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

EVANGELICALS….. I Guess I Are One?

Written by: on January 19, 2017

Introduction

Evangelicals, exactly who and what are they?  The Christian community loves to work on nomenclature to help define who and what you are.  You are not just a Baptist; Southern, American, Primitive, Independent, Fundamental, fire-breathing, and the list goes on.  Evangelicals struggle with the same identity crisis.The term “evangelical” seems to morph into whatever the possessor of the moniker wants it to be.  Global Evangelicalism is a cooperative work of several evangelical experts, from different quadrants of the globe, shedding light on this allusive group of Christians known as evangelicals from their perspective, hopefully giving inspiration to this force to be dealt with in the world.  Though it may be difficult to pinpoint, the evangelical world has truly impacted the cause of Christ in the world.

 

Summary

Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard, editors, state clearly the purpose to their book, Global Evangelicalism:  Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective, in the “Introduction”: “This book’s main purpose is then to trace the recent history of evangelical churches and evangelical movements while providing a general introduction to the beliefs, practices and characteristic emphases of evangelical Christianity.  A second important purpose is 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.”[1]

One of the operative words of the title, “global”, is loaded with innuendos, myth, and misrepresentations.  The collaboration of Global Evangelicalism brought clarity by stating, “Some thinkers argue globalization is a myth or lie that has been put forward to disguise the march of international capitalism, giving the impression that it is an unstoppable process that is useless to resist. (Oh how I wish this was understood by every local church.- my thoughts)  Others argue that globalization is merely a mask of for Americanization:  the world is becoming homogenized as all tastes are flattened and a single flavor triumphs.  Other theorists respond by saying the result of globalization is not that people want a single flavor but that it opens a wide diversity of flavors to cater to individual tastes.”[2]

The manifestation of global evangelicalism is what Global Evangelicalism seems to focus on the best.  Reaching from Latin American and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Brazil with their “prosperity gospel as the order of the day”[3], to the complexity, demographic challenge and breakdown of, “Christians 503 million of the 973 million people living in Africa”.[4]  Asia does not go unscathed for, “…evangelicalism in Asia in the nineteenth century often looked more like the book of Acts than Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.”[5]

 

Analysis

Twelve months ago, we read David Bebbington’s book, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, A History from the 1730’s to the 1980’sBebbington, who is quoted in Global Evangelicalism, defined the quadrilateral view of “evangelical”:

There are four qualities that have been the special marks of Evangelical religion:  conversionsim, the belief that lives need to changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort, biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible, and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.[6]

Whether reading Bebbington or the compilation of authors in Global Evangelicalism, I still walk away embracing the fundamentals and truths of evangelicalism.  But it seems that we are still attempting to nail “fog to a wall”.  The evangelical movement is widespread in its definition, lacks a central location to rally around (i.e., the Vatican), and is difficult to find a singular spokesperson that represents the movement.  Throw in the international nuances of various cultures and you must believe in the sovereign work of God in the earth.

 

I am not sure I am any closer to understanding all that there is to evangelicalism.  I do have a deeper understanding of the scope of influence that they have been in the earth.  When it is all said and done, I guess I are one (bad grammar on purpose)!

 

[1] Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard, editors, Global Evangelicalism:  Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective, (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2014), 14.

[2] Ibid.,  62.

[3] Ibid., 194.

[4] Ibid., 126.

[5] Ibid., 214.

[6] D. W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, A History from the 1730’s to the 1980’s, (New York:  Routledge, 2002), 3.

About the Author

mm

Phil Goldsberry

15 responses to “EVANGELICALS….. I Guess I Are One?”

  1. Me too Phil! I enjoyed this book and the different essays. I didn’t see much though in terms of leadership, or in your case, leadership transitions. Did you?

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Aaron:

      I may glean some on transitions. My focus is on transitioning of the senior leader of a ministry/organization.

