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.
In the EFCA, we strongly affirm the infallibility, inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. We also affirm unequivocally the essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ is grounded in the Scriptures, God’s Word, which is living and active. Consider what our commitment to this gospel means, according to God’s Word.
This unwavering commitment to God’s Word, the Scriptures, and God’s gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, also has significant implications in how we live life together with other believers. Grounded in the essentials of the gospel, we are willing and eager to partner with other like-minded and like-hearted believers, and grant liberty and charity on some of the non-essentials.
In the Free Church, this has been referred to as “the significance of silence.” What this means is that we will discuss and debate an issue, but we will not divide over it. We believe our unity in the gospel of Jesus Christ, both a doctrinal purity and a practical unity, enables us to live life together with others in the local church, and to partner with other gospel-committed ministries outside our local church and denomination (consider Ephesians). In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ allows us not only to survive in such a setting, it enables and empowers us to thrive and flourish. And we believe this practical unity grounded in doctrinal purity manifests the gospel in practice which we preach and teach in doctrine. This is rightly referred to as evangelical unity.
The Spiritual Heritage Committee is working on a new book, Evangelical Unity, which will address these issues, and which will serve as a companion to the book that spells out our understanding of the essentials, Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America (2011). In the past, these two works were This We Believe: The Background and Exposition of the Doctrinal Statement of The Evangelical Free Church of America (1961) and The Significance of Silence (Vol. 2 Heritage Series) (1981).
There are historical precedents of those who have been committed to a similar gospel-centeredness in doctrine and practice. Richard Baxter (1615-1691), one of those from the past, delineates what Christian unity means, cf. Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter, vol. 5 (London: James Duncan, 1830), 155.
Baxter writes “there must be an union among all churches and Christians in these following particulars.”
Some questions to ponder:
John Biegel: "Greg–great post. Very excited to hear about the forthcoming book! We love EC and use it with our leaders and we look forward to incorporating ‘Evangelical Unity’ into the mix as well. If it’s anything like EC it will serve the church well. Thanks for your leadership in this."
Greg Strand: "It is great to hear from you, John. I am encouraged to hear the post was edifying. Please pray for the writing of Evangelical Unity!"
John Biegel: "We will be praying. Do you have any idea when you aim to have it out?"
Greg Strand: "We are planning and praying it will be about a year. Thank you for joining us in prayer for this whole process. Our commitment, which can also be the basis of your prayer, is that it would be (1) faithful to Scripture, (2) centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ, (3) directed by theology, (4) sensitive to history and historical theology, (5) focused on pastoral theology. With these commitments, our aim is to set forth guidelines with how to distinguish and delineate between essentials and non-essentials of the faith (or doctrine) – those fundamental articles, those secondary fundamental articles, and those non-fundamental articles. We will then apply this to numerous doctrinal matters in our Statement of Faith in light of the pressing issues in our present day, issues upon which we must affirm the essentials and issues upon which we discuss and debate without division. Our aim is that it would honor and glorify the Lord and as it does that, it would edify and nourish the people of God."