Evangelical Beliefs and Practices
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A. Religious Identities
B. What Does it Mean to be an Evangelical?
E. Renewalist Experiences
are evangelical Christians? What do they believe? And what do they see as the
boundaries of their faith? The survey contains several questions that probe how
participants in the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization identify
themselves religiously, in what faith they were raised and what spiritual
experiences they have had. It finds broad agreement among these Christian
leaders on some beliefs and practices that are essential to being “a good evangelical.”
Virtually all the leaders surveyed, for example, say evangelicals must follow
the teachings of Christ in their personal and family life. But the survey also
finds areas of substantial disagreement, including over biblical literalism and
the consumption of alcohol.A. Religious Identities
“born-again” experience is a defining characteristic of the evangelical
movement, and one that is reported by nearly all of the leaders surveyed. More
than nine-in-ten (93%) say they have been born-again, in most cases at a
relatively young age. The average is 17, with nearly all of the leaders (86%)
saying they were born-again before the age of 30. Two-thirds (67%) say the
experience occurred before they turned 20. Even among those who were not raised
as evangelical Christians, the average reported age of a born-again experience
is 20. Among those who were raised as evangelicals, it is 14.
Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the leaders
(90%) identify themselves as evangelical Christians. But a substantial minority
also describe themselves as Pente-costal (25%) or charismatic (31%) Christians.
Younger evangelical leaders are more likely to identify as Pentecostal
Christians. Among those under age 40, for example, 31% say they are
Pentecostals, as do 29% of those in their 40s, compared with 22% of those in
their fifties and 16% of those age 60 or older. Younger leaders are also more likely
to identify as charismatic Christians (35% of those under 40, compared with 23%
of those 60 and older).
previous studies have emphasized, Pentecostalism is especially common in the
Global South, and in this survey, leaders in the Global South are indeed more
likely to say they are Pentecostals (33%) than leaders in the Global North
Leaders in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly likely to identify with
Pentecostalism (42%). When it comes to identifying as a charismatic Christian,
however, there is little difference between leaders from the Global North (30%)
and the Global South (32%). Leaders from Europe (37%) and sub-Saharan-Africa
(38%) are equally likely to say they think of themselves as charismatic
the purposes of this report, those who identify themselves as either
charismatic or Pentecostal Christians on these questions are grouped together
and referred to as renewalist Christians, or simply renewalists. Four-in-ten
leaders at the Congress are included in this umbrella category. By contrast,
only 11% of the leaders say they think of themselves as fundamentalist
of the leaders surveyed say they were raised as evangelical Protestants, and an
additional 17% were raised as non-evangelical Protestants. Roughly one-in-eight
(13%) were raised Catholic, and 5% say they were raised without any particular
religion. Very few grew up as Muslims (3%), Buddhists (2%), Orthodox Christians
(2%) or in a traditional, animist or new age religion (2%). Leaders age 60 or
older are most likely to say they were raised as Protestants (80%). Among those
raised outside of Protestantism, differences in childhood religion tend to
reflect the predominant religion of the region in which they live. B. What Does it Mean to be an Evangelical?
near unanimity, the Lausanne leaders see two practices as essential to being a
good evangelical Christian. Virtually all of the leaders surveyed (97%) say it
is necessary to follow the teachings of Christ in one’s personal and family
life. Nearly as many (94%) say that working to lead others to Christ is part of
being a good evangelical.
but still substantial majorities of leaders also agree on several other essential
behaviors. About three-quarters (73%) say working to help the poor and needy is
essential for being a good evangelical Christian; 24% say this is important but not
essential. There is widespread agreement about this activity among leaders from
all regions of the world. Fully 74% of leaders from the Global North say
helping the poor and needy is essential, as do 72% of leaders from the Global South.
– or giving at least a tenth of one’s income to the church – is deemed
essential for being a good evangelical Christian by 58% of the leaders; 32% say
tithing is important but not essential, and 8% consider tithing either not too
important or not at all important. Leaders from Europe are less likely than
those in other regions to say tithing is essential for being a good
evangelical. About a third of European leaders (36%) say tithing is essential,
compared with 59% of North American leaders and 66% of leaders in the Global
a solid majority says that it is essential for evangelicals to take a public
stand on social and political issues when those issues conflict with moral and
biblical principles; 56% call this essential, while 37% say it is important but
not essential, and 5% say it is either not too important or not at all
important. In addition, about half of the leaders (49%) say that it is
essential to take a public stand on social and political issues that could
limit the freedom of evangelicals to practice their faith; 39% say this is
important but not essential, and 9% say it is either not too or not at all
one-third (36%) say working to protect the natural environment is essential for
being a good evangelical, while close to half (47%) say that protecting the
environment is important but not essential, and 16% say it is either not too or
not at all important. Leaders living in Hindu-majority countries, namely India
and Nepal, are more likely than others (57% vs. 34%) to say that protecting the
environment is essential for being a good evangelical.
is strong consensus among the leaders on the compatibility of some religious
beliefs and practices with evangelicalism. More than nine-in-ten see no
problem, for example, with believing that miracles can take place today (94%)
or believing in divine healing (93%).
is also solid agreement among the Lausanne leaders on some beliefs and
practices that are not compatible with being a good evangelical, such as mixing
Christianity with elements of other faiths, sometimes called syncretism. More
than nine-in-ten of the leaders surveyed say that engaging in yoga as a
spiritual practice (92%), believing in astrology (97%) and believing in
reincarnation (96%) are incompatible with being a good evangelical. Nearly all
the leaders surveyed (95%) also say that believing Jesus Christ is not the only path to salvation is incompatible with being a
good evangelical Christian.
the Lausanne leaders, 70% say that speaking in tongues is compatible with being
a good evangelical Christian. But a sizeable minority (26%) considers this
practice, which is commonly associated with Pentecostalism, to be incompatible.
