Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
I am thankful to the Lord for the training and equipping ministry of GATEWAY! From the beginning, this has been an intentional and purposeful partnership with the Board of Ministerial Standing (BOMS) to ensure we are working toward the same goal: to ensure theological alignment with the Statement of Faith. Last year we celebrated and gave thanks to the Lord for his blessing in the first decade of this important ministry in the EFCA. Here are a few thoughts as we give thanks for the past decade and as we pray and hope for the decade to come.
With accountability with others in the GATEWAY class, all read, ponder, write and discuss each article of the Statement of Faith. Through this process, at the conclusion of GATEWAY, each student will have written a paper articulating and defending their exposition of the EFCA Statement of Faith. For those in a qualifying ministry, this is foundational for meeting with a council, to respond orally to questions about the SOF and their paper, with the end goal being they receive their ministry license.
In many ways, I consider GATEWAY to be Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) 2.0. Our Free Church school we know and love today is not what it was in 1897, when the school first began. It began as a Bible institute and was intended to train and equip pastors for ministry. Our present GATEWAY shares some similarities to how TEDS began.
Although we began GATEWAY with the goal of equipping those who did not have formal theological training to be prepared for credentialing in the EFCA, thus providing a non-formal means of being equipped theologically, in God’s mercy it has far surpassed our intended scope. We provided parallel training in both Spanish and English, which was also an important move as this was a decision to live out the reality of our God-given mission: to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people.
In addition to preparing those in a qualifying ministry to be credentialed, it has been used by many others, and all have benefitted. GATEWAY has been used by immigrant groups, urban workers, church planters and others engaged on the front lines of ministry who have not been able to attend seminary. It has also become, for many, a means of instructing leaders, elders and deacons in the local church who are not in vocational ministry, but who are eager to learn and grow in their understanding of the Bible and theology. This has been a wonderful blessing, a gift from God which has far surpassed our initial intent.
I give thanks to the Lord for the partnership Alex Mandes and I have shared in this important ministry. I give thanks to the Lord for BOMS who affirmed this vision to equip hundreds with biblical truth and theological fidelity. I give thanks to the Lord for the many in vocational ministry who have been credentialed and for the hundreds equipped for leadership in the local church.
Grounded in the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ, GATEWAY has allowed us to live out practically the reality of one EFCA with our shared ministry among all people. Thanks be to God! I am hopefully expectant in God and what He will do in the EFCA in the next decade for His name’s sake.