There is a lot of debate or confusion about what “evangelical” means.
Tony Campolo states “there is little argument that the word evangelical conjures up an image of Christians who are anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-environmentalist, pro-war, pro-capital punishment, and conservative Republican.” (page XI, Red Letter revolution, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo)
This seems a bit harsh, unfair and not a very good picture of evangelical. This is not what we mean when we define ourselves as evangelical.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism) defines evangelical by four convictions which I think are helpful and good.
- Conversion. There is a call for people to be “born again” (this comes out John 3). A decision needs to be made. A decision that is to bring a radical change into a person’s life
- Authority of the Bible. The Bible is viewed as the authority for life and faith.
- Jesus. The birth, life, death and resurrection are central.
- Makes a difference in life. These are not simply beliefs that we are to hold in our heads rather they are supposed to deeply influence every part of our life (including politics)
Now linking ourselves to evangelical is interesting. As Mennonites we would hold to the authority of the Bible, Jesus and discipleship very strongly. In fact in some circles it is argued that as Mennonites we hold to these things more strongly than the average evangelical.
So I believe that when we said we are Evangelical this refers to the personal decision to follow Jesus. A person is not a Christian because they were born into a Christian home or in a Christian nation or because they did so many good things. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. To follow Jesus means we had to make a decision to follow him.