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

With a nod to our Anglican friends

Written by: on October 2, 2023

I first heard of Bebbington at a ministry conference just a few months ago. Usha Reifsnider, who serves the Lausanne Movement as Co-Regional Director for Europe, gave the plenary address about the changing face of Evangelicalism. She shared Bebbington’s quadrilateral to define Evangelicalism and I thought, “I need to know about this guy.” Fast forward a couple of months and I was happy to see his book on our reading list.

It’s an understatement to say that Bebbington’s book is rich with information. The ins-and-outs of the Evangelical movement over the centuries were fascinating. I appreciated that the book traced the evolution of Evangelicalism mostly in Britain; it was a bit of a parallel to more recent Jesus and John Wayne which detailed the development of Evangelicalism on American soil. [1] They seemed to point to two main ideas.

Firstly, change happens. “Evangelical religion in Britain has changed immensely during the two and a half centuries of its existence. Its outward expressions, such as its social composition and political attitudes, have frequently been transformed. Its inward principles, embracing teaching about Christian theology and behaviour, have altered hardly less.” [2] Enormous shifts have occurred since the founding of the Evangelical movement. I’m sure we can all come up with examples of how Evangelical teaching and practice has changed even in our lifetimes.

Secondly, perhaps amazingly, Bebbington’s four core principles still accurately represent Evangelicalism. By and large the Evangelical church still emphasizes conversionism, activism, biblicism and crucicentrism. However, and maybe I’m reading too much into this, didn’t he get the order wrong? I wish he would have presented these four qualities as :

1. Crucicentrism : Because without the cross Christianity is not the faith we know it to be. It has to start with Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)
2. Biblicism : Because of the Logos, the living word of God, we can look to the Bible, the written word of God.
3. Conversionism : Because of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension and because we have the written record of God’s great story, we have the possibility of a “conversion” or a truly transformative relationship with God.
4. Activism : Because we love Jesus and are becoming more and more like him, we “act” and we “do” and we “serve”. Never the other way around.

I won’t go as far as to say that Bebbington intentionally ordered his four principles to communicate anything different than what I’ve outlined. However, I do find it interesting that he discussed at length the tension between assurance and anxiety. On one hand, the assurance offered by the emerging evangelical church was “novel” and a “relief”. [3] On the other hand, Evangelicals continued to be plagued by anxiety; we see a striking example coming from the leaders of the Rwanda Revival, “always [asking] the question of “am I doing it right?” [4] And who among us hasn’t asked themselves over the course of their faith journey, “Am I doing it right? Am I doing enough? How can I know?”

These anxious questions became “the doorway and then pathway” [5] that “generated the activism that was distinct to Evangelicals.” [6] And yet, the question, “Am I doing enough?” misses the point. “Doing enough” does not make us more justified in God’s eyes. Bebbington himself explains this in the context of “the apparently paradoxical position of Wesley: ‘we are justified by faith alone’, he wrote, ‘and yet by such a faith as is not alone…’ Faith is the only means by which we are made right with God; but faith, as soon as it exists, creates an impulse towards living a better life.” [7]

If this post has taken a bit of a circular journey, I want to reiterate the importance of knowing Jesus before serving Jesus. We have no need to feel anxious or doubt our salvation. First, we know Him, then we love Him, then we serve Him.

I leave you with a Prayer for Quiet Confidence from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee,
to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou
art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [8]



[1] Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, First edition (New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W. W. Norton & Company, 2020).

[2] David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, Transferred to digital printing (London: Routledge, 2005), 269.

[3] Ibid., 42.

[4] Ibid., 255.

[5] Clark, Jason. Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship. London School of Theology, 2018. 75.

[6] Ibid., 58.

[7] David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, Transferred to digital printing (London: Routledge, 2005), 22.

[8] The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2007.

About the Author


Kim Sanford

6 responses to “With a nod to our Anglican friends”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hello Kim
    Nice post. On Fridays (our peer group meets on Fridays to pray on to talk about assignments). My brain was too tired to talk about Bebbington. I asked Jenney Dooley to bail me out (she had read the book).

    I was surprised to hear that she was pleased to discover where her faith fell within Bebbington’s Quadrilateral.

    Because my brain is still tired, I looked Bebbington up on you tube and listened to his conversation/interviews with different folk.

    He seemed (in the interview) to be genuinely surprised how the quad had taken off both in the UK and in the U.S. The interviewer was searching for the quad in a separate book but found it only in the introduction for another one “Patterns of History.”

    Bebbington said that we was just trying to find a quick way of summarizing evangelical tenants and BAM newspapers and other articles started using the quad as the most concise summation of evangelical faith.


    Hope all is well with you…shalom

  2. Travis Vaughn says:

    Kim, like you, I don’t recall ever hearing about Bebbington before this year. For me, it wasn’t until the reading list hit our inboxes for the fall.

    You wrote, “I’m sure we can all come up with examples of how Evangelical teaching and practice has changed even in our lifetimes.” I’m curious what two or three changes stand out to you, in your experience? From my perspective, two that stand out — in my own experience — are a greater emphasis on the redemptive-historical storyline of Scripture (creation-fall-redemption vs. systematic theological categories and moralistic approaches to understanding scripture) AND a more robust emphasis on the image of God and its implications. In a related sense, at least in my circles, we talk about the intersection of our faith and vocation/work more now than ever before.

    • mm Kim Sanford says:

      Yes, I was just thinking about the redemptive-historical storyline of scripture because I’m going to be teaching on it next Sunday. It’s a great example of how Evangelical thought has changed in emphasis even in our lifetime. I see other examples around trauma-informed ministry and also racial justice although now that I’m thinking about it, are those things primarily a reflection of our times? In other words, is it the church adapting to changes in the wider culture or is the church actually leading and changing itself? Maybe the two are so intertwined they’re impossible to separate.

  3. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Kim, I really like your call out of the ordering of the 4 principles. I am not sure if it was or was not an intentional ordering, but it does set a tone that runs in parallel with the traps of any religion- that we lose sight of the main point. Thanks for the great post.

  4. mm Tim Clark says:


    I appreciated how you thought about the order of the 4, I think without considering how one thing leads to another, we can inadvertently miss important things.

    For instance, it is so important to be reminded that first we know him, then we love him, then we serve him. The order is vital, otherwise it’s a religion of works.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  5. Esther Edwards says:

    Thank you for your post.
    The whole thought of assurance vs. anxiety has made me review much of my own formation. Especially as ministers, we are often plagued by the seduction of doing over being.
    Eugene Peterson in his book “The Pastor” used the modifier of “maybe” in that no pastor truly knows what they are doing most of the time and lives in a state of “maybe” doing it right.. I am delving into this area in my NPO in that when mid-life unfolds, many pastors come to a crisis of “who actually am I?” because their identity has always been in the doing. This unnerving season can bring a truer sense of identity that is rooted in “being” in Christ, or anxiety continues to prevail around “doing” which makes the season more of a crisis.
    Your ending Prayer for Quiet Confidence was such a great way to close your post. Thank you!

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