Over 200 senior pastors of IFCA International churches, usually known locally as “independent Bible” or “community” churches, gathered this week to map out a new strategy to combat the moral and spiritual decline of Christian churches and culture in the United States.
Speaker after speaker rose to call upon their leading members to help spark a “renewed passion” for applied biblical eschatology, counseling, missions, piety, personal purity and theology in the USA. Over 400 are registered for the conference and local visitors fill the opening meetings to swell the attendance.
Over 900 congregations are related to the tightly organized, almost militant movement in the USA. Many tens of thousands more are influenced by the IFCA party in evangelical denominations.
Most leaders attended the meetings here with their wives, who gathered in separate sessions “focusing on their domains” of child rearing and family. On the first day, the men passed a series of strongly worded resolutions and listened all day to rousing sermons and appeals calling for more passion in ministry.
The movement renewed plans for planting 100 new churches in the United States and sending 100 international church planting missionaries overseas at a time of economic recession when American missions have nearly ground to a standstill.
Featured speakers included Executive Director Dr. Les Lofquist, Dr. Charles Petitt of Piedmont Baptist College, the Rev. Bobby Scott of Los Angeles Community Bible Church, the Rev. Alex Montaya of Master’s Seminary, the Rev. Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, Illinois and women’s issues author Martha Peace.
IFCA International was originally organized in 1930 by local pastor Billy McCarrell and a host of other activist leaders in the Chicago suburb of Cicero, Illinois as the Independent Fundamental Churches of America.
Through the 1960s, it grew and wielded a powerful influence on American evangelical movements. It had a strong impact on missions, publishing and Christian retailing, religious broadcasting and the Bible Institute movement throughout the Post WWII era; especially affecting many decisions of the National Association of Evangelicals and World Evangelical Fellowship.
IFCA International has declined in membership and power in recent years but is currently experiencing a surge of growth led by dynamic, young leadership. It is re-positioning itself to respond to the “Emergent Church” movement as well as post-modernism; re-interpreting the fundamentals of evangelicalism at a time when they have been lost by the highly politicized take over by Republican operatives in the United States and so-called “reformed” theological movements.
Les Lofquist, who is organizing the rebirth of the IFCA, told the assembled membership here in Springfield that he was greatly encouraged by the way independent churches can and will work together on certain projects when they see a need.
Bill Bray, 63, is a retired foreign correspondent and frequent contributor to ASSIST News Service. He specializes in covering international student ministries and foreign missions. He has traveled to over 65 countries as a missionary journalist to report on missions and development ministries, returning to some countries as many as 30 times over the years. He can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.