Welcome to the website for the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. We hope you enjoy your visit in exploring all this website has to offer. Please click on the tabs above to navigate. The Welcome page is a good place to start, followed by the History page which provides a historical and cultural overview of Evangelicalism. The Core Doctrines page provides a summary of Evangelical doctrine and practice from representative sources in the National Association of Evangelicals and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. The Religious Vital Signs page includes key data on global Evangelicalism from a 2011 Pew Forum Report. The Join This Chapter page provides our mission and vision statements, and areas of concentration for the Evangelical community. For further information see our extended main site at www.EvangelicalFRD.org.
A LETTER FROM THE FRD CHAPTER CUSTODIAN
Welcome to the Evangelical Christian Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. As you will discover through our work and our website, religious diplomacy has a tremendous role to play in support of the need for Evangelicals to effectively share their faith, as a way to repair the credibility challenges we face in the public square in regards to other religions, and in obedience to Jesus’ call for us to be peacemakers in the world.
Our vision in FRD’s Evangelical Chapter is to create a movement of Jesus-shaped multi-faith engagement within Evangelicalism, and our mission is to help Evangelicals practice a neighborhood theology of multi-faith engagement that embraces the Christian practices of love of neighbor and enemy, and hospitality while maintaining faithfulness to Evangelical convictions.
Please let me know how I can be of service to you, your pastor and church, or your student group at college, university or seminary.
Sincerely in Christ,
John W. Morehead
FRD Evangelical Christian Chapter Custodian
Evangelicalism is diverse in terms of its makeup from around the world, and in its political expressions as well, running a spectrum from conservative to progressive. Even so, there are certain common elements which enable us to define this movement.
From the website of the National Association of Evangelicals we find the following:
What is an Evangelical? Evangelicals take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.
We are a vibrant and diverse group, including believers found in many churches, denominations and nations. Our community brings together Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and other traditions. Our core theological convictions provide unity in the midst of our diversity. The NAE Statement of Faith offers a standard for these evangelical convictions.
Historian David Bebbington also provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:
Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus.
Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity
These distinctives and theological convictions define us, not political, social, or cultural trends. In fact, many evangelicals rarely use the term “evangelical” to describe themselves, focusing simply on the core convictions of the triune God, the Bible, faith, Jesus, salvation, evangelism, and discipleship.
The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals includes the following definition and brief history of Evangelicalism:
The term “Evangelicalism” is a wide-reaching definitional “canopy” that covers a diverse number of Protestant traditions, denominations, organizations, and churches. It originates in the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news,” or, more commonly, the “gospel.” During the Reformation, Martin Luther adapted the Latinized form of the term evangelium, dubbing his breakaway movement the evangelische kirche, or “evangelical church”—a name still generally applied to the Lutheran Church in Germany.
In the English-speaking world, however, the modern term usually describes the religious movements and denominations which sprung forth from a series of revivals that swept the North Atlantic Anglo-American world in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Key figures associated with these revivals included the itinerant English evangelist George Whitefield (1715-1770); the founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703-1791) ; and American philosopher and theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). These revivals were particularly responsible for the rise of the Baptists and Methodists from obscure sects to their traditional position as America’s two largest Protestant denominational families.
By the 1820s evangelical Protestantism was by far the dominant expression of Christianity in the overwhelmingly Protestant United States. The concept of evangelism—revival-codified, streamlined, and routinized by evangelists like Charles G. Finney (1792-1875)—became “revivalism” as evangelicals set out to convert the nation. By the decades prior to the Civil War, a largely-evangelical “Benevolent Empire” (in historian Martin Marty’s words) was actively attempting to reshape American society through Bible and tract distribution, the establishment of Sunday Schools and through such reforms as temperance, the early women’s movement, various benevolent and betterment societies, and—most controversial of all—the abolition movement.
After the war, the changes in American society wrought by such powerful forces as urbanization and industrialization, along with new intellectual and theological developments, began to weaken the power of evangelicalism within American culture. Likewise, evangelical cultural hegemony was diminished in pure numeric terms with the influx of millions of non-Protestant immigrants in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. Nonetheless, evangelical Protestantism remained a powerful presence within American culture (as evidenced by the success of evangelists like Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday). Going into the 20th century evangelicalism still held the status of a pervasive American “folk religion” in many sectors of the United States, particularly the South and certain areas of the Midwest.
There are three senses in which the term “evangelical” is used today in the early 21st-century. The first is to view as “evangelical” 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. Bebbington’s definition has become a standard baseline for most scholars. However, some consider his broad categories so inclusive that they would exclude few Christians of any stripe. Historian George M. Marsden has suggested a fifth characteristic—trans-denominationalism—which takes into account evangelicals’ pragmatic penchant for cooperation in support of shared projects and evangelistic efforts.
A second sense of the term 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, and an attitude which insiders “know” and “feel” when they encounter it. As a result, groups as disparate as black Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites and Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists can all come under the evangelical umbrella—demonstrating just how diverse the movement really is.
A third sense of the term is as the self-ascribed label for a largely Midwest-based 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 Carl F.H. Henry, Harold John Ockenga and Billy Graham), institutions (for instance, Moody Bible Institute , Wheaton College, and Fuller Theological Seminary), 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.
