Wednesday, August 15

Am I an evangelical?

A while back I joined the millions of people migrating over to Facebook, the social networking site. It was fairly simple to set up and have enjoyed networking with friends from around the world. However, when I got to filling out the profile section I was stumped by the last question: Religious Views.

None of the normal choices seemed to fit: Christian, Baptist, Conservative Christian, Evangelical...

Christian? I certainly consider myself to be a Christian. The problem with the term is that here in Latin America EVERYONE is a Christian. So "Christian" is not a very descriptive term. Ask anyone on the street if they are a Christian and they will most likely respond affirmatively.

Baptist? Yes, I consider myself to be a Baptist. However, in our context here Baptists are confused with Mormons. Since the Mormons are so much better known than the tiny Baptist population, when you tell someone you are a "Baptist" they assume you mean "Mormon". I don't know how many times I have told someone I was Baptist and they comment back, "oh, the guys who go around in pairs knocking on doors..."

Conservative Christian? Again, I do consider myself conservative in theology and being a conservative Christian applies to who I am. The problem comes that "conservative" is confused with the evangelical political right: the fundamental, right-wing brand of Christianity espoused by many of the better known TV evangelists. There is too much in fundamentalist Christianity that I do not identify with. The term simply comes with too much baggage that is detrimental to my sharing the Gospel with not-yet-believers.

Evangelical? That leaves "evangelical". Of all the terms this is the one that most conservative, Baptists and Christians in general identify with in our Latin American context. In a Roman Catholic country like the one we live in, there are two camps: Catholic and Evangelical. If you are a Catholic you do not identify yourself as being Evangelical. For ten years I was on staff at Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Bautista Israel (covers all the bases!)

The only problem is that "evangelical" has become an umbrella term that includes EVERYONE else who is not a Roman Catholic. Jehovah Witnesses are now referring to themselves as "evangelical." The extreme left-field Pentecostals with all the extra-biblical things they add to the Gospel are also evangélicos. Since there are a lot more of the Pentecostal evangelicals around than the conservative Baptist types, not-yet-believers assume evangélicos are all the extreme Pentecostal kind of people. That has become a barrier for many to not want to become one of those kinds of people. So to say I am "evangelical" lumps me into a group of people that has also grown too broad for me to be able to identify with.

So what's left? What best describes my "religious views"?

Follower of Christ. I ended up inventing my own category to reflect what most closely resembles my personal views of my faith in Christ. I am a follower of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I follow Him. His teachings are the guiding force in my life. I seek to make others followers of Christ. I am not out to convert people to being anything other than a faithful follower and disciple of Jesus Christ.

So, what are you? How do you describe or define your faith?

11 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Guy,

Great post! I pray that God help all of his children to recognize that we are all part of the same (one) family.

-Alan

S.A.M. said...

Amen Guy! I consider myself a follower of Christ as well. In the eastern world where we are headed in South Asia, we Americans are considered "Christian" just by where we are from, and how we look. I cringe when I hear the term "Christian" used, though it is not bad. I have found myself using the term Christ follower much more when I teach or tell my testimony since ministering to the people of South Asia. I love the term, and I think it will stick with me.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GuyMuse said...

Alan and S.A.M.,

Thanks for stopping by. In today's segmented and divided Church people are confused with all the terms and designations. The "Christ follower" terminology is the closest thing I can come up with that truly describes who we are. It seems all the other terms carry baggage and are misunderstood by most people who hear the terms used.

antonio said...

Guy, I had that same problem and mine is actually blank. It is interesting seeing what others have put in place though.

GuyMuse said...

Antonio,

Sounds like you are on Facebook too? I've enjoyed the lighter side of Facebook and keeping up with people in this way.

Shipsstaff said...

HI Guy
Wow this post opened my eyes! All the time I was in Ecuador I called myself Evangelical. Hmmmmm I Do like your term of Christ Follower. Thanks for the great post. I hope to keep up with your posts and you as time goes on. I really enjoyed the Encampament in Patate and meeting Edwin, Steve and You. Thank you for all your help and information! May God continue to bless you, your ministry and your family.
Bev from that unknown state of Wisconsin....

GuyMuse said...

Bev,

What a pleasant surprise! Thanks for stopping by. Are you back in WI? I noticed on your profile that your age is 251. You sure looked a lot younger last weekend! :) It was indeed a good camp and enjoyed getting to know you along with some of our national missionaries whom I had never met. Stop by any time. I try to post 2-3 times per week. I look forward to checking out your blogs as well.

Shipsstaff said...

Ha ha I am 251, yikes I better go and change that. I don't do much with my profile as I don't like to put much info about me out....hee hee. I sure don't feel 251. I have enjoyed reading your blog, I have a lot to read yet, but I am going to continue to do so a little at a time.
I can't wait to see more...

Brent Davis said...

Labels are nasty little things. They usually serve no other purpose than to dehumanize people: "Oh, you're a...." Now, I don't really have to take you seriously or deal with you as a person. Only people who wear my label get that privilege.

We also like to get each other's labels early in the conversation. That way we don't have to really listen to each other. We can just pigeon-hole each other into our presuppositions for that particular label.

When we meet someone, our brain puts that person on a "conveyor belt" and starts them on a journey towards their final destination (label) in our minds. Based on how they answer certain questions or react to certain situations they jump from one conveyor belt to another until they are narrowed down to a place on the shelf that holds all the other people with that particular label. I think it is a result of the fall and only serves to separate us from each other.

I have been making a conscious effort lately to not ask people that I meet "label" kinds of questions. Though this is very difficult and requires a conscience effort, I have been enjoying the fruit of getting to know people before they end up on their labeled shelf in my mind. Plus, they seem to enjoy not being painted-into-a-corner early on in the conversation. I have also noticed that they pick up on this and return the favor.

Maybe this has something to do with what Jesus was getting at about not judging people?

Your Brother,
Brent

GuyMuse said...

Brent,

Excellent observations. I think you are on the right track about using labels to "judge people." We all do it, but your effort to not do so is something that challenges me personally. I think I will attempt my own experiment this coming week and try not to ask those kinds of questions that help me label someone into something they are not.