BeFree Alton Family Letter (August)

Hello BeFree,

Every other month the elders and I write a “family letter” to share about what is going on behind the scenes and to take a look down the road at all that will be happening in our church family. We hope that this quick look will help keep you in the loop in the months to come.

  • -  Baptism Sunday – Baptism is a beautiful, joyful and symbolic celebration where someone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ publically declares that faith. Next Sunday, immediately after the service, five people in our family will be taking this obedient step of faith. Join us in the courtyard to celebrate all Christ has done in calling them to himself.

  • -  Last Summer Hangouts – This summer our church hosted a number of unique events ranging from hikes to firework displays. If you missed these gatherings, we still have two more opportunities:

o Next Sunday (August 11th), we will be traveling down to Portsmouth’s Prescott Park to enjoy a free theater production of “Beauty and the Beast.” The play starts at 7:00 but plan to arrive early as spots fill up quick. Bring a picnic dinner and small donation to support the play.

o On August 25th we will hold our annual end of summer party. We are still working out the details for this event, but keep your ears open for more information in the weeks to come.

  • -  Home Groups Starting – As we enter a new school year, our home groups will begin to meet again, starting the week of September 8th. All of our home groups will begin the year by focusing on the spiritual gifts; what they are and how we can use them to the glory of God and the good of the church. If you are not a part of a home group, now would be the perfect time to join! Look for more information on how to join a home group on Sunday, September 8th.

  • -  Summer Intern – About a month ago, we announced that our elder and worship leader, Rob, was going to step into the role of “intern.” Rob has already co-taught a 4-week evangelism course on Sunday mornings in July, begun his BA in theology at South African Theological Seminary and is, today, beginning a four- week sermon series on the book of Titus. We are thankful for the opportunity to continue to benefit from Rob’s ministry and are excited to see how God grows him through this obedient step of faith.

  • -  EFCA Report – In June, Olivia and I had the opportunity to attend the EFCA National Conference. This gathering of pastors, missionaries and leaders from across our denomination met for a time of worship, encouragement and handling of practical matters. This was my first time to sit under the leadership of our denomination and I came home thanking God for the group of churches he has called us to partner with in the advance of the Gospel. To read my full report on the EFCA National Conference, please visit the “what’s new” section of our website (

    Our prayer is that God would be glorified in all we do as we seek to glorify him by loving him, loving others and making disciples. We pray that God would use these upcoming events as well as our normal rhythms of gathering and scattering to help our church family accomplish this goal in all we do.

    On behalf of the elders and myself,

    Ben Ruhl, Pastor of BeFree Alton

    Elders: Everett Clark and Rob O’Blenis

EFCA Update (Alton Family Letter)

Dear BeFree Family,

In the past, a church’s denomination was something worn as a badge of honor. Churches would name themselves with titles like “First Baptist” or “Second Presbyterian.” However, in the past twenty years, many American Christians have lost their sense of denominational pride. Some have gone so far as to disdain denominations all together and wear the title “non-denominational” as a badge of honor. It’s not difficult to understand the desire to dismiss denominations as unnecessary or over institutionalized. After all, we don’t see them anywhere in the Bible.

However, I believe it would be a mistake to completely dismiss denominations as unnecessary or passé. In fact, I would argue that in throwing away denominations we would lose far more than we would gain. If a church is a part of a healthy, Gospel preaching, Bible-believing, mission driven denomination, they are in direct partnership with a larger body of believers who are working together to shine the light of Jesus across the nation and the world. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

BeFree Alton is a part of a denomination called the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). While there are not many EFCA churches in our corner of the country, there are more than 1300 congregations stretching from Alaska to Florida and from Hawaii to Maine.

When I was graduating from seminary and trying to discern where the Lord was leading Olivia and I in the years to come, there were many denominations, church networks and parachurch organizations with which we might have decided to ally. However, as we researched and prayed about the direction the Lord was leading, it became clear to us that the EFCA was the denomination we wanted to join as we served the lord in the decades to come.

The thing that set the EFCA apart from many other denominations was its commitment to hold the core doctrines of the church with white knuckled zeal, while still allowing for a diversity of positions on doctrines of secondary importance. To major on the majors and minor on the minors. For example, the EFCA is committed to the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, and the ongoing mission of the church, but are willing to have diversity on topics such as speaking in tongues and pre-destination without breaking the bond of unity we all share in Christ.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to gather with over 1500 pastors, missionaries and lay leaders at the EFCA national conference in Chicago. This was my first opportunity to interact with our denomination outside our region and I was blessed by what I found.

