Evangelicalism in the United States

Evangelicalism is a worldwide Protestant movement, maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ's atonement.[1][2] The movement gained great momentum in the 18th and 19th centuries with the emergence of Methodism and the Great Awakenings in the British Isles and North America. Pietism, Nicolaus Zinzendorf and the Moravian Church, Presbyterianism and Puritanism have influenced Evangelicalism.

Influential leaders in the English-speaking world have included John Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. The United States has the largest concentration of Evangelicals by country, with over 30 percent of the world's Evangelicals (between 90 and 100 million).[3] Many Evangelicals now live outside the English-speaking world and over 42 million live in Brazil alone.[4] The movement continues to draw adherents globally in the 21st century, especially in the developing world.


The term evangelical has its etymological roots in the Greek word for "gospel" or "good news": ευαγγελιον (evangelion), from eu- "good" and angelion "message". By the English Middle Ages the term had been expanded to include not only the message, but also the New Testament which contained the message, as well as more specifically the Gospels in which the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are portrayed.[5] The first published use of the term "evangelical" in English was in 1531 by William Tyndale, who wrote "He exhorteth them to proceed constantly in the evangelical truth." One year later, the earliest recorded use in reference to a theological distinction was by Sir Thomas More, who spoke of "Tyndale [and] his evangelical brother Barns".[6]

By the time of the Reformation, Protestant theologians began to embrace the term evangelical as referring to "gospel truth". Martin Luther referred to the evangelische Kirche or evangelical Church to distinguish Protestants from Catholics in the Roman Catholic Church.[7][8] Into the 21st century, evangelical has continued to be used as a synonym for (mainline) Protestant in continental Europe. This usage is reflected in the names of Protestant denominations, such as the Evangelical Church in Germany (a union of Lutheran and Reformed churches) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.[5]

In the English-speaking world, the word evangelical became the common term to describe the series of revival movements that occurred in Britain and North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[9] Christian historian David Bebbington writes that, "Although 'evangelical', with a lower-case initial, is occasionally used to mean 'of the gospel', the term 'Evangelical', with a capital letter, is applied to any aspect of the movement beginning in the 1730s."[10]:1 The term may also be used outside of a religious context to characterize a generic missionary, reforming, or redeeming impulse or purpose. For example, the Times Literary Supplement refers to "the rise and fall of evangelical fervor within the Socialist movement".[11]


One influential definition of Evangelicalism has been proposed by historian David Bebbington.[12] Bebbington notes four distinctive aspects of Evangelical faith: conversionism, biblicism, crucicentrism, and activism, noting, "Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism."[13]

Conversionism, or belief in the necessity of being "born again", has been an a constant theme of Evangelicalism since its beginnings. To Evangelicals, the central message of the gospel is justification by faith in Christ and repentance, or turning away, from sin. Conversion differentiates the Christian from the the non-Christian, and the change in life it leads to is marked by both a rejection of sin and a corresponding personal holiness of life. A conversion experience often can be emotional, including grief and sorrow for sin followed by great relief at receiving forgiveness. The stress on conversion is further differentiated from other forms of Protestantism by the belief that an assurance of salvation will accompany conversion. Among Evangelicals, individuals have testified to both sudden and gradual conversions.[14]

Biblicism is defined as having a reverence for the Bible and a high regard for biblical authority. All Evangelicals believe in biblical inspiration, though they disagree over how this inspiration should be defined. Many Evangelicals believe in biblical inerrancy, while other Evangelicals believe in biblical infallibility.[15]

Crucicentrism refers to the attention that Evangelicals give to the Atonement, the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that offers forgiveness of sins and new life. This is understood most commonly in terms of a substitutionary atonement, in which Christ died as a substitute for sinful humanity by taking on himself the guilt and punishment for sin.[16]

Activism describes the tendency towards active expression and sharing of the gospel in diverse ways that include preaching and social action. This aspect of Evangelicalism continues to be seen today in the proliferation of Evangelical voluntary religious groups and parachurch organizations.[17]



Evangelicalism did not take recognizable form until the 18th century, first in Britain and its North American colonies. Nevertheless, there were earlier developments within the larger Protestant world that preceded and influenced the later evangelical revivals. According to religion scholar, social activist, and politician Randall Balmer, Evangelicalism resulted "from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans".[18] Historian Mark Noll adds to this list High Church Anglicanism, which contributed to Evangelicalism a legacy of "rigorous spirituality and innovative organization".[19]

During the 17th century, Pietism emerged in Europe as a movement for the revival of piety and devotion within the Lutheran church. As a protest against "cold orthodoxy" or an overly intellectual and rational Christianity, Pietists advocated for an experiential religion that stressed high moral standards for both clergy and lay people. The movement included both Christians who remained in the liturgical, state churches as well as separatist groups who rejected the use of baptismal fonts, altars, pulpits, and confessionals. As Pietism spread, the movement's ideals and aspirations influenced and were absorbed into early Evangelicalism.[20]

Puritanism combined Calvinism with teaching that conversion was a prerequisite for church membership and a stress on the study of Scripture by lay people. It took root in New England, where the Congregational church was an established religion. The Half-Way Covenant of 1662 allowed parents who had not testified to a conversion experience to have their children baptized, while reserving Holy Communion for converted church members alone.[21] By the 18th century, Puritanism was in decline and many ministers were alarmed at the loss of religious piety.[22]

