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 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?