Here are three reasons I returned to New Hampshire thankful to be a part of the EFCA:

Bold Leadership – Before attending the national conference I knew very little about the men and women serving at our denomination’s headquarters. Though I recognized a few of them by name, I had never had the chance to directly benefit from their leadership. However, while at the conference, a few of these national leaders, including the current EFCA president, addressed us on a few key matters of great importance to our denomination. They boldly challenged the pastors of our denomination to be diligent and watchful in combatting possible abuse in our congregations. They urged us to be ready and willing to take immediate and decisive action when reports of any kind of abuse come to the surface. They also challenged and encouraged pastors and church leaders across the denomination on a number of other matters. While not

everything they said was easy to hear, all of it was true, needed to be said and was spoken in love. It takes a gifted leader to handle matters of such weight with bold conviction yet tender compassion. I am thankful to say that we have leaders in our denomination who worthy of our confidence and respect.

  • -  Healthy Communication – On the second day of the conference, two delegates from each EFCA church met for a biannual business meeting. The primary matter of business was to vote upon a proposed revision to our denomination’s statement of faith. If the proposed changes passed, our statement on Christ’s return would change from “We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus” to “We believe in the personal, bodily and gloriousreturn of our Lord Jesus.” This change was proposed in an effort to better align our statement of faith with our denomination’s commitment to hold firmly to the doctrines that are essential, those truths that all true believers throughout the centuries have believed, and yet remain charitable on secondary doctrines.

    Over the course of 3+ hours, the delegates from the different churches talked and debated this proposed change. Some spoke with great emotion arguing both for and against the change. However, when we voted and the proposal was approved, the tone in the room was not one of winners and losers, but one of humble acceptance and respect. At the end of the meeting, we left united under our shared commitment to continue the ongoing work of Jesus Christ.

  • -  A Gospel-focused commitment to Christ’s mission – The bigger an organization, the more structure needed to run it. In the same way, when churches and church denominations grow to be large, it can be tempting to begin treating a church like a business. Pastors and church leaders can often lose sight of what is most important and opt rather for what is most pragmatic; asking “what works” rather than “what honors God.” As I attended the national conference, listened to the plenary speakers, sat through breakout sessions, and listened to the leaders, one thing became crystal clear: without dismissing the necessity of proper structures and the right handling of our resources, the EFCA cares far more for the glory of God, the advance of the Gospel and the flourishing of the church, than numbers, resources and institutional structures. I am thankful to be a part of a large organization that has not lost sight of the ultimate goal. The EFCA is a denomination that remains focused upon Jesus Christ and his glory.

    Our church is not “non-denominational”. Rather, we are a part of a larger family of churches that are committed to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people. God is at work across our nation and across the world through the EFCA. I am thankful to call this family of churches our home and am excited to see what God will do through our denomination in the decades to come.

    Thankfully yours,
    Ben Ruhl, Pastor of BeFree Alton

BeFree Alton Family Letter (June)

Hello BeFree, 

It seems like no matter who you ask, everyone is “busy.” Our families are busy, our work is busy and it can even feel like our churches are busy. But as followers of Jesus, we know that our goal in life, family, work, and church, is not ultimately to be “busy” but to be faithful in our calling to “love God, love others and make disciples.” Very often, when we reflect on what God has been doing at BeFree Alton, we celebrate the “stuff” we have been doing at our church campus. However, rather than focusing on the busyness, I want to celebrate the faithfulness of the members in our church family.  We have been faithfully gathering on Sundays to worship our King. We have been faithfully gathering in home groups and other gatherings throughout the week to love one another in friendship and fellowship. Finally, in the face of recent community crises, we have faithfully shone the light of Jesus Christ into the lives of those hurting and mourning around us. I praise God for the ways he has been working in and through our church family.

As we move into the summer months, here is a quick look at a couple of things coming up:

  • Evangelism class – Every disciple of Jesus has the privilege and the responsibility to join Christ in his mission to make disciples of all nations. We believe this mission is best carried out when every believer takes their role in God’s mission seriously. As the home group year comes to a close, we are going to offer another training class, much like the four-week discipleship class we offered last year. This class will be offered Sunday mornings before church (8:15-9:15am on June 30th, July 7th, 14th, 21st). Please keep your ears open for more information in the weeks to come.

  • Summer Hangouts – Over the past few summers, our church family gathered weekly at Crunchy Farm for “Farm Fellowship.”  This summer, we will be mixing it up. Rather than meeting weekly at Crunchy Farm, we will be hosting a number of unique events throughout the summer months. We hope that these will be times when we can gather together and form new relationships within our church family. Please keep your ears open for these hangouts in the weeks to come.

  • Baptism – Over the past few months we have mentioned that we will be holding a baptism service. This service will be held in late July or early August. It’s still not too late to sign up to be baptized. If you are interested in being baptized or would like to learn more about baptism, please speak with Ben Ruhl and he will be happy to walk through the baptism process with you. 

  • Summer Refocus – At BeFree, many ministries and home groups take a break and use this time to recharge and refocus. Please be praying for our leaders as they seek God’s will for the home groups and church ministries in the months to come.  

We pray that, in all these events, God will work through us to bring glory to his name as we seek to love him, love others and make disciples.

On behalf of the elders and myself, 

Ben Ruhl, Pastor of BeFree Alton

Elders: Everett Clark and Rob O’Blenis