My first knowledge of the “term evangelical” came during early days of my conversion, as I began mingling in Christian circles. Evangelical was actually the name of a Christian denomination. As a young believer the differences between the, denomination of which I was a member and the evangelical denomination, were made expressively clear. It was more important for one to know how different we were as oppose to knowing what we shared in common. I soon discovered that my Pentecostal denomination had a lesser view of the spirituality of evangelicals and their likes, because they did not speak in tongues nor believed the gifts of the spirit. At the same time the evangelicals thought of Pentecostals as being cultic because of their charismatic expressions.
Some years later, while serving as a pastor on one the islands in the Caribbean, I befriended one of the pastors of the evangelical church in our town. Our friendship grew to the place where we became comfortable enough, with each other to the point of exchanging pulpits. I am embarrass however to say that, despite our close relationship, I still thought of our differences. My understanding of the term evangelical took a few more years to mature to the point of seeing evangelicalism, as a wider movement than a single denomination. I finally came to understand evangelicalism as the major movement within Christendom encompassing a wide body of denominations. This understanding has now benefitted from reading, evangelicalism in modern Britain, by D. W. Bebbington. The vast knowledge and comprehensive approach demonstrated by Bebbington, makes his work a treasured asset to the student of church history.
There are several areas in which I find Bebbington to particularly helpful. First, is the understanding of evangelicalism. He describes evangelicalism as, “a popular protestant movement that existed in Britain since the 1730s. It is not to be equated with any single Christian denomination, for it influenced the existing churches during the eighteenth century”.