High Church Anglicanism also exerted influence on early Evangelicalism. High Churchmen were distinguished by their desire to adhere to primitive Christianity. This desire included imitating the faith and ascetic practices of early Christians as well as regularly partaking of Holy Communion. High Churchmen were also enthusiastic organizers of voluntary religious societies. Two of the most prominent were the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, which distributed Bibles and other literature and built schools, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which was created to facilitate missionary work in British colonies. Samuel and Susanna Wesley, the parents of John and Charles Wesley, were both devoted advocates of High Churchmanship.[23]

18th century

John Wesley preaching

Evangelicalism emerged in the early 18th century in Britain and New England. Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland of Wales are the first discernibly Evangelical preachers.[24] At the same time, in Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards was involved in a revival in Northampton; he was heavily influenced by Pietism—one historian has stressed his "American Pietism." [25] George Whitfield, converted in 1735, was next; his mentor Charles Wesley reported an evangelical conversion in 1738. In the same week John Wesley felt his heart 'strangely warmed'.[24] Pietism directly influenced John Wesley, who had translated 33 Pietist hymns from German to English. Numerous German Pietist hymns became part of the English Evangelical repertoire.[26]

Whitfield joined forces with Edwards to "fan the flame of revival" in the Thirteen Colonies in 1739–40.[24] Evangelical preachers emphasized personal salvation and piety more than ritual and tradition. Pamphlets and printed sermons crisscrossed the Atlantic, encouraging the revivalists.[27] Soon the First Great Awakening stirred Protestants up and down the Thirteen Colonies. The Awakening resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality. It reached people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety and their self-awareness. To the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism, 18th century American Christians added emphases on divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversions that implanted within new believers an intense love for God. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and forwarded the newly created Evangelicalism into the early republic.[28]

Development in the doctrine of assurance underlies what differentiates Evangelicalism from what went before. Bebbington says, "The dynamism of the Evangelical movement was possible only because its adherents were assured in their faith."[29] He goes on:

Whereas the Puritans had held that assurance is rare, late and the fruit of struggle in the experience of believers, the Evangelicals believed it to be general, normally given at conversion and the result of simple acceptance of the gift of God. The consequence of the altered form of the doctrine was a metamorphosis in the nature of popular Protestantism. There was a change in patterns of piety, affecting devotional and practical life in all its departments. The shift, in fact, was responsible for creating in Evangelicalism a new movement and not merely a variation on themes heard since the Reformation."[30]

This new assurance made way for the possibility of Revivalism, another key discontinuity with the Protestantism of the previous era.[31]

19th century

The start of the 19th century saw an increase in missionary work and many of the major missionary societies were founded around this time (see Timeline of Christian missions). Both the Evangelical and high church movements sponsored missionaries.

The Second Great Awakening (which actually began in 1790) was primarily an American revivalist movement and resulted in substantial growth of the Methodist and Baptist churches. Charles Grandison Finney was an important preacher of this period.

William Wilberforce, British evangelical abolitionist

In Britain in addition to stressing the traditional Wesleyan combination of "Bible, cross, conversion, and activism," the revivalist movement sought a universal appeal, hoping to include rich and poor, urban and rural, and men and women. Special efforts were made to attract children and to generate literature to spread the revivalist message.[32]

"Christian conscience" was used by the British Evangelical movement to promote social activism. Evangelicals believed activism in government and the social sphere was an essential method in reaching the goal of eliminating sin in a world drenched in wickedness.[33] The Evangelicals in the Clapham Sect included figures such as William Wilberforce who successfully campaigned for the abolition of slavery.

In the late 19th century, the revivalist Holiness movement, based on the doctrine of "entire sanctification," took a more extreme form in rural America and Canada, where it ultimately broke away from institutional Methodism. In urban Britain the Holiness message was less exclusive and censorious.[34]

John Nelson Darby was a 19th-century Irish Anglican minister who devised modern dispensationalism, an innovative Protestant theological interpretation of the Bible that was incorporated in the development of modern Evangelicalism. Cyrus Scofield further promoted the influence of dispensationalism through the explanatory notes to his Scofield Reference Bible. According to scholar Mark S. Sweetnam, who takes a cultural studies perspective, dispensationalism can be defined in terms of its Evangelicalism, its insistence on the literal interpretation of Scripture, its recognition of stages in God's dealings with humanity, its expectation of the imminent return of Christ to rapture His saints, and its focus on both apocalypticism and premillennialism.[35]

Notable figures of the latter half of the 19th century include Charles Spurgeon in London and Dwight L. Moody in Chicago. Their powerful preaching reached very large audiences.[36][37]

An advanced theological perspective came from the Princeton theologians from the 1850s to the 1920s, such as Charles Hodge, Archibald Alexander and B.B. Warfield.[38]

20th century

Services at the Pentecostal Church of God in Lejunior, Kentucky, 1946

Evangelicalism in the early part of the 20th century was dominated by the Fundamentalist movement after 1910; it rejected liberal theology and emphasized the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Following the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 began the spread of Pentecostalism in North America.

