Practicing Discernment: Clovis Evangelical Free Church “13 Essentials” in Clovis, California

An opportunity for readers to practice discernment and to learn how to be Bereans. Today I have copied part of a webpage from Clovis Evangelical Free Church in Clovis, California. This is a church in EFCA West, which is the largest district in the Evangelical Free Church of America. Would you get involved in this church? If so why? If not why? I will weigh in a few days time.  

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.”

Casey Stengel

“I can’t afford to be a member of a golf course.”

Jack Abramoff

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true

Acts 17:11 NIV

This blog writes about the Evangelical Free Church of America and tonight I want to feature this “13 Essentials” from Clovis Evangelical Free Church in Clovis, California. This post is to teach people how to practice discernment and to learn how to be a Berean. The goal of exercises like this is to get you to think critically and for yourself and avoid unhealthy churches and find good ones. My question to you would you get involved in this church if you saw this below on their web page.


Clovis Evangelical Free Church (CEFC) is a body of believers, surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and committed to the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). As such, we exist to glorify God by loving Him unreservedly, loving others sacrificially and making disciples purposefully. Our 13 Essentials reflect the outworking of this vision and purpose.

The ministry of CEFC will be biblically-based and biblically-driven. While evangelical churches have historically acknowledged the principle of Sola Scriptura, our church is committed to the centrality and absolute authority of the Scriptures. Consistent with the roots of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), our guideline for all faith and practice will be “Where stands it written?” We believe that God has spoken clearly and has given us, in the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, everything the Church needs for its instruction, nurture and life (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Therefore, what we teach, how we evangelize, how we organize, everything that makes up the corporate life of our church and the personal lives of our members will be evaluated by the one true and ultimate standard, the Word of God, rightly interpreted (2 Timothy 2:15). We will not be driven by cultural fads, personal preferences, marketing techniques or pragmatism. It is not our ambition to build a large human organization, but instead to faithfully work together to build the Kingdom of God. As a church, we will seek to understand God’s direction for us as outlined in His Word and as revealed to us through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, faithfully interpreted by our pastors and elders as they are held accountable to the collective will of the congregation.

The pastors and elders of CEFC are fully united and committed to the following biblical principles that will drive and direct our ministry into the future. They have been drafted so as to clearly define our position. We have occasionally chosen to use language that sets forth both what we affirm as a church and what we deny. Our intent was not to be critical or judgmental but rather, to be unambiguous as we set forth our values and beliefs.




Expositional Preaching

Expositional preaching is not marked by a particular style or form, but by biblical content, taking the point of the passage and making it the point of the message. This is preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation (Nehemiah 8:8). It is a commitment to hearing God’s Word and to affirming the centrality of it in our worship. Through such preaching, we seek to hear not from a man, but from God, and thus have the agenda of our church shaped by God’s agenda as outlined in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2-5).

Biblical Theology

The apostle Paul charged Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Our focus should not only be on the method of the teaching, but on the content of the teaching as well. Biblical theology is a commitment to know the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. The main theological lines of Scripture’s story are clear, and we are called by God to learn, teach, and apply the “whole counsel of God” in our church (Acts 20:27).

Biblical Understanding of Prayer

Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ with confession of our sins (Psalm 66:18-19), and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies (1 John 5:14). It is a means to praise and adore God, to know Him, to come into His presence, not to manipulate Him, but to seek His will and to be changed by Him. As we pray without ceasing, we will find that the very process is bringing about that which we are asking for: to have our hard hearts melted, to tear down barriers, to have the glory of God break through and His Kingdom established (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 6:9-13).

Biblical Understanding of the Gospel

The gospel is the heart of Christianity. The gospel is not that God wants to meet people’s felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. The gospel is that, in spite of our sinful rebellion against our Creator and Judge, God has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin. Further, He has credited Christ’s righteousness to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 3:21-26). Also, the gospel is not just something we need to hear and believe once in order to be saved. The gospel is God, the good news of His kingdom and the transforming power of His indwelling Spirit. We need to constantly preach the gospel to ourselves and to allow its power to conform us to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Biblical Understanding of Conversion

The spiritual change each person needs is so radical, so near the root of us, that only God can accomplish it (John 1:12; 3:5-8). We need God to convert us. Conversion need not be an emotionally heated experience, but it will result in conviction (Acts 2:37) and must evidence itself in godly fruit if it is to be what the Bible regards as a true conversion (Matthew 7:21; 2 Peter 1:3). It is the truth of the Bible that must change the hearts of unbelievers by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; Acts 16:14). There is no saving knowledge of God except through the truth of Scripture, as trust is placed in Christ by its teaching and as the Holy Spirit imparts to us the desire to trust Christ in this way (Romans 10:17).

Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

How someone shares the gospel is closely related to how one understands the gospel. To present the gospel as an additive that gives non-Christians something they naturally want, such as joy or peace, is to present a half-truth, which elicits false conversions. The whole truth is that our deepest need is spiritual life, and that new life only comes by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus (2 Corinthians 7:10). We present the gospel openly, passionately and unashamedly, with a deep desire to reach the lost, as we provide the reason for the hope that is in us (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 3:15). We will not manipulate people or pronounce false assurance as we proclaim the gospel. Instead, we will faithfully declare the good news and leave the converting to God (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Biblical Understanding of Membership

A biblical view of church membership means that our body will be made up of believers who have explicitly given testimony of their faith and submission to the Lordship of Christ and who show evidence of personal conversion. Membership should reflect a living commitment to a local church through regular attendance, giving, prayer and service, taking seriously the covenant commitment we make to one another when we join together as a local body of believers (Romans 12:4-8). We are purposefully traveling together as fellow citizens and members of God’s household as we head toward our heavenly home. (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Biblical Understanding of Fellowship

Biblical fellowship is a relationship of inner unity among believers that expresses itself in outer co-participation with Christ and one another in accomplishing God’s will on earth. It consists not only of being together but also working together to accomplish God’s will and to further His Kingdom (Philippians 1:27). Through true biblical fellowship (1 John 1:7), we learn to love and serve one another and, as a result, display the glory of God as disciples of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:7-8; John 17:20-23; Acts 2:42-47). Further, as fellow members of the body of Christ, we have covenanted with one another, not only to support our local church, but also to support and encourage one another so that even in times of disagreement and conflict, we are guided by the gospel in a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-19).

Biblical Understanding of Discipline

The primary goal of biblical church discipline is to maintain a healthy body by restoring wayward believers to a proper relationship with God and with the congregation. Church discipline establishes parameters for church membership (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-8). Each local church has a biblical responsibility to judge the life and teaching of its leaders, and even of its members, particularly insofar as either could compromise the church’s witness to the gospel. Through God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have been taught and empowered to live upright and godly lives (Galatians 5:24-26; Titus 2:11-14). Failure to exercise restorative church discipline may result in the loss of health and purity within the body and may damage the testimony of the church in the community. Faithful exercise of such discipline will enhance the Church’s glory and Christ’s reputation (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1).

Biblical Understanding of Christian Discipleship and Growth

Our church will be focused on faithfulness and on depth rather than breadth. Increased attendance alone is not a definite sign that God is growing a church. The only certain observable sign of growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in the denial of self (Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 3:18). True discipleship builds the Church and promotes a clear witness to the world. To that end, we are committed to seeing people brought to new life in Jesus Christ, growing them to maturity, discovering their giftedness and providing them opportunities for service and ministry (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:12-16). A key component of discipling must take place through the family as parents assume the primary responsibility for bringing their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord, as supported and equipped by our covenant community (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:1-4; Psalm 78:1-7; see also our position paper entitled “The Family and the Church”).

Biblical Understanding of Leadership

While all authority ultimately rests with Christ as head of the Church, the Bible clearly teaches that there should be a plurality of elders to lead and guide each local body of believers (Titus 1:1-5). This plurality of elders is both biblical and practical. It has the immense benefit of complementing the gifts of the pastor (a fellow elder) to ensure the proper shepherding of God’s church. The primary role of the elders is that of shepherding the flock after the pattern of Christ (John 10:1-18) with special emphasis on teaching and prayer (Acts 6:4; 20:28). Specifically, elders are called by God to live as godly examples, to protect the body from false teaching and to oversee the affairs of the church (1 Peter 5:3; Hebrews 13:7; Acts 20:29-31; 1 Timothy 5:17). We believe that church leadership must be understood in its congregational context, consistent with biblical qualifications, committed to Christ-likeness and reflective of God’s nature and character (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Biblical Understanding of Worship

Worship is the proper response of all moral beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator precisely because He is worthy. Biblical worship is God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit –empowered (Ephesians 5:18), which manifests itself in all our living (John 4:23-24; 1 Timothy 1:17). It finds its source in the gospel, which restores our relationships with God and with our co-worshippers (Romans 12:1). Such worship consists of adoration and action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship (Hebrews 10:24-25). We will not capitulate to current trends to turn worship into entertainment or mere aesthetic experience, nor will we decide, by our own personal preferences, how we should worship God. Whether such worship is scriptural is not ultimately an issue of style, but rather that the content is biblical, the focus is God, and the purpose is His glory (Colossians 3:16-17).

