- Pastoral Support
- Educational Consultancy
- Statement of Faith
The missiology of IRFA follows the apostolic model, where the local church is the organisational focus of world mission. We do not regard ourselves as a ‘parachurch’ organisation but a ‘fellowship of churches’ as a handmaiden to the local church. IRFA’s goal is always to engage with local churches or denominations, at their invitation in a geographical location; which is the visible body of Christ testifying of the gospel of Christ as citizens of the kingdom of God in the whole of life. We see all believers are priests of the Living and True God, Who in Christ the Risen King ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). These local indigenous congregations may be supported according to the Christian graces of true fellowship and sacrifice, so that each congregation becomes self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating.
These congregations will be part of the wider body of Christ that commonly confess their faith honestly and openly as confessing or subscribing churches. When we use the term ‘subscribing churches’ we mean that we are subscribers to that historic apostolic faith enunciated fully and completely by the Apostles infallibly in the New Testament. This Apostolic Faith was defined progressively, albeit never infallibly, but faithfully through the passage of the history of the church in the evangelical confessions. Since the days of the Protestant Reformation of the 14th and 15th centuries, the Westminster Confession, along with the Westminster Standards have stood and continues to stand as a classical definition of the Apostolic Faith among English speaking churches or the continental Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism and the Five Points of Calvinism known as the ‘Three Forms of Unity’. Today throughout the world, such churches subscribe to this Reformed and Evangelical confession. Therefore, when we refer to the term ‘subscribing churches’ or even ‘subscribing Presbyterian churches’ we are NOT referring to a particular denomination of the Christian church.
The church being sanctified by ‘Word and Spirit’ for her holiness and Godly witness and confesses to being ‘reformed’ according to ‘the faith which was once delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3) and is reforming continually by the ‘Spirit of truth’ (John 14:7). Therefore IRFA sees as a first priority that its mission is with churches of like and common faith that express the apostolic faith. This doctrinally framework is not culturally sensitive as it applies across all language, cultures and peoples. There will be differences between indigenous churches on the basis of cultural matters, such as manners, clothing and linguistic idiom, which will affect the practice of the church but the doctrine of our common faith is one – ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all’ (Ephesians 4:5-6).
IRFA’s mission for self-governing local churches requires the church as the living and organic visible presence of Christ on earth as it is in heaven to reflect all three offices of Christ the Prophet, Priest and King to find practical expression in the local church.
All authority has been given to Christ both in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, 13; one Corinthians 12:27). Authority exercised within the church is directly established in Christ (Matthew 16:19). Christ Himself exercised gospel authority through his offices of Prophet (Hebrews 1:1-2), priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and King (Luke 1:31-33). These offices of Christ are eternal and perpetual, perfectly representing the ministry of Christ both in heaven and on earth (Isaiah 9:6-7. Within the body of Christ, the church of God, Christ establishes His offices among men and calls men to these offices to execute Christ’s gospel ministry (Ephesians 1:20-23 and 4:8, 11).
In the Old Testament Dispensation, Christ’s offices were faithfully exercised directly by the prophets, who were the mouth of God to the people of God, the priest who ministered the People’s offerings before the presence of God, and the Kings represented the throne of God in the midst of the covenanted holy people.
With the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Offices of Christ were still to be found in the Body of Christ, but in a transformed manner endued with greater measures and under a more general ministry of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s office of Prophet is continued within the Body of Christ, but it is manifested in the people of God having been brought nigh to God (Hebrews 10:19-25) even united to Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14) and manifest in the Pastor/Preacher (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 5:2-4). Christ’s office of Priest is continued and made manifest in the Church through the Deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1Timothy 3:8; Acts 4:1-4) as in the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The office of King is made manifest within the New Testament Church in the elder or the ruling elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20, 28; Titus 1:5-9).
This is to say that the basis and foundation of office within the Church is Christ’s execution of His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King among those whom He calls and ordains to lead His Church and who must reflect those same offices. These offices are not mere apostolic structures that found currency in the primitive church. They represent the means by which Christ, the Head, directly manifests Gospel authority within the Church today. Paul, the Apostle, describes them as ‘Christ’s gifts… He gives gifts to men’ (Ephesians 4:8), referring to ‘apostles… prophets… evangelists, and… pastors and teachers’ (Ephesians 4) and the Westminster Standards add the other two ordained offices/gifts “other church-governors (elders) and (deacons)”.
