Welcome to the Spring 2018 issue of Resonance: “What is Evangelical?” In the coming pages, we will explore this question through the various lenses of liturgy, theology, history, Scripture, missiology, and witness. Here at Resonance, “evangelical” is one of our core organizational values, but we recognize the term can be fraught with misunderstanding and confusion. Indeed, evangelical means different things to different people in different contexts, and so our goal in this issue is to introduce ideas that spark reflection, dialogue, and action. We invite you on this journey of joy and discovery as we explore what evangelical means for God’s work in our lives and for the world!
As we dove into planning and curating this issue, it became clear that we needed to represent how the evangelical movement – with its core focus on the evangel or good news – was not limited to a particular Western/North American context. In fact, evangelicals have been traditionally some of the most enthusiastic supporters of global missions – and that means evangelical theology and practice has had to contend with application and appropriation in a variety of very diverse cultural contexts. Our two Witness articles, the first by Scott Edgar and the second by Marie Bauer, are both from the perspective of their experiences in the mission field. Edgar spent time working with the church in Eastern Europe under Soviet communism and describes the unique history and challenges of spreading the gospel. Bauer has spent a large part of her career working with Buddhist communities in SE Asia. She challenges Western assumptions of the term “evangelical,” explaining that it’s not a relevant currency in her missional context. So, she peels back the term and aims to get at the heart of the gospel – the lordship of Jesus Christ. Perhaps her methods are unconventional, but they represent the hard work of communicating the good news of Jesus Christ in a definitively non-Western context. Mediating these two articles (and indeed all of the issue) is Miriam Adeney’s Crux article on the global movement of evangelicalism. She provides the needed context of the diverse and yet unified evangelical efforts to work together across the globe for the sake of the gospel.
Our Liturgy articles likewise open conversations about the evangelical practices of weekly worship and conversion. Carrie Akemann provides a stirring narrative about what it was like to grow up in a liturgical tradition only to be jarred in her older youth by the decidedly less-liturgical worship experiences of her evangelical friends. The question of personal faith is at the heart of evangelicalism, and our worship experiences certainly shape our expectation of that personal faith in unique ways. Kirstin Vlodica looks at the phenomena of personal faith among our youngest evangelicals – those children who pray the coveted prayer of personal salvation, only to not grasp conceptually how Jesus could physically fit into one’s heart. She provides a compelling child development perspective of the gospel, without mitigating the joy and importance of helping to usher faith into the littlest of these.
Finally, this issue does not disappoint with its explorations of Scripture and Tradition. Gary Stokes leads us through the significance of “evangelical” in the Gospels, and Daniel Litzenberg helps us navigate Paul’s understanding of the lordship of Jesus Christ. Javier Garcia’s article provides crucial historical and theological context of the evangelical movement, and in doing so highlights its perils and reminds us of its power to unite across a diversity of traditions and denominations. Micah Lunsford rounds out our exploration by tracing the development of the evangelical movement in America during the twentieth century and highlighting some of its key characteristics.
It’s quite possible that as you get to the end of this issue, you will have more questions about “what is evangelical” than when you started. We will have accomplished our mission if you then take these questions and start a conversation with those trusted friends, family, and colleagues around you. Resonance wants to help facilitate conversations like these, and so be on the lookout for this issue’s accompanying Learning Guide, to be released shortly.
In all your endeavors, may you continue to seek the face of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Dr. Brant Himes