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.