I’d like to introduce you to my friend. So begins the right of introduction. Depending upon the circumstances and situation a handshake may be exchanged; depending upon the culture the handshake may be replaced with a bow. Names become known and inferably the question is asked, “What do you do?” This is not only a question of vocation but also often a reflection of purpose. Purpose uncovered reveals identity. Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard offer the dilemma of evangelicalism’s identity, purpose and vocation. “Evangelicalism and its history have been effectively marginalized in the academy in spite of the fact that a case can be made that alongside popular Islam, evangelical Christianity is the most dynamic and expanding religious expression in the world today.” It may or may not be the fault of the academy for this distance.
The challenge is found in association with a political agenda. We have only to look at the announced and upcoming announcements for U.S. Presidential candidates to see the linkage. The editors ask us to consider the significance of evangelicalism lack of a global voice (“global religious entity”) and its role in further marginalizing expression. Perhaps the Laussanne Movement limits its impact by not convening more often. Perhaps it is simply that we have grown too independent of one another. The common thread I found was not so much what evangelicalism provides or even what it has done, though both are extremely vital and necessary. The common thread was identity. “For many evangelicals around the world, questions of identity are uppermost.” What evangelicals have been, what we have believed and followed has in some measure been exposed and hidden.
Sometimes I begin to understand things not in what I have read but through correlation. The Masters golf tournament is taking place this week. This is a tournament steeped in tradition and memory, the past, present and future are all honored here. It is the one sport where those that play in the present know they hold the tradition of golf’s past. There is a reverence that is placed upon certain tournaments every year, whether it is the Masters or the British Open. You do not play these tournaments without knowing the course, without knowing the history of the place and those that have preceded them. History and tradition merge through the present skill and innovation that has emerged.
Mark Noll reminds us that evangelical is one that is gospel based, focused on the good news of Jesus Christ, one that “at its very core is a faith with a global vision.” The challenge has been and continues to be how we understand what that global vision entails, as well as from which perspective we envision it. I could not help but read this book and see the connections to how my faith was informed and experienced. Raised in the church in the 1950’s and 1960’s the framework may have reflected evangelical expression, but it was solidly anchored in fundamentalism. Do I regret this? The answer is surprisingly both “yes” and “no.” My faith and what I was taught about that faith is deeply connected to a solid evangelical foundation.
Our reading reminds us that without evangelicalism many of the very good acts of justice and mercy would have lacked in our world. At our Cape Town Advance we were reminded during our presentations that global (and even glocal) missions still has much to learn from those we desire to serve. Missions have often been at its best when it has evolved and responded. William Carey is a prime example (and one might also add Amy Carmichael and even Mother Teresa). When an indigenous principle has been embraced that empowers locally both spiritual and social good has resulted. Our “identity” within the evangelical framework suffers without this comprehension. What is taken for granted in mission?
Yet the perspective from which we understand evangelicalism makes such a difference. From my present vantage point I see that we are still reactionary. The location of the focus may have shifted somewhat, yet vestiges of the past remain. Evangelicalism may have emerged from the context of fundamentalism intent on “saving American civilization from the baneful influence of Darwinsim, which they charged with causing the current revolution in morals and threatening the foundations of democracy.” From the emergence of neo-evangelicals and the postwar (WWII) expansion to our present day reactions to women in ministry and our inability to figure out how to talk with one another about homosexuality we seem to not know how to relate to the four areas of evangelicalism: Conversion, Biblicism, Activism, and Crucicentrism. What will mark our present “time?” What will move us forward?
It was not a surprise that Scott Sunquist identified unity as an issue at the heart of evangelicalism. Sometimes we just see better, or at least I do, when we are looking from another perspective. Sunquist did that (and in a few sentences pulled together perhaps one of the essentials for our program) when he offered, “Evangelical division, unfortunately, are often related to economics…Evangelical witness will continue to thrive as the suffering servant makes his home in the suffering church of Asia.”
It makes me wonder do we recover our identity and in many ways find our identity as a suffering servant? Will it come as we recognize our own suffering? Can that bring together the past and the present that might provide something solid to adapt to and build upon in the future?
 Mark A. Noll, “Defining Evangelicalism” in Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective, ed. by Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2014), 19.
 Noll, 20. Noll references D. W. Bebbington, Evangelism in Modern Britian: A Hsitory from the 1730’s to the 1980’s (London: Routledge, 2002), 2-3. Four qualities of evangelicalism: Conversion, Biblicism, Activism, and Crucicentrism.
 Scott W. Sunquist in “Asia” Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective, ed. by Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2014), 201. Sunquist
 John Wolfee and Richard V. Pierard in “Europe and North American” in Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective, ed. by Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2014), 119.
 Sunquist, 230.