In the post–World War II period, a split developed between Evangelicals, as they disagreed among themselves about how a Christian ought to respond to an unbelieving world. The Evangelicals urged that Christians must engage the culture directly and constructively,[39] and they began to express reservations about being known to the world as fundamentalists. As Kenneth Kantzer put it at the time, the name fundamentalist had become "an embarrassment instead of a badge of honor".[40]

The term neo-evangelicalism was coined by Harold Ockenga in 1947 to identify a distinct movement within self-identified fundamentalist Christianity at the time, especially in the English-speaking world. It described the mood of positivism and non-militancy that characterized that generation. The new generation of Evangelicals set as their goal to abandon a militant Bible stance. Instead, they would pursue dialogue, intellectualism, non-judgmentalism, and appeasement. They further called for an increased application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas.

The self-identified fundamentalists also cooperated in separating their "neo-Evangelical" opponents from the fundamentalist name, by increasingly seeking to distinguish themselves from the more open group, whom they often characterized derogatorily by Ockenga's term, "neo-Evangelical" or just Evangelical.

The evangelical revivalist Billy Graham in Duisburg, Germany, 1954

The fundamentalists saw the Evangelicals as often being too concerned about social acceptance and intellectual respectability, and being too accommodating to a perverse generation that needed correction. In addition, they saw the efforts of evangelist Billy Graham, who worked with non-Evangelical denominations, such as the Roman Catholics (which they claimed to be heretical), as a mistake.

The post-war period also saw growth of the ecumenical movement and the founding of the World Council of Churches, which was generally regarded with suspicion by the Evangelical community.

In the United Kingdom, John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones emerged as key leaders in Evangelical Christianity.

The charismatic movement began in the 1960s and resulted in Pentecostal theology and practice being introduced into many mainline denominations. New charismatic groups such as the Association of Vineyard Churches and Newfrontiers trace their roots to this period (see also British New Church Movement).

The closing years of the 20th century saw controversial postmodern influences entering some parts of Evangelicalism, particularly with the emerging church movement.

Types of Evangelicalism

Conservative Evangelicalism

Chinese evangelical church in Madrid, Spain

Toward the end of the 20th century, some have tended to confuse Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, but as noted above they are not the same. The labels represent very distinct differences of approach that both groups are diligent to maintain, although because of fundamentalism's dramatically smaller size it often gets classified simply as an ultra-conservative branch of Evangelicalism.

Both groups seek to maintain an identity as theological conservatives; Evangelicals, however, seek to distance themselves from stereotypical perceptions of the "fundamentalist" posture of antagonism toward the larger society and advocate involvement in the surrounding community rather than separation from it. However, despite the differences, some people, particularly those with a non-denominational background, may consider themselves both Evangelical and fundamentalist because they believe in the engaging practices of Evangelicalism and take a fundamental view of the Bible.

On the American political spectrum, Evangelical Christians traditionally are socially conservative. Based on their belief that the biblical view of marriage is only between one man and one woman, they oppose both state and church recognition of same-sex marriage. Since the 1970s they have also opposed legalizing abortion on demand. (See below for more details).

Open Evangelicalism

Open Evangelical refers to a particular Christian school of thought or Churchmanship, primarily in the United Kingdom (especially in the Church of England). Open Evangelicals describe their position as combining a traditional Evangelical emphasis on the nature of scriptural authority, the teaching of the ecumenical creeds and other traditional doctrinal teachings, with an approach towards culture and other theological points of view which tends to be more inclusive than that taken by other Evangelicals. Some open Evangelicals aim to take a middle position between conservative and charismatic Evangelicals, while others would combine conservative theological emphases with more liberal social positions.[41]


British author Dave Tomlinson characterizes post-evangelicalism as a movement comprising various trends of dissatisfaction among Evangelicals. The term is used by others with comparable intent, often to distinguish Evangelicals in the so-called emerging church movement from post-evangelicals and anti-Evangelicals. Tomlinson argues that "linguistically, the distinction [between evangelical and post-evangelical] is similar to the one that sociologists make between the modern and postmodern eras".[42]

There persists considerable and inevitable confusion as to how best to classify the non-traditional/non-conservative forms of Evangelicalism. Some call the emerging church movement a version or manifestation of post-evangelicalism, whereas others distinguish both under the broader umbrella of the "evangelical left" movement. As such developments are still relatively new, it remains to be seen how the categories and semantics will settle.

Global statistics

According to a 2011 Pew Forum study on global Christianity, 285,480,000 or 13.1 percent of all Christians are Evangelicals.[43] The largest concentration of Evangelicals can be found in the United States, with 26.8% of the U.S. population or 94.38 million,[44] the latter being roughly one third of the world's Evangelicals.[3] The next most populous is Brazil, with 26.3% or 51.33 million.[44]

The World Evangelical Alliance is "a network of churches in 128 nations that have each formed an Evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a worldwide identity, voice and platform" to an estimated more than 420 million Evangelical Christians.[45] The Alliance was formed in 1951 by Evangelicals from 21 countries. It has worked to support its members to work together globally.

