What is an Evangelical Christian Today?

Evangelical Christians are believers who emphasize personal faith, conversion, and the authority of the Bible. This movement is a significant branch of Protestant Christianity, focusing on spreading the “good news” or gospel of Jesus Christ. We see this through their practices of evangelism and the belief in the necessity of being “born again,” where individuals experience a personal conversion to faith.

Understanding Their Beliefs and Practices
Understanding Their Beliefs and Practices

Evangelicalism also engages deeply with cultural and political life, often aiming to reflect Christian values in these spheres. Historically, it emerged from fundamentalist roots but has since grown into a diverse and worldwide movement. Its influence can be seen in various organizations and fellowships formed to support believers, such as the Campus Crusade for Christ.

From college campuses to community groups, evangelical faith connects individuals through shared beliefs and goals. By centering on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, evangelical Christians aim to live out their faith actively and publicly, embodying their commitment to spreading the gospel. This dynamic approach makes evangelicalism a distinctive and influential force within Christianity.

Historical Background of Evangelical Christianity

what is an evangelical christian
Historical Background of Evangelical Christianity

Our journey into the history of Evangelical Christianity begins with the Protestant Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther in the 16th century. This movement emphasized personal faith and the authority of the Bible.

In the 18th century, the First Great Awakening sparked further development. Led by figures like John Wesley and George Whitefield, this revival stressed the importance of personal conversion and spreading the message of salvation.

Key Events:

  • Protestant Reformation (16th Century): Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church’s practices and doctrines.
  • First Great Awakening (18th Century): John Wesley and George Whitefield encouraged a personal relationship with Jesus.

Evangelicalism in Europe was shaped by Puritanism and Pietism. Puritans sought to “purify” the Church of England, while Pietists focused on personal piety and living a devout life.

We saw modern evangelicalism rise in the 20th century with the work of Billy Graham. His crusades reached millions, emphasizing the need for personal conversion and the centrality of the Bible.

Influential Figures:

  • Martin Luther: Initiated the Protestant Reformation.
  • John Wesley: Key figure in the First Great Awakening.
  • Billy Graham: Prominent evangelist in modern evangelicalism.

Intriguingly, evangelical Christianity has always focused on the need for personal faith and converting others, distinguishing it from other Protestant movements. This focus on evangelism continues to define the movement today.

Core Beliefs and Practices

Evangelical Christians hold several key beliefs and practices that define their faith. These include a strong focus on the authority of the Bible, the significance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the necessity of personal conversion, and an active commitment to evangelism and social reform.


Biblicism emphasizes the importance of the Bible as the ultimate authority on faith and practice. Evangelicals believe that Scripture is inspired by God and is without error in its teachings. This belief is central to understanding Evangelical Christianity.

We often see Evangelicals across denominations, like Baptist and Pentecostal, stressing regular Bible reading and study. The Bible guides our moral decisions, shapes our worship, and supports our doctrine. This strong reliance on Scripture helps us maintain a unified belief system despite denominational differences.


Crucicentrism places the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the center of our faith. It signifies the belief that Jesus’ death on the cross is the means of salvation for humanity. This belief is essential to understanding why evangelicals emphasize the good news of salvation.

We believe that Jesus’ sacrifice reconciles us with God, making it a pivotal event in our spiritual lives. Evangelical sermons and teachings frequently highlight the importance of the cross, reinforcing its central role in our faith. This focus also shapes our communal practices, such as communion, where we remember and honor Jesus’ sacrifice.


Conversionism is the belief in the necessity of being “born again” through personal conversion. This experience involves accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and committing to a transformed life. Conversionism is a hallmark of Evangelical identity.

When we talk about being born-again, it means experiencing a significant change in character and beliefs. This personal transformation is not just a one-time event, but a continuous process of growing in faith. This belief in personal conversion is why we actively engage in mission work, aiming to lead others to similar experiences of transformation and assurance of salvation.


Activism involves a commitment to evangelism and social reform. Evangelicals believe in actively spreading the gospel and living out our faith in tangible ways.

We engage in various forms of evangelism, such as preaching, missionary work, and community outreach. Social reform efforts, like addressing poverty and advocating for justice, reflect our belief that faith should impact society positively. Prominent figures like David Bebbington have noted these activities as core to our identity. This active engagement differentiates us and ensures that our faith has a real-world impact.

All these practices and beliefs combine to form what it means to be an Evangelical Christian. They shape our communities, guide our actions, and define our faith. Through Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Activism, we strive to live out the teachings of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Evangelical Denominations and Movements

Evangelical Christianity includes several major denominations, each with its own distinct beliefs and practices. These denominations play significant roles in shaping the broader evangelical movement through their unique doctrines and church structures.


Baptists are one of the largest evangelical groups. Their defining feature is believer’s baptism, where only those who profess their faith in Jesus are baptized, usually by full immersion. Baptists emphasize the authority of the Bible and the autonomy of local churches.

Many Baptist churches belong to larger organizations like the Southern Baptist Convention. Key leaders such as Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther King Jr. have influenced not only their churches but also the broader evangelical movement. Baptists generally prioritize missions and evangelism, seeing it as essential to their faith.


Pentecostals are known for their emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing. This movement started in the early 20th century and spread rapidly. Pentecostal churches tend to be enthusiastic and expressive in worship.

Assemblies of God is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations. Leaders like Aimee Semple McPherson played a crucial role in the movement’s growth. Pentecostals believe in the direct, personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which they see as separate from conversion.


