by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 11/11/16.
…To be classified as an evangelical, a person must strongly agree with four belief statements:
- The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe
- It is very important for me to personally engage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
- Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
- Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
Using this definition, American evangelicals are a diverse group. Only 3 in 5 (62 percent) are white. African Americans (18 percent), Hispanics (17 percent), and other ethnicities (4 percent) make up about 4 in 10 American evangelicals by belief.
This definition creates a way to see evangelicals primarily as a religious group, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “The evangelical label has picked up political and social overtones that mask any patterns that are actually tied to evangelical religious beliefs,” he says.
Focusing on beliefs ensures the discussion centers around “those who share common religious anchors,” McConnell says. “This is a clearly defined group of people who agree on core teachings.”
Some research organizations use self-identification or church attendance to define the term evangelical. However, those with evangelical beliefs often don’t refer to themselves as evangelicals. Others belong to denominations that may not be considered evangelical.
That is particularly true among African Americans.
More than 2 in 5 African Americans (44 percent) strongly agree with the four theological statements in LifeWay’s model, the largest percentage of any ethnic group. However, only 25 percent of African Americans with evangelical beliefs actually self-identify as evangelical.
Hispanics with evangelical beliefs are most likely to self-identify as evangelicals. Almost 4 in 5 Hispanics with evangelical beliefs (79 percent) call themselves evangelicals. Thirty percent of all Hispanic Americans hold to evangelical beliefs.