“Fundamentalist” is a term that is frequently bandied about in the news media these days. Casually invoked to describe anyone who seems to hold some sort of vaguely-perceived traditional religious belief—be they a Bible Baptist TV preacher, a Hasidic rabbi, a Mormon housewife, or a soldier of the Islamic Jihad—the word has become so overused as to be nearly useless.
When used within the North American historical context, however, there are precedents for the use of this term which restores a sense of descriptive cohesion. Fundamentalism was a movement that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries within American Protestantism reacting against “modernist” theology and biblical criticism as well as changes in the nation’s cultural and social scene. Taking its name from The Fundamentals (1910-1915), a twelve-volume set of essays designed to combat Liberal theology, the movement grew by leaps and bounds after World War I.
During the 1920s, fundamentalists waged a war against modernism in three ways: by (unsuccessfully) attempting to regain control of Protestant denominations, mission boards, and seminaries; by supporting (with mixed success) Prohibition, Sunday “blue laws,” and other measures defending traditional Protestant morality and sensibilities; and (fairly successfully) by attempting to stop the teaching of evolution in the public schools, a doctrine which they saw as inextricably linked to the development of “German” higher criticism and the source of the Great War.
This last strategy resulted in the infamous Scopes Trial fiasco of 1925 (later fictionalized in the highly inaccurate play and film Inherit the Wind), in which a substitute biology teacher in Dayton, TN was charged with illegally teaching evolution to his class. The circus atmosphere of the resultant trial–pitting Presbyterian layman, former Secretary of State, and three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution against the famed Chicago criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow–discredited the movement in the eyes of America’s intellectual and media elites, resulting in fundamentalism’s subsequent disappearance from the nation’s cultural stage. Since the 1940s, the term fundamentalist has come to denote a particularly aggressive style related to the conviction that the separation from cultural decadence and apostate (read liberal) churches are telling marks of faithfulness to Christ.
Most self-described fundamentalist churches today are conservative, separatist Baptist (though often calling themselves “Bible Baptist” or simply “Bible” churches) congregations such as the churches of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), or the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA). Institutions associated with this movement would include Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Tennessee Temple (Chattanooga, TN); representative publications would be The Sword of the Lord and The Biblical Evangelist. Concerns over doctrinal purity and issues of “first-degree separation” (the refusal to associate with groups who endorse questionable doctrinal beliefs or moral practices) and “second-degree separation” (refraining from association or identification with groups or individuals who do not practice first-degree separation) have meant that self-identified fundamentalism has been prone to constant disputes and splits.
Given the imprecision involved in defining exactly what—or who—an evangelical is, it is no surprise that it is extremely difficult to establish a precise estimate of their exact numbers in the United States. With so many different evangelical denominations, thousands upon thousands of independent evangelical churches, evangelical constituencies of varying sizes within historically evangelical “mainline” Protestant denominations–and even inside non-evangelical denominations–there is no single entity that can possibly serve as a representative gatekeeper (or census-taker) for the movement.
For this reason, the best approach to an evangelical headcount is a judicious triangulation of various polling and survey data. But, even this is fraught with problems. As the discussion about the intricacies of definition above would indicate, the framing of the definition or wording of survey questions are important variables that can produce varying results. Until a massive, definitive study is undertaken, estimates of the number of evangelicals in the United States, therefore, are just that: estimates.
One frequently relied-upon casual benchmark over the years has been an attempt to define evangelicals as those that label themselves as “born again.” Between 1976 and 2005 the Gallup organization asked roughly 1,000 adults some permutation of the question “Would you describe yourself as a ‘born-again’ or evangelical Christian?” In that first survey 34% of the people being surveyed responded “yes.” Over the years, the number fluctuated dramatically, reaching a low of 33% in 1987 and 1988 during the televangelist scandals, and a high of 48% in 2005. Overall, the numbers have averaged just under 39% of the population (See Gallup poll results).
Obviously, describing one’s self as “born again” as the definitive benchmark for identifying evangelical believers makes for a problematic statistical tool; the term “evangelical” is even less reliable (in one study, only 75% of Southern Baptists accepted either term!). For a variety of reasons, some groups and individuals which scholars would describe as “in the team picture” simply do not use those words to describe themselves. Unfortunately, attempts to use very tight definitional and behavioral criteria (church attendance, prayer, Bible-reading, evangelism, etc.) also prove frustrating because they ignore a very real slice of the American population which can only be described as “cultural evangelicals.” Similar in many ways to non-practicing Catholics, these lapsed-evangelicals do not show up as particularly pious or devout in studies that measure conventional religious behavior. But when these individuals do evidence any interest in church or seek spiritual change in their lives they almost inevitably gravitate toward points evangelical.
Another frustrating aspect of some studies is that they—for reasons having to do more with political demographics than religious characteristics—tend to separate out nearly all of the nation’s African American Protestant population (roughly 8-9% of the U. S. population) which is overwhelmingly evangelical in theology and orientation (for example, 61% of blacks—the highest of any racial group, by far—described themselves as “born-again” in the 2001 Gallup poll). In summary, when one lays a number of different studies side-by-side and considers the fact that many Americans could be described as “cultural evangelicals” (particularly within the African-American and Southern white populations), a general estimate of the nation’s evangelicals could safely be said to range somewhere between 30-35% of the population, or about 90-100 million Americans.
