Before I continue my short series on the “spirit” of Evangelicalism, I wanted to hear from you. I know that we have a particular type of audience, but I also think we have a good mix of readers.

Here is what I want you to do:

  • Define “Evangelical” in 100 words or less.
  • Do you think that Evangelicalism is the best option? If not, what is?
  • Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical?
  • Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical in good conscience?
  • Also, look in the upper right of this blog. You will see a poll. Take it.

Oh, one more thing. Write your answers before you look at other’s.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    18 replies to "Evangelicalism: Your Turn"

    • C Michael Patton

      Wow Jacob. Very insightful. Glad you came out of the woodwork. Wish you would more often!

    • Jim W.

      This is very off the cuff.

      Definition: Orthodox Christians who emphasize the importance of and need for each individual to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Evangelicals stress the responsibility of each believer to be personally engaged in or supporting the proclamation of the gospel of Christ and the training of new converts into obedient followers of Christ.

      Best option: Yes.

      Describe myself as Evangelical? Typically, no. But I’ll wear it.

      Good conscience: Yes.

      I agree most with “those who evangelize others” in poll.

    • Cadis

      Define “Evangelical” in 100 words or less.

      Evangelical is a protestant but non-denominational. It is united in the essential doctrines of salvation , bare essential doctrines of orthodoxy to enable unity for the furtherance of the gospel message.

      Do you think that Evangelicalism is the best option?
      I’m not sure

      If not, what is?
      I lean more toward Fundamentalism within the framework of Evangelicalism

      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical?
      1st Fundamentalist then Evangelical, in other words I wish you’d agree with me(and the bible 🙂 ) but if you don’t it should not be by coercion.

      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical in good conscious? No.

    • An evangelical, as suggested by the term “evangel” is a Gospel person – one who is completely and utterly sold out to the cause of the Gospel, the wonderful news that Christ came, lived the perfect life, submitted to the will of the Father in dying an atoning death and that this work is the basis for salvation from the penalty, power and ultimately the presence of sin.

      I believe a whole-hearted return to that emphasis of the Gospel and its proclamation is the best option. Evangelicalism has substituted the best thing – the proclamation of the good news – for mere social action, as if that is what truly matters. I am not saying that the care of the poor, needy and disadvantaged is an evil – not at all, BUT I am saying that the call to such works is not the Gospel.

      I believe in the Gospel and its ultimate victory, and thus I have no problem referring to myself as an evangelical. Further, I would hold with utmost importance the doctrines which impact the Gospel – such as the nature of God, the nature of Jesus, the nature of Scripture, etc. With that, for me at least, comes a strong confessional foundation from which to run with the work of the Gospel.

    • #John1453

      Define “Evangelical” in 100 words or less.

      Biblically and theologically conservative protestant Christians who arev very Bible focussed to a fault, are pietistic, but not isolationist, Paulocentric, and agree that evanglization is a good thing.

      [end. now, explanation]

      I wrote “agree that evangelization is a good thing” because while they node in assent, they do little of it personally and instead support missionaries to do it for them so that their neighbour won’t look at them sideways. “Pietistic” because of the whole non-liturgical have quiet time thing. “Not isolationist” because they do get involved in their communities, just often not as noisily as mainstream churches. “Bible focussed” because of the centrality of bible study, preaching and inerrancy. To a fault, because I think that many rest their faith on the Bible rather than Jesus. “Paulocentric” because I actually don’t think that evangelicals are Christocentric apart from the fact that faith in Jesus is required to get in. Once in, however, the life and teachings
      of Jesus get short shift and the focus is all on Paul’s letters and revelation.

      Do you think that Evangelicalism is the best option? If not, what is?

      It could be. I’m more of a good local church guy, whether or not it is self-consciously “evangelical”. Evangelical is a bad / negative / pejorative description so its probably not a useful label anymore.

      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical?

      Hmmmm. I go to an evangelical church, but inerrancy is not a big deal to me though it’s my working assumption. Others might call me that way, but I’d never call myself that because of the negative connotations of “evangelical”. It’s just too dirty of a word now.

      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical in good conscious?

      I hope I’m conscious. At least I think I am because I’m presently thinking and (I hope) not dreaming.

      Also, look in the upper right of this blog. You will see a poll. Take it.

      Mmm, the options aren’t great, but I can go with spreading the gospel.


    • Jason

      An Evangelical is theologically similar to a Fundamentalist, but accepts that some of the social aspects of Fundamentalism are negotiable. Evangelicals are suspicious of ritual, liturgy, and anything else they see as “dead”, formalized religion; this dedication to informality contributes to an anti-intellectual bias that is more the product of conservatism than conviction. On top of that, Evangelicals are simply too darned nice to tell anyone they don’t know what they’re talking about; if the intention, language, and tone are right, there’s almost no statement too heretical or ill-informed foran Evangelical service or Bible study.

      I think Evangelicalism is close to the best option in mainstream (not mainline) Christianity right now, but its theological and exegetical immaturity keeps it from taking advantage of its flexibility and informality to complete the work of the Reformation. I could see it in the very long run being eclipsed by what I see today as a small but real and committed movement within Messianic Judaism that avoids extra-Scriptural theological definition.

      I once described myself as an Evangelical, but changes in my own theological outlook made me unable to do so in good conscience. In those rare times when I can’t avoid labeling myself, I describe myself as a disciple of Jesus.

