EFCA Doctrinal Survey

Greg Strand – June 4, 2014 7 Comments

The EFCA Conference adopted our present Statement of Faith in 2008. In conjunction with this discussion the EFCA Board of Directors affirmed a “process for safeguarding our spiritual heritage.” One aspect of this process was to conduct a theological survey every five years. It was a way the Board sought intentionally to value and safeguard the vital role of the Bible, theology and doctrine in the EFCA.

The survey was conducted at the end of 2013. All senior pastors of EFC churches (not all are credentialed in the EFCA), and everyone credentialed by the EFCA (not all are in EFCA ministries) were invited to participate in the survey. This email was sent to 1928 individuals with 1074 responding. This is a 55.7% response which is excellent! This incredibly high response rate was to a 46 question survey that took approximately 20-25 minutes to complete. Doctrine matters!

The questions and structure of the Survey were based on our SOF with a focus on major doctrinal issues, matters of the “significance of silence” (issues we will debate but not divide over), and contemporary theological issues. The survey was conducted anonymously and each question provided opportunities for comments. There were 3670 comments made. Participants engaged in the survey!

The survey was conducted for informational purposes, to discern a doctrinal “pulse” from some in the EFCA. We also sought to determine what some of the areas of doctrinal disagreement are among Evangelicals broadly which could become areas of concern, controversy and conflict among us in the EFCA. We anticipated this would provide some insight into what some of the possible theological trajectories might be so that we could ascertain where we are headed.

In response, we were hopeful to determine some of the issues upon which further or additional instruction might be needed, and how we could provide resources for pastors and leaders to understand and work through these important matters with the intent of retaining our doctrinal and theological fidelity.

As an important reminder, surveys must be read and interpreted carefully. They are easily misused. It is important to remember that survey bias can occur due to the survey questions, respondents of the survey, definitions either assumed or imported, misunderstanding or confusing questions, over-interpreting or under-interpreting either a part or the whole, universalizing rather than recognizing it is a limited group that records a “pulse” at a point in time. Bearing all of these limitations in mind, surveys are still helpful tools and provide much helpful information, including this doctrinal survey.

The Board of Directors now releases a combined document: (1) EFCA Doctrinal Survey: Board of Directors’ Summary/Analysis, and (2) EFCA Doctrinal Survey: Questionnaire and Statistical Results (please note that questions 5-7 and 46 are blank since responses were only comments).

Let me know your thoughts, reflections, comments to the survey and the statistics. I am interested to know – what encouraged you? what concerned you? what surprised you?

Here are a few ways to use this survey in your own local setting.

  • If you were not one to take the survey, I would encourage you to use this as an opportunity to go through the questions to determine how you would respond.
  • Use this survey as an opportunity to discern what issue(s) to study further.
  • Give the questionnaire to elders or other leaders of the church.

In closing, I am greatly encouraged that the EFCA remains tethered to the text and grounded in the gospel. It is a joy and privilege to serve the Lord in the EFCA. May we continue to give ourselves faithfully and fully to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in both life and ministry.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

7 responses to EFCA Doctrinal Survey

  1. chuck carlson June 4, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks for giving us the summary of responses to the survey. Frankly it encouraged me because I found myself in the middle of the mix.
    What concerns me is how few of our younger pastors completed the survey. Or does the number who did so compare favorably with the comparative number of pastors in that age group?

    I was also surprised how many had not adopted the new statement of faith, and how many said they would not.

    • I appreciate your thoughts, Chuck. Two brief responses to your observations. Regarding younger pastors, it was not that they did not complete the survey but rather that they were not participants of the survey. Remember that it was sent to all sr. pastors and all those credentialed in the EFCA. The lack of younger pastors was related to the fact that many are not in sr. pastor roles, and/or they are not credentialed in the EFCA. As far as adopting the 2008 Statement of Faith, 80% of respondents noted the church had adopted the Statement of Faith. That is a strong number. For those who have not, though many support it, in order to change it the constitution needs to be changed and not all are desirous to do that.

  2. I’m concerned about the relative unimportance of baptism to us EFCA folk.

    • Yes, Bob, I share your concern. It is related to much of the free church commitment to soteriology, being a believer, but often at the expense of a commitment to ecclesiology, being the church. Both soteriology and ecclesiology are necessary, and knowing how they fit together is also important. It is something I believe we need to grow in our understanding and commitment, both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

  3. Hey Greg,

    I was particularly interested on the part about the confusion on celibate Christians with same-sex attraction. I was wondering what the nature of that confusion tended to be?

    I found it a little concerning, although my personal experience in my current EFCA church has been overall positive and very loving.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Michael. Two responses.

      First, I am grateful to hear that life together with your church family “has been overall positive and very loving.” That is greatly encouraging to hear, and an experience that reflects the gospel.

      Second, as you read, there is a strong commitment to the biblical teaching on marriage being between a man and a woman, thus making same-sex “marriage” sinful. I do not believe there has been sufficient thought given to the differences between those committed to homosexuality in belief (it is not sinful) and practice, neither being contrary to the Bible and sinful, and those who live and struggle with same-sex attraction, while remaining committed to the biblical truth and living a life of holiness and celibacy. As we have previously discussed, the former is sinful, while I do not believe the latter is. However, the confusion is about healing and redemption and transformation. There are some who believe that through that transformation process one will be redeemed from even the same-sex attraction. I think that transformation may lead to that, but not always. We live life in a fallen-redeemed-not-yet-glorified body and world. In between the first and the second comings of Christ, we seek to be faithful, and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12-13) seeking to be conformed into the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29), from one shade of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). This is the sanctification process for all believers.

  4. Greg, the part of the survey that interests me most, as an amil, exmember of the EFCA, is the section on eschatology. The survey clearly shows that the number of those who oppose officially allowing amils into the EFCA is declining. However, what is most surprising is that 16% of the respondents list “other” as their eschatological position. This must mean that a sizeable portion of those serving in the EFCA are already a or postmil or don’t know or care what they believe in this area. This obviously raises the question of how the doctrinal statement is actually serving as a confessional statement for the EFCA. If the number was quite small, it could be attributed to non-EFCA men serving as the congregational polity allows. However, that large a number must imply that a number of ordained EFCA ministers simply don’t agree with the doctrinal statement– a dilemma for any church that has any sort of creedal commitment. I also found interesting that statement that there was misunderstanding on what the premil view entails. I’m assuming that for some it meant full blown dispensationalism. That perspective should have been set aside long ago. When I was at TEDS in the 1970s that was made very clear. I’d be interested in your perspective on this. It has many implications, especially for staffing TEDS– my personal interest.

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