Presbyterians trace their roots back to the Reformation and emphasize a form of church government with elected elders. They base their teachings on the doctrines of John Calvin, especially the sovereignty of God and the authority of Scripture.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church are significant branches. Key figures include John Knox and Jonathan Edwards. Presbyterian worship is typically more structured, and they place strong importance on education and social justice, integrating faith and reason.


Lutheranism stems from the teachings of Martin Luther and is characterized by its focus on justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture. Lutheran churches often follow traditional liturgical forms and emphasize the sacraments.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) are major denominations. Leaders like Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have had a lasting impact on theology and social thought. Lutherans tend to place a strong emphasis on doctrine and the historical creeds of the church.


Methodism began as a revival movement within the Church of England, led by John Wesley. Methodists are known for their commitment to personal holiness, social justice, and outreach. They have a structured system of church organization and itinerant preaching.

The United Methodist Church is one of the largest Methodist denominations. Influential leaders include John Wesley and Francis Asbury. Methodists believe in the need for a personal conversion experience and emphasize sanctification, the process of becoming more like Christ.

These evangelical denominations each bring unique elements to the broader movement, influencing how faith is practiced and understood across the world.

Evangelicalism in Society and Culture

what is an evangelical christian
Evangelicalism in Society and Culture

Evangelical Christians have a significant impact on society and culture, especially in areas like politics, social justice, and race relations. Their influence can be seen in various sectors, and their beliefs often align with conservative values.

Current Issues Facing Evangelical Christians

One major issue is the polarization in American politics. Many Evangelicals align with the Republican Party, reflecting conservative views on topics like abortion and same-sex marriage. This alignment can create a gap between Evangelicals and liberals.

Social justice is another critical area. While some Evangelicals focus on traditional values, others are increasingly involved in movements for racial justice and advocating for marginalized communities.

Culturally, Evangelicals often find themselves navigating between maintaining their religious identity and engaging with broader American culture. This can involve tensions between fundamentalist and more progressive factions within the community. We see this dynamic reflected in the activities of organizations like the National Association of Evangelicals.

In summary, Evangelicals face various challenges, from political polarization to engaging with social justice movements, while balancing their religious beliefs with the changing cultural landscape.

Evangelical Christianity in the Modern World

Evangelical Christianity in the Modern World
Evangelical Christianity in the Modern World

Today, Evangelical Christianity plays a significant role in many societies around the globe. We see its impact in various regions including Africa, Asia, and the United States.

Megachurches are a notable feature of the evangelical landscape. These large congregations, often drawing thousands of attendees, are prominent in the U.S. Figures like Billy Graham have been influential in shaping the evangelical movement, emphasizing the need for personal conversion experiences, often referred to as being “born again.”

Missionary work is a core component of evangelical efforts. Organizations like the World Evangelical Alliance facilitate global missions, spreading their faith and providing humanitarian aid.

In terms of education, institutions like Wheaton College are integral to evangelical communities. These schools not only offer academic education but also foster a strong evangelical identity among students.

Harold Ockenga was a key figure in the movement, advocating for a blend of traditional evangelical beliefs with modern approaches to society and culture.

Evangelical Christianity’s influence continues to grow in Africa and Asia, regions where vibrant church communities are flourishing.

In the evangelical church, the focus on personal relationship with Jesus remains central. We see this through the active participation in worship, community engagement, and the drive to evangelize. The connection among believers is strengthened through these shared practices and beliefs.

This snapshot of Evangelical Christianity in the modern world highlights how deeply it intertwines with various aspects of contemporary society, shaping both individual lives and broader cultural trends.

Frequently Asked Questions

what is an evangelical christian
Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s address some common questions about evangelical Christianity, including how it differs from other forms of Protestantism, its specific practices, and the challenges it faces today.

How do evangelical beliefs differ from mainstream Protestantism?

Evangelicals prioritize a personal relationship with Jesus and stress the importance of being “born again.” Mainline Protestants may focus more on social justice and the communal aspects of faith. Evangelicals also emphasize the authority of the Bible and the need to evangelize, or spread their faith (source).

Can someone be both Catholic and evangelical, or are the terms mutually exclusive?

Typically, being Catholic and evangelical are seen as mutually exclusive due to doctrinal differences. Evangelicals focus on personal faith and conversion experiences, while Catholics emphasize sacraments and church tradition. It’s rare, but some people identify with aspects of both traditions, blending personal faith with evangelical fervor (source).

What are the distinct practices of an evangelical church service?

Evangelical church services often include contemporary worship music, expository preaching, and opportunities for personal testimony. There’s usually a strong emphasis on sermons that are Bible-centered and aimed at encouraging a personal commitment to Christ. Many services are less formal, with a focus on engaging the congregation (source).

What are the core tenets of evangelical Christian theology?

Key tenets include the belief in the Bible as the ultimate authority, the necessity of personal conversion, the importance of evangelism, and a focus on Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the salvation of humanity. These principles are central to evangelical faith and practice (source).

What contemporary challenges do Evangelical Christians face today?

Evangelicals face challenges such as cultural and political polarization, declining church attendance, and generational shifts in beliefs and practices. They also grapple with maintaining doctrinal purity while engaging with a rapidly changing society and balancing faith with public life (source).

Are Baptist churches considered part of the evangelical movement?

Yes, many Baptist churches are considered part of the evangelical movement. They share core evangelical beliefs like the importance of scripture, the necessity of personal conversion, and the practice of baptism by immersion. However, not all Baptists identify as evangelical, as there is diversity within the Baptist tradition (source).

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