During most of the 20th century, American evangelicalism as a movement was generally perceived as being reticent about politics because its sights were focused on what seemed more important tasks: evangelism, missions, and nurturing the faithful. All that seemed to change, however, in the 1970s when evangelicals visibly “re-entered” the national spotlight with the rise of Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, a devout Southern Baptist layman who unabashedly claimed to be “born again.”
But the most visible aspect of this new political sensibility was the appearance of right-wing organizations like the Moral Majority and Concerned Women for America. This new “Religious Right” was credited with playing a major role in the “Reagan Revolution” of 1980 (and the ironic ouster of the evangelical President Carter, for the much-less obviously pious Reagan). In retrospect, it now seems clear that the part these organizations played in this outcome was not as great as either the news media or conservative evangelicals once believed. Unarguably, however, there was a new evangelical interest in political participation, which subsequently gave birth to a new generation of “Religious Right” organizations, such as the Christian Coalition.
The reasons for this resurgence are many, including: a natural desire to have a positive impact on culture and society (a subtle indication, perhaps, of the decline of some types of evangelical prophetic interpretations that emphasized an imminent Second Coming); concern over abortion and changing sexual mores in society; and dissatisfaction with the content, direction and power of the mass media and popular culture. However, what seems to have been the single overarching factor has been the post-WWII expansion of the Federal Government into areas and responsibilities that were previously the domain of the state and local government, the individual, the family, and the church.
Yet, it must be made clear that there is no monolithic consensus among evangelicals on politics, any more than there is on theological matters. While the movement is conservative in many regards, there are many evangelicals who would identify their political orientation as liberal or “progressive” and some, like the Sojourners community in Washington D.C., who are leftist in nature.
In terms of party affiliation, the movement has been traditionally perceived as Republican. This impression, however, reflects a bias that centers on the Northern, Midwestern evangelicals of the NAE “card-carrying” variety. When the huge numbers of Southern white and black evangelicals are factored in, it is probably more accurate to say that in the years before 1970 the “average” evangelical was more likely to be a Democrat. With the defection of large numbers of white Southerners to the Republicans in recent decades, the political make-up of evangelicalism has changed. Today, the overall political tenor of the movement could be described as moderately conservative and predominantly Republican. But, recent election trends and changing attitudes—particularly among younger evangelicals—may signal a shift towards a general realignment of evangelical political affiliation.
From the Millerite controversy of the mid-19th century to the phenomenal sales of books like The Late, Great Planet Earth (overall best-selling book of the 1970s), to the popularity of the Left Behind series of end-time novels, and the flap surrounding radio evangelist Harold Camping’s 2011 prediction of an impending Rapture, interest in the apocalyptic has been a highly-visible aspect of the evangelical subculture.
Through most of the 19th century, however, nearly all American evangelicals were convinced of the postmillennial interpretation of the Bible: the decidedly “calmer” belief that the church—through the exercise of its mandate to teach and preach the Gospel—would gradually usher in the Kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s return. Buoyed by the advent of republican government, the seemingly boundless economic promise of their new country, and the impact of movements to reform society, such a possibility seemed likely to American evangelicals of the 1840s and 1850s. However, the disappointments associated with the Civil War and Reconstruction, the problems associated with urbanization and industrialization, and the influx of millions of non-Protestant immigrants made many late 19th-century conservative evangelicals take a less optimistic view of the future.
As a result, evangelicals gravitated toward a set of teachings known as dispensational postmillennialism. Unlike the optimistic views of postmillennialism, dispensationalism was a system that emphasized decline: rebellion in Israel, apostasy in the church, and growing chaos in the world at large. The major systematizer of this viewpoint was John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), one of the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren movement. Darby was convinced that most of the biblical prophecies related to Christ’s return were yet to be fulfilled.
Intrinsic to his views was the “postponement theory,” which saw God in the midst of his divine timetable turning away from a rebellious Israel which had rejected the Messiah to create, build, and then miraculously evacuate (or “rapture”) the church immediately before the Great Tribulation. At that time, God would resume the eternal countdown and his dealings with Israel and the unfolding of the last days—the rise of the Antichrist, the battle of Armageddon, the Second Coming, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God—would come to pass.
The doctrine has experienced fluctuations in its popularity over the years, often coinciding with times of national and international crisis. The key role which the nation of Israel plays within the dispensationalist scheme has been particularly important in this regard over the years as events like the development of the Zionist movement, the creation of the state of Israel, and the seizure of Jerusalem in the Six Days’ War excited speculation about the imminent “rapture” of the saints. The advocacy of this system by some of the movement’s most visible personages (D.L. Moody, C.I. Scofield, Charles E. Fuller, Billy Graham, and Pat Robertson to name but a few), along with the urgency and interest attending prophetic speculation among their rank-and-file followers has led many outsiders—and not a few insulated insiders—to view these beliefs as characteristic of all evangelicals.
