What Does Evangelical Free Church Actually Mean?

Years ago, when I was serving as pastor in Portland, Maine, my dental hygienist knowing I was pastor of an Evangelical Free Church was puzzled by the name of the church.  So, she asked, “Does Evangelical Free mean that it is free of Evangelicalism?”   That seem to make sense to her like “caffein free” is free of caffein and gluten free is free of gluten.  I gave a rather brief and concise answer since I was sitting in a dentist’s chair with her hands in my mouth.

Perhaps many ideas come to your mind around the name, ‘Evangelical Free.”  Does it mean we don’t have to give because it is free?  That isn’t it either.  Some of you have expressed concern that “Free” sounds “new agey” or open to any and every teaching.  This is not the case at all.  On the contrary, the EFCA has stood solid over their history to hold to the essentials of the faith without wavering.  

What does Evangelical Free Church actually mean?  Here is a quick explanation.  

1. “Evangelical” = gospel centered.  The word “evangel” simply means good news of Jesus Christ.  The Evangelical Free Church from its origins have been all about spreading the good news of Christ to a lost world.  

The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) will only increase our ability to demonstrate the presence of Christ and proclaim the message of the gospel throughout New England and beyond, by equipping our church, helping to develop our leaders, and supporting our efforts to carry out our mission.

2. “Free” = self-governing.  With roots in Scandinavia, the Free Church broke away from the state because of their conviction that the local church should be autonomous and free to govern its own affairs.  That is true of us as a Conservative Baptist Church, so nothing changes here.  EFCA looks to work cooperatively with us in what we are doing rather than impose on us a certain way ministry must be done.  We are free to carry out our mission and strategy for ministry, but with resources and support needed to multiply our mission.  

3. “Church” = the local body of Christ.  Often, I greet you on Sunday morning with the words, “Good morning, church.”  Obviously, I am not speaking to the building, but to the spiritual body of Christ in which Jesus Christ is the head.  The word “church” simply means called out.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been called out of the world and sin into a relationship with Christ.  We are also called out in that we are no longer a “part of the world” but “in the world” to bring the good news to the lost.  

I hope that gives you a better understanding of the meaning behind the Evangelical Free Church name.  A change in affiliation is not a move at all away from what we believe as a church.  This is one reason we are working through what we believe in the present sermon series, using EFCA’s statement of faith as a guide.  Like you, as leaders, we take doctrinal purity very, very seriously.  The EFCA helps us preserve that purity.  It provides greater accountability for staying on track through resources, networking with other churches and pastors, conferences, personal and regular contact and prayer from the District Superintendent, and so on.  

Church, in my 33 years as pastor, I have seen many trends, waves of teaching, “fresh” spins on certain Scriptures, and yet my commitment to Scripture alone as the final authority on all matters has not wavered.  And I thank God and can align with those whose commitment is the same.

Why Do We Do What We Do at EBC?

“Why?”  “Why, papa?”  I must have heard that question a dozen times from 2 of my 4 grandkids over this past weekend.  It reminds me of the father and his toddler out fishing one day, when the boy asked, “Why does this boat float, dad?”

The dad thought for a moment and replied, “I really don’t know exactly.”

The four-year-old then asked, “Why don’t fish drown underwater?”  

“I am not quite sure,” the dad answered.

The boy looked up to the heavens and asked, “Dad, why is the sky blue?”

Again, the dad replied, “I don’t really know, son.”

The son then said, “Dad, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?”

“Of course not,” the dad responded.  “If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never learn anything.”

The why question often takes us off guard.  Yet it is a good question as it relates to life, ministry, priorities, motives, and so on.  For instance, “Why do we do what we do at EBC?”  To answer that question with something like, “Because that is how we always have done it,” is insufficient.  

If you have been around here and been paying attention you should know by now that our mission is to be a church that makes disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples…”  We carry that out through a 4-E strategy: Engage, Establish, Equip, and Evangelize.  This strategy is broad enough to include various activities, yet specific enough to keep us focused as to why we would add or choose to not add another ministry or program.  

As your pastor, I am committed to looking for ways to more effectively and intentionally center all I do around making disciples and that it is in our DNA as a church.  This is one reason I, along with the elders, believe that joining the Evangelical Free Church of America will increase our ability to carry out our mission.  

“Why, pastor, why?  Why would we join?”  That is a legitimate question.  In next week’s epistle, I will flesh this out some more.  Suffice it to say now, the Evangelical Free Church that I had the privilege of being a part of for over 20 years in Portland, Maine, played a big part in my longevity as pastor there.  Not only did the E. Free provide me with resources to sustain me in my ministry, but it also offered the church resources to develop leaders, and to support and equip the church to carry out its mission.  Like I said, I will come back to this and other reasons why this is healthy for our church.