From 1960 to 2000, the global growth of the number of reported Evangelicals grew three times the world's population rate, and twice that of Islam.[46]


In the 21st century, there are Evangelical churches active in Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, and Nigeria. They have grown especially since independence came in the 1960s,[47] the strongest movements are based on Pentecostal-charismatic beliefs, and comprise a way of life that has led to upward social mobility and demands for democracy. There is a wide range of theology and organizations, including some sponsored by European missionaries and others that have emerged from African culture such as the Apostolic and Zionist Churches which enlist 40% of black South Africans, and their Aladura counterparts in western Africa.[48]

In Nigeria the Evangelical Church Winning All (formerly "Evangelical Church of West Africa") is the largest church organization with five thousand congregations and over three million members. It sponsors two seminaries and eight Bible colleges, and 1600 missionaries who serve in Nigeria and other countries with the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). There have been serious confrontations since 1999 between Muslims and Evangelical Christians standing in opposition to the expansion of Sharia law in northern Nigeria. The confrontation has radicalized and politicized the Christians. Violence has been escalating.[49]

In Kenya, mainstream Evangelical denominations have taken the lead in promoting political activism and backers, with the smaller Evangelical sects of less importance. Daniel arap Moi was president 1978 to 2002 and claimed to be an Evangelical; he proved intolerant of dissent or pluralism or decentralization of power.[50]

The Berlin Missionary Society (BMS) was one of four German Protestant mission societies active in South Africa before 1914. It emerged from the German tradition of Pietism after 1815 and sent its first missionaries to South Africa in 1834. There were few positive reports in the early years, but it was especially active 1859–1914. It was especially strong in the Boer republics. The World War cut off contact with Germany, but the missions continued at a reduced pace. After 1945 the missionaries had to deal with decolonisation across Africa and especially with the apartheid government. At all times the BMS emphasized spiritual inwardness, and values such as morality, hard work and self-discipline. It proved unable to speak and act decisively against injustice and racial discrimination and was disbanded in 1972.[51]

Since 1974, young professionals have been the active proselytizers of Evangelicalism in the cities of Malawi.[52]

In Mozambique, Evangelical Protestant Christianity emerged around 1900 from black migrants whose converted previously in South Africa. They were assisted by European missionaries, but, as industrial workers, they paid for their own churches and proselytizing. They prepared southern Mozambique for the spread of Evangelical Protestantism. During its time as a colonial power in Mozambique, the Catholic Portuguese government tried to counter the spread of Evangelical Protestantism.[53]

Latin America

In modern Latin America, the word "Evangelical" is often simply a synonym for "Protestant".[54][55][56]


Protestantism in Brazil largely originated with German immigrants and British and American missionaries in the 19th century, following up on efforts that began in the 1820s.[57]

In the late nineteenth century, while the vast majority of Brazilians were nominal Catholics, the nation was underserved by priests, and for large numbers their religion was only nominal. The Catholic Church in Brazil was de-established in 1890, and responded by increasing the number of dioceses and the efficiency of its clergy. Many Protestants came from a large German immigrant community, but they were seldom engaged in proselytism and grew mostly by natural increase.

Methodists were active along with Presbyterians and Baptists. The Scottish missionary Dr. Robert Reid Kalley, with support from the Free Church of Scotland, moved to Brazil in 1855, founding the first Evangelical church among the Portuguese-speaking population there in 1856. It was organized according to the Congregational policy as the Igreja Evangélica Fluminense; it became the mother church of Congregationalism in Brazil.[58] The Seventh-day Adventists arrived in 1894, and the YMCA was organized in 1896. The missionaries promoted schools colleges and seminaries, including a the liberal arts college in São Paulo, later known as Mackenzie, and an agricultural school in Lavras. The Presbyterian schools in particular later became the nucleus of the governmental system. In 1887 Protestants in Rio de Janeiro formed a hospital. The missionaries largely reached a working-class audience, as the Brazilian upper-class was wedded either to Catholicism or to secularism. By 1914, Protestant churches founded by American missionaries had 47,000 communicants, served by 282 missionaries. In general, these missionaries were more successful than they had been in Mexico, Argentina or elsewhere in Latin America.[59]

There were 700,000 Protestants by 1930, and increasingly they were in charge of their own affairs. In 1930, the Methodist Church of Brazil became independent of the missionary societies and elected its own bishop. Protestants were largely from a working-class, but their religious networks help speed their upward social mobility.[60][61]

Protestants accounted for fewer than 5% of the population until the 1960s, but grew exponentially by proselytizing and by 2000 made up over 15% of Brazilians affiliated with a church. Pentecostals and charismatic groups account for the vast majority of this expansion.

Pentecostal missionaries arrived early in the 20th century. Pentecostal conversions surged during the 1950s and 1960s, when native Brazilians began founding autonomous churches. The most influential included Brasil Para o Cristo (Brazil for Christ), founded in 1955 by Manoel de Mello. With an emphasis on personal salvation, on God's healing power, and on strict moral codes these groups have developed broad appeal, particularly among the booming urban migrant communities. In Brazil, since the mid-1990's, groups committed to uniting black identity, antiracism, and Evangelical theology have rapidly proliferated.[62] Pentecostalism arrived in Brazil with Swedish and American missionaries in 1911. it grew rapidly, but endured numerous schisms and splits. In some areas the Evangelical Assemblies of God churches have taken a leadership role in politics since the 1960s. They claimed major credit for the election of Fernando Collor de Mello as president of Brazil in 1990.[63]

According to the 2000 Census, 15.4% of the Brazilian population was Protestant. A recent research conducted by the Datafolha institute shows that 25% of Brazilians are Protestants, of which 19% are followers of Pentecostal denominations. The 2010 Census found out that 22.2% were Protestant at that date. Protestant denominations saw a rapid growth in their number of followers since the last decades of the 20th century.[64] They are politically and socially conservative, and emphasize that God's favor translates into business success.[65] The rich and the poor remained traditional Catholics, while most Evangelical Protestants were in the new lower-middle class–known as the "C class" (in a A–E classification system).[66]

