Evangelicalism is a somewhat broad term used to describe a movement within Protestantism that is characterized by an emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship begins when a person receives Christ’s forgiveness and is spiritually reborn. Those who ascribe to this belief are called Evangelicals.
The word evangelicalism is derived from the Greek words euangelion, which means “good news,” and euangelizomai, which means “to proclaim as good news.” This good news is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3b-5). This good news, which is the Gospel of Christ, and the preaching of it are what Evangelicalism was based upon.
The roots of Evangelicalism go back to the Protestant Reformation, during which time the Bible was brought to the masses. Formerly neglected biblical truths were rediscovered and taught. It wasn’t until the great revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America, though, that Evangelicalism truly began as a movement. As happened during the Reformation, the Evangelical movement and its focus on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ brought a renewed vigor in accurately interpreting and applying God’s Word. This has carried through to this day, though the term has come to be misused and misapplied.
Traditionally, Evangelicalism has been theologically conservative. This has become less and less distinctive, however. Its current use is no longer limited to actual born-again Christians, nor to those considered to be conservatives or fundamentalists. In fact, some simply equate Evangelicalism with Protestantism itself, liberal or otherwise. Sadly, Evangelicalism is now most often equated with conservative politics. While an Evangelical Christian worldview will result in conservative political views, politics is definitely not the focus of true Evangelicalism.
So, the definition of Evangelicalism varies in the eyes of the world. The true heart of Evangelicalism, though, is in proclaiming the Gospel message in both word and deed. To an Evangelical Christian, there is no higher calling than to live out and share this message and the truth of God’s love.