    • Michael


      Definition of Evangelicalism:
      The sad truth CMP is that I can’t define it any more. In the end game a words usage is it’s definition and the usage of the word “Evangelical” has been so abused as to deprive it of any meaning. If we are to look at things historically I agree wholeheartedly with the definition of “unity on essential, liberty on non-essentials” and furthermore I think that this is what the definition should be. I would also add a belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the final authority for faith and practice, while stopping short of requiring belief in inerrancy. The problem is I’m not sure this is true anymore. It seems to me that many who claim to be Evangelicals these days are really fundamentalists or liberals. Your either a heretic for not agreeing with them, or they don’t believe there is any Truth to disagree with.

      Is Evangelicalism the Best Option???
      As defined historically I absolutely believe it is the best option because it avoids the extremes of all the other options. It is the only way between dividing over even the smallest issues as fundamentalists do and holding that there is no Truth as the postmoderns do (or at least that it can’t be known).

      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical???
      I try not to simply because what I mean by Evangelical and what people think of when they hear Evangelical are not one and the same.

      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical in good conscience?
      Not sure what the difference between this question and the last one is. However, just to elaborate. I may not use the term Evangelical, but as described historically I am most definitely an Evangelical with leanings towards some of the more conservative emergers (Dan Kimball, Erwin Mcmanus, Mark Driscoll, etc. etc.). The fundamentalists call me a postmodern liberal while the liberals call me a fundamentalist. I feel that this is probably a good place to be.

    • Gisela

      “Corporate Salesman Christianity”. Thank you for naming it.

    • mbaker

      I’ve always heard the term evangelical defined as those who evangelize the unsaved. However, we know there are areas of the church who call themselves by the term, but believe in election/predestination so strongly they don’t really stress evangelism. So it is hard to define evangelicalism as just one thing nowadays, especially with the liberal post modernist/emergers coming to the forefront now as well. Despite all these different factions, however, for me it still simply means carrying out Christ’s commission to preach the gospel, not a focus upon a particular denominational or personal agenda.

      I find non-denominational, Bible based churches the best option over all, since there is less arguing over what is essential and what isn’t.

      I would not describe myself so much as an evangelical, at least in the direction I see the movement going now, but neither would I include myself in the ecumenical movement either. Guess I am just too independent!

    • Brad


      “I am not saying that the care of the poor, needy and disadvantaged is an evil – not at all, BUT I am saying that the call to such works is not the Gospel.”

      I hope I’m not interrupting the definitions, and I don’t want to start a huge debate, but I take issue with your quoted statement. Almost all of Jesus’ life was comprised of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, serving the poor etc., and he frequently commanded us to do the same.

      However, I will agree that although it is noble, serving the poor/hungry etc. with no mention of why we do it and who we are modeling ourselves after is not very fruitful, and should be avoided.


    • Yes, Jesus commanded us to social action, but Jesus commissioned the disciples for the last time with these words: “Go ye therefore and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be condemned.”

      Social action is a FRUIT of the Gospel – not the message itself…

    • John

      1. Evangelical = Protestant who is not a liberal.

      2. Eastern Orthodoxy.

      3. Not in the sense in which I think you are talking about.

      4. Not in the sense in which I think you are talking about.

      5. I couldn’t sign off on any of the poll answers, and two of them are highly US specific.

    • C Michael Patton

      Yeah, mostly because I live in the US!

    • #John1453

      Evangelicals are christians who use the NIV.

    • kristin

      Define “Evangelical” in 100 words or less.
      Well, literally speaking, “of the good news/gospel”. I think to be a true evangelical, one must live the gospel: radical love and grace

      Do you think that Evangelicalism is the best option? If not, what is?
      I think to live the gospel is the highest calling of creation. That said, I think most groups that subscribe to the tends of faith which are labeled “evangelicalism” often fall short of the gospel (as we all do) as they get distracted by pietism or judgment of others or fear – which all lead to a distortion of the gospel until it is a message of self-love, fear, or in some of the most drastic cases, hatred. As such, I think the “best option” is to affiliate oneself not with a label or trend such as “evangelicalism” but to identify oneself with Christ, call oneself a Christian, and strive to live the gospel in a community of believers (not necessarily like minded believers, either – just believers who also genuinely strive to live and love like Christ).
      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical?
      At times. I certainly describe myself as gospel-driven. But the term “evangelical” has become loaded with fear and hatred in many non-evangelical circles, and so i often choose other words to describe myself just so as to avoid alienating the people around me. And how sad is that for the evangelical community? I dont avoid identification with the evangelical community for fear of persecution – I understand that if we live as radical Christians, we will always be persecuted. But no, this is different. I dont call myself an evangelical very often because that word brings up so many hurt and fearful feelings in those outside the evangelical community. How it breaks my heart, that we are not known by our love, but moreso by our hate and our fearmongering (or at least a few loud people are known for this and it casts such a light on us all).
      Do you describe yourself as an Evangelical in good conscience?
      See above.

      in Christ,

    • mbaker


      I can certainly identify with your questions.

      However, here is the question I ask myself most often: How do unbelievers see us, and how does that affect our witness for Christ? This should be the defining question not how we evangelicals see God, but how He is.

      If we only identify it with evangelicalism, a broad term which seems to include most non-ecumenical Christians nowadays, what does that really say to the unbeliever about Christianity, except that we are every bit as confused about who we are? How does that promote the gospel?

      In my mind, that should not be the question at all. We should be able to define ourselves, in no uncertain terms, as to who we really are in Christ, without compromise, not in who we think we should be to be most acceptable in the world’s eyes.

    • Matt B.

      “Social action is a FRUIT of the Gospel – not the message itself…”

      I believe that sometimes it is the only message that people will really hear. After all, actions do speak louder than words. Only when we have someone’s attention by our actions, can we explain to them the why’s. So I believe that social action is a very, very important part of the gospel message and not just a result (or fruit); it is the physical example of God’s love.

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