The main distinction of Christianity from all other world religions is Christianity’s understanding of the purpose of man, his condition, his destiny and God’s intervention into creation through the God-man Jesus Christ. Christianity’s details center on the beauty and grace-soaked doctrines of the person of Christ, his work and his ascension, followed by the sovereign care of God to build a people for himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The doctrines of Christianity are revolutionary. Christianity altered western civilization and established norms for the home, society and government which have resulted in progress, peace and prosperity. More importantly, Christian doctrines, which were handed down to us by the apostles, have laid a sure foundation for the establishment and growth of Christ’s Church (Ephesians 2:19-20). Our doctrines are potent, “piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). These doctrines are transformative. They also determine our identity. These doctrines unite us and allow us to be who we are together before God and man.

As autonomous churches within the EFCA movement, our role is to bear witness to what Christ has already done. Naturally, every institution is the product of what it believes and represents. What we believe and what we represent determines our identity. The degree of our unity is determined by the degree to which we connect with that identity. Any detraction from that identity chips away at our unity. That is as true of the Coca-Cola Company as it is of the Church of Christ. But of course, the symbiotic relationship between identity and unity is far more important to the church, which represents the immutable God and his unchanging truth, than it is to an institution that peddles soft drinks and innovates formulas according to the whims of the public.

Credentialing is vital for this very reason. The credentialing of all EFCA vocational ministry leaders is important at various levels, but I will limit my thoughts to this point alone: Our unity as it relates to identity. The EFCA bears an attractional pull with its motto of, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ.” Those who are united by faith in Christ also ought to be united in those very same truths that bind us to Christ. Likewise, with Christ at the core of our convictions, we must allow loving liberty of conscience to those who would understand less essential doctrines differently.

Besides being a very practical and utilitarian posture, we know this to be a soundly biblical stance (Romans 14). The credentialing process is crucial because it seeks to identify the church worker’s understanding and convictions regarding these essentials clearly laid out in the EFCA Statement of Faith. The Statement of Faith is our identity, which brings about our unity as Christians under the banner of the Evangelical Free Church of America. All vocational ministry workers within the EFCA who teach the Scriptures ought to place themselves under the inquiry of credentialing.

Credentialing also serves to examine a worker’s convictions regarding non-essential truths or where there exists liberty for differing opinions. However, do not mistake the term “non-essential” as meaning not important. The credentialing process reviews these topics as well and considers whether or not one’s convictions are in line with orthodoxy and with the polity and ethos of the EFCA. Our identity also centers on these issues, though in a broader sense.

Whereas, these matters are not essential for saving faith, they are important for the health of our movement and the individual church. As Joe Rigney notes, “These are necessary for Christian growth; getting these doctrines wrong doesn’t put people outside the kingdom, but it may make them sick and unable to thrive” (How to Weigh Doctrines for Christian Unity – Gospel Coalition).

There are also doctrinal topics that may not be essential for church health but are certainly indispensable for functional unity. Rigney notes, while explaining that there is a gradation within the theological spectrum, “While you may not regard Christians who differ with you as sick or unhealthy, the practical considerations necessary to get along may prove too burdensome.” The credentialing process carefully examines even these matters so as to strengthen our theological unity by affirming our identity.

The EFCA provides a balanced approach to credentialing making it attainable for those with high academic achievements as well as those who are less academically accomplished. It is designed to affirm one’s calling into vocational church work with the EFCA and add to the unity we possess by identifying with who we are in terms of our theological convictions. Bearing witness to Christ as a church leader is a high calling which we want to do well, enthusiastically, in unity and often.

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Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire

Pastor Paulo Freire has been shepherding the congregation at Hope Church in New Jersey for more than twenty years. He is a native of São Paulo, Brazil, but was raised here in New Jersey. As a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute, Pastor Paulo brings a love for the study and application of the Word of God into the pulpit with him. He lives in Wantage with his wife Lisa. Pastor Paulo and Lisa have three sons, Tyler (attending Reformed Theological Seminary and married to Jeanna), Micah (attending Cedarville University), and Elias, who is still at home and one granddaughter named Maggie. When he is not behind the pulpit at Hope, Pastor Paulo can be found preaching and teaching in other venues, leading the “Abide” college and career group, training pastors through the EFCA Gateway program or working with the district Board of Ministerial Standing and the national board as well or coaching the community soccer team. While he still enjoys touring the NYC sights, Pastor Paulo is thankful to be ministering in the serene rural beauty of Sussex County.
Paulo Freire

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  1. Dave Martin Dave Martin on March 16, 2022 at 10:27 am

    Bravo! So well said, Paulo. Thank you.

  2. Avatar Cedrick Brown on March 16, 2022 at 9:48 am

    Thanks Paulo!

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