“Lord Jesus, what are the essential things that ought to shape what we do as a Free Church?”
This was my prayer last August. I had just been given the honor and privilege of a second term as EFCA president, and I’ll be the first to tell you, I need the Lord’s wisdom and guidance as I fulfill the role He has entrusted to me.
As EFCA president, I guard and champion the mission, ethos and values of the EFCA; I come alongside district superintendents, local churches and leaders to live out those values, by gathering EFCA leaders to encourage and equip them and provide helpful resources for effective ministry.
So, with an earnest desire to fulfill God’s plans for my time as president—and to carry out the responsibilities of my role—I spent time in the Scriptures and with the EFCA Statement of Faith before placing pen to paper to write. In this process, I mapped out what God revealed for this season of ministry in the EFCA. Out of that time of reflection and prayer, God placed on my heart what I am calling “The 5 Ministry Motivators.”
These motivators are meant to articulate the shared values of EFCA churches, bring us into closer alignment with the heart of God, and encourage pastors, missionaries and church leaders as we pursue our mission to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people. This 30-minute message explains each motivator, and I pray you will hear my heart as you watch.
Compassionate heart of God
Back in July, I wrote about the critical need to remember the “why” of ministry. Too often, churches focus on strategies and plans, the “what” and “how” of ministry, and they can easily lose the “why” along the way. We need the “why,” otherwise we will lose sight of what drives us. This led me to ask: What is the EFCA’s “why”?
The EFCA’s why is the compassionate heart of God for lost people in a broken world to reconcile them into a right relationship with himself. In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul makes it clear: we were dead in our trespasses and sins. But God, in His mercy, gave us new life. This is why we pursue our mission to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people. God’s love motivates us to share the good news of resurrection life with those who are lost.
Not only do we see God’s heart in Ephesians, but it’s also reflected in our Statement of Faith. In Article 1, we declare who God is and His Kingdom purpose:
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
Refuge Church is one of many EFCA churches reflecting the compassionate heart of God. Planted by Blaine and Anna Hooper in Houston, Texas, Refuge Church was born out of a desire to share Christ’s love in Sharpestown-Gulfton, an underserved and diverse neighborhood in southwest Houston. Today, they have a vibrant refugee ministry and, because of the compassionate heart of God, they share the hope of Christ’s healing to the lost.
Urgency of the mission
I met Dr. Wil Norton when he was 100 years old. He was an early missionary to Congo and later became the president at the college and seminary we now call Trinity International University. As missionaries, he and his wife boarded a high-octane aviation fuel transport ship during World War II. They risked sailing through German U-boat waters to reach Congo. When I met him, I asked, “Why did you take such a dangerous journey?” He looked at me with tears running from his eyes and said, “Because people in Congo don’t know Jesus and if they don’t know Jesus, they’re going to a Christless eternity. So, we had to go.”
That sense of urgency struck me. The compassionate heart of God for lost people motivates us to share the love of Jesus, but if lost people face a Christless eternity, then our ministry is urgent.
This sense of urgency drove early Free Church founders, and I see it evidenced in EFCA missionaries and pastors today. For example, Patrick and Shelby Ray moved into North Minneapolis to simply be neighbors in the community. They recognized the gospel urgency and planted a church.
God has given us limited time, and we are entrusted as ambassadors of His good news to steward that time. Article 9 of our Statement of Faith points us to this reality:
The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
We have two options: Either Christ returns in our lifetime, or we die. Whatever comes first, our time is short, and people need to hear about Jesus. This sense of urgency motivates us in our mission to multiply transformational churches among all people.
Reality of the battle
Our work is not easy. When we pursue God’s call, we will face a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:10-18 reminds us we're in a battle, not against flesh and blood, but against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The Enemy fights hard against the message of Jesus. He doesn’t want God to succeed in bringing lost people to Himself and is always scheming to keep us from our mission, doing everything he can to distract us, to divide us and rob God of His glory.
We’re in a spiritual battle, and this should motivate us to humbly and confidently approach our Father in heaven. We stand firm and ready, equipped with God’s Word and the Spirit’s power for every good work. Article 8 of our Statement of Faith says it this way:
With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil.
We see leaders responding to this reality across the EFCA: missionaries in fervent prayer for their Muslim neighbors in Africa, student ministry leaders helping young people navigate our broken world and the significant response by ReachGlobal and their partners to help Ukrainian refugees. At every level of ministry, EFCA leaders are fighting spiritual battles daily with God’s Word, the Spirit’s power and fervent prayer.
Deep need for community
Not only has God equipped us with His Word, the Spirit’s power and prayer, but He’s given us each other.
Acts 2:42-47 paints a beautiful picture of togetherness, revealing the early church as a community of God’s people in unity, worshipping, praying and breaking bread together. Like the early church, we need each other. Going on mission alone isn’t good, effective or sustainable. Together we can bear each other's burdens and go from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth with the good news.
If we’re going to fulfill our mission, we must do it together. I’ve spoken before about being one EFCA. One EFCA means local, regional, national and international ministries working together on common ministry objectives based on shared values and trusting relationships.
Over the years, I’ve seen one EFCA expressed in significant and meaningful ways, like multiple examples of districts and local churches working together to revitalize waning congregations, national ministries and district leaders working together to develop a collaborative and effective approach to church planting through ReachNetwork, ReachGlobal ministries working with districts and local churches to serve communities in crisis and the partnership of Immigrant Hope with a local church in Sioux Center, Iowa. When we come together, we move closer to the fulfillment of our mission.
Promise of Jesus’ authority, empowerment and presence
So, God has a compassionate heart for lost people; we know ministry is urgent; we’re in a spiritual battle; and we need to be on mission in community. Yet, while putting these motivators together, I realized we can try to pursue God’s mission in our own power, but it’s not going to work. We’re not strong enough on our own.
But through Jesus we are.
I’ll share two passages of Scripture that clearly highlight Jesus’ power and an important promise. In Matthew 28, we’re told that all authority has been given to Jesus; in Acts 1:8, that the Holy Spirit gives us power to witness in His name; and again in Matthew 28, that Jesus is with us to the end of the age. Additionally, several articles of our Statement of Faith point to this reality, including Articles 4, 6, 8 and 10. For instance, Article 6 states:
The Holy Spirit “indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.”
We can’t depend on our own strength. We’re called to trust in the promise of Jesus’ authority, empowerment and presence. That knowledge compels us toward greater dependence on the Lord.
Motivated and on mission
EFCA churches are motivated and eagerly sharing the gospel with their communities. The same is true for ministries and missionaries around the world. I thank God for you all and your commitment to the mission. I pray these motivators will joyfully remind us—church leaders, missionaries, districts and faithful congregants of the EFCA—why we do what we do and shape how we serve the Lord. When we’re in the thick, challenging work of ministry and wonder—Why am I doing this? These motivators say, “Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Don’t forget.” If these motivators connect with you, I humbly invite you to use them as you see fit in your local church and context to help your congregation know more about what motivates ministry in the Evangelical Free Church of America.
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