Do evangelicals like their name?

Recent poll shows majority prefer this label.

The name “evangelical” has been the subject of good and bad press over the years. Some cringe when they hear “evangelical,” a term for some that summons negative caricatures that is often passed on through the media. Others are encouraged when they hear “evangelical,” thinking of a group of people who are compassionate, loving and committed to Scripture. Regardless, the name comes with its own baggage and presuppositions.

Evangelicals want to be identified as people who take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

With that in mind, many might expect those who consider themselves evangelicals to desire another label, something more universally positive by which to be known.

However, a recent poll of the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) found that 88 percent of them like the label, while 11 percent of them did not.

“Leaders in the evangelical community are excited about their faith,” said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, via a media release. “Concern about how the label ‘evangelical’ is perceived by others and its influence on ministry opportunities does give some evangelical leaders pause.”

Evangelical participants at a recent multicultural leadership conference presented by Transform Minnesota.
Evangelical participants at a recent multicultural leadership conference presented by Transform Minnesota.

However, others like the name because it communicates a people committed to telling others about Jesus. It also symbolizes—for many—a people devoted to helping the poor, those who stand up for life at all stages and those who have a strong affinity for the importance of Scripture.

As with any discomfort with a name or tag, the challenging part comes with choosing something different, something else that accurately describes an historic movement of people and God. With no such term or description readily available, many evangelicals are happy to remain “evangelicals.”

“Evangelicals want to be identified as people who take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” Anderson concluded, via the release. “Right now, ‘evangelical’ is the best single word we have to communicate that.”


January 28, 2014

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