Exploring Evangelicalism in the 21st Century


The World Evangelical Alliance and the Kirby Laing Centre (KLC) have come together to explore and begin a conversation about what being an ‘evangelical’ means for the twenty-first century. 

Key parts of this joint project are a global survey, the initial results of which were presented in the previous issue of the Theological News, and a series of panel discussions that will further probe the current state of evangelicalism in different parts of the world. The first panel discussion happened in September 2023, followed by a second in January 2024. Panelists included Samuel Chiang, Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, Peirong Lin, Master Matlhaope, and Brian Stiller from the WEA and Darrell Bock, Craig Bartholomew, and Bruce Ashford of the KLC.

Conversations so far have revolved around the challenge of defining a movement that has become global and continues to have a growing presence across the Majority World. Definitions and perceptions of evangelicalism vary across different regions, forcing us to understand and articulate what it means to be an evangelical in a diverse and changing religious landscape.

Discussants acknowledged that the term “evangelical” has faced negative perceptions in some regions, and it has become associated with political and cultural movements that may not reflect the movement’s core values. This has led to a fracturing among evangelical communities in particular parts of the world. In response, we must effectively outline and define a set of core values that better represent the worldwide evangelical community. 

The panelists considered the hallmarks of evangelicalism today, starting from the features in the classic ‘Bebbington quadrilateral’ (commitment to the Bible, cross-centered, conversion and activism). Two ideas emerged as most prominent in the discussion about what is not present in Bebbington’s definition:

  1. the transdenominational, trans-confessional, multinational, polyphonic (multi-voiced), and contextual character of evangelicalism as a global movement,
  1. the Holy Spirit and a spiritual focus as central to the dynamic of a movement rooted in theology, outreach, and spirituality 

Interested parties may access the recording of the first panel discussion at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAG8NHRQjgg. Subsequent conversations in different regions are set for the coming months. The survey is ongoing and can be taken at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/evangelicalism.