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.
Joel Miller serves as the acquisitions editor with Thomas Nelson. In this role he reads many manuscripts and knows many of the books that are published. From this role when he sees the rising numbers of nondenominational churches he is concerned. Although not directly causal, the concern he raises is that most of these rising numbers are related to the downplaying or diminishing doctrine.
One of the things I also saw was a downplaying of doctrine. Not just doctrinal distinctives pertaining to denominational affiliation, which you would expect. But most doctrine. That is especially true for teachings that may come off as divisive, are difficult to understand, or lack a readily apparent and practical application to daily life.
Some claim you just need to know about Jesus and that Jesus loves you. That will suffice. At the end of the day, anything more simply divides: Jesus unites. Doctrine divides. This is necessary but insufficient. Certainly we need Jesus. But everything associated with Jesus gets to the heart of doctrine/theology. Miller concludes,
Yes, you better have Jesus. But no, that’s not all. For starters, you need the actual Jesus, and that involves doctrinal statements and formulae. You also need to know what he said, and that involves some challenging words preserved, parsed, interpreted, and presented by a long string of church theologians, hymnographers, and artists.
The faith is not doctrine. But doctrine is one crucial way we accurately express it. It’s inescapable.
The trend of Christians increasingly concentrating in churches that tend to place less emphasis on doctrine is, thus, worrying. But the truth is that all churches suffer from this challenge to one degree or another, especially in America. We are an anti-doctrinal people, and the numbers show that as well.
But we shouldn’t cave to that reality. Rather, it should encourage pastors of all stripes to find effective ways to teach the faith once delivered. Otherwise, we’ll just have even more gathering for even less.
Although there are challenges with denominations, and they are losing their strategic place for many Christians, many still serve the Bible, Jesus and the gospel in important ways. One of those ways is through a Creed, Confession or Statement of Faith. We certainly have seen some denominations lose their way, but it is not due to the Confession but their tacit approval of it while denying it in teaching, preaching and practice. But they have also served other denominations as a ballast in and through days of waves and storms.
I am grateful to the Lord for His grace and mercy given to the EFCA. We remain tethered to the Text and grounded in the gospel. I am thankful to the Lord for the joy and privilege of serving in this denomination along with others committed to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, the Lord Jesus, the gospel and our Statement of Faith. I am thankful God is faithful. Might we also remain faithful, by His grace, for His glory, and for the good of His people.