What is an evangelical?
To begin, let’s break down the two words. The term Christian essentially means "follower of Christ." Christian is the term given to followers of Jesus Christ in the first century A.D. (Acts 11:25). The term evangelical comes from the Greek word that means "good news." Evangelism is sharing the good news of the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. An evangelical, then, is a person dedicated to promoting the good news about Jesus Christ. Combined, the description "evangelical Christian" is intended to indicate a believer in Jesus Christ who is faithful in sharing and promoting the good news.
In Western culture today, there are many caricatures of evangelical Christians. For some, the term evangelical Christian is equivalent to “right-wing, fundamentalist Republican.” For others, "evangelical Christian" is a title used to differentiate an individual from a Catholic Christian or an Orthodox Christian. Others use the term to indicate adherence to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. In this sense, an evangelical Christian is a believer who holds to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone. However, none of these definitions are inherent in the description "evangelical Christian."
In reality, all Christians should be evangelical Christians. The Bible is consistently instructing us to be witnesses of the good news (see Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 1 Peter3:15). There is no better news than Jesus! There is no higher calling than evangelist. There is no doubt that holding to the fundamentals of the Bible will result in a certain worldview and, yes, will affect your political beliefs. However, there is nothing about being an evangelical that demands a certain political party or affiliation. An evangelical Christian is called to share the good news, to preach God's Word, and to set an example of purity and integrity. If these callings require political action, so be it. At the same time, evangelical Christians should not be sidetracked into abandoning our highest calling - sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(With thanks to www.gotquestions.org).
What is Evangelicalism?
Evangelicalism is a somewhat broad term used to describe a movement within Protestantism that is characterized by an emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship begins when a person receives Christ's forgiveness and is spiritually reborn. Those who ascribe to this belief are called Evangelicals.
The word evangelicalism is derived from the Greek words euangelion, which means good news, and euangelizomai, which means to proclaim as good news. This good news is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve (1 Corinthians 15: 3b - 5). This good news, which is the Gospel of Christ, and the preaching of it are what Evangelicalism was based upon.
The roots of Evangelicalism go back to the Protestant Reformation, during which time the Bible was brought to the masses. Formerly neglected biblical truths were rediscovered and taught. It wasn't until the great revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America, though, that Evangelicalism truly began as a movement. As happened during the Reformation, the Evangelical movement and its focus on having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ brought a renewed vigor in accurately interpreting and applying God's Word. This has carried through to this day, though the term has come to be misused and misapplied.
Traditionally, Evangelicalism has been theologically conservative. This has become less and less distinctive, however. Its current use is no longer limited to actual born-again Christians, nor to those considered to be conservatives or fundamentalists. In fact, some simply equate Evangelicalism with Protestantism itself, liberal or otherwise. Sadly, Evangelicalism is now most often equated with conservative politics. While an Evangelical Christian worldview will result in conservative political views, politics is definitely not the focus of true Evangelicalism.
So, the definition of Evangelicalism varies in the eyes of the world. The true heart of Evangelicalism, though, is in proclaiming the Gospel message in both word and deed. To an Evangelical Christian, there is no higher calling than to live out and share this message and the truth of God's love.
If you want to learn more here are a few useful links:
EFCW - the Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales http://www.efcw.org.uk/
Evangelical Alliance - which informs, supports and encourages evangelicals across Britain