What does it mean to be an Evangelical Christian? How is it different from other labels of Christianity?
Christian terminology can be confusing even to Christians. The terms are vague and often misused. So what exactly is an evangelical Christian? And how is that different from the other types of Christians?
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First of all, a Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ and trusts Him alone to forgive his or her sins. The word is first mentioned in Acts 11:26 and technically means "little Christ" or one who strives to be like Jesus.
"Evangelical" is a fairly simple word, as well. It is from the Greek euangelion which means good news or gospel. An evangelical Christian, then, is just a Christian who believes it is important to tell others the good news about how Jesus can save us from our sins.
In the public arena, however, the phrase "evangelical Christian" is used in different ways. For many, it differentiates a Protestant from a Catholic. For others, it's a term used to describe Protestants who are politically conservative. Within the larger church, it's often used to mean someone who believes in what the Bible says regarding God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, sin, and salvation.
There are a few other terms that get confused with "evangelical."
Fundamentalist: A Christian who believes in the fundamentals of Christianity and what the Bible teaches; often used in a derogatory manner because fundamentalists naturally exclude cults and reinterpretations of Scripture. Evangelicals are frequently true fundamentalists.
Born Again: To be a born again Christian is simply to be a Christian. It refers to the talk Jesus had with Nicodemas when Jesus said to be saved we must be reborn of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-21). "Born again Christian" today has a slightly looser feel than fundamentalist but is also used in a negative connotation or to differentiate between Bible-believing Christians and cultists like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Born again Christians should be evangelical; that is, they should want to spread the Gospel.
The real meaning of evangelical Christian is simply a Christian who takes the Great Commission seriously: to go into the world and teach the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). Which is something all Christians should do.
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