enjoy the same clear leading from him and the same help in doing the tasks that he sets you that I have enjoyed.

And if your joy matches my joy as we continue in our Christian lives, well, you will be blessed indeed.

My gratitude to the Lord for this mentor/model from a distance only increases as I read these words from Packer.