For I am not ashamed of this GOOD NEWS about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.
Romans 1:16 (NLT)
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings GOOD NEWS,
who publishes peace, who brings GOOD NEWS of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7 (NLT)
A few months ago, I was in a small group discussion in one of our churches. A lady, who has been a long-time member of this church, said that she recently invited a friend of hers to church. When asked by the friend what church she attended, she replied, “The Evangelical Church.” The friend then asked her the question that many dread, “What is an evangelical church?” This dear lady said she didn’t know exactly how to explain it to her in a simple way. How do you tell someone briefly and easily what an evangelical is?
No doubt many of us who have been in The Evangelical Church for some time have had a similar encounter. Maybe even some who attend our churches would have the same question as this friend who has never been in an Evangelical Church. The word “evangelical” probably appears to many to be either archaic or devoid of any positive connotation.
I have heard many people say that it sounds archaic. Many contend that it is old and has lost its meaning and significance. They say people can’t even pronounce or spell it, let alone explain what it means. (In fact, I am surprised when someone can spell and pronounce it.) Maybe, they say, it is time to move on and come up with another name that has more meaning in our contemporary culture.
I also have heard people say that it lacks, in today’s culture, any positive connotation. This is because it has become largely a word associated with fundamentalism, social conservatism, and right-wing politics. Evangelicals are almost never spoken of in positive terms in any form of popular media. Most recently a great many people in America believe evangelicals compromised Christian values by voting for Donald Trump. Because of that, for a great many Americans being evangelical will never be a good thing. Evangelicals are usually depicted as being bigoted, racist, homophobic, and without compassion for the needy.
So, because “evangelical” is hard to explain, archaic, and intertwined with negative perceptions, is it time to jettison the word and find some other word to declare who we are?
As we approach our 50th anniversary in June 2018 maybe it is a good time to discuss our name. We need to ask the questions:
What does it mean to be evangelical?
Are we living up to our name?
Does our name convey who we want to be in the next 50 years?
I hope from here until our General Conference in June 2018 to celebrate our 50th anniversary to explore these questions in each issue of ONMISSION NEWS. We are going to have in each issue a section entitled People of the Good News. Each month will feature an article from our history and an article from present day Evangelical churches that demonstrate what it means to be Evangelical. There will also be an article from me describing what I believe it means to be Evangelical. I hope you will find these articles helpful and please encourage other members of your church to join you in reading about who we are.
As I listened to this godly lady and her frustration in trying to tell her friend what an Evangelical church is, I suggested the following; “The word evangelical literally means ‘good news.’ Just tell her that we are people who believe the Good News of Jesus Christ.” That’s who we are. Evangelicals are people of the Good News.