IFCA International is the new name of the former Independent Fundamental Churches of America, founded in 1930 as a fellowship of men and churches committed to solidly Biblical ministry.
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by Dr. Wright Van Plew
Having done everything to stand firm, stand firm therefore Ephesians 6:13-14
A time to stand firm in history
The philosophy known as Rationalism swept across Europe leading to the 19th Century theological expressions of Modernism and Higher Criticism. These anti-supernatural concepts crossed the Atlantic by European trained Americans. Bible believing Christians saw the storm clouds gathering.
As 1900 approached, national/interdenominational Bible Conferences were loosely organized. They provided an ongoing platform for preachers to respond to the unbiblical teaching that was spreading among denominational leaders, seminary professors, and pastors. Then from 1910-1915, a twelve-volume doctrinal response to Modernism sequentially came off the presses. Entitled The Fundamentals, these twelve paperbacks ultimately contained ninety articles written by sixty-four authors from every denomination. Financed by the wealthy president of Union Oil Company, The Fundamentals were distributed free of charge to over 300,000 Protestant ministers, teachers, missionaries, theological professors, and Christian workers.
There were several results. First, orthodox theology was presented and defended. Second, apostasy was exposed. Third, Bible-believing Christians were galvanized into a more cohesive force. And fourth, those who opposed "Modernists Christians" were given a new name as Bible-believers : "Fundamentalists."
The "Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy" by the 1920s caused many congregations to withdraw from their parent denominations. Departure from their historic doctrines by the leadership and involvement in movements contrary to faith gave the churches reason to "come out from among them and be separate," (2 Cor. 6:17). They did this at great cost, losing many benefits of association and often valuable properties such as church buildings, parsonages, and pensions. But they were "set for the defense of the Gospel," and committed to an uncompromising stand for the truth of God's word. New churches were formed with these principles.
The Scriptural need for inter-church fellowship, counsel and cooperation was recognized at the start by these new churches. The American Conference of Undenominational Churches was formed for this purpose in 1923. During its 1930 Annual Convention at the Cicero (IL) Bible Church, the name was changed to The Independent Fundamental Churches of America in a motion offered by Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, president of Wheaton College. By this time a new Constitution and a more comprehensive doctrinal statement had been prepared and were adopted unanimously. The former magazine, The Pioneer of a New Era was renamed VOICE - An Independent Church Journal.
A time to stand firm on foundations
"Has the time come for Fundamentalists to promptly and literally obey the emphatic commandment given to believers in II Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11 and II John 9-11?" This question was asked in the Moody Monthly for February, 1930. The inception of the IFCA four months later was an affirmative answer and by 1940, there were 665 members of IFCA and by 1950, there were 1,067 members. (This question in Moody Monthly also led BIOLA University historian, Dr. J. O. Henry to title his 1983 History of the IFCA, For Such a Time as This. )
The new name, IFCA International, adopted in 1996, reflects the world-wide missionary vision and the increasing number of individual members serving in foreign lands. But it also contains the historical significance of the original name. "F" (Fundamental) indicates that the movement stands firmly upon "the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20). "I" (Independent) and "C" (Churches) speak of the nature of the fellowship not being a "church" as a denomination, but comprising individual bodies of believers controlled by the Head of the church through the Holy Spirit. The Articles of Faith and Doctrine are essentially the same as at the beginning. The only changes are to strengthen or clarify them. They include the cardinal beliefs of the historic biblical Christian faith and those Scriptural principles necessary to jointly participate in the Lord's work. It is outstanding among such statements of various Christian organizations, providing a sure foundation for this fellowship of biblical churches and ministries.
A time to stand firm on occupations
Jesus said, "Occupy [do business (NKJV)] till I come." (Luke 19:13). The primary occupation of the independent local church is to proclaim the Gospel and to foster Scriptural Christian living. But this applies to world-wide outreach as well to the home field.
The early churches set the example by being interdependent as well as independent. They circulated the Scriptures and extended assistance to one another in times of need. IFCA International provides for such activity. There are many national benefits of interdependence as seen throughout the pages of this issue of the Voice.
But if IFCA International was to continue its growth, it had to do more than recruit new members from apostate denominations. It had to begin new churches by church extension. The development of a church extension program without centrally controlling local churches was discussed for many years in National and Regional circles.
By 1956 the policy was adopted for Church Extension missions to be organized independently to serve Regional areas and become members of the movement as do churches. This brings the church planting effort near to its supporters with better oversight and assistance for developing congregations. In the past eleven years, 17 such missions have completed over 100 new churches plus an average of 40 per year in the process of organization. In the same period, over 5000 professions of faith were recorded. Greater missionary support of these ministries is needed. It is the primary means of growth in the movement.
A time to stand firm with vision
"Our Vision for the 21st Century" was adopted at the 1995 Annual Convention in Colorado Springs, Co. In it, this movement is committed to a mission and vision for this new century as well as excellence in the pursuit of 17 specific goals "dedicated to the ongoing cultivation of a balanced, growing fellowship."
But we today must not forget the men of vision in the first seven decades of IFCA International. They founded the IFCA and set it on its course to face their challenges of the 20th Century. Some of the great men who are part of IFCA International's history include:
- J. Oliver Buswell (president of Wheaton College)
- M.R. DeHaan (founder of Radio Bible Class and Our Daily Bread devotional)
- William McCarrell(pastor of Cicero Bible Church, teacher at Moody Bible Institute)
- William Pettingill (consulting editor of the Scofield Study Bible, 1909 edition)
- Judson Rudd (president of Bryan College)
- Peter Deyneka, Sr. (founder of Slavic Gospel Association)
- Charles Feinberg (Dean, Talbot Theological Seminary)
- Lance Latham (Founder of AWANA)
- Louis Talbot (president of Biola)
- Charles Pfeiffer (professor at Moody Bible Institute)
- John Walvoord (president of Dallas Theological Seminary)
- Samuel Southerland (President of Biola University and Talbot Seminary)
- J. Vernon McGee (pastor of The Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles)
- Merrill Unger (professor at Dallas Theological Seminary)
- Charles Ryrie (professor at Dallas Theological Seminary)
- Robert Gray (Pastor of Westchester Bible Church, Westchester, IL)
- Leslie Madison (President of Calvary Bible College)
- Al Platt (president emeritus of CAM International)
- John MacArthur (pastor of Grace Community Church and president of The Masters College and Seminary)
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of other godly men of vision who helped IFCA International reach the 21st Century with a renewed God-given purpose.
Brothers and Sisters of the churches, let us each do our part, facing the future and standing firm in this vital ministry, until our Lord returns!
IFCA International website