What’s an Evangelical? An Adult Convert’s View

I’ve recently joined an evangelical group blog at First Things.  Think of it as The Corner for evangelicals.  So far, things are going swimmingly.  Lots of activity.  Joe Carter started us off by asking for a definition of an evangelical.  Here’s my entry:

When I became a Christian at Florida State University at the end of the eighties, I encountered a different kind of Christian from the ones I knew as a southerner from Alabama.

Growing up, virtually everyone was some kind of churchgoer whether they were Southern Baptists, Episcopalians, Church of Christ, Catholic, etc.  But that didn’t necessarily mean anything.  It was just a default.  To me, going to church was simply something people did.  My family did it more or less often over time.  Catholics, like my mom’s family, had stained glass, candles, and statues.  The Church of Christ, like my dad’s people, worshipped in spare chapel rooms with acapella singing.  ”There is pow’r!  Pow’r!  Wonder working pow’r!”

The Christians I met at Florida State through Intervarsity were faithful and committed to a real relationship with Christ well before any denominational identity came into view.   We didn’t spend a lot of time debating differences in Christian flavors.  We talked about knowing Christ and his Lordship in our lives.  To me, it was endlessly interesting and challenging.  The first time I heard the word “evangelical” it was IVCF’s sister organization, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).

Over time, I began to hear the word “evangelical” more frequently.  I associated it with liking C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and Wheaton College.  I ended up marrying a girl in a classic evangelical family.

To me, it just meant taking your faith seriously.