Biblical Understanding of Missions

The last instruction that Christ gave prior to ascending to heaven was to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The final goal of all things is that God might be worshiped with affection by a redeemed company of countless persons from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). Missions exists to expand the company of true worshippers. When the kingdom finally comes in glory, missions will cease. Until our Lord’s imminent return, and consistent with our EFCA heritage, we have a passion to reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ in word (Matthew 24:14) and deed (Matthew 5:16). Our desire is to make the beauty of God known (2 Corinthians 2:14-17) and the truth of the gospel understood (2 Corinthians 5:11), starting in our own neighborhood and extending to the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). We will accomplish this by training and sending our own people and by partnering with like-minded missionaries and mission organizations worldwide.


We seek to follow the revealed will of God and desire His blessing, trusting Him to increase the numbers of those who attend and join our body. We are committed to listening to God as He speaks in His Word and re-imagining a successful ministry, not as one that is immediately fruitful in terms of numbers, but one that is faithful to Scripture. By committing ourselves to The 13 Essentials, we seek to be faithful to Christ, the true head and ruler of the Church, and to bring God glory as we minister together with Him and with one another.

Resources – Books

D. A. Carson, Worship By the Book.
Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.
R. B. Kuiper, The Glorious Body of Christ.
John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church.
John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad.
David Wells, The Courage To Be Protestant.

Resources – Articles and Confessions

Bob Gillam, “The Importance of Fellowship in a New Testament Church.”
Tim Keller, “Kingdom-Centered Prayer.”
The Cambridge Declaration of 1996.

4 thoughts on “Practicing Discernment: Clovis Evangelical Free Church “13 Essentials” in Clovis, California

  1. Well, I see three and a half warning flags right there:
    The three are the list of books — Nine Marks Dever, MacArthur, and Flutterhands Piper.
    The half is the overuse of the word “Biblical(TM)” — like North Korean media and the word “Democracy(TM)”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Curious, they closed with just “Conclusion” not “Biblical Conclusion”. While I’m making light of their over-use of “Biblical”, it may be a an unintended symbol representing something true. Their conclusions are not “Biblical”. In their “Essentials” they mistakenly slide from “Biblical” texts to conclusions promoting authority of men that are neither essential or true.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. >We believe that God has spoken clearly and has given us, in the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    So, the holy spirit is allowed to exist, but unless ‘it is written’ in the bible it doesn’t count? Is that what they’re saying?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I found some time to go through your post so I though I would respond to some of their “Essentials”.

    “Biblical Understanding of Conversion”
    “We need God to convert us.” There is no mention of your part in the process, if you are a believe in any measure of free will I don’t see anything to hang onto. If you are fully Calvinist in your thinking you may feel at home, otherwise be aware.

    “Biblical Understanding of Membership”
    There is mention of a”covenant committment”, the web site does not give away if they use a signed membership contract but mention of a covenant sets off an alarm. Regardless of your theology these covenants have used for much abuse and suppression of witnesses.

    “Biblical Understanding of Fellowship”
    More mention of covenants, this is an odd formulation used to describe relationships of believers and is also another indication of signed contracts in use. The following passage gives an indication of how the covenant will be enforced: “we have covenanted with one another, not only to support our local church, but also to support and encourage one another so that even in times of disagreement and conflict, we are guided by the gospel in a ministry of reconciliation”. There are many sad examples covenants used as hammers to stifle disagreement or dissent.

    “Biblical Understanding of Discipline”
    Just putting discipline in your list of essentials should tell you something about the midset of the leadership.

    “Biblical Understanding of Christian Discipleship and Growth”
    “True discipleship builds the Church and promotes a clear witness to the world.” Tests the spirits here, do they mean build the local church, i.e. the institution, or do they mean build one another up. I figure if it was build one another up they would have said it that way.

    “Biblical Understanding of Leadership”
    In this area they have it badly wrong, there is no “Biblical Understanding of Leadership” unless they mean the understanding we get from the history of the kings of Israel and Judah, authoritarian men were one disaster after another. Jesus did not speak at all about leadership or authority except to rebuke those using it, he spoke of being a servant and his apostles spoke of leading by example.

    “Biblical Understanding of Missions”
    Read through their paragraph on missions and see if their outreach is appealing, I don’t see anything about expressing God’s love or serving others.

    The their resources at the bottom of the “13 Essentials” is a list of Calvinist thinkers, specifically Mark Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church”. Calvinism is not my preference but I would not label it as an essential, although I do believe Dever’s “Nine Marks” is not healthy.

    On their “recommended Reading” page they cite only three publication, of the three one is “Homosexuality booklet” and a second is “Pornography booklet”. This focus is odd, bordering on bizarre.

    Liked by 1 person

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