The word ‘Presbyter’ means ‘elder’ and if the church of God is governed biblically it will be governed by a system of a multiplicity of ruling elders, sitting as a gathered Session, ruling over the household of faith. The Pastor is one amongst equals, in terms of his office, in the midst of the ruling elders, but who has been gifted to lead God’s people in worship and to preach the Word of God faithfully. For this ministry, he is directly supported by the congregation of God’s people for his sustenance and financial supply. The deacons administer the graces of Christ that are received through the believers. To introduce Biblical church government deals a deathblow to overlords in the church, and to corruption through individuals. A Presbyterial Form of Government is sometimes and very often abused, but only in the case of this system of ‘checks and balances’ being overturned , neglected or misinterpreted. Great liberty is given to the Church if the offices of Christ are faithfully administered through a multiplicity of elders, the faithful ministry of the preacher, and the loving service of the deacons.
IRFA is committed to Reformed principles of ministry, where the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath is given due place, the ‘corporate worship services’ on the Lord’s Day and ‘family worship’ every day at home is an exercise of worship in ‘spirit and truth’ (John 6:22), through all the means of grace, including the preaching of God’s Word, the reading of the Scriptures, prayer in all its biblical parts, praise in being ‘filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:18-19), and the true exercise of the ‘Communion of the Saints’, with ‘Baptism’ and the ‘Lord’s Supper’.
The local church is not marked by its grand buildings, size of its congregation or of its programmes. The church is a gathering of its families’ professing its biblical faith in Christ and the whole Word of God. The church, being the ‘Body of Christ’, is a living organism, strengthened and grown in the very life of God Himself – eternal life. The local church gives testimony to what they are: ‘…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that [you] may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light, who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy’ (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The growth of the Church is inevitable; but this growth is very much the province of God Himself rather than the strategies of man or the marketing techniques of ‘corporate church’.
As the apostle Paul said ‘I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase… For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building’ (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 9). The Church always grows through the Ministry of the Word and the Spirit.
It grows biologically and covenantally, where whole families are discipled and evangelistically brought to Christ. Wise builders may work hard to establish family worship at home, Christian schooling, and godly role models at church as well as at home. This could be described as the ‘undergrowth’ or the ‘biological growth’ of the Church.
The fruitful harvest of the church can also be through its testimony in the world, calling all to come to Christ and are joined to the church in the culminating acts of conversion testified to by baptism with confession of faith. The church grows numerically by addition into ‘the number’ of the elect. As God the Father cleanses ‘the vine’ of Christ through pruning the dead branches and purifying the church, then growth and fruitfulness is granted to the church (John 15:4-8). The local church becomes healthy and vibrant, self-sustaining and ready to multiply into another place of service.
The priority for Educational Consultancy for IRFA became a concern because general education can often become all-consuming and could very quickly crowd out our main focus, which is being a handmaiden to our like-minded church family. As it has happened it has become an integral link to everything that IRFA wishes to do on the Indian subcontinent.
The subject of the English foundations of Classical Education has generated great interest and, consequently, has become a complementary component to the work of IRFA which has broadened our horizons and opened doors for our work within churches that we would never have reached unless this ministry was in place. As this aspect of our work grew it became necessary to start Enchiridion Education Services, which is now part of the Initiators’ Trust. IRFA is virtually unknown in India and we have deliberately organised ourselves so we interface directly as part-and-parcel with the church denominations who invite us into their churches as part of their church family. Enchiridion Education is the official face of our educational consultancy services which distances us from being labelled as a traditional missionary organisation – which we are not.
Enchiridion Education focuses on professional development for teachers in schools. Typically, we spend a period of five days, which includes 23 hours of teaching, so that the school can introduce LEM Phonics as the foundation of their literacy program in the school. As a business, this is not a very lucrative source of income, but it is an excellent service to Christian schools. We have also offered this service to non-Christian schools, and it has broadened the evangelistic outreach of the local churches and produced goodwill all round. We are planning to develop a tertiary Christian Education Diploma to prepare teachers to develop their own schools as a primary means of ministry. This qualification will professionally prepare teachers to become Christian teachers in general education. The course can be added to a Bachelor of Theology degree or another bachelor level degree by attaching a one-year full-time Postgraduate Diploma of Christian Education (PostGradDipCE). We are hoping to do this course through Faith Academy and their training facility for those opening the Little Flock Pre-school Franchise.
IRFA, in special projects, never provides money that unwittingly makes churches dependent on financial support. The priority is that every local church is to be self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing. If local churches cannot give evidence that this is going to happen during the next 10 or 15 years then we are left with no alternative but to withdraw from supporting such a church.
However, there are projects that are directly supported through the Fellowship of Churches with which IRFA has become involved. The regular giving of churches is for the recurrent expenses of the local church; but there are expenses that are up and above the regular income of these churches – such as disaster relief, theological training of future pastors, special events that are costly to run, which can be justified if everything else is in place, publications essential for the developing ministry of the church that are out of the congregation’s reach to finance, or start-up costs of new churches.