But the percentage of the evangelical population which holds to a dispensational view of the Bible is actually dropping. As one might expect with such a diverse movement, there are a wide variety of beliefs within the evangelical community concerning these issues. A general premillennialism and amillennialism (the view that the millennium is strictly a symbolic reference to the current age leading up to the Second Coming and the last judgment) are positions held by a number of evangelicals. If one must search for a “typical” view on the end times among contemporary evangelicals, it is probably best to say that they share a firm attachment to the Scriptural promise that Christ will return to Earth one day. As a saying in the African-American church puts it: “Jesus may not come today. He may not come tomorrow. He may not come when you want Him to but when He does, you can bet He’ll be right on time!”
David W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989)
Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).
Protestant Evangelicalism emphasizes particular doctrines and practices. One of the best summaries of this comes from the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, an international organization and movement of like-minded Evangelicals working together to communicate the good news of Christ to the world. The following comes from The Lausanne Covenant produced by the LCWE.
We, members of the Church of Jesus Christ, from more than 150 nations, participants in the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, praise God for his great salvation and rejoice in the fellowship he has given us with himself and with each other. We are deeply stirred by what God is doing in our day, moved to penitence by our failures and challenged by the unfinished task of evangelization. We believe the Gospel is God’s good news for the whole world, and we are determined by his grace to obey Christ’s commission to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation. We desire, therefore, to affirm our faith and our resolve, and to make public our covenant.
1. THE PURPOSE OF GOD We affirm our belief in the one-eternal God, Creator and Lord of the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who governs all things according to the purpose of his will. He has been calling out from the world a people for himself, and sending his people back into the world to be his servants and his witnesses, for the extension of his kingdom, the building up of Christ’s body, and the glory of his name. We confess with shame that we have often denied our calling and failed in our mission, by becoming conformed to the world or by withdrawing from it. Yet we rejoice that even when borne by earthen vessels the gospel is still a precious treasure. To the task of making that treasure known in the power of the Holy Spirit we desire to dedicate ourselves anew. (Isa. 40:28; Matt. 28:19; Eph. 1:11; Acts 15:14; John 17:6, 18; Eph 4:12; 1 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 12:2; II Cor. 4:7)
2. THE AUTHORITY AND POWER OF THE BIBLE We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We also affirm the power of God’s word to accomplish his purpose of salvation. The message of the Bible is addressed to all men and women. For God’s revelation in Christ and in Scripture is unchangeable. Through it the Holy Spirit still speaks today. He illumines the minds of God’s people in every culture to perceive its truth freshly through their own eyes and thus discloses to the whole Church ever more of the many-colored wisdom of God. (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21; John 10:35; Isa. 55:11; 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:16, Matt. 5:17,18; Jude 3; Eph. 1:17,18; 3:10,18)
3. THE UNIQUENESS AND UNIVERSALITY OF CHRIST We affirm that there is only one Saviour and only one gospel, although there is a wide diversity of evangelistic approaches. We recognise that everyone has some knowledge of God through his general revelation in nature. But we deny that this can save, for people suppress the truth by their unrighteousness. We also reject as derogatory to Christ and the gospel every kind of syncretism and dialogue which implies that Christ speaks equally through all religions and ideologies. Jesus Christ, being himself the only God-man, who gave himself as the only ransom for sinners, is the only mediator between God and people. There is no other name by which we must be saved. All men and women are perishing because of sin, but God loves everyone, not wishing that any should perish but that all should repent. Yet those who reject Christ repudiate the joy of salvation and condemn themselves to eternal separation from God. To proclaim Jesus as “the Saviour of the world” is not to affirm that all people are either automatically or ultimately saved, still less to affirm that all religions offer salvation in Christ. Rather it is to proclaim God’s love for a world of sinners and to invite everyone to respond to him as Saviour and Lord in the wholehearted personal commitment of repentance and faith. Jesus Christ has been exalted above every other name; we long for the day when every knee shall bow to him and every tongue shall confess him Lord. (Gal. 1:6-9;Rom. 1:18-32; I Tim. 2:5,6; Acts 4:12; John 3:16-19; II Pet. 3:9; II Thess. 1:7-9;John 4:42; Matt. 11:28; Eph. 1:20,21; Phil. 2:9-11)
4. THE NATURE OF EVANGELISM To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gifts of the Spirit to all who repent and believe. Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the gospel invitation we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus still calls all who would follow him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with his new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his Church and responsible service in the world. (I Cor. 15:3,4; Acts 2: 32-39; John 20:21; I Cor. 1:23; II Cor. 4:5; 5:11,20; Luke 14:25-33; Mark 8:34; Acts 2:40,47; Mark 10:43-45)
5. CHRISTIAN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all people. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead. (Acts 17:26,31; Gen. 18:25; Isa. 1:17; Psa. 45:7; Gen. 1:26,27; Jas. 3:9; Lev. 19:18; Luke 6:27,35; Jas. 2:14-26; Joh. 3:3,5; Matt. 5:20; 6:33; II Cor. 3:18; Jas. 2:20)
