Yes, Christians seem to come in categories. There are Roman Catholic Christians, Orthodox Christians and Protestant Christians. And if you think that three isn’t enough, just think about how many kinds of Protestant Christians there are…There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglican, Congregational, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Free Methodist, Covenant, African Methodist Episcopal, Reformed Episcopal, etc. There are literally thousands of varieties. We often hear of evangelical Christians (especially in the press today) and might wonder what kind of Christian is that.
First of all, evangelical is not a denomination. It is a movement of Christians across the Protestant spectrum who hold certain Biblcal truths and emphases as core to their spiritual identity and mission. While these churchmen might differ on such issues as church government, whether infants should be baptized, the nature of the sacraments, or the interpretation of the Bible as to the timing of certain future events (just to name a few), they are bound together in certain essentials that actually make them a movement that is stronger than any one denomination. Perhaps that figure who represents the evangelical movement more than any other is Billy Graham.
The word evangelical comes from a Greek word in the New Testament pronounced “euangelion,” meaning Good News or Gospel. In other words, evangelicals focus on the core Gospel truths that set all men right with God. What are those truths?
The first is the authority and complete trustworthiness of the Bible. It is commonplace among many denominations to question the reliability of the Bible and its place as the sole authority for life and practice, even though those denominations were at one time rooted in such a confidence and still have many churchmen who hold to a high view of the Bible.
The second is that all people everywhere are lost. Our natural condition is alienation from God. We are born in sin and destined for an eternity apart from God. The Bible makes clear that man left to his own nature will choose to serve the creature rather than the Creator. He is not weak and needs to be made stronger, ignorant and needs to be made smarter, sick and needs to be made better. He is dead and needs a new life
Third, evangelicals believe that through Christ alone we can receive a new nature that is capable of a full-bodied “yes” to God. He is not a way to God but THE way to God. By His death on the cross He paid the penalty for the sin of all those who come to God through Him and through His resurrection is the giver of life to all who believe. Apart from him every man and woman is without hope. Evangelicals do not believe that there are many different ways to God, even though the other religions of the world have insights into truth that are valuable. Christ is not just the way Christians are saved, but the One who came to save all men.
Four, we witness to Christ through word and deed. How can men believe in Him of whom they have not heard and how can they hear without a preacher? Christianity is not just a kind of life we are supposed to live. There is a message to be shared and believed upon. But in addition to that message spoken there are deeds that Christians are called to which help people understand that message and give it credibility. While it is not the deeds Christians do which save men, those deeds can open others up to the truth of Christ which those deeds embody and represent.
Five, urgent evangelism is at the heart of Christianity, both at home and across the world. If people are lost apart from Christ, then there is no time to lose. The real question is not so much whether or not those who have never heard of Christ are lost but whether or not we who have heard of Christ can be saved if we do not go and tell them.
These five features of the Evangelical movement have formed the core of cooperative arrangements for seminary education, Christian publishing and radio, mission outreaches, and many other ministries. While not rooted in one denomination the Evangelical movement calls all churchmen to a renewed zeal for historic Christianity.