Chesnut argues that Pentecostalism has become "one of the principal organizations of the poor," for these churches provide the sort of social network that teach members the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly developing meritocratic society.[67]

One large Evangelical church is the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), a neo‐Pentecostal denomination begun in 1977. It now has a presence in many countries, and claims millions of members worldwide.[68]


Protestants remained a small portion of the population until the late-twentieth century, when various Protestant groups experienced a demographic boom that coincided with the increasing violence of the Guatemalan Civil War. Two Guatemalan heads of state, General Efraín Ríos Montt and Jorge Serrano Elias, have been practicing Evangelical Protestants. They are the only two Protestant heads of state in the history of Latin America.[69][70]

General Efrain Rios Montt, an Evangelical from the Pentecostal tradition, came to power through a coup. He escalated the war against leftist guerrilla insurgents as a holy war against atheistic forces of evil.[71]



Protestant missionary proselytism in Asia was most successful in Korea. American Presbyterians and Methodists arrived in the 1880s and were well received. Between 1907 and 1945, when Korea was a Japanese colony, Christianity became in part an expression of nationalism in opposition to Japan's efforts to promote the Japanese language and the Shinto religion.[72] In 1914, out of 16 million people, there were 86,000 Protestants and 79,000 Catholics; by 1934, the numbers were 168,000 and 147,000. Presbyterian missionaries were especially successful.[73] Since the Korean War (1950–53), many Korean Christians have migrated to the U.S., while those who remained behind have risen sharply in social and economic status. Most Korean Protestant churches in the 21st century emphasize their Evangelical heritage. Korean Protestantism is characterized by theological conservatism coupled with an emotional revivalistic style. Most churches sponsor revival meetings once or twice a year. Missionary work is a high priority, with 13,000 men and women serving in missions across the world, putting Korea in second place just behind the US.[74]

Sukman argues that since 1945, Protestantism has been widely seen by Koreans as the religion of the middle class, youth, intellectuals, urbanites, and modernists. It has been a powerful force supporting South Korea's pursuit of modernity and emulation of the United States, and opposition to the old Japanese colonialism and to the authoritarianism of North Korea.[75] There are 8.6 million adherents to Protestant Christianity (approximately 19% of the Korean population) in which many identify themselves as Evangelicals.

South Korea has been referred as an "evangelical superpower" for being the home to some of the largest and most dynamic Christian churches in the world; South Korea is also second to the U.S. in the number of missionaries sent abroad.[76][77][78]

United Kingdom

There are an estimated 2 million Evangelicals in the UK.[79] According to research done by the Evangelical Alliance in 2013 87% of UK evangelicals attend Sunday morning church services every week and 63% attend weekly or fortnightly small groups [80] An earlier survey conducted in 2012 found that 92% of evangelicals agree it is a Christian's duty to help those in poverty and 45% attend a church which has a fund or scheme that helps people in immediate need, and 42% go to a church that supports or runs a foodbank. 63% believe a tithing, and so give around 10% of their income to their church, Christian organisations and various charities[81] 83% of UK evangelicals believe that the Bible has supreme authority in guiding their beliefs, views and behaviour and 52% read or listen to the Bible daily.[82] The Evangelical Alliance, formed in 1846, was the first ecumenical evangelical body in the world and works to unite evangelicals, helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society.

United States

The contemporary North American usage of the term reflects the impact of the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of the early 20th century. Evangelicalism may sometimes be perceived as the middle ground between the theological liberalism of the mainline denominations and the cultural separatism of fundamentalism.[83] Evangelicalism has therefore been described as "the third of the leading strands in American Protestantism, straddl[ing] the divide between fundamentalists and liberals".[84] In 2004 Andrew Crouch wrote in Christianity Today: "The emerging movement is a protest against much of evangelicalism as currently practiced. It is post-evangelical in the way that neo-evangelicalism (in the 1950s) was post-fundamentalist. It would not be unfair to call it postmodern evangelicalism."[85]

While the North American perception has a certain importance in understanding some usage of the term, it by no means dominates a wider global view: elsewhere the fundamentalist debate had less direct influence.

D.W. Cloud wrote: "In the first half of the 20th century, evangelicalism in America was largely synonymous with fundamentalism. George Marsden in Reforming Fundamentalism (1995) writes, "There was not a practical distinction between fundamentalist and evangelical: the words were interchangeable" (p. 48). When the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) formed in 1942, for example, participants included such fundamentalist leaders as Bob Jones, Sr., John R. Rice, Charles Woodbridge, Harry Ironside, and David Otis Fuller."[86]

By the mid-1950s, largely due to the ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham, the terms Evangelicalism and fundamentalism began to refer to two different approaches. Fundamentalism aggressively attacked its liberal enemies; Evangelicalism downplayed liberalism and emphasized outreach and conversion of new members.[87]

While some conservative Evangelicals believe the label has broadened too much beyond its more limiting traditional distinctives, this trend is nonetheless strong enough to create significant ambiguity in the term.[88] As a result, the dichotomy between "Evangelical" and "mainline" denominations is increasingly complex, particularly with such innovations as the "emergent church" movement.

