Global Evangelicalism is a collection of essays that paint an international portrait of the contemporary Evangelical Church movement. Authors Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard declare a two-fold purpose for the book. First, they want to present a summary of the history of Evangelicalism with a special focus on its beliefs and practices. Secondly, they want to “offer a worldwide survey of where evangelical movements have come to exist and of the greatly varying conditions under which evangelicals now carry on their work.” The contributing authors represent different parts of the globe, writing insightfully about the unique regional issues that have shaped the many faces of the evangelical church.
Contemporary Evangelicalism is described as a decentralized popular movement of Christians who, since the pietistic revivals of the 1600s, grew out of a reaction against the politicized and institutionalized Christianity with the goal of pursuing a Christian life that was born “from the heart.” Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, or the Church of England, the diversity of churches within Evangelicalism do not share a central ecclesiastic leader. Rather, they share a set of convictions that are at the core of what it means to be evangelical. These convictions are summarized by author David Bebbington in four essential beliefs: (1) Crucicentrism, the conviction that Jesus died as the atonement for sin and resurrected to provide salvation by grace alone, (2) Conversion, the conviction that a person is only a true Christian when born again through the spiritual transformation of the Holy Spirit, (3) Biblicism, the conviction that the Bible in its entirety is the ultimate authority for life; (4) Activism, the conviction that the gospel must be preached to all nations and that Christians must be engaged in caring for the poor, which has historically led to many social reforms.
According to the authors, two important factors that have contributed to the growth of the evangelical church around the globe is the ability to distinguish between essential and non-essential beliefs as well as the ability to adapt to different cultures. From all the evangelical denominations that exist today, the Pentecostal church movement is the fastest growing church. Even though evangelicals in different parts of the world may share the same core beliefs, they have been shaped by different cultural and political forces, which have produced a diversity of flavors within Evangelicalism. It is in light of this diversity that evangelicals face two key challenges: Learning how to work across denominational divides and how to define the role of gender in ecclesiastic leadership.
Throughout this doctoral program I have learned different dimensions of what constitutes leadership intelligence. For instance, emotional intelligence is obtained when I grow in awareness about my psychological makeup. Through this process I discover that not everybody is like me and I am able to refine my skills to work with a diversity of personalities. Cultural intelligence is obtained when I become aware of my cultural glasses. Through this process I discover that not everybody is like me and I am able to refine my skills to work with people from a diversity of cultures. Ethical intelligence, as coined by Claire Appiah, results from discerning the intersection between scientific research and theology. After reading Lewis and Pierard, I discovered a new dimension that I call Ecclesiastical Intelligence. This is obtained when I grow in awareness of my theological makeup. Through this process I discover that there are essential and non-essential beliefs, and I am able to refine my skills to work with a diversity of people across the many flavors found in Evangelicalism around the world.
The opposite of emotional intelligence is arrogance, the opposite of cultural intelligence is ethnic arrogance, and the opposite of ecclesiastical intelligence is denominational arrogance. The lack of ecclesiastical intelligence can keep a person from becoming aware of theological blind spots, and can also keep the person in a bubble of distrust and isolation. This attitude can prevent the church from establishing strategic partnerships in order to join efforts for the cause of Christ. I know what denominational arrogance looks like, because I was born in it. I came to know the Lord in a Baptist Church at age six. I grew up with the impression that true Christianity was only found in my circle of Baptist churches. However, through years of theological education and international ministry, I now can look back and realize that my inherited arrogance (which can be experienced in any denomination) was rooted in ignorance.
In order to dissipate ignorance, Lewis and Pierard remind me that Evangelicalism has been a movement for centuries and it has taken many forms around the globe. They remind me that each church has been shaped by different social issues in many religious and political contexts, therefore the expression and the pressing needs of the church vary in light of those factors. This diversity can be confusing and surprising.
One of those confusing experiences in my life was to discover the Pentecostal flavor of Baptist churches in Mexico, the political flavor of American Evangelicals and the protestant flavor of Catholicism in the United States. As the book describes, the evangelical movement in Latin America took place against the backdrop of a highly political Roman Catholic institution. Thus, the majority of Latin American Evangelicals grew up as Catholics, yet without the Savior. At the same time, Latin American Catholicism thinks of Evangelicalism as a false Christianity populated by a group of sects. However, in the United States I discovered a Catholic religion that appeared less pagan and more protestant. In fact, the book tells us that “13 percent of Americans and 25 percent of Canadian Catholics identify themselves as evangelical.” Having Catholics consider themselves evangelical or having evangelicals consider themselves political would both be considered an oxymoron in Chile.
Christian leaders working internationally constantly face the different flavors of Evangelicalism, and Ecclesiastical intelligence requires that we exercise discernment in each context. While it is important to defend the core beliefs, at the same time we must determine to what degree secondary beliefs are simply secondary.
In the book, Leading Across Cultures, former international director of SIM Dr. James Plueddemann recalls how a church he was visiting in South Korea would not let him preach because he was not ordained, even though he had a PhD and was the director of an international mission. The only way they allowed him to preach was by finding an interpreter who was ordained. Because Dr. Plueddemann had ecclesiastical, cultural, and emotional intelligence, he was able to adjust and lead well. He concludes, “A bad theology of leadership will inevitably result in bad leaders. Leadership grounded in God’s glory and driven by a scriptural worldview is the hope of the global church.”
As I continue to grow as a leader, may I be driven by a scriptural worldview that is not functioning with an attitude of denominational arrogance. May my leadership at Ethnos Bible Church be characterized by emotional, cultural, ethical, and ecclesiastic intelligence as we make Christ known among the nations and invest in the pursuit of His glory.
 Global Evangelicalism, 14.
 Global Evangelicalism, 25.
 Leading Across Cultures, 165.