Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Globalization? Evangelicalism? Can we just call them Christians?

Written by: on January 20, 2017

In their book Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspectives, Donald M Lewis and Richard V. Pierard examine  world evangelicalism.   Their subject has many facets and is often described by scholars with these other words:  evangelist, evangelism, evangelical and evangelicalism.    Interesting to me is that all of the words, other than the last, are main stream words that have a meaning and the last one is what doesn’t really have much clarity to it.   I believe that was the authors point.   Even now reading a second book about this subject, I believe their subject matter is a complication of terminology that is confusing.   To compare evangelicalism, in the introduction, to Islam is really confusing.  The terminology is what is most entangling.

All of the introduction, is about the fact that no one adheres to the word evangelicalism.   Christian, I believe is the word that they are looking for and that people adhere to.   What have you become in Africa or Canada or Ireland?  An evangelical Christian?   No, I believe that a person who accepts Christ becomes a Christian.  That is the word that would be their identification.  What if we were just simply to examine Christianity instead of another label?  All Christianity has to do with is someone being an evangelist, doing evangelism and becoming evangelical.  So I like the word Christian.

I did find it quite interesting that the beginning of the modern missionary movement doesn’t mention the word evangelical or evangelicalism instead it mentions Christian.   In the 1800 Dr. Leonard Woods sermon he states ” The fervent Christian cannot rest.  His unalterable object is, that the knowledge of the Lord may fill the earth.  His heart beat high for the conversion of the world.”   He then laid out 6 motives, that are still used today.  He did point out the difference between Judaism and the Christian message.   Judaism is exclusive in attitude and Christianity is intended for all.

The book then goes through all of the great missionaries who were evangelist.  Men and women who presented the good news of the Gospels as their duty not their denomination or identification.  These men and women were not developing an organization but were laying the groundwork for reaching the lost around the world.   This was their Christian duty not their evangelical duty.  They did evangelize the world.  This is my struggle with reading this book.

On page 72, the authors simply say what I have been writing and thinking.  “Establishing what portion of Christians could be considered evangelical is highly problematic and depends a great deal on which definition one uses.  “A careful scholarly attempt to arrive at estimates of the number of evangelicals  and Pentecostals/ neo-Pentecostals…” After wading through this confusion I did arrive at the fact that Pentecostals have effectively reached around the world by sharing the gospel.

Globalization is the other word that these authors stumbled around on for a huge portion of the book.  What does globalization mean and from their view point it seems like it is a bad word.  Islam is once again the comparison and I don’t understand what the point is.  “The real globalizing forces behind Islam, ironically, are the identification of Islam with the global struggle against globalization and international migrations patterns.  The lack of a single holy language and a specific holy space are important factors in enabling the globalization of Christianity. ”   So?  Christianity translates in every language and is able to be translated in the written form. ( This is something the modern missionary is doing on a escalated scale.)  These authors seem to fight against globalization as anything that is productive for evangelicalism (but for Christianity it has been the catalyst for salvation and life change.)   So what is it?   This sentence wraps up my confusion. ” It could be that in the future the forces of globalization will be associated with a different religion, or no religion; but globalization as historically experienced in the past five centuries has been significantly enmeshed with the history of CHRISTIANITY, while at the same time evangelicalism offers a counternarrative to the homogenizing effects of globalization.

I may just be sick but I want to be associated  and identified with Christianity and missionaries making a global difference over the past five centuries! (the organization that I am a part of is doing this exactly.)  I do not identify with being evangelicalism.  I would be identified as Pentecostal.

So the way I see it.  We still send missionaries ( some white, some black, some native American,  some native to their own country and some who are going cross culturally) to evangalize the world. They share the good news of the Gospel with those who have not heard the good news.   They translate the Bible into their own native language (called Fire Bibles) and establish Bible schools to raise up people from their own country to evangelize their own country.  Thus completing the call to discipleship not evangelicalism.   Their financial support comes from local churches in the United States,  that support them and allow them to go be evangelists and to be involved in evangelism.   Salvation that leads to conversion is the goal even at risk of personal harm and death.  Even in Islamic countries this is attempted.

Who cares about labels?

Christianity is the label.   I again must be sick and trying to write this out.  Alignment with a label that is not completely identified with being Christian makes no sense to me.   If Pentecostal Christian is the label that attaches me to the fastest and most effective organization,  that is growing spiritually and socially around the world, then attach that to me.  Something that has clarity and is not confusing to Christians and especially to those who are not saved.   How is the world going to ever figure out this subject what confuses religious scholars and contradicts itself?   Once again this comes to my mind:  the newly labeled “Nones” that we were introduced to in Oxford are not interested in things RELIGIOUS, (and I would see this conversation or argument about evangelicalism as highly steeped  in religion,) instead they are interested in things SPIRITUTAL.   Something that has power and content attached to it.

Again I might just be sick and writing on heavy medication.


Be a Christian.  Be an evangelist.  Be about evangelism. Be evangelical.  Invite the lost to be saved.  Make disciples. Repeat.


About the Author


Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 34 years. On February 14th, 1994, 27 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 21 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is currently working with animals and loves to go on trail rides with her horse. London is my 10 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Golfing, baseball and Hawaii is his latest adventures. He skied for the first time in Colorado this year. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening. I earned my Doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox on Feb 10, 2018.

12 responses to “Globalization? Evangelicalism? Can we just call them Christians?”

