Word Study: Evangelical

A few things in life bother me.  One is the fact that we cannot find a universal word for a “soft drink.”  We’ve all heard it and said it.  You are serving drinks at a picnic and one person asks for a “Pop.”  Don’t ask me why, I’ve never been able to figure out, why we say pop.  Someone else will ask for a “Soda,” but my favorite is this type of exchange that you will get in Oklahoma as well as other places.  We might be told, “I would like a “Coke.”  We respond with the unfortunately obvious response, “Which kind?”  They respond, “A Dr. Pepper.”  This is normal, and this bothers me.  If you want a Dr. Pepper, just tell me a “Dr. Pepper.”  This bothers me because it cheapens the word Coke.  It has spread the definition of coke well beyond the red can and the yummy taste to include all cans and all tastes.

This happens with our words sometimes.  We take a word and overtime it stretches far beyond what it has been intended for.  Evangelical is one of those words.  It is a word that has been cheapened and stretched to define far more than it should.  Some have taken the moniker “evangelical” and used it to define themselves in way that distorts the meaning and understanding in the first place.  There is now a movement to reclaim the word “Evangelical.”  (Capitalized on purpose.)  May 7, 2008 a group of American Christians from across denominations, across academia, and across racial boundaries have banded together with a 20 page statement called The Evangelical Manifesto.  This is their effort to reclaim the word Evangelical as a proper noun like Protestant. 

I may take it bit by bit a little later, but for now just my overall impressions of the document.  I like the fact that there is an attempt to reclaim one of the most important words in the Christian language.  Evangelical comes from the Greek word  for gospel.  So, as their first major task to define themselves in light of the gospel and life of Jesus Christ.  We are to have our identity in who Jesus was and our belief and devotion to Jesus the Nazarene. 

Who Jesus was, what Jesus did, and what Jesus is leading us to do, now.  One of the key statments is this, “First and foremost we Evangelicals are for Someone and for something rather than against anyone or anything.”  We are for Jesus and the good news that the Gospel brings with it.  We don’t stand against those who do not agree with us, instead we stand with our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is what we have to give to the world: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, who as Bishop WIllimon says, “Lived briefly, died violently, and rose unexpectedly.”  This is the Rock that we stand on and stand for.

Now this is not a perfect document.  It is a 20 page document that attempts to reclaim and define a word that has thousands of different definitions.  It will fall short of explaining everything, but as an Evangelical we need to reclaim it.  It is not to late to redeem the word, but more importantly it is not to late to live like The Word.   

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2 Comments

Filed under Thoughts on Life with God

2 responses to “Word Study: Evangelical

  1. Shannon

    You should read Dr. Collins’ book on evangelicalism in America. If you take him for Church History 2, you’ll have that opportunity.

  2. Heather Tiger

    Good points, although there is no need to pick on Dr. Pepper. Just because the can is more crimson colored…. We can’t all be winners!

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