20th century

By the 1890s, most American Protestants belonged to Evangelical denominations, except for the high church Episcopalians and German Lutherans. In the early 20th century, a divide opened up between the Fundamentalists and the Mainline Protestant denominations, chiefly over the inerrancy of the Bible. The fundamentalists were those Evangelicals who sought to defend their religious traditions, and feared that modern scientific leanings were leading away from the truth. A favored mode of fighting back was to prohibit the teaching of Darwinism or macro-evolution as fact in the public schools, a movement that reached its peak in the Scopes Trial of 1925, and resumed in the 1980s. The more modernistic Protestants largely abandoned the term "evangelical" and tolerated evolutionary theories in modern science and even in Biblical studies.

Evangelicals held the view that the modernist and liberal parties in the Protestant churches had surrendered their heritage as Evangelicals by accommodating the views and values of secularism. At the same time, the modernists criticized fundamentalists for their separatism and their rejection of the Social Gospel.

During and after World War II, Evangelicals increasingly organized, and expanded their vision to include the entire world. There was a great expansion of Evangelical activity within the United States, "a revival of revivalism." Youth for Christ was formed; it later became the base for Billy Graham's revivals. The National Association of Evangelicals formed in 1942 as a counterpoise to the mainline Federal Council of Churches. In 1942–43, the Old-Fashioned Revival Hour had a record-setting national radio audience.[89]

Even more dramatic was the expansion of international missionary activity by the Evangelicals. They had enthusiasm and self-confidence after the national victory in the world war. Many Evangelicals came from poor rural districts, but wartime and postwar prosperity dramatically increased the funding resources available for missionary work. While mainline Protestant denominations cut back on their missionary activities, from 7000 to 3000 overseas workers between 1935 and 1980, the Evangelicals increased their career foreign missionary force from 12,000 in 1935 to 35,000 in 1980. Meanwhile Europe was falling behind, as North Americans comprised 41% of all the world's Protestant missionaries in 1936, rising to 52% in 1952 and 72% in 1969. The most active denominations were the Assemblies of God, which nearly tripled from 230 missionaries in 1935 to 626 in 1952, and the United Pentecostal Church International, formed in 1945. The Southern Baptists more than doubled from 405 to 855, as did the Church of the Nazarene from 88 to 200.[90] Overseas missionaries began to prepare for the postwar challenge, most notably the Far Eastern Gospel Crusade (FEGC; now named "Send International"). After Nazi Germany and fascist Japan had been destroyed, the newly mobilized Evangelicals were now prepared to combat atheistic communism, secularism, Darwinism, liberalism, Catholicism, and (in overseas missions) paganism.[91]

21st century

Today, Evangelicals are often concerned with their own negligence to live up to Christian standards in contrast to the world. Christianity Today author Mark Galli says "It's now pretty much agreed that the Evangelical church mirrors the dysfunctions of secular society, from premarital sex stats to divorce rates to buying habits. Much to our dismay, we are hardly a light to the world, nor an icon of the abundant, transformed life."[92] Despite this perceived setback, Evangelicals continue to successfully maintain the evangelism aspect that is an integral part of their movement.

Meaning of Evangelicalism in the US

The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals states:

There are three senses in which the term "evangelical" is used today at the beginning of the 21st-century. The first is to view "evangelical" as all Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases. British historian David Bebbington approaches evangelicalism from this direction and notes four specific hallmarks of evangelical religion: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. A second sense is to look at evangelicalism as an organic group of movements and religious tradition. Within this context "evangelical" denotes a style as much as a set of beliefs. As a result, groups such as black Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites and Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists all come under the evangelical umbrella, thus demonstrating just how diverse the movement really is. A third sense of the term is as the self-ascribed label for a coalition that arose during the Second World War. This group came into being as a reaction against the perceived anti-intellectual, separatist, belligerent nature of the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Importantly, its core personalities (like Harold John Ockenga and Billy Graham), institutions (for instance, Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College), and organizations (such as the National Association of Evangelicals and Youth for Christ) have played a pivotal role in giving the wider movement a sense of cohesion that extends beyond these "card-carrying" evangelicals.[93]


An event at Gateway Church's 114 Southlake Campus

The 2004 survey of religion and politics in the United States identified the Evangelical percentage of the population at 26.3 percent while Roman Catholics are 22 percent and mainline Protestants make up 16 percent.[94] In the 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the figures for these same groups are 28.6 percent (Evangelical), 24.5 percent (Roman Catholic), and 13.9 percent (mainline Protestant.) The latter figures are based on a 2001 study of the self-described religious identification of the adult population for 1990 and 2001 from the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York.[95] A 2008 study showed that in the year 2000 about 9 percent of Americans attended an Evangelical service on any given Sunday.[96][97] The Economist estimated in May 2012, that "over one-third of Americans, more than 100 M, can be considered evangelical," arguing that the percentage is often undercounted because many black Christians espouse Evangelical theology but prefer to refer to themselves as "born again Christians" rather than "evangelical."[98] These estimated figures given by The Economist agree with those in 2012 from Wheaton College's Institute for the Studies of American Evangelicals.[3]

The movement is highly diverse and encompasses a vast number of people. Because the group is diverse, not all of them use the same terminology for beliefs. For instance, several recent studies and surveys by sociologists and political scientists that utilize more complex definitional parameters have estimated the number of Evangelicals in the U.S. in 2012 at about 30–35% of the population, or roughly between 90 and 100 million people.[3]

The National Association of Evangelicals is a U.S. agency which coordinates cooperative ministry for its member denominations.