  1. Ah meds…..glad you seem to be feeling better. In terms of globalization and the spread of evangelicalism do you see any potential negative effects from this relationship? For me, on one hand globalization helps spread the gospel, but on the other, I sometimes wonder, what gospel is being spread. What do you think?

    • Aaron,
      Good point, what is being spread? I believe when the “good news” or the gospel is being spread it brings life change. When the gospel of Americanism or denominational beliefs are promoted then the news can be tainted.

      What I have observed from being a part of a growing missionary movement there has been a shift from the way of doing it in the past to how we do it today. Simply preaching the good news to the end point of the rapture of the church is not enough. That might have been what our methodology was at one point but now it is to bring spiritual change as well as social change. Now the method is to develop leaders who are from within their own culture to continue the work of the gospel. Establishing a Bible school and then translation of the Bible into their native language has become the driving focus so that the missionary becomes less and the native church becomes more. This weekend in Ireland I saw another step forward as the Assemblies of God of Ireland became another name that has national ownership. The leaders there have taken it their own direction instead of the American path. I have worked with them over the past 13 years and have been privileged to observe firsthand the transfer of power: peacefully and with unanimous votes…which is unheard of in that country. So yes it does matter.


  2. Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Kevin,
    You did a great review of the book that defines evangelicalism by considering its global manifestation as being centered on the hallmark of conversion.
    You are not sick, Christianity is the label which gives the reasons and factors that contributed to the explosion of evangelicalism to the different parts of the world through regional case studies.

    It is up to each of us to grasp from the Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspectives, various movements and labels that are used in order to navigate the gospel in the 21st century.
    Thanks for sharing your great insight with us ! Rose Maria

    • Rose,

      Thanks you. I hope that I was not offensive but I did read your post about the good news and the gospel. I think I have questioned the same thing. Evangelist, evangelism and evangelical all have working definitions and where I struggled was to find a really clear working definition of this subject.

      I know it is all words but what I have discovered is that words and translation of words is vitally important in the day and age.


  3. Marc Andresen says:


    What would you think of the idea that the use of the words “evangelical” and “evangelicalism” is, in a sense, a defensive response of theological conservatives feeling the need for a label that distinguishes them (probably most of ‘us’) from “Christians” of very liberal theological persuasion?

    In the “evangelical” Christian circles in my community I hear leaders talking about “life-giving” churches. That is their was of referring to “Bible-believing” churches rather than those who claim the name Christian but don’t really yield to the unique authority of Scripture.

    • Marc,

      Thanks for your response and it is helpful to hear from somewhere where this language is familiar.

      I believe where I am from the word “full gospel” would be the label for Bible believing and preaching the whole gospel. Christian is more used than evangelical and protestant would not be that mainstream as well. Catholic would at least be a familiar name but here the description would be a full gospel Catholic to mark someone who has accepted Christ within the Catholic belief.

      Quite interesting how this language subject is even here within the United States.

      Thanks for your points.


  4. Phil Goldsberry says:

    Wow! Tell us how you really feel! Honestly, I am in the same boat. We read Bebbington and now this and I am not any closer to the vagary associated with the word evangelical.

    The four quadrilaterals helped me to understand the concept. But wouldn’t most denominations embrace all four in one way or another? Your thoughts.

    I’m sticking with being a Christian over all the other titles.


  5. Phil,

    Thanks for your response. I am trying to grasp all the labels. Especially when we have been informed that this is exactly what turns non believers off is this being consumed with ourselves. Religion can become shortsighted. Spirituality on the other hand takes so much work to create the language and the culture. Christian identifies with love and the good news. I want to stay identified with these things.

    I understand the categories and trying to figure out who’s who….remember those books? You can pay to see that you are in the Who’s Who books….you have been nominated….

    Who ever reads those books to see you? You do! That’s why you bought the book. Does anyone one go on a quest to find you in there? I don’t think so.

    So Christian will do for now.


  6. Claire Appiah says:

    I agree that there is some confusion in reading Lewis and Pierard’s book, Global Evangelicalism especially the description on p. 33. It states, “Evangelicalism is not an organized religious movement . . . It represents an ever-diversifying series of local churches, parachurch agencies, national and international ministries, and interlocking networks of publications, preachers and personal contract.” This description is senseless and meaningless.

    What I have gleaned from the book is that Evangelicalism is an ideological Christian Movement. Christians who embrace the emphases of this Movement are called evangelicals.
    The key word in Bebbington’s evangelicalism that sets evangelicals apart from other Christians is Activism. “Evangelicals have historically been moved to action – to works of charity, social reform, but above all to the work of spreading the message of salvation in Christ because of their own experience of God.” P.20.
    “At its core evangelicalism is a faith with a global vision.” P.19.
    “For evangelicals, faith must be actively applied to daily life and Christian witness will be expressed in evangelization and ministries of compassion.” P.41
    Perhaps this perspective is more beneficial to you.

  7. Kevin,

    I have the flu this weekend…but I understand what you mean. I want to be known as a Christ follower…I think the term Christian, evangelical, conservative all carry negative connotations. I think we allow people to hijack these terms for political gain. I want to be above the labels.

    • Jason,

      Sorry you are feeling the pain as well. I hate being sick and I am not very often.

      I agree with you that labels are an interesting part of life. Just because someone labels you something doesn’t mean that you match up to what others place on you.

      I want to be a person who shares the good news of Christ with other people not in interest of a label but in concern for their soul.


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