Mourning ‘Evangelical’

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As a minister, I have always loved meaningful, descriptive words. When I first learned the word evangelical, I was impressed by its definition and excited to say, “I am an evangelical!” Though I’m still attracted to it, in recent years I have been more reluctant to state publicly that simple, joyful response from the heart: “I am an evangelical!”

What does evangelical mean? It is one who believes in and spreads the message of Jesus Christ according to the four Gospels (Evangels) and the rest of the New Testament. From this definition, the depth of evangelical branches out to several applications. Here are three.

Evangel: the good news of humanity’s salvation through Christ. (Each of the four Gospels is an Evangel.)

Evangelist: one who brings, speaks, and writes the good news of salvation by faith in Christ.

Evangelism: the preaching and spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For fifty-seven years I have preached about Jesus’ life, teachings, and example; His coming to earth to save us by shedding His blood on the cross; His resurrection and the promise of His return to receive us into His eternal kingdom.

Living and sharing the story of Jesus Christ is what makes believers evangelicals! The four Gospels reveal this truth. An evangelical believes, lives, and hopes in the complete Jesus story. But in recent times evangelical has become twisted and painful for many Christians. In its present use, the word is now associated more with partisan politics and power.

It is hard to imagine that any true evangelical would allow the word to be used in a manner that would distract from or denigrate its true meaning of evangelizing about Jesus Christ. But this deeply Christ-centered word has been redefined and abused by worldly political parties and candidates.

I’ve always claimed to be an evangelical by believing in and sharing the message of Jesus taught in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. So, now what? What should I claim personally and publicly, considering evangelical is more about a political party than the person of Christ?

The wonderful term evangelical Christian now refers to those who vote for a particular party or candidate. Being true to my evangelical passions, I struggle to give the word away to any party or politician who cannot live up to the true spiritual value of the word: one who believes in, lives like, and hopes in Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and coming King.

I understand that the meanings of words change, but one truth and standard must never change. It’s right there in Scripture. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Those of us who claim allegiance to Him must uphold the words that reflect our devotion to Him: His teaching, His example, His shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins, His promise and our hope of resurrection, His guarantee that those committed to Him, who hold the line, will inherit the promises.

I am an evangelical! My vote is not for sale. I vote for my Lord, Savior, and soon coming King — Jesus!

Ken Lawson
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Ken Lawson is superintendent of the Central District. Previously, he served as pastor of CoG7 congregations in Mission City, BC; San Antonio, TX; Shawnee, OK; Lodi, CA; Visalia, CA; and Redmond OR. He and his wife, Sandra, live in Cottage Grove, MN, and attend the St. Paul Church. Ken loves fishing and spending time with their grandsons, Hogan and Jack.