The word evangelical seems to have fallen out of favor, and perhaps for reasons that are understandable. Where the word once had a distinct Christian meaning, in recent years it has come to be conflated with politics as much as religion, with civil issues as much as spiritual. Many wonder whether the term is worth salvaging or if we should simply move on. Many wonder whether Christians should still consider themselves evangelical or whether it would better serve Christ’s cause to find a new self-description.
Michael Reeves has wondered this as well and has written Gospel People: A Call for Evangelical Integrity to address the issue. “This is a book about being people of the gospel,” he says. “In other words, this is a book about what it means to be evangelical. I believe that there is a biblical case to be made for the importance and the goodness of being evangelical.” This is not to say that he will defend everything that calls itself evangelical since “across the world, swathes have come to self-identify as evangelical without holding to classic evangelical beliefs. And then there is the problem of how being ‘evangelical’ has become associated with particular cultures, with politics, or with race.”
He believes that modern-day evangelicalism is facing a crisis of integrity in which many of those who consider themselves evangelicals “are being defined—and even defining themselves—by agendas other than the gospel.” The only solution is to go back to the foundations upon which evangelicalism was founded, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” To be people of the gospel, we must begin with the gospel. Evangelicals, after all, are people of the gospel or, as the title of the book says, gospel people. “Evangelicalism, then, must be defined theologically. To be evangelical means to act, not out of cultural or political leanings, but out of theological, biblical convictions.”
I tend to agree with Reeves that evangelical is a term worth embracing rather than abandoning for, as he says, there is simply no great alternative. There is no other word that has the historical pedigree and the depth of meaning. Hence, it falls to us to continue to use it and, even more importantly, to continue to ensure we are living as people of the gospel. There is lots to commend in Gospel People and it’s a joy to recommend it to you.