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26 August 2016

Why I’m an evangelical

Why I’m an evangelical

Attempting to squeeze my faith into a particular shape always feels like a bit of a challenge! God's a bit of a genius at surprising us, and it seems that as soon as I think I've got a grip on understanding something more about Him, the horizon opens up and I realise that there's so much more of Him to discover. So perhaps for me, being an evangelical is less about defining the essence of my faith, but more about defining the way in which I grow in my journey of understanding God.

From a really young age, there have been three things that are dear to me; three things that continue to provide signposts for the journey. Firstly, I couldn't live without my friend and saviour Jesus – my life finds meaning in him. Secondly, the comfort and reassurance of the Bible as the stabilising force for my faith is so important – I love the way it has stood the test of time, daily providing fresh insight into life's ups and downs. Thirdly, expressing my faith in the context of a church family keeps me grounded – it's in community that I grow to accept and deal with the frailties of my own humanity.

Tim Rowlands, member of the EA Wales council and the EA UK council

My initial response was: I don't know why! I've been part of evangelical churches my whole life and I made a personal commitment to Jesus aged 10. I've grown in my faith through various experiences since then, but never questioned what it means to be an evangelical. It's just always made sense. I actually didn't really know what the word meant. So I investigated: apparently an evangelical believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus and the importance of sharing the gospel. My faith certainly ticks those boxes. Phew!

So I am an evangelical because I believe the Bible is inspired by God and that He speaks to me as I read His word, to help me live for Him. I know I am saved from my sins through accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and look forward to eternal life with him through the resurrection. He is with me every day. And I want to be telling other people this, which is easier said than done. It's been good to take a step back from something I've always taken for granted and check that I really do believe it. And reassuring that having examined evangelicalism more closely, it still makes sense.

Dr Katherine Cole, doctor in Cambridgeshire

I'm very proud to own the label evangelical, although it's not one that's necessarily understood by many outside Christian circles, or indeed within the further education sector in which I have been called to work. To me, it is a sense of deep conviction about the saving grace of Jesus. It is good news – the greatest news, and it needs to be proclaimed. That conviction compels me to live a faith that is holistic – what Christ did for me 2,000 years ago has an impact on what I do today in my work life and my personal life. Those I work with are very aware of my Christian faith and I think that demonstrates what an evangelical Christian is – someone who can't be a secret Christian. 

I don't think we necessarily need to be hung up on labels, though. Throughout my life, I have attended Church of England – my grandfather was an Anglican priest in the south-east of Nigeria – Baptist, Icthus and Newfrontiers churches. Despite the number of denominations, every church I've attended has been an evangelical church, reflected in the passionate Christianity of the leaders and the congregations. 

Stella Mbubaegbu CBE, principal and chief executive, Highbury College Portsmouth

I'm an evangelical because I believe evangelicalism to be the most authentic expression of the gospel. For me, evangelicalism makes living and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ central to Christianity in a way that resonates most deeply with what Jude calls "the faith once delivered to the saints"– the faith of those apostles who were closest to Jesus. I'm an evangelical because evangelicals properly look to scripture as God's Word - the definitive guide to that apostolic message, both in the New Testament that records Jesus' life and mission, and in the Old Testament that he himself revered.

I'm an evangelical because evangelicalism prioritises theologically what I've known experientially since the age of 15 – that on the cross Jesus stood in my place, bore my sin, and gave me a new start with God. I'm an evangelical because like me evangelicals are restless to share this amazing grace with others, and because they know that the power of the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead compels them – as it compels me - to invite others to fall in love with Jesus, and to see God's world transformed now, and in the age to come, by His love, justice and truth.

Rev Dr David Hilborn BA MA PhD, principal of St John's School of Mission, Nottingham

I grew up in a large evangelical, charismatic church in south-east London, so I suppose in many ways I'm an evangelical because it's that context that shaped my faith. I was surrounded by people who were passionately vibrant about their faith, who studied the Bible and were focussed on mission, the gospel and the kingdom of God. All these experiences formed my understanding of what it meant to be evangelical, this was faith and truth that impacted your whole life, not just a Sunday morning.

These days, I worry sometimes that the word evangelical is used synonymously with the word 'traditional': a byword for being old fashioned, judgmental or fearful of modern life. To me, being an evangelical is the total opposite. It's to actively and positively engage with the world around us, to have a faith that interacts, that makes sense, that applies itself with relevance. Our mandate is to show that God's great provision for us in Jesus Christ is as essential now as it ever was, and ever will be. I hope to live this out in my own life with grace, kindness, the vibrant passion I saw growing up, and lots of prayer!

Abigail Sheldrake, primary school teacher in Essex

To share what the word 'evangelical' means to me, I begin by breaking down the word itself. The noun, 'evangel' means 'good news'; referring to the good news of the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ. Therefore, the word 'evangelical' in the Christian context, describes and means to me, a 'born again' Christian, having accepted the responsibility to faithfully herald and promote with passion this evangel; committed to the great command: "love God and love people"; and the great commission: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel," and to "go and make disciples of all the nations."

I connect with the word evangelical because it describes my Christian belief as one who holds to the authority of God in and through scripture, the trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ; the message of the cross; the power and work of the Holy Spirit; and salvation by grace through faith alone. I also connect with the word evangelical because it connects me to the fellowship of Christians across the denominations, who share the same belief, mission, and purpose, working together to transform our communities with the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Rev Samson Awak-Essien, Police community support officer and Elim pastor

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