Types of Evangelical

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, used polling data to separate Evangelicals into three camps, which he labels as traditionalist, centrist and modernist:[83]

  1. Traditionalists, characterized by high affinity for certain Protestant beliefs, (especially penal substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, the authority of scripture, the priesthood of all believers, etc.) which, when fused with the highly political milieu of Western culture (especially American culture), has resulted in the political disposition that has been labeled the Christian right, with figures like Jerry Falwell and the television evangelist Pat Robertson as its most visible spokesmen.
  2. Centrist evangelicals, described as socially conservative, mostly avoiding politics, who still support much of traditional Christian theology.
  3. Modernist evangelicals, a small minority in the movement, have low levels of church-attendance and "have much more diversity in their beliefs".[83]


Christian right

Evangelical political influence in America was first evident in the 1830s with movements such as abolition of slavery and the prohibition movement, which closed saloons and taverns in state after state until it succeeded nationally in 1919.[99] The Christian right is a coalition of numerous groups of traditionalist and observant church-goers of every kind: especially Catholics on issues such as birth control and abortion, Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans and others.[100]

Evangelical political activists are not all on the right. There is a small group of liberal white Evangelicals.[101] Most African Americans belong to Baptist, Methodist or other denominations that share Evangelical beliefs; they are firmly in the Democratic coalition and (except for gay and abortion issues) are generally liberal in politics.[102]

Christian left

Typically, members of the Evangelical left affirm the primary tenets of Evangelical theology, such as the doctrines of Incarnation, atonement, and resurrection, and also see the Bible as a primary authority for the church. A major theological difference, however, which in turn leads to many of the social/political differences, is the issue of how strictly to interpret the Bible, as well as what particular values and principles predominantly constitute the "biblical worldview" believed to be binding upon all followers. Inevitably, battles over how to characterize each other and themselves ensue, with the Evangelical left and right often hyperbolically regarding each other as "mainline/non-evangelical" and "fundamentalist" respectively.

Unlike conservative Evangelicals, the Evangelical left is generally opposed to capital punishment and supportive of gun control. In many cases, Evangelical leftists are pacifistic. Some promote the legalization of same-sex marriage or protection of access to abortion for the society at large without necessarily endorsing the practice themselves. There is considerable dispute over how to even characterize the various segments of the Evangelical theological and political spectra, and whether a singular discernible rift between "right" and "left" is oversimplified. However, to the extent that some simplifications are necessary to discuss any complex issue, it is recognized that modern trends like focusing on non-contentious issues (like poverty) and downplaying hot-button social issues (like abortion) tend to be key distinctives of the modern "evangelical left" or "emergent church" movement.

Recurrent themes


Since 1980, a central issue motivating conservative Evangelicals' political activism is abortion. The 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, which legalized abortion, proved decisive in bringing together Catholics and Evangelicals in a political coalition, which became known as the Religious Right when it successfully mobilized its voters behind presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980.[103]


In the United States, Supreme Court decisions that outlawed organized prayer in school and restricted church-related schools also played a role in mobilizing the Religious Right.[104] In addition, questions of sexual morality and homosexuality have been energizing factors—and above all, the notion that "elites" are pushing America into secularism.

Christian nation

Opponents criticise the Evangelicals, whom they say actually want a Christian America—America being a nation in which Christianity is given a privileged position.[105] Survey data shows that "between 64 and 75 percent do not favor a 'Christian Nation' amendment", though between 60 and 75 percent also believe that Christianity and Political Liberalism are incompatible.[106] Evangelical leaders, in turn, counter that they merely seek freedom from the imposition by national elites of an equally subjective secular worldview, and feel that it is their opponents who are violating their rights.[107]

Other issues

According to recent reports in the New York Times, some Evangelicals have sought to expand their movement's social agenda to include poverty, combating AIDS in the Third World, and protecting the environment.[108] This is highly contentious within the Evangelical community, since more conservative Evangelicals believe that this trend is compromising important issues and prioritizing popularity and consensus too highly. Personifying this division were the Evangelical leaders James Dobson and Rick Warren, the former who warned of the dangers of a Barack Obama victory in 2008 from his point of view,[109] in contrast with the latter who declined to endorse either major candidate on the grounds that he wanted the church to be less politically divisive and that he agreed substantially with both men.[110]

See also


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  • Balmer, Randall Herbert (2002), Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN , retrieved October 25, 2011 .
  • Bebbington, David W (1993), Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, London: Routledge 
  • Chesnut, R. Andrew (1997), Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty, Rutgers University Press .
  • Marsden, George M (1991), Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, ISBN  
  • Noll, Mark A. (2004), The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, Inter-Varsity, ISBN  
  • Ranger, Terence O, ed. (2008), Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa, Oxford University Press .
  • Trueman, Carl (2011), The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Moody Publishers 

