This post is a look at the EFCA’s culture. This post also details the coldest reception I ever received when visiting an EFCA church. This involves Bob Osborne from EFCA West and his reception of me. This post is meant to point out how the EFCA is not going to be able to reach the lost, if they can’t endure questions or even criticism.
“Pure love is a willingness to give without a thought of receiving anything in return.“
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
1 Peter 1:3 NIV
EFCA’s Bob Osborne Director of ….
In early November of 2018 my sister called me and said that Dad and her coming to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving was being canceled. My Dad’s brain tumor that he was struggling with had grown so quickly I could not believe how fast it had grown especially since I helped him travel in Missouri and Kansas the previous month of October. My sister then told me that I should come home to spend time with Dad and did so. Sadly my Dad died in St. Agnes Hospital in Fresno on November 21, 2018. After my Dad died I held his body and wept over him. Two weeks later I faced my biggest fear of having to go to Dad’s funeral. It was something I dreaded my entire life. With my Dad’s death came all the work of dealing with the death of a parent. Cleaning the house, meeting with the attorney, and my sister wanted me to attend meetings with a grief counselor which I did. During this time I also tried a few EFCA churches as this blog writes about the denomination. And at the end of December I attended Clovis Evangelical Free and had an experience that revealed quite a bit about EFCA culture. But before we get into what happened lets look at the EFCA West’s Bob Osborne.
Who is Bob Osborne of EFCA West?
Bob Osborne attended Mt. San Antonio College where he earned a MA in Police Science. He then attended Azusa Pacific where he picked up a degree in religion and psychology. In time he obtained his Masters at Woodbury College in 2008. Bob proudly served in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for 38 years before retiring in 2012. Bob became the Director for Church Health in the EFCA West where he has served since 2013. Other hats he wears in the district besides church health include the following. Church leadership, ministry systems and structures and government documents. And also helping with mission, vision and strategic clarity. Bob is a part of Grace Church of Glendora in southern California which is his church home. He has been involved in Grace for 41 years. Its been the last 30 that he has worked in different capacities at Grace from children’s ministry all the way to deacon and elder. He currently serves in an elder role. This blog has written about Bob Osborne before in, “Bob Osborne From EFCA West on First Time Guests to Your Church.”
An Icy Reception at Clovis Evangelical Free Church
So on the morning of December 30, 2018 I attended Clovis Evangelical Free in Clovis, California. The church was in transition as the previous pastor Wil Owens had left. And that morning I was pleasantly surprised to see Bob Osborne was going to give the sermon. I sat in the back like I tend to do and listened and watched Bob preach. I was delighted because I was going to see EFCA West leadership in action. If you are interested in listening to that talk you can do so here. After his sermon he hung around up front in the sanctuary and talked with people. He exchanged pleasantries and shook people’s hands. Bob was all smiles. Members of Clovis Evangelical Free were talking to him and thanking him for his sermon. I hovered around and when he became free I went to speak with him. At this point Bob Osborne was smiling. I reached out to shake his hand and I introduced myself. As I mentioned my name his face changed and went from very laughable and kind to icy. And he suddenly turned around and gave me his back and started to pack up his bag and had to leave. For a couple of minutes I stood there and it was like I never existed. In addition I also wanted to give him a copy of a book about the issues of Neo-Calvinism inside the EFCA written by Amanda Farmer. You can read about that book in, “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Amanda Farmer’s “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home” So I stood there with this book and he finally grabbed it and talked about how he had to leave. The entire episode, I thought was incredibly sad. This situation from Bob Osborne of EFCA West became the coldest reception that I ever received from the EFCA.
Why the EFCA is Not Going to Reach People or Those They Consider to be Lost
The EFCA in communicating why faith matters says the following. “Ultimately, we want to shape a culture of transformation—conforming more closely to the person of Jesus—in our leaders, our churches, our ministries and our people.” The EFCA wants to shape the culture and show Jesus in their leaders, ministries and people. If that is the goal that Sunday morning at Clovis Evangelical Free I would say falls far short of their mission. Giving someone the back and meeting them with an icy reception to me reveals much about the health of the EFCA and its leadership. My experiences with faith and religion have led me to push back from it. And while I ask difficult questions which the EFCA may not want to discuss or talk about, I also think the EFCA is fortunate that I am not of the mindset of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. But who knows in the EFCA’s mind maybe the think I am.
This blog is not asking for an apology from EFCA West. But its asking for the EFCA to search its soul and ask itself the following. If district leadership who is responsible for church health acts the way Bob Osborne did, then how are they going to reach those outside the faith? How will the EFCA reach the atheists, skeptics, the nones, the gays, the spiritually abused, the lost, the confused, the wondering and everyone else? How would the EFCA West leadership react to Jesus showing up and asking questions? Or would Jesus be crucified a second time on the lawn before Clovis Evangelical Free? This post may upset or anger EFCA West leadership and that is not the intent. This post will hopefully result in the EFCA reflecting and thinking about what it represents and what it is trying to achieve. EFCA West didn’t have to jump up and down that Sunday morning in December of 2018. But it could have smiled and said to someone who was in town shortly before burying their father, “Dave thanks for joining us, I hope you liked church.”