Definitions of the Christian term "evangelical"
Differences between Europe and North America
Origin, and the usage of the term "evangelical" in Europe:
Voice of America (VOA) writes:
"Church attendance in Europe has
been steadily decreasing in recent decades. Traditional Protestant and Roman
Catholic churches have a hard time drawing in new members, particularly young
people. But Evangelical churches are booming across the region, particularly
those attended by immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America."
Luc Perrin, a member of the French evangelical group Impact Christian
Center stated that some French people fear evangelical churches,
particularly immigrant congregations.
Some are concerned about the growth of scam
"prosperity churches" that prey on poorer people. ... Some Evangelical churches
also complain that it is hard to get permits to construct new worship centers.
Others have had run-ins with local officials." 12
During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther referred to his movement as the evangelische kirche (evangelical church).
Later, "evangelical" became a near-synonym for "Protestant" in Europe. It retains this meaning in Germany today.
A British historian, David Bebbington, defines an "evangelical Christian" as a person exhibiting four beliefs and behaviors:
A Community Leader of an Anglican congregation in the UK suggests:
"...that mainstream Christians in the UK seem to use 'evangelical
Christian' to describe those that meet David Bebbington's
definition...and 'Christian Evangelists' to describe the more
Conservative groups. Confusingly, they often describe a charismatic leader
of EITHER group as a 'Christian Evangelist' or just an 'Evangelist'.
Usage of the term "evangelical" in North America:
In North America, "evangelical" does not have a unique
is acceptable to all. Various groups and individuals define it as a specific
conservative Christian system of beliefs, or a type of religious experience, or a
commitment to proselytize the unsaved, or as a style of religious service, or
as having a personal "walk with God," or
as a group of denominations, or as a personal acceptance of a "biblical
worldview," or as some combination of the above.
In a study comparing evangelical and mainline denominations, a Princeton
University study included the following as evangelical denominations :
Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, black Protestants,
African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion; Church of Christ,
Churches of God in Christ, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, National Baptist
Church, National Progressive Baptist Church, Nondenominational, Pentecostal
denominations, and the Presbyterian Church in America. 1
Many theologians would also include the conservative faction within such mainline denominations as the
Episcopal Church, USA, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the
United Methodist Church.
The names of a few American mainline or liberal denominations contain the word "evangelical." These include the
Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCC). However, the Wisconsin
Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which as a similar name,
is a very conservative Protestant group.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Evangelical Churches Flourishing in Europe ," Voice of America,
- Mentioned in Larry Eskridge, "Defining evangelicalism," Wheaton
- Dave Stewart, review of Donald Lewis, "Blackwell Dictionary of
evangelical Biography, 1730-1860, 2 V," Blackwell Pub, (1995).
- Robert Wuthnow, "Study on Religion and Politics Finds Widespread
Interest in Progressive Issues: Survey Suggests Political Potential of
Mainline Protestants," at:
Copyright © 2003 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-APR-8
Latest update: 2008-SEP-20
Author: B.A. Robinson