What Does Evangelical Free Mean?

The roots of the Evangelical Free Churches in the U.S. are in the Upper Midwest.
... Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

"Evangelical Free" is a description of a particular kind of Protestant Christian Church. These churches tend to be conservative both theologically and socially. Though Evangelical Free Churches do not believe in denominations, they do band together into "associations" to accomplish large social and mission projects as well as for mutual support and teaching. The Evangelical Free Church of America is the largest of these associations.

1 Evangelical

"Evangelical" describes a broad range of Protestant beliefs, traditions and organizations. The word "evangelical" comes from the New Testament Greek word "euangelion," meaning "good news." The term in modern usage, however, dates back to the first and second Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries. Evangelicals tend to have a Bible-centered faith and a greater emphasis on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus than on his incarnation or birth. They believe that people are sinful and need to be converted or "born again" by the power of God. Their religious identity is determined more by their beliefs than their association with a particular denomination.

2 Free Church

A free church is a church without a set liturgy. Though a free church will use a hymnbook, it will not use prayer books or books spelling out a specific formula for a worship service. Free Church prayer tends to be free form and spontaneous rather than written and traditional. Puritans, Anabaptists, most American frontier denominations and all their modern descendants tend to be free churches. Evangelical Free Churches trace their roots to the Free Church Movement in Scandinavia in the 19th century. The Scandinavian free churches rejected Lutheran liturgy in favor of a more spontaneous and Bible-centered way of worshiping.

3 History

The Evangelical Free Church of America was formed in 1950 through the merger of the Swedish Evangelical Free Church of the United States of America and the Evangelical Free Church Association (known until the mid-1930s as the Norwegian-Danish Free Church Association). Most of the local congregations of the association were in Minnesota and Iowa. They were congregational churches. In other words, they believed that authority over a local should be in the hands of the people of that congregation, not in the hands of an outside authority.

4 Evangelical Free Church of America

The headquarters of the Evangelical Free Church of America is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to the EFCA website, the associations has 1316 member churches. It sends out missionaries to work in 80 countries worldwide. It has three affiliated universities and a disaster response organization. It also has an agency that helps settle new immigrants, and its GlobalFingerprints organization helps care for impoverished children in Congo, Haiti, India and Liberia.

Susan Peterson is the author of five books, including "Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contact Athletes" and "Clare: A Novel." She holds a Ph.D. in text theory from the University of Texas at Arlington and is an avid cook and gardener.