Earlier this year, our church joined the Evangelical Free Church of America. (The EFCA is an association of over 1,500 autonomous churches.) Earlier this month, I spent a few days in New Orleans for EFCA One, the national conference of the EFCA movement. This was an incredible time of being renewed spiritually and being inspired and motivated for continued ministry. Experiencing this conference also confirmed to me that the EFCA family is the right fit for us. I’m going to write another post about why we feel strongly the EFCA is the right home for our church, but first I want to look at the question: “Why affiliate at all?”
Until this year, I’d spent my entire pastoral ministry and much of my Christian life in a nondenominational context. The church I serve as an elder and teaching pastor was planted (and replanted) as a nondenominational, unaffiliated congregation. So what led us to contemplate affiliation with a larger group? Here, in bullet point form, are the factors we considered regarding affiliation:
What are the benefits of being nondenominational?
- We’re not controlled by any outside organization. No denomination owns our church property or dictates to us who will serve as our pastoral leaders. We see this as a positive factor, and one that fits the life of the early church. (I’m going to write soon about the relevant early church history.)
- We’re not tied to one narrow denominational tradition such as Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.
- We’re free to follow the Bible and not have unscriptural policies imposed on us.
- We don’t alienate people from differing traditions. We can be more inclusive of all evangelical Christians.
What are the problems of being independent?
- We’re isolated geographically, culturally and theologically. This point is specifically pertinent to our English-speaking church here in Puerto Rico.
- We don’t regularly cooperate with other churches for the sake of our common Christian mission.
- We don’t confer with other churches regarding biblical teaching and church practices.
- We have no real connection with anything larger than our own independent congregation.
- We’re in danger of being a “lone ranger” church.
So here’s the question we asked ourselves:
Can we keep the benefits of being nondenominational
and address the problems of being independent?
The answer for us was “Yes.” By affiliating with the EFCA, we kept all the benefits of being nondenominational while addressing all the problems of being independent. I’ll be writing more soon about why we’re excited to be partnering with the EFCA.