6. THE CHURCH AND EVANGELISM We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. We need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society. In the Church’s mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary. World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The Church is at the very centre of God’s cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel. But a church which preaches the cross must itself be marked by the cross. It becomes a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the gospel or lacks a living faith in God, a genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things including promotion and finance. The church is the community of God’s people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology. (John 17:18; 20:21; Matt. 28:19,20; Acts 1:8; 20:27; Eph. 1:9,10; 3:9-11; Gal. 6:14,17; II Cor. 6:3,4; II Tim. 2:19-21; Phil. 1:27)
7. COOPERATION IN EVANGELISM We affirm that the Church’s visible unity in truth is God’s purpose. Evangelism also summons us to unity, because our oneness strengthens our witness, just as our disunity undermines our gospel of reconciliation. We recognize, however, that organisational unity may take many forms and does not necessarily forward evangelism. Yet we who share the same biblical faith should be closely united in fellowship, work and witness. We confess that our testimony has sometimes been marred by a sinful individualism and needless duplication. We pledge ourselves to seek a deeper unity in truth, worship, holiness and mission. We urge the development of regional and functional cooperation for the furtherance of the Church’s mission, for strategic planning, for mutual encouragement, and for the sharing of resources and experience. (John 17:21,23; Eph. 4:3,4; John 13:35; Phil. 1:27; John 17:11-23)
8. CHURCHES IN EVANGELISTIC PARTNERSHIP We rejoice that a new missionary era has dawned. The dominant role of western missions is fast disappearing. God is raising up from the younger churches a great new resource for world evangelization, and is thus demonstrating that the responsibility to evangelise belongs to the whole body of Christ. All churches should therefore be asking God and themselves what they should be doing both to reach their own area and to send missionaries to other parts of the world. A reevaluation of our missionary responsibility and role should be continuous. Thus a growing partnership of churches will develop and the universal character of Christ’s Church will be more clearly exhibited. We also thank God for agencies which labor in Bible translation, theological education, the mass media, Christian literature, evangelism, missions, church renewal and other specialist fields. They too should engage in constant self-examination to evaluate their effectiveness as part of the Church’s mission. (Rom. 1:8; Phil. 1:5; 4:15; Acts 13:1-3, I Thess. 1:6-8)
9. THE URGENCY OF THE EVANGELISTIC TASK More than 2,700 million people, which is more than two-thirds of all humanity, have yet to be evangelised. We are ashamed that so many have been neglected; it is a standing rebuke to us and to the whole Church. There is now, however, in many parts of the world an unprecedented receptivity to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are convinced that this is the time for churches and para-church agencies to pray earnestly for the salvation of the unreached and to launch new efforts to achieve world evangelization. A reduction of foreign missionaries and money in an evangelised country may sometimes be necessary to facilitate the national church’s growth in self-reliance and to release resources for unevangelised areas. Missionaries should flow ever more freely from and to all six continents in a spirit of humble service. The goal should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time, that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and to receive the good news. We cannot hope to attain this goal without sacrifice. All of us are shocked by the poverty of millions and disturbed by the injustices which cause it. Those of us who live in affluent circumstances accept our duty to develop a simple life-style in order to contribute more generously to both relief and evangelism. (John 9:4; Matt. 9:35-38; Rom. 9:1-3; I Cor. 9:19-23; Mark 16:15; Isa. 58:6,7; Jas. 1:27; 2:1-9; Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 2:44,45; 4:34,35)
10. EVANGELISM AND CULTURE The development of strategies for world evangelization calls for imaginative pioneering methods. Under God, the result will be the rise of churches deeply rooted in Christ and closely related to their culture. Culture must always be tested and judged by Scripture. Because men and women are God’s creatures, some of their culture is rich in beauty and goodness. Because they are fallen, all of it is tainted with sin and some of it is demonic. The gospel does not presuppose the superiority of any culture to another, but evaluates all cultures according to its own criteria of truth and righteousness, and insists on moral absolutes in every culture. Missions have all too frequently exported with the gospel an alien culture and churches have sometimes been in bondage to culture rather than to Scripture. Christ’s evangelists must humbly seek to empty themselves of all but their personal authenticity in order to become the servants of others, and churches must seek to transform and enrich culture, all for the glory of God. (Mark 7:8,9,13; Gen. 4:21,22; I Cor. 9:19-23; Phil. 2:5-7; II Cor. 4:5)
11. EDUCATION AND LEADERSHIP We confess that we have sometimes pursued church growth at the expense of church depth, and divorced evangelism from Christian nurture. We also acknowledge that some of our missions have been too slow to equip and encourage national leaders to assume their rightful responsibilities. Yet we are committed to indigenous principles, and long that every church will have national leaders who manifest a Christian style of leadership in terms not of domination but of service. We recognise that there is a great need to improve theological education, especially for church leaders. In every nation and culture there should be an effective training programme for pastors and laity in doctrine, discipleship, evangelism, nurture and service. Such training programmes should not rely on any stereotyped methodology but should be developed by creative local initiatives according to biblical standards. (Col. I:27,28; Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5,9; Mark 10:42-45; Eph. 4:11,12)
