Reflecting on 89 Years of the FEA

Monday, April 17, 2017, marked the 89th anniversary of the Fundamental Evangelistic Association (FEA). Obviously, a lot has happened during the decades of our existence. Our founder, M.H. Reynolds Sr., took a strong and costly stand against the rising theological liberalism that became dominant throughout the denominations in the first half of the 20th century, while continuing to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who would listen in tent meetings, Bible Conferences, churches, and on the radio.

M.H. Reynolds Jr. made sure the FEA continued “staying the course” as he witnessed the advance of theological liberalism as well as the rise of what became known as the “new evangelicalism.” He was careful to stand against the tides of compromise and confusion making inroads into the church as he saw Christians become influenced by institutions like Fuller Theological Seminary and ministries like Billy Graham’s ecumenical evangelism and the rise of the charismatic movement. Since its inception, the “new evangelicalism” has used ecumenical endeavors and has accepted charismatic heresies to enhance and grow its own sphere of influence. The FEA has consistently and firmly—but lovingly—warned against accepting either of these.

Pastor Reynolds Jr. lived to see some of the rotten fruit of ecumenical evangelism in the mid-to-late 1990s with the rise of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) and Promise Keepers (PK). Going back into some early issues of News & Views and Foundation magazine, one can see clear harbingers of what was coming in Pastor Reynolds’ warnings. Few seemed interested in listening to the warnings signals, but some did.

Pastor Dennis Costella’s long association with the FEA enabled him to develop strong separatist discernment and convictions, so that when he became the director of the FEA in 1997, he was known for his dogged determination to keep the purpose and direction of the FEA on the straight and narrow, even during those times when it seemed many brethren were at long last wearing down in terms of continuing in the cause. Pastor Dennis covered many different ecumenical congresses with press credentials for Foundation magazine, and he was able to biblically analyze and evaluate the latest trends popularized by men like Luis Palau, Leighton Ford, Rick Warren, and Charles Colson to name a few. While walls of separation for many crumbled, Pastor Dennis was always one with his sword in one hand and trowel in the other to contend for the faith and to make the necessary repairs to those walls. During the late 1990’s and into the early 21st century, many fundamentalist Christians and Christian leaders cast off separatism, deeming it no longer necessary, but Pastor Dennis saw to it that the FEA’s testimony was marked by a strong but loving stand for biblical separatism and against the bitter fruit of compromise that has been so prevalent throughout recent decades.

Under the leadership of Pastor Matt Costella, the FEA has continued to implement the motto, “Preaching the Gospel, Teaching the Word, Contending for the Faith” as we seek to navigate the waters of Christianity, mostly against the tides that are seeking to sink the ships of fundamentalist churches in our day. The need for a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ has always existed, but sadly in our day, it has become increasingly muddled and confusing to the point that many people are unclear as to what the gospel actually is (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The FEA strives to be clear and bold, declaring, “Christ died for our sins . . .  Christ rose again the third day.”

Solid expository preaching and teaching of the Scriptures is imperative today. This is especially important in the areas of dispensationalism and biblical prophecy. We hear from many who are sorely confused about the distinction between law and grace, between Israel and the church. Yet it is also true when it comes to the area of personal sanctification—how to live the Christian life on a daily basis. It is so common today to hear questions from confused Christians about the requirements of “law keeping” (tithing, sabbath keeping, dietary restrictions, etc.). Rather than living under the grace of God in this church age, many feel as though they must adhere to a legalistic regiment never designed for believers in the church age.

A real difficulty continues in the area of “contending for the faith.” Again, so many seem either reluctant to take a stand for the truth or actually antagonistic to any notion that believers should not unite together with unbelievers or errant brethren in ministry endeavor. Militantly contending for the truth of God’s Word through biblical separation is not just frowned upon but is actually ridiculed and dismissed as “unchristian.” Yet according to God’s Word, separation is a Christian necessity (Rom. 16:17-20; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1), even from disorderly brothers (2 Thes. 3:6, 14).

On a personal note, I have known of the FEA for over 30 years. I have been a part of the FEA for eight years. In all that time, I have appreciated not only the literature, local-church teaching, conference ministries, radio broadcasts, and podcasts, but especially the encouragement to continue faithfully in the ministry, especially when things or circumstances got discouraging and disheartening. We do not rejoice when people teach false doctrine. Neither are we glad when brethren fall into sin or compromise. In other words, we are not a ministry that simply “curses the darkness.” We do not merely lament the situation of the 21st century church, wringing our hands and saying “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:14). We know there are thousands who stand with us, who have refused to bow to the “Baals” of the world. Therefore, we are here to encourage like-minded brethren, not just to stand with us, but to be of help to one another in the furtherance of the cause of Christ. We seek to provide biblical solutions to the difficulties and trials we all face along the way as we stress the biblical principle to “put off … put on” (Eph. 4:22, 24). With a world population of over seven billion people, the need for “laborers” in the harvest fields of this world is greater than any one or two of us could possibly influence. We need all the faithful help possible!

The FEA is here today to be an example, a blessing, an encouragement, a help, a comfort, and even to provide a word of exhortation to keep on in the Lord’s Work and His Word! On a personal level, I am privileged to be a part of this work. We are not a large ministry by any means, but we serve a great God who “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21).  

— Pastor Gary Freel