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.
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.
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.