12. SPIRITUAL CONFLICT We believe that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil, who are seeking to overthrow the Church and frustrate its task of world evangelization. We know our need to equip ourselves with God’s armour and to fight this battle with the spiritual weapons of truth and prayer. For we detect the activity of our enemy, not only in false ideologies outside the Church, but also inside it in false gospels which twist Scripture and put people in the place of God. We need both watchfulness and discernment to safeguard the biblical gospel. We acknowledge that we ourselves are not immune to worldliness of thoughts and action, that is, to a surrender to secularism. For example, although careful studies of church growth, both numerical and spiritual, are right and valuable, we have sometimes neglected them. At other times, desirous to ensure a response to the gospel, we have compromised our message, manipulated our hearers through pressure techniques, and become unduly preoccupied with statistics or even dishonest in our use of them. All this is worldly. The Church must be in the world; the world must not be in the Church. (Eph. 6:12; II Cor. 4:3,4; Eph. 6:11,13-18; II Cor. 10:3-5; I John 2:18-26; 4:1-3; Gal. 1:6-9; II Cor. 2:17; 4:2; John 17:15)
13. FREEDOM AND PERSECUTION It is the God-appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the Church may obey God, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and preach the gospel without interference. We therefore pray for the leaders of nations and call upon them to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practise and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God and as set forth in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also express our deep concern for all who have been unjustly imprisoned, and especially for those who are suffering for their testimony to the Lord Jesus. We promise to pray and work for their freedom. At the same time we refuse to be intimidated by their fate. God helping us, we too will seek to stand against injustice and to remain faithful to the gospel, whatever the cost. We do not forget the warnings of Jesus that persecution is inevitable. (I Tim. 1:1-4, Acts 4:19; 5:29; Col. 3:24; Heb. 13:1-3; Luke 4:18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12; Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21)
14. THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Father sent his Spirit to bear witness to his Son; without his witness ours is futile. Conviction of sin, faith in Christ, new birth and Christian growth are all his work. Further, the Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit; thus evangelism should arise spontaneously from a Spirit-filled church. A church that is not a missionary church is contradicting itself and quenching the Spirit. Worldwide evangelization will become a realistic possibility only when the Spirit renews the Church in truth and wisdom, faith, holiness, love and power. We therefore call upon all Christians to pray for such a visitation of the sovereign Spirit of God that all his fruit may appear in all his people and that all his gifts may enrich the body of Christ. Only then will the whole church become a fit instrument in his hands, that the whole earth may hear his voice. (I Cor. 2:4; John 15:26;27; 16:8-11; I Cor. 12:3; John 3:6-8; II Cor. 3:18; John 7:37-39; I Thess. 5:19; Acts 1:8; Psa. 85:4-7; 67:1-3; Gal. 5:22,23; I Cor. 12:4-31; Rom. 12:3-8)
15. THE RETURN OF CHRIST We believe that Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly, in power and glory, to consummate his salvation and his judgment. This promise of his coming is a further spur to our evangelism, for we remember his words that the gospel must first be preached to all nations. We believe that the interim period between Christ’s ascension and return is to be filled with the mission of the people of God, who have no liberty to stop before the end. We also remember his warning that false Christs and false prophets will arise as precursors of the final Antichrist. We therefore reject as a proud, self-confident dream the notion that people can ever build a utopia on earth. Our Christian confidence is that God will perfect his kingdom, and we look forward with eager anticipation to that day, and to the new heaven and earth in which righteousness will dwell and God will reign forever. Meanwhile, we rededicate ourselves to the service of Christ and of people in joyful submission to his authority over the whole of our lives. (Mark 14:62; Heb. 9:28; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8-11; Matt. 28:20; Mark 13:21-23; 1 John 2:18; 4:1-3; Luke 12:32; Rev. 21:1-5; II Pet. 3:13; Matt. 28:18)
CONCLUSION Therefore, in the light of this our faith and our resolve, we enter into a solemn covenant with God and with each other, to pray, to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the whole world. We call upon others to join us. May God help us by his grace and for his glory to be faithful to this our covenant! Amen, Alleluia!
Religious Vital Signs
A June 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life touched on various aspects of this diverse, worldwide religious movement:
[M]ost evangelical Protestant leaders who live in the Global South (58%) say that evangelical Christians are gaining influence on life in their countries. By contrast, most leaders who live in the Global North (66%) say that, in the societies in which they live, evangelicals are losing influence. U.S. evangelical leaders are especially downbeat about the prospects for evangelical Christianity in their society; 82% say evangelicals are losing influence in the United States today, while only 17% think evangelicals are gaining influence.
In general, evangelical leaders who live in the Global South (sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East/North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia) are optimistic about the prospects for evangelicalism in their countries, while those who live in the Global North (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) tend to be more pessimistic. Seven-in-ten evangelical leaders who live in the Global South (71%) expect that five years from now the state of evangelicalism in their countries will be better than it is today. But a majority of evangelical leaders in the Global North expect that the state of evangelicalism in their countries will either stay about the same (21%) or worsen (33%) over the next five years.
These are among the key findings of the Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders, which offers a detailed portrait of 2,196 evangelical leaders from 166 countries and territories who were invited to attend the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (also known as “Cape Town 2010”) held in October 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The Pew Forum conducted the survey with the assistance of the Lausanne Movement as part of Cape Town 2010. It is the latest report of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, an effort funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and The John Templeton Foundation to analyze religious change and its impact on societies around the world.
