The term commonly also suggests a desire to evangelize, i.e. spread the message of the Gospel and make converts to Christianity. In recent decades the term has narrowed to designate a white conservative Protestant, usually a fundamentalist or Pentecostal Christian.
There is no exact definition of who is an Evangelical. Pollsters often ask, "Are you a born-again Christian?" to define the group. Sociologists look at membership in specific denominations and often include adherents of Holiness Movement, Pentecostal and Nazarene churches. Some scholars focus on the Bible beliefs, together with a personal commitment to Christ.
The largest Lutheran body in the USA is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It should be noted though that this church and The Episcopal Church, which is in communion with it, have had their Evangelical credentials questioned as a result of their recent acceptance of homosexuality. Some Evangelical Protestant critics, believing homosexual acts to be be contrary to Scripture, place these churches on the edge of fringe Christianity along with Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and Seventh Day Adventists.
The Christian researcher and author George Barna defines "Evangelicals" as a subset of those who meet the basic criteria defining born again Christians, but who also meet seven other doctrinal conditions. A distinction is then enabled to be manifest in other areas of faith beliefs.
The First Great Awakening was a spontaneous outburst of religious enthusiam in the American colonies, with a decisive long-term impact on setting the stage for Evangelicalism in Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and presbyterian denominations, among others. It did not add new members so much as to change the religious consciousness of church members to a greater awareness of sin and redemption, and a downplaying of ritual, liturgy and theology. The Great Awakening heavily emphasized the individual’s experience of salvation and the Holy Spirit’s work in revivals. By giving many evangelicals radical notions of the spiritual equality of all people, the revivals helped form the democratic style came to characterize the American people.
The Second Great Awakening from 1800 to the 1830s created a dramatic growth in "evangelical" or "pietistic" denominations. They included the Methodists, Congregationalists, most Presbyterians, Christians (Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ) and Scandinavian Lutherans. They were opposed theologically by the liturgical or "high" churches, including Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and German Lutherans. The evangelicals were strong supporters of moral reforms in society, using government action to promote woman's rights, the abolition of slavery, and the prohibition of liquor.
Politically, the evangelicals in the North were the core of the Republican party in the Third Party System, as well as the small Prohibition party.
Evangelicals were active in missions (as were the non-evangelical Christians). Missionaries, in addition to spreading the word of God, have helped bring much needed medical and educational services to poor parts of the world, as part of their missionary activities.
The Third Great Awakening from 1850 to about 1900 saw the evangelical denominations organize themselves more thoroughly. They also began to experience splits between "modernists" and "fundamentalists" about theological principles. "Evangelical" includes Fundamentalists, not as an organization but as a style of religious belief coupled with activism.
A Fundamentalist believes in actively opposing mainstream religion. Most Fundamentalists believe in Dispensationalism, although Calvinist Evangelicals reject Dispensationalism. The largest Evangelical church is the Southern Baptist Convention, which is largely Fundamentalist.
By the end of the 20th century there were nearly 100 million Americans who identified themselves as "Evangelical Christians," according to a Gallup Poll in 1995.
The self image of evangelical Christians include:
- generally better knowledge of the Bible compared to non-evangelical Christians
- view all events recorded in the Bible as historically accurate and treat it as the infallible Word of God
- promote active participation in a local church
- high levels of charity
- support of homeschooling
- disbelief in evolution
White Evangelicals in the 21st century have been voting 75%-80% for Republican presidential candidates and are politically conservative.
- Anti-Saloon League, led the dry forces to enact Prohibition
- Assemblies of God
- Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
- William Jennings Bryan, politician who fought Darwinism
- Christian Reformed Church, Dutch Calvinists
- Common Sense Realism, part of Princeton Theology
- Culture War
- Billy Graham, post 1945
- Heritage Reformed Congregations
- Charles Hodge, leader of Princeton theology
- Holiness Movement
- John Gresham Machen, Fundamentalist theologian early 20c
- Princeton Theology
- Protestant Reformed Church
- Reformed Churches
- William Bell Riley, organizer of 20c Fundamentalism
- Second Great Awakening, 188-1820s
- Southern Baptist Convention
- Billy Sunday, early 20c
- Theory of Fundamentalist Antisemitism
- Third Great Awakening, 1850-1900
- United Methodist Church, highly evangelical in 19th century
- Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States
- Evangelical Covenant Church
- Evangelical Apostolic Church of North America (Syro-Chaldean)
- What is an Evangelical?
- Robert E. Brown, "Varieties of American Evangelicalism Course Syllabus" (Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture 2004), highly detailed bibliography and outline
- Real Life and Death: the interplay of Bible, Israel, America
History and Traditions
- Balmer, Randall. Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (2nd ed. 2004), 655pp Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism online edition, by a leading historian
- Balmer, Randall. Blessed Assurance Cl: A History Of Evangelicalism In America (2000), 144pp excerpt and text search, topical essays but not a systematic history
- Carpenter, Joel A. Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (1999), major scholarly history of post 1925 era excerpt and text search
- Hankins, Barry. American evangelicals: a contemporary history of a mainstream religious movement (2008) 205 pages excerpt and text search
- Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2007) exxcerpt and text search
- Krapohl, Robert H., and Charles H. Lippy. The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide (1999). 338 pgs. online edition
- Larsen, Timothy and Daniel J. Treier, eds. The Cambridge companion to evangelical theology (2007) 303 pages; excerpt and text search
- Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twenteth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (2nd ed. 2006). standard scholarly history by leading Evangelical scholarexcerpt and text search
- Marsden, George M. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
- Noll, Mark. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (1992) by leading Evangelical scholar excerpt and text search
- Rawlyk, George, ed. Aspects of the Canadian Evangelical Experience. (1997). 542 pp.
- online books
- Burch, Maxine. The Evangelical Historians: The Historiography of George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll. (1996). 130 pp.
- Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2007) excerpt and text search; William G. McLaughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (1967)
- See Krapohl and Lippy (1999)
- Revealing Statistics: America in Decline; Differences among Denominations
- Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2007)
- See Richard Jensen, The Winning of the Midwest, 1888-1896 (1971)