      Phil

  2. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Phil,
    You mentioned, “Bebbington or the compilation of authors in Global Evangelicalism”, as I recall Bebbington’s revelation about a two-sided coin. On one face, Evangelicalism can be identified by four outstanding characteristics: activism, conventionalism, Biblicism, and crucicentrism (Noll and Rawlyk 1994). On the other face, Evangelicalism has experienced constant change and evolution; to name any one as the true version at the expense of the others simply renders one very ignorant of the solid historical facts.
    You did great analysis on Lewis and Pierard, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective, it traces the recent history of evangelical churches and evangelical movements, giving us a point of reference.
    It great to share! Rose Maria

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Rose:

      Thank you! The two works on evangelicalism have helped me a little more to understand this allusive word that seems to defy definition.

      The four views have been helpful in understanding the word “evangelical”. Yet the terminology seems vague to define or distinguish a group of people.

      Phil

  3. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Phil,

    You mentioned that sometimes the term “evangelical” seems to morph into whatever the user of the name wants it to mean. I suspect the secular public, and the media in particular does this same thing: using the word however they wish.

    Do you think the word “evangelical” is still useful, or has it become useless? Should we still use the term? Why/Why not?

    Thanks.

    I are one, too.

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Marc:

      I am not sure that eliminating the word is that important. Some things die on their own due to change or lack of usage.

      In the US “evangelical” is a voting block that no one can truly define who and what they are. For political purposes, I do not see it going away for awhile.

      The church is latent with word usage and proposed definition. I’m not sure how many people still sing, nonetheless understand, “raise my ebenezer”. Ebenezer or evangelical – they both may have mixed usage.

      Phil

  4. Phil,

    The fog is where I feel like I have been on this subject. What is to be accomplished by the definition of what is or isn’t evangelicalism? Christianity seems to me to be the word that we are looking for.

    We are called to share the good news and to do it in multiple ways and with multiple cultures and even internationally. This does require many nuances that fit the local flavor.

    All of the words that led up to Evangelicalism I understand. Evangelism, Evangelist, Evangelical… all of these have to do with the action of soul winning. Not so sure what the action of Evangelicalism is.

    Thanks for your inserting Bebbington into the discussion because I think after reading both of these works I still struggle to understand the significance of the word or idea.

    Thanks for presenting some clarity on the subject.

    Kevin

    • Phil says:

      Semantics is always the killer, even in Christianity. As words and ideas age we do not allow them to go away. I’m not sure that evangelical needs to go, but it sure is a cloud of certainty to what it is.

  5. Claire Appiah says:

    Phil,
    The main thing about the discussion of evangelicalism from both textbooks is that we understand enough about the term to enable us to identify ourselves as being evangelical. From what we read in Lewis and Pierard’s book it looks like even scholars and leading evangelicals aren’t really clear about what evangelicalism denotes any more at its core.

    • Phil says:

      Claire:
      I agree. The quad representation could be embraced by several Christian organizations. Some of those may or may not reflect “perceived” evangelicalism – especially in light of the universal diversity represented by varying cultures.

  6. Phil,

    Do you think the lack of central authority is a problem with evangelicals? Because the definition is like “nailing fog to the wall,” is that a problem from a global perspective?
    Jason

    • Phil says:

      I think the lack of centrality is a challenge. The book reflect the various “flavors” of evangelicalism that vary from absurdity to hyper-spirituality. The evangelical movement, according to the book is worldwide and reflects that it is in, not a cohesive and universal standard.

  7. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Phil,
    Great blog and connection with Bebbington. These are all great readings in regards to supporting the movement. You stated that it “is difficult to find a singular spokesperson that represents the movement.” Part of the problem I believe is that unlike Pentecostalism, this is not something that links to a denomination. When the revival started in the early 1900s, who knew exactly where to find the source. I do believe those who subscribe to the teachings of the Bible becomes that spokesperson. The challenge is not necessarily the person that’s needed, rather, we need to eliminate the denominational bias that associates with the movement. Every denomination has some varied differences outside the core values…the nonessentials. We use these nonessentials to create the disconnect from each other. If we subscribe to the same Bible, why can’t you speak on behalf of Evangelicalism? Simple, someone might say you’re not a Baptist or an AG. What we need to do is decide on what makes us evangelicals: doctrine or these core values?

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