Other major findings include:
Evangelical Beliefs and Practices
More than nine-in-ten (96%) of the evangelical leaders surveyed say that Christianity is the one, true faith leading to eternal life, and 95% say that believing otherwise — taking the position that “Jesus Christ is NOT the only path to salvation” — is incompatible with being a good evangelical.
Virtually all the leaders (98%) agree that the Bible is the word of God. But they are almost evenly divided between those who say the Bible should be read literally, word for word (50%), and those who do not think that everything in the Bible should be taken literally (48%). They are similarly split on whether it is necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person (49% yes, 49% no).
About four-in-ten (42%) of the evangelical leaders say the consumption of alcohol is compatible with being a good evangelical, while 52% say it is incompatible.
In a number of ways, leaders in the Global South are more conservative than those in the Global North. For instance, leaders in the Global South are more likely than those in the Global North to read the Bible literally (58% vs. 40%) and to favor making the Bible the official law of the land in their countries (58% vs. 28%). Leaders in the Global South are also much more inclined than those in the Global North to say that consuming alcohol is incompatible with being a good evangelical (75% vs. 23%).
Tensions with Secularism and Modernity
Overall, evangelical leaders around the world view secularism, consumerism and popular culture as the greatest threats they face today. More of the leaders express concern about these aspects of modern life than express concern about other religions, internal disagreements among evangelicals or government restrictions on religion.About seven-in-ten (71%) see the influence of secularism as a major threat to evangelical Christianity in the countries where they live. Two-thirds (67%) also cite “too much emphasis on consumerism and material goods” as a major threat, while nearly six-in-ten (59%) put “sex and violence in popular culture” into the same category. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say there is a “natural conflict” between being an evangelical and living in a modern society.
Relations with Other Religious Traditions
Conflict between religious groups, by contrast, does not loom as a particularly large concern for most of the evangelical leaders surveyed. A majority says that conflict between religious groups is either a small problem (41%) or not a problem at all (14%) in their countries — though a sizable minority considers it either a moderately big problem (27%) or a very big problem (17%).
Those who live in the Middle East and North Africa are especially inclined to see inter-religious conflict as a moderately big (37%) or very big problem (35%). Nine-in-ten of the evangelical leaders (90%) who live in Muslim-majority countries say the influence of Islam is a major threat, compared with 41% of leaders who live elsewhere.
On the whole, the evangelical Protestant leaders express favorable opinions of adherents of other faiths in the Judeo-Christian tradition, including Judaism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. But solid majorities express unfavorable views of Buddhists (65%), Hindus (65%), Muslims (67%) and atheists (70%). Interestingly, the leaders who live in Muslim-majority countries generally are more positive in their assessments of Muslims than are the evangelical leaders overall.
Social and Political Attitudes
Overall, the global evangelical leaders hold conservative opinions on social issues. For example, more than nine-in-ten say abortion is usually wrong (45%) or always wrong (51%). More than eight-in-ten say that society should discourage homosexuality (84%).
Leaders from the Global South tend to be more conservative than their counterparts from the Global North on some issues relating to family, marriage and gender. For example, two-thirds (67%) of those from the Global South say a wife must always obey her husband, while 39% of the leaders from the Global North take that position. Leaders from the Global South are nearly twice as likely as those from the Global North to say that all adults have a responsibility to marry and have children (60% vs. 33%).
The global evangelical leaders support political activism. More than eight-in-ten (84%) think that religious leaders should express their views on political matters, while just 13% say religious leaders should not express their views.
The Pew Forum conducted the survey in nine languages, including English, from August to December 2010. A total of approximately 4,500 people participated in the Third Lausanne Congress, and nearly half of them completed the survey.
For additional findings, read the full report on the Pew Forum’s website.
Helping Evangelicals practice a neighborhood theology of multi-faith engagement that embraces the Christian practices of love of neighbor and enemy, and hospitality while maintaining faithfulness to Evangelical convictions.
“Interreligious dialogue is not just allowed, but I would suggest the world situation demands it.” – John Stott
“The worldwide evangelical community is faced with a critical choice. How will we respond to our new religious neighbors in an age of increasing interconnectedness. Our world has changed and the Evangelical Chapter of the FRD is effectively creating space and offering practical tools for evangelicals to express our faith and conviction with civility in the broader public square.”
-Bob Roberts, DMin, Senior Pastor of Northwood Church, Keller, TX and Global Faith Forum
“Living with our deepest differences is one of the greatest challenges of the global era, and freedom of conscience for all without exception is a prerequisite for any solution. No one has more of a stake in this issue than Evangelical Christians, and I support the timely and admirable work that the Evangelical chapter of FRD is doing on behalf of people of all faiths and none.”
– Dr. Os Guinness, author of The Global Public Square
“The Evangelical Chapter of the FRD promotes a model of interreligious diplomacy that works toward peace without any compromise of one’s faith. It encourages different faith communities to be authentically faithful to their historic beliefs and practices and find within them the resources to reach out to one another in love and respect. This new paradigm of relating to the “religious other” is crucial in a post-9/11, globalized, pluralistic world.”