Further reading

  • Balmer, Randall Herbert (2004), Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (excerpt and text search) (2nd ed.) ; online.
  • ——— (2010), The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond, ISBN  .
  • ——— (2000), Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America 
  • Bastian, Jean-Pierre (1994), Le Protestantisme en Amérique latine: une approche sio-historique [Protestantism in Latin America: a sio‐historical approach], Histoire et société (in French) (27), Genève: Labor et Fides, ISBN  ; alternative ISBN on back cover, 2-8309-0687-X; 324 pp.
  • Beale, David O (1986), In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850, Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University: Unusual, ISBN  .
  • Bebbington, D. W. (1989), Evangelicals in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, London: Unwin .
  • Carpenter, Joel A. (1980), "Fundamentalist Institutions and the Rise of Evangelical Protestantism, 1929–1942", Church History 49: 62–75, doi:10.2307/3164640 .
  • ——— (1999), Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism, Oxford University Press, ISBN  .
  • Freston, Paul (2004), Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Cambridge University Press, ISBN  .
  • Hindmarsh, Bruce (2005), The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England, Oxford: Oxford University Press .
  • Kidd, Thomas S (2007), The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America, Yale University Press .
  • Knox, Ronald (1950), Enthusiasm: a Chapter in the History of Religion, with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries, Oxford, Eng: Oxford University Press, pp. viii , 622 pp.
  • Marsden, George M (1991), Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (excerpt and text search) .
  • ——— (1987), Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans .
  • Noll, Mark A (1992), A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, pp. 311–89, ISBN  .
  • Noll, Mark A; Bebbington, David W; Rawlyk, George A, eds. (1994), Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles and Beyond, 1700–1990 .
  • Pierard, Richard V. (1979), "The Quest For the Historical Evangelicalism: A Bibliographical Excursus", Fides et Historia 11 (2): 60–72 .
  • Price, Robert M. (1986), "Neo-Evangelicals and Scripture: A Forgotten Period of Ferment", Christian Scholars Review 15 (4): 315–30 .
  • Rawlyk, George A; Noll, Mark A, eds. (1993), Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States .
  • Schafer, Axel R (2011), Countercultural Conservatives: American Evangelicalism From the Postwar Revival to the New Christian Right, U. of Wisconsin Press , 225 pp; covers evangelical politics from the 1940s to the 1990s that examines how a diverse, politically pluralistic movement became, largely, the Christian Right.
  • Smith, Timothy L (1957), Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War .
  • Stackhouse, John G (1993), Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century 
  • Sutton, Matthew Avery. American Apocalypse: A history of modern evangelicalism (2014)
  • Utzinger, J. Michael (2006), Yet Saints Their Watch Are Keeping: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and the Development of Evangelical Ecclesiology, 1887–1937, Macon: Mercer University Press, ISBN  .
  • Ward, WR (2006), Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History (Amazon excerpt and text search), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press .
  • Wigger, John H; Hatch, Nathan O, eds. (2001), Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture (Amazon excerpt and text search) (essays by scholars) .
  • Wright, Bradley (March 21, 2013), "Black, White & Gray", The Economist, Evangelical Christianity in America (Patheos)  .


  • Anderson, Gerald H, ed. (1998), Biographical dictionary of Christian missions, Simon & Schuster Macmillan .
  • Bainbridge, William F (1882), Around the World Tour of Christian Missions: A Universal Survey (Amazon full text online) , 583 pp.
  • Barrett, David, ed. (1982), World Christian Encyclopedia, Oxford University Press .
  • Brown, Candy Gunther, ed. (2011), Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing (essays by scholars on different countries), Oxford UP , 400 pp.
  • Etherington, Norman, ed. (2008), Missions and Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire Companion .
  • Gailey, Charles R; Culbertson, Howard (2007), Discovering Missions, Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press .
  • Glover, Robert H; Kane, J Herbert (1960), The Progress of World-Wide Missions, Harper & Row .
  • Hutchison, William R (1987), Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions .
  • Jenkins, Philip (2011), The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Amazon excerpt and text search) (3rd ed.), Oxford UP .
  • Kane, J. Herbert (1982), A Concise History of the Christian World Mission, Baker .
  • Koschorke, Klaus (2007), A History of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, 1450–1990: A Documentary Sourcebook (Google Books), et al., Wm. B. Eerdmans  Amazon excerpts, text search and table of contents.
  • Latourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, (1938–45) (detailed scholarly history) , 7 volumes.
  • Moreau, A. Scott (2000), Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, et al, Baker .
  • Neill, Stephen (1986), A History of Christian Missions, Penguin .
  • Newcomb, Harvey (1860), A Cyclopedia of Missions: Containing a Comprehensive View of Missionary Operations Throughout the World with Geographical Descriptions, and Accounts of the Social, Moral, and Religious Condition of the People (Google Books) , 792 pp.
  • Pocock, Michael; van Rheenen, Gailyn; McConnell, Douglas (2005), The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends ; 391 pp.
  • Shenk, Wilbert R, ed. (2004), North American Foreign Missions, 1810–1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy (Amazon excerpts and text search) . 349 pp; important essays by scholars.
  • Tejirian, Eleanor H; Simon, Reeva Spector, eds. (2012), Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East, Columbia University Press , 280 pp; focus on the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Tucker, Ruth (2004), From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya .
  • ——— (1988), Guardians of the Great Commission .

External links

  • Institute for the Study of American Evangelicalism, Wheaton College .
  • Spencer, Michael (March 10, 2009), "The Coming Evangelical Collapse", The Christian Science Monitor .
  • Modern Evangelical African Theologians: A Primer, Need not fret .
  • American Evangelicalism and Islam: From the Antichrist to the Mahdi, DE: Qantara .
  • Operation World  – Statistics from around the world including numbers of Evangelicals by country.

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