Fellowship

Beyond Lines in the Sand - Thoughts on Joining the IFCA

I’ve just submitted my testimony, doctrinal statement, and personal philosophy of ministry overview to the leadership of the IFCA International, formerly the independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA).The IFCA allows you to join as either a ministry or as an individual. While the congregation I pastor will remain independent of official group membership for now, I am joining as an individual minister of the gospel.

I’m excited about my new membership in an association of leaders and ministries that is hardly new. The IFCA has a fantastic heritage. Several friends, family members and ministries I have great respect for are, or have been, associated with the IFCA. Not too long ago our friends at Clearwater Christian College near Tampa joined the IFCA. This is a decision I’ve been working through for several years and I wanted to share a few thoughts on the move in hopes that it can help others who are working through similar types of decisions.

I want to say that first of all, in a sense, I view joining a group like the IFCA as not being a direct response to any Scriptural imperatives for leaders or ministries. Rather, it is similar to the reasons for having Sunday School. Sunday School is nowhere commanded in the New Testament, yet teaching and leading God’s children in grace and truth is certainly an imperative found within the Scriptures. In a similar way, leaders and congregations certainly coordinated ministry and worked together throughout the early NT church. So the question is not really “should we cooperate?” but rather “with whom should we cooperate?”

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My Tribe

If you spend any time around the internet, you’ll probably recognize this word: “tribe.” Now for hundred of years “tribe” was a pretty unassuming member of the English language, content to describe a discrete sociological structure. But over the course of the last five years, it’s had a bit of a growth spurt due in part to a leadership paradigm that Seth Godin popularized in his book (aptly titled) Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

Since then, it seems that everyone of influence is busy forming a tribe. Even (especially?) among Christians. There is a theologically progressive tribe, a theologically conservative tribe, a missional tribe, a mundane tribe, and of course, a tribe just for those too cool for any of these other tribes.  And in the irony that is the human experience, those of us speaking most loudly against racism and prejudice are often the first to coalesce into tribes to do it.

So that the Tribe intended to trump all others continues to be defined by tribalism.

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Outback Christians

There is an immense stretch of uninhabited territory in Australia’s interior. Australia’s land mass is nearly as vast as that of the continental US (carve off CA & FL and you about have it), yet the entire population of Australia is less than 4 times that of Minnesota! The vast majority of this sparse population hugs the coastline. So with only 20 million people ringing earth’s largest island, the vast interior is one desolate stretch of dusty waste—Australia’s celebrated “Outback.”

A documentary surfaced some years ago that included the vignette of a man who lives alone in a small house in the Outback a gazillion miles from the nearest human being. This modern day hermit is so isolated, his only routine contact with people comes when the infrequent train passes near his place and railroad employees kick off a crate of supplies as they speed past. That’s all the face time this mate needs, or wants!

Perhaps we chuckle at such a guy (rather than merely pity him) because we can identify with his isolationism. It is not always easy to live in community with people, and sometimes you wonder if a little shack in the middle of the Outback wouldn’t suit you just swell for a year or two…or fifty!

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