-Rick Love, PhD, President of Peace Catalyst International
“I’m grateful for any platform and effort toward getting us truly to listen to each other and engage in constructive, God-honoring dialogue. I see few attempts to pull this off that really move the conversation forward, but thankfully, what I see at FRD is exemplary. I’m not interested in a vanilla conversation that asks us to leave our beliefs at the door. But I believe the kind of inspired, collaborative conversation that FRD is after is what we need a whole lot more of in today’s world.”
-David Livermore, PhD, author of several books on cultural intelligence and global leadership, and president of the Cultural Intelligence Center
Photo Credit: David Goldman / AP
Evangelicals Engaging Our Multi-Faith Neighbors
American Christianity is experiencing decline in areas as mainline Protestantism, and even among conservative evangelicals losses are seen among youth, as well as some of the most committed members of congregations. While Christianity still retains majority status numerically, the growing multiplicity of religious faiths in America is clearly evident. Various religions are asserting their presence in the public square, and increasingly Christians are encountering their adherents not only on the Internet and reality television, but also in workplaces, neighborhoods, and sometimes even families as the number of interfaith marriages continues to rise. This brings us into daily contact with a multi-faith world. Our neighbors are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Pagans, Atheists and more.
Evangelical perceptions of other religions are many times negative. In a 2011 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life global survey of evangelical leaders, two findings are especially important. Evangelical perspectives of other religions were largely unfavorable. Pew states, “Of the evangelical leaders who express opinions on other religious groups, most say they hold generally unfavorable views of Hindus (65%), Buddhists (65%) and Muslims (67%).” Related to this, Pew also considered evangelical assumptions about how other religions act toward us. The world religions are viewed as significantly unfriendly with Hindus at 41%, Buddhists at 39%, Muslims at 69%, and the non-religious at 45%. It is not surprising that evangelical leaders would hold unfavorable views about those in other religious traditions with whom they fundamentally disagree. In one sense “unfavorable” might refer to concerns about the truth claims related to alternative beliefs and practices, or the eternal destinies of adherents of non-Christian religions. However, our unfavorable attitudes are also apparent in stereotypical and negative attitudes toward the adherents of these religions themselves. It is our conviction that evangelicals should rethink such attitudes.
In order to address the challenges of a multi-faith world, the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy helps evangelicals practice a neighborhood theology of multi-faith engagement that embraces the Christian practices of love of neighbor and enemy, and hospitality, while maintaining faithfulness to evangelical convictions.
By following our approach to multi-faith engagement evangelicals will better:
Follow the example of Christ
Grow in love for multi-faith neighbors
Grow in the fruit of the Spirit
Become more persuasive in witness
Put faith into practice as peacemakers
Our approach is grounded in the teachings and example of Jesus who said his disciples were to love their neighbors (Mark 12:30-31), as well as their enemies (Matthew 5:44). This is the basis for Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and it was demonstrated in his life as he interacted with Gentiles, such as with the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26), and his participation in table fellowship and hospitality (Luke 15:1-2). Jesus also taught his disciples to be involved in peacemaking (Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18).
Areas of Concentration
The Evangelical Chapter focuses on five main areas of activity:
1) Telling the stories of Christians loving their multi-faith neighbors: We are discovering the amazing stories of Christians engaging their multi-faith neighbors in love. We share these stories with evangelicals so that they might become an inspiration for others to emulate.
2) Equipping University Students and Church Congregations: This facet of our work involves facilitating transformational multi-faith experiences and imparting a new theology to understand and practice this. This involves two components: table fellowship and education. Our chapter helps arrange Diplomacy Dinners that bring together evangelicals and adherents of other religious traditions that break down barriers, and also begins relationships and conversations. This is followed by imparting a new theological framework for understanding and relationships with others. The Loving Our Religious Neighbors educational program prepares students on university and college campuses, and members of churches. LORN incorporates educational and relational components. The educational component helps Christians discover a new biblical and theological basis for interreligious encounter. The relational component involves multi-faith trust-building relationships across religious traditions and includes collaborative service activities in local communities.
3) Raising Awareness and Shaping Thought: The Chapter writes articles and essays, produces podcasts, compiles a collection of suggested resources, and speaks in various venues, each as a way of raising awareness and shaping thinking among evangelicals on multi-faith engagement.
4) Conducting Research and Producing Scholarship: In addition to work on a popular level, the Evangelical Chapter also conducts research and produces academic scholarship related multi-faith engagement, religious diplomacy, and peacemaking. The venues for this scholarship include research projects, journals and books, as well as academic conferences. The results of the Chapter’s academic work are shared with the Evangelical academic community, and also incorporated into our work on a popular level.
5) Networking and Participatory Projects: The Evangelical FRD chapter networks with others in order to work with like-minded people, to share our approach, and to connect with others engaged in multi-faith engagement. In addition, we participate in other projects related to our vision and mission.
Learn more by visiting our website at www.EvangelicalFRD.org.
The mailing address is:
P.O. Box 160361
Clearfield, UT 84016
Our chapter is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.