Define evangelical?


What does it mean to evangelize? When the MSM talks about Evangelicals, who are they talking about? Are Catholics evangelical?


Re, “who are evangelicals?”, a good place to start is researching the time about WWI in America and the protestant “split” so to speak.

There’s a shorter route, but thoroughness is a tough route to beat.

Britannica has entries.

Sorry to be so incomplete. I just got home from work and am way pooped.


I was an evangelical Protestant for over 40 years, along with my husband. Here is a brief summary of evangelicalism. I’ve taken some of this information from the book Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley.

Evangelicalism started in the “Age of Reason”, in the 1730s, with the rise of three movements:

British Isles–Methodism
United States–the “Great Awakening” (a spiritual revival that resulting in thousands of conversions to Christianity, many of whom became involved in variations of Pietist and Methodist churches)

Basic evangelical beliefs have their root in Puritanism: sinfulness of man, atoning death of Christ, unmerited grace of God, salvation of the true believer.

But Puritanism was more concerned with politics and tried to create a “holy commonwealth.” Evangelicals were more concerned with the conversion of the lost. To this day, the major emphasis of evangelicals and their churches is the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20)

A hundred years later, several things happened that shook up evangelical churches.

  1. Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species

  2. Increasing industrialization and movement of people to the cities

  3. Higher criticism of the Bible

After these changes, two “personalities” of evangelicals developed:

1.Those that embraced the changes as sent by God. This group came to emphasize a social Gospel (service) to bring about a changed society.

  1. Those who resisted the changes as threats to Biblical Christianity. This group emphasized the need for individual salvation to bring about a changed society and the need for a cultivation of the deeper inner life for Christians.

Interestingly, in spite of the growth of evangelical churches for the next hundred years, there really wasn’t a “changed society” at all. Why? Perhaps because of the emphasis on personal holiness, end times, etc. Often evangelicals became “separatists” who stayed “safe” in their own churches. “Missionaries” were sent out into the world, while the believers stayed busy with involvements that kept them inside churches instead of out “in the world.” Even though evangelicals wanted to “preach the Gospel,” many of them avoided contact with “non-Christians” not so much from a lack of love, but because of a lack of social skills; they simply didn’t feel comfortable with non-Christians.

In the early part of the 20th Century, a preacher named Rev. Amzi C. Dixon, along with a businessman named Lyman Stewart, published a booklet called The Fundamentals. These men believed that Christians needed to return to the “basics,” or “fundamentals” of the Christian faith: a supernatural Jesus who literally rose from the dead, a trustworthy Bible that was the foundation of Christian faith, and the need of personal salvation for each human. Fundamentalism became an offshoot of the evangelical movement. Many fundamentalist churches became “separatist” churches that didn’t associate with other churches or with non-Christians.

After WWII, evangelicalism became even more popular in the U.S. mainly because of the rise of Billy Graham and also because of the rise of the “charismatic movement.”

To this day, evangelicals are primarily concerned with the conversion of non-believers to Christianity and the “discipleship” (training) of believers into mature Christians. There is a lot of disagreement on the best way to accomplish this.

  1. emphasis on the social gospel—feeding the hungry, helping the poor, working for justice in the world, etc. (Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Salvation Army, the megacurches)

  2. global approach (Rick Warren, Chuck Colson, Cal Thomas).

  3. emphasis on the family as a “micro-church” (Dr. James Dobson, Tony Evans, etc.)

  4. emphasis on the charismatic gifts and the worship of God (e.g., Benny Hinn, etc.).

  5. emphasis the “basics” and personal holiness, which will then spread into the world and become global holiness—the basic “Billy Graham” simple Gospel that says, “Believe on Jesus and you will be saved. (Campus Crusade for Christ, Billy Graham, etc.)

  6. emphasis on bringing the “seekers” into the church by providing a church atmosphere that will make the seekers comfortable (rock music, lattes during the sermon, DVDs, theater, etc.)

This is not an exhaustive list… There is always a new “bandwagon” for evangelicals to jump on, a “method” or “book” or “celebrity” that promises the conversion of sinners and the freedom from sin that will lead to personal holiness and a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. No wonder evangelicals are sometimes confused!

I would say that yes, Catholicism is evangelical. I am a new Catholic (2004) and don’t know much, but I would say that what Catholicism does is join ALL of these emphases listed above together under ONE Church, the Church of Jesus Christ.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit