IFCA Convention Calls Church Leaders to ‘Proclaim – Equip – Defend’


For the fourth year in a row, it was my privilege to oversee The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s exhibit at the IFCA International Annual Convention. This year’s gathering of pastors, ministry leaders and spouses took place in Springdale, Ark., at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, from June 24 to 28.

The 95th edition of the IFCA Convention drew roughly 370 in attendance. It began with a general session on Monday night and concluded with three final choices in breakout seminars on Friday morning.

The focus of this year’s conference was evident from the theme: “Proclaim – Equip – Defend.” Those were also the topics of the four evening general sessions. “These are the norm for the church’s ministry,” stated executive director Dr. Richard Bargas, as he opened the conference with a general overview of the theme.

“IFCA—our time has come,” Bargas declared boldly. “We cannot and we will not surrender. We must stand firm against this chaos.”

Bargas based his message on Acts 20:17-38 and Paul’s concluding counsel to the elders of the church of Ephesus.

The other evening messages were presented by Pastor Tom Zobrist of Liberty Bible Church in Eureka, Ill.; Pastor Clegguart Mitchell of South County Bible Church in St. Louis, Mo.; and Pastor Jesse Randolph of Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, Neb. The final session on Thursday evening always includes the installation of new members of the board of directors, as well as a communion service.

A secondary theme at this year’s convention was the defense of traditional dispensationalism. Dr. Cory Marsh, professor of New Testament at Southern California Seminary, delivered a major breakout session called “What is Dispensationalism?” Marsh went to the root of the issue and unfolded basic truths central to dispensational thought. He said that academia is particularly vulnerable to misunderstanding this topic.

Marsh contends that “dispensationalism is best understood as a Biblical theology.” While covenant theology is itself a hermeneutic, he maintains that dispensationalism results from a consistent, literal hermeneutic.

Referencing the 2017 book from SCS press titled Forged From Reformation: How Dispensational Thought Advances the Reformed Legacy, Marsh said that dispensationalism, with its focus on Scripture alone, remains poised to bring about the greatest theological development, building on the literal interpretation reintroduced by the Reformers.

“Dispensationalism will continue to advance in ways more helpful than denominational traditions,” he said.

Randolph also presented a major seminar on a concept so new that many have yet to learn of it: “Reformed Dispensationalism.” He called his critique of this novel approach “A Bridge Too Far,” and stated, “There are simply some bridges that don’t need to be built.”

Randolph proved thoroughly from original sources that Reformed Theology, of necessity, involves Covenant Theology—which is ultimately at odds with dispensational theology.

Standing for traditional dispensationalism is popular within the IFCA—even if not elsewhere. As Bargas told the congregation on Monday evening, “We have great scholars in our movement, but they are not considered equals in the academy, and they never will be. We must ask ourselves, are we willing to pay the price? It’s going to cost us.”

In total, there were 18 general breakout seminars, six women’s sessions, two business meetings and two panel discussions. There were five sessions for chaplains, five for church planters and two for the Council of Regional Presidents of the IFCA. The week included a children’s program and a nursery, and three evening receptions following the general sessions. There were also other outings for people to attend on Thursday afternoon.

For the first time, I was privileged to present one of the breakout sessions this year, as well as watching over the exhibit for FOIGM.

There were 36 exhibitors at the convention, including 10 colleges and seminaries, and four missions organizations. Ariel Ministries promoted Jewish ministry along with FOIGM.

Also during this week, the IFCA National Youth Convention was held at Appalachian Bible College in Mount Hope, W.Va. There were 235 in attendance there.

The IFCA presented the 2024 Faithful Servant Award to Tom and Virginia Olson, who each worked in the IFCA home office—Tom for more than 40 years.

Audio and video from the conference are available at the IFCA’s Facebook page and will be added at SermonAudio.com/IFCAInternational.

Next year’s convention will be held June 23 to 27, at the Greenville Golf Resort & Conference Center in Greenville, S.C. The theme will be “Planting Mighty Oaks.” The youth convention will be held that same week at Bob Jones University.