A total of 525 people, many of them pastors and wives, registered for last week’s 94th Annual IFCA International Convention. My wife and I were among those who gathered at the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter and the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky., as we oversaw the exhibit for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
The theme for the conference was “Fight the Good Fight: Reclaiming Biblical Fundamentalism.”
Dr. Richard Bargas, who has served as the executive director of IFCA International since 2019, preached a stirring message on the opening night of the conference. Drawing on 2 Cor. 10:1-6, he shared “five traits” of Biblical fundamentalism—as opposed to cultural fundamentalism. Bargas framed his words within the context of the dire circumstances in our culture.
“Our country enjoyed the heritage of our Christian foundations for decades,” he stated. “But not anymore. The enemy of our souls has come out from the shadows. He has become emboldened, and he is basking in the light of our world. I don’t believe it will be long until he begins to fully unleash his power against the church here.”
The message resonated with the audience and set the tone for the entire week.
“I am not exaggerating when I say it,” Bargas told the congregation. “Brothers and sisters, right now we are facing the destruction of our civilization. The current culture we live in has embraced death. It has embraced confusion. It has embraced delusion. And there isn’t any hope in any of these deceptive fortresses. True, Biblical fundamentalism needs to speak the Word of God into this world.”
During a theological question-and-answer panel on Tuesday morning, Dr. Thomas Pittman, a vice president and assistant professor at Shepherds Theological Seminary in Cary, N.C., called the IFCA “the strongest positive face in the fundamentalist movement.”
In the same forum, Bargas listed several hallmarks of the IFCA. Stated as adjectives, they include Biblical, fundamental, dispensational, evangelistic, expositional, cessationist and creationist. “These are very rare to find in any group today,” he said.
Bargas placed the emphasis on the first of those descriptors. “We are Bible men,” he stated. “Our goal is to be faithful. The way we guard against apostasy is teaching the Word of God.” Pittman noted in follow-up: “If you just read the Bible, you end up a dispensationalist.”
Dr. Cory Marsh, professor of New Testament at Southern California Seminary, was the keynote speaker on Tuesday night, taking his message from his new book from SCS Press, A Primer on Biblical Literacy.
Marsh said that Bible literacy must begin in the home and church. As students come to seminary with less Biblical knowledge, the nature of seminary has changed, he explained—and seminaries have been forced to address more basic matters than they did historically.
“To know God is to know God’s Word,” Marsh stated. “If you are literate in the Scriptures, you are literate in God’s revealed will. A Christian’s relationship with God is directly proportionate with their relationship to God’s Word, the Bible.”
Marsh clarified, stating: “We live in a nation that has been shaped by Scripture, but no one really knows the Scriptures. Clearly, something is wrong. We’ve become too familiar with the Bible—without actually knowing the Bible. The Bible has become a familiar relic. Turning Christianity into an industry has made us illiterate of the Scriptures.”
There were 36 exhibitors at the convention, including nine colleges and seminaries, and at least eight missions organizations. In addition to the four nightly general sessions, there were 26 general breakout seminars, six women’s sessions, six strategic planning breakouts, three business meetings and two theological panels. The Steve Pettit Evangelistic Association also presented a bluegrass concert.
Also, during this week, 250 teenagers and sponsors gathered at Appalachian Bible College in Mount Hope, W.Va., for the IFCA National Youth Convention. Dr. Alexander Granados, president of Calvary University in Kansas City, Mo., was their main speaker.
The IFCA presented the 2023 Faithful Servant Award to Dr. Alex Montoya—a highly accomplished Christian educator and the senior pastor of the First Fundamental Bible Church of Whittier, Calif., since 1972.
“I want more people to know about IFCA,” Bargas said during one of the theological panels. “We are seeing more coming from some of the extremist [fundamentalist] groups.” Bargas explained that such men are seeking a loving environment characterized by fellowship around a like-minded commitment to doctrine.
“I believe the IFCA is unique,” stated Dr. Gary Gilley, senior pastor of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, Ill., and the keynote speaker for the communion service on the final evening of the convention. He listed the IFCA distinctives of inerrancy, cessationism, dispensationalism and literal hermeneutics, then issued this call: “This is our time to stand up for these things.”
Gilley’s words completed a line of thinking that Bargas initiated on Monday evening.
“We don’t need to be afraid,” Bargas had said. “This is our time! We have the most powerful message in the world, and our time is short. That is why IFCA exists. We will not bow down.”
Audio from the conference is available at SermonAudio.com/IFCAInternational.
Next year’s convention will be held from June 24 to 28 at the Holiday Inn & Hampton Inn and Suites, Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, in Springdale, Ark. The theme will be “Proclaim—Equip—Defend.”
Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, based in Columbus, WI, and serving in the Midwest. For more information on his ministry, visit sermonaudio.com/pscharf or foi.org/scharf, or email email@example.com.