The term “evangelical” has come into popular usage of late and has led many to wonder what exactly the term means. There are really two answers. First of all, let us talk about the proper definition. The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word “euangelllion,” which means “good news,” specifically, the good news about the Gospel of Jesus. During the 20th century, Christian leaders began to identify themselves as evangelical Christians. This identified them with the strain of traditional orthodoxy begun during the Reformation. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was founded in 1942 and it is supported by churches of many Protestant denominations.
For research purposes, the NAE and Lifeway have developed criteria to describe evangelicals. An evangelical Christian will strongly support four statements:1. The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.2. It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior.3. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.4. Only those who trust in Jesus alone as their Savior will receive God’s gift of eternal salvation.
A larger category of Christianity called “Protestant” will include all evangelicals as well as members of the Mainline Protestant denominations. The mainline protestant denominations will espouse theological liberalism to varying degrees and will likely deny the inerrancy of Scripture, the need for personal salvation, and the exclusivity of Christianity.
Secular journalists began to adopt the term evangelical to describe a cultural mindset in general and a block of voters in particular. This is an improper use of the term because it is about politics, not theology .
Some people have grown disenchanted with the political landscape and have declared that they are no longer an evangelical. Others are disillusioned with the church and have decided to leave Christianity and call themselves “Ex-vangelicals.” This last term actually makes no sense. Not only does the word make no sense, true Christianity is a permanent state. If a person decides they are no longer a Christian, that is a good indication that they never truly became a Christian.
The warning is this: You cannot leave evangelical Christianity and just be a “regular” Christian. An evangelical Christian is a regular Christian, a real Christian. Don’t let the secular media define your relationship to Jesus. Repent and believe the good news of Jesus, the Gospel, the evangel.