Evangelicals, what are they and who are they?

Evangelicals are primarily Protestant churches which hold to the inerrancy of the Bible, emphasize salvation by faith rather than good works, and promote evangelizing (Greek euangelikos) the Gospel (euangelion, "good news") of the New Testament to the ends of the world. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther referred to his own movement as the evangelische kirke, or "evangelical church," a synonym for "Protestant" still used in Germany today. Although the term has become somewhat ambiguous, it was originally used to describe an ecumenical unity of interdenominational Christian churches all confessing the same basic beliefs (adapted from the National Evangelical Association statement of faith):
  • The Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word of God.
  • God exists in three persons -- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • The diety of Christ Jesus includes his virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, sacrificial death upon the cross, bodily resurrection from the dead, ascension to the right hand of the heavenly Father, and his eventual return to power and glory.
  • The indwelling and regeneration of the Holy Spirit is necessary to the process of reconciliation with God.
  • The lost are resurrected to eternal damnation and the saved are resurrected to eternal life.
  • All believers are spiritually unified in the body of Christ.
  • Salvation is possible soley through God's grace and not by works.
  • The duty of all believers is to spread the Gospel to unbelievers.

The origins of the evangelical statement of faith are from the five "solas" of the Protestant Reformation: sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and soli Deo gloria (to God alone be glory). According to Barna Research Ltd., which estimates 5% of the U.S. population to be evangelical Christians, evangelical beliefs may also include: a born-again experience and personal relationship with Jesus; a reliance upon faith in Jesus; personal desire and responsibility to share Jesus with others; Satan as a literal entity; God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and created everything.

The term "Evangelical" in a contemporary sense was applied to the American revivalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Modern Evangelicals, generally regarded as conservative, often comprise Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Fundamentalists. The term evangelical has also been attributed to zealous churches characterized by enthusiastic crusades, but not all churches which consider themselves evangelical or even include the word Evangelical in their name are in fact evangelical in the truest sense of the meaning. Just a few denominations which can be classified as Evangelical include the 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, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Episcopal Church USA, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Methodist Church. Some Lutheran denominations, particularly Evangelical Lutheran Synods, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, trace their roots to the evangelical movement of Martin Luther. The Low Church of England, often considered an evangelical denomination, is a faction of the Anglican Church which minimizes the episcopacy, priesthood, and sacraments and favors evangelical doctrines, polity, and usages. Following are a few links to organizations which are traditional Evangelical associations.

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

"In April 1996, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals held its first major meeting of evangelical scholars. The Cambridge Declaration, first presented at this meeting, is a call to the evangelical church to turn away from the worldly methods it has come to embrace, and to recover the Biblical doctrines of the Reformation. The Cambridge Declaration explains the importance of regaining adherence to the five "solas" of the Reformation--sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and soli Deo gloria (to God alone be glory)."

The Evangelical Alliance UK

"Evangelical Christians accept the revelation of the triune God given in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and confess the historic faith of the Gospel therein set forth. They here assert doctrines that they regard as crucial to the understanding of the faith, and which should issue in mutual love, practical Christian service and evangelistic concern.
  • The sovereignty and grace of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in creation, providence, revelation, redemption and final judgement.
  • The divine inspiration of the Holy Scripture and its consequent entire trustworthiness and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
  • The universal sinfulness and guilt of fallen man, making him subject to God's wrath and condemnation.
  • The substitutionary sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God as the sole all sufficient ground of redemption from the guilt and power of sin and from its eternal consequences.
  • The justification of the sinner solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
  • The illuminating, regenerating, indwelling and sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit.
  • The priesthood of all believers, who form the universal Church, the Body of which Christ is the Head and which is committed by His command to the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world.
  • The expectation of the personal, visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory."

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

"The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is a national association of evangelical Christians. It exists to bring Christians together for greater impact in mission, ministry and witness. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada was founded in 1964 as a means of encouraging cooperative action. Its affiliates include over 115 denominations, ministry organizations and educational institutions, and nearly 1,000 local church congregations. The EFC also has more than 15,000 supporting individuals."

Evangelical Free Church of America

"The EFCA movement exists to glorify God by multiplying healthy churches among all people. The Evangelical Free Church of America is an association of some 1,300 autonomous churches united by a mutual commitment to serve our Lord Jesus Christ with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word of God. We are committed to cooperate with one another in ministry and fellowship as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission which Christ has entrusted to His Church. The growing ministry of the EFCA currently extends to some 45 countries of the world. The term Evangelical refers to our commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel and to the authority of Scriptures as being inerrant in the original autographs and the only safe and sufficient guide to faith and practice. The term Free refers to our form of church government as being congregational. Evangelical Free Churches depend upon the active participation of lay people in the decisions and directions."

National Association of Evangelicals

"The mission of the National Association of Evangelicals is to extend the kingdom of God through a fellowship of member denominations, churches, organizations, and individuals, demonstrating the unity of the body of Christ by standing for biblical truth, speaking with a representative voice, and serving the evangelical community through united action, cooperative ministry, and strategic planning."

World Evangelical Alliance

"World Evangelical Alliance is a global ministry working with local churches around the world to join in common concern to live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus in their communities. WEA is a network of churches in 121 nations that have each formed an evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform to more than 335 million Christians. Seeking holiness, justice and renewal at every level of society - individual, family, community and culture, God is glorified and the nations of the earth are forever transformed. In 1951, believers from 21 countries officially formed the World Evangelical Fellowship. Today, 150 years after the London gathering, WEA is a dynamic global structure for unity and action that embraces 335 million evangelicals in 121 countries. It is a unity based on the historic Christian faith expressed in the evangelical tradition. And it looks to the future with vision to accomplish God's purposes in discipling the nations for Jesus Christ."

        "But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:5-8)

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