‘Evangelical’ – Time to Change the Word?

Jonny Baker mentions an interesting Christianity Magazine article where John Buckeridge suggests the “tide has gone out on the “e” word”

I find it really hard to part with ANYTHING. I am unashamedly retro. I tend to stick with things a long time. My shoes WEAR OUT in ways embarrasing to my wife but i hate to throw things away. I just said goodbye to my dressing gown (robe – US) after 17 years of fond memories.

Same for my vocabulary. I have been fighting for the “emerging” word for quite a while, despite people saying it no longer means what people think it means and I also advised a large denominational agency last year to keep the word “evangelist” because I believe it is coming back into currency. So any talk of abandoning the word “evangelical” will not be a totally objective exercise if i am part of it. But at the same time, sometimes words wear out and need to be replaced in order to keep the same meaning. Nostalgia can sometimes interfere.

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Paul says:

    Andrew, you’re not going to start using S’s instead of Z’s since you are going all UK on us are you?

  • Personally, I’ve always stayed away from the word.
    It always gave me the heeby-jeebies. But that may be a part from my over-arching personal story.
    If someone doesn’t want to use it, that’s ok by me. Haha.

  • David says:

    I agree that the tide has gone out on the E word, but if you are trying to get away from emerging will you have to change the title of your blog?
    (Never liked the word anyway it conjures up images of wet butterflies or hatching chickens..)

  • andrew says:

    yes. Even though 59% of my readers are from USA, and even though I have been writing mostly American since entering USA in 1987, I will probably talk and write with an increasingly British accent – to reflect where i live and work and have my primary being.
    gotta problem widdat?

  • It is a valid point. I have been resisting the subdivision of Evangelical (Conservative/Charismatic/Open) for a while – wanting to stand in the tradition of the original evangelicals – Luther, Calvin, Cranmer – or perhaps the 18th Century Evangelicals – Wesley, Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, but I am tired of fighting for the word. Whatever its real meaning it smacks of Bush and Midwest Conservatism, of homophobia and powermongering.
    Please someone suggest a good alternative, or I am going to have to revert to calling myself an Anglican – and I don’t want that to happen!

  • geoff says:

    I misread the title as “Evangelical – Time to Change the World”, to which my immediate reaction was a hearty Yes. As for changing the word, I’m not so enthusiastic: just when you think you’ve worked out what all the big words mean people want to go and change them…

  • futuristguy says:

    words, like dollars (US vs. Canadian vs. Australian vs. Hong Kong, etc.), can always retain some currency in some cultures, but they don’t always spend as equivalent in all cultures, and seem like counterfeits in others.
    oh well. we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

  • The word just has so much negative connotations and baggage assoiciated with it, especially with people i run into. i say dump it like evangelist/evangelism for the same reason. They polarize and shut the door before a conversation can begin or stay fluid. Jut me thoughts.

  • lpkb says:

    This question seems to come up regularly lately…this is from a summary of a conversation some friends and I had a year or more ago: “Most of us, leery of identifying ourselves as evangelicals, were also hesitant not to identify ourselves as evangelicals. While the trend among evangelicals seems to be to define Christianity too narrowly, the trend among Mainliners is to define it so broadly that it no longer means anything.”

  • Wither The Evangelicals?

    Jonny Baker has picked up on an editorial in Christianty Today on the problems with using the term Evangelical. Andrew Jones has followed up with some further thoughts and both blogposts have thoughtful comments.
    I see the term evangelical working i…

  • Mike Morrell says:

    I’ve been using “post-evangelical” for a couple of years now and its worked pretty well for me–I stress that I don’t mean “anti” or pissed-of-at-evangelicalism (even though sometimes I am), simply that I conserve the best from her and have moved on culturally, and (in some cases) spiritually/theologically. I am sincere in my conservation, in that I cherish a personal connection to Jesus Christ grace-fully bestowed, and other such integrals as the Spirit-breathed nature of Holy Writ and the reality of the extranatural, from Jesus’ virgin birth to resurrection to God’s interspersed-with-reality vibrancy today.
    But you know what? I don’t describe myself as much of anything to the man-on-the-street or even people in my church, who tend to have an adverse reaction to labels. To say “I’m evangelical” or “post-” anything sounds like so much posturing bull$#!t, and the average joe doesn’t care. Sometimes I tell people I’m indwelt by God incarnate, or that I’m a Way-farer. Usually it takes more than a soundbite anyhow.

  • joe says:

    Might I suggest: “evangelproteanism” as the Nu “E” word? [evangelical + protestant + protean (evangelprotean, adj.)]
    It is more suggestive of the state of the Emergent/Emerging/Coversation/Church: rooted in classic 18th -19th Century American Evangelicalism and addicted to change for change sake.

  • A True Evangelical Believer says:

    I happen to like the term “evangelical” as it is related to the Greek word “Euaggelistes” (Strongs 2099)which means “a bringer of good tidings.” Compare that to “emergent” which has no real definition, at least that I can tell that has to do with the Gospel. So with that, I will stick to evangelical, “to bring good tidings”. I hope that is what I am doing to this world, bringing the Gospel to all people, not simply “emerging” (whatever that means).

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