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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Broadly Evangelical

Written by: on January 24, 2019

Global Evangelicalism is a survey of the emergence and spread of the evangelical movement throughout the world. In the Introduction, Mark Noll admits to the elusive nature of the task this book sets out to accomplish. The reason this is elusive is that the evangelical movement has never been an organization in itself, but has overlapped various denominations (every?) and has crossed every border imaginable. Still, this task requires a working definition, which Noll sets out to accomplish in the broadest of terms, with substantial help from Bebbington’s four essential ingredients of evangelicalism.[1] Noll’s definition is more of a sketch than a definition, but it’s grounded nonetheless in its historical interpretation, “the good news of Jesus Christ for all people.”

From here, Noll summarizes Bebbington’s understanding of the rise and spread of evangelicalism from Great Britain and beyond, and then each following chapter sketches the spread of evangelicalism through each region around the globe.

What strikes me is the gap between what evangelicalism is meant to be (was it ever intended to be?) in the simplest of terms, compared to what it is perceived to be (and has become in part) by mainstream Western media. “Warm-hearted” and “evangelical” do not coexist the mainstream consciousness (or in today’s secular mind). Evangelicals are perceived as being a judgmental, right-wing extremist, homophobic, etc. We have been hearing this for decades now, and it is numbing the ears of many of us who call ourselves “evangelical” but do not identify so much with a MAGA way of seeing the world.

Perhaps part of the problem is that evangelicalism in the West has mostly ignored the global witness of our sisters and brothers who show us a different kind of evangelicalism that is more consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the way of the emergence of the first Christians. For instance, the evangelicalism in Latin American and many other parts of the Southern hemisphere is largely about liberation and freedom from oppressive powers and rulers. It is consistent with openness and inclusion, diversity and belonging.

While many of my colleagues have chosen to abandon the term “evangelical” for themselves so as not to be associated with people who are not “like-minded,” I have not chosen the same path for myself. For one thing, if Jesus did not want to associate with people who were not “like-minded,” there would not have been a cross to bear. To be exclusive is to not be evangelical. Even more, I believe in the good news of Jesus Christ for all people. If we do not make room, at least in the United States, for both “conservative” and “progressive” leaning “evangelicalism,” there will be no strength to speak truth to power because it will have submitted to the authority of the State to define and control.

One deliberate practice of mine is to challenge frequent misuse of the term. It’s always interesting to hear people’s response when you ask them the question, “What is an evangelical?” Now there is an opportunity to help educate and broaden perspective.

[1]20.

About the Author

Chris Pritchett

10 responses to “Broadly Evangelical”

  1. Hey Chris,

    I agree that we have a lot to learn from evangelicals in the global south. As they now represent the Christian majority, we should be listening to them. Do you have any authors or leaders from the global south that you would recommend? Who, specifically, should be listening to or readng?

  2. Chris Pritchett says:

    Hey Jenn- Gustavo Gutierrez at the very least. Great place to start

  3. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Chris,

    I believe we have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the global south. There has long been an arrogance in our dealings with them as the ‘poor cousins’. I think we have been fortunate in this program to have our eyes opened to some degree. How do you hope to share this perspective in the future? How do you think it influences you in your new position and ministry?

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Chris,
    Some of my best times of worship have been with brothers and sisters around the world, I have learned so much from them about the love of Christ in the midst of misery. What is the greatest thing you have learned from others?

    Jason

  5. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Chris, I love your perspective! I’m completely in sync. Thank you for being willing to own your label of evangelical in an effort to be the hands and feet of Jesus and re-educate perceptions of the term. How does the evangelical “role” fiti with your new professional pursuits? Is your research connected to it as well?

  6. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks, Chris,
    This is a good post to read! What a frought term this is, and it sounds like you continue to wrestle through what it means for you to identify with “evangelicalism” and what does it mean if you don’t. There is definitely a binary sense to the term– either in or out– which also makes it complicated. From what we see in the press, I wouldn’t want to *ever* be associated with Evangelicalism in America. But I sure want to be part of the good news of Jesus… How do you think about this as you set up your new organization?

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    Thanks Dave. You always make keen observations and I appreciate how you see nuance. To your question, I honest don’t really think about it much if at all as I set up our org, except when I get asked on the blogs. I don’t feel I have some commitment to being evangelical, though it is very much part of my story. The work that I’m doing now is really about serving the common good and the marginalized. Some of our global partners are part of evangelicalism in the way you described but others are Catholic or Pentecostal. And the nonprofit we’re building has very little directly to do with evangelicalism, except for in its broadest if definitions.

  8. Shawn Hart says:

    Chris, thanks for your personal view of your own evangelical perspective. I have never fought to define it, because frankly, I was never really sure what it was. I mean, I have always referred to myself as an evangelist; but it seemed there was a difference between the two. So here is my question though; I suppose I try to stay simple (though I usually fail miserably); but why is it necessary to classify a group as an evangelical instead of just having everyone as a “Christian?”

  9. Chris Pritchett says:

    Good point Shawn! I don’t think it is ! Christian is better. We don’t need evangelical. I’ve changed my view

  10. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    its hard to know when to abandon a term and find a new one. In one regard the new term will have no power until it is finally known and gained a consenus. Also whose to say if it becomes popular the next trump will just hijack too to try and win my vote.

    Does this just put me into the hipster ideology of it has to be small to be cool? or right?

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