Among renewalist leaders, 84% say speaking in tongues is compatible with being
a good evangelical Christian, compared with 64% of non-renewalists.
item on which the leaders are most evenly split is the question of whether
consuming alcohol is compatible with being a good evangelical Christian.
Roughly half (52%) of the evangelical leaders say drinking alcohol is not
compatible with being a good evangelical, while 42% say it is compatible, and
6% are not sure or do not answer.
about this issue are related to the regional backgrounds of the respondents. A
majority (73%) of the leaders from the Global North consider alcohol
consumption to be compatible with being a good evangelical Christian. By
contrast, a similarly large majority of the leaders from the Global South (75%)
say alcohol consumption is not compatible
with being a good evangelical. Leaders from sub-Saharan Africa are especially
likely to say this; fully 78% say consuming alcohol is not compatible with
being a good evangelical.
regional differences may also reflect the influence of other religious and
cultural traditions in certain areas of the world. More than eight-in-ten (83%)
leaders living in Hindu-majority countries say consuming alcohol is
incompatible with being a good evangelical; 78% of those living in
Muslim-majority countries take the same position, as do 67% of those living in
Buddhist-majority countries. C. Beliefs
all of the Lausanne leaders (96%) believe that Christianity is the one, true
faith leading to eternal life. Only 1% say that many religions can lead to
near unanimity contrasts sharply with the answers given by rank-and-file
evangelicals on surveys in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. Evangelical
Protestants in the U.S. are divided on whether “my religion is the one, true
faith leading to eternal life,” with 51% saying it is the sole path to eternal
life and 45% saying many religions can lead to eternal life.10
Opinions among evangelical Protestants in 15 countries across sub-Saharan
Africa vary widely on this question. The percentage of self-identified
evangelical Protestants saying “my religion is the one true faith leading to
eternal life” ranges from a low of 25% in Cameroon to a high of 86% in Ethiopia.11
all of the Lausanne Congress participants (98%) believe that the Bible is the
Word of God. However, there is an almost even split between those who believe
that everything in the Bible should be taken literally (50%) and those who do
not (48%). Global South leaders are more likely than those from the Global
North to say that the Bible should be taken literally, word for word (58% vs.
leaders participating in the Congress are evenly split between those who take
everything in the Bible literally and those
who do not (48% to 49%, respectively). As a point of comparison,
evangelical Protestants in the U.S. are more likely to say they read the Bible
literally; two-thirds (68%) take this view, while about one-quarter (27%) say
that the Bible is the Word of God but that not everything in it should be taken
literally, word for word.12
By a wide margin, the evangelical leaders
surveyed reject the idea that human beings and other living things have evolved
over time due solely to natural processes. Nearly half (47%) believe that
humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the
beginning of time, while 41% believe that a supreme being guided the
evolutionary process. Only 3% say that humans and other living things have
evolved over time due to natural processes such as natural selection.
from the Global North are more likely than those from the Global South to say that
the evolution of living things, guided by a supreme being, has taken place.
Half of the leaders from the Global North (50%) take this position (including
49% of U.S. leaders), as do 34% among Global South leaders. Leaders from the
Global South are more likely than those from the Global North to say that
humans and other living things have always existed in their present form (54%
slight majority of leaders (52%) believe that Christ will either probably (44%)
or definitely (8%) return in their lifetimes.
Six-in-ten leaders (61%) also say they believe in the Rapture of the
Church — the teaching that believers will be instantly caught up with Christ
before the Great Tribulation, leaving non-believers behind to suffer on Earth.
it comes to these beliefs about eschatology or the End Times, regional
differences once again are notable. Two-thirds of Global South leaders (67%) say
Christ definitely or probably will return in their lifetimes, compared with a
third of Global North leaders (34%). Renewalist leaders are also more likely
than non-renewalists to believe that Christ is likely to return in their
lifetimes (60% vs. 47%). Among leaders from the Global South, 73% say they
believe in the Rapture, compared with 44% of Global North leaders. But
majorities of those surveyed from all regions except Europe believe in the
rapture of the Church; evangelical leaders from sub-Saharan Africa are
especially likely to believe in the Rapture (82%).D. Practices
The global evangelical leaders tend to be frequent church-goers.
The vast majority (89%) say they participate in religious services at least
once a week, with two-thirds (68%) saying they attend more than once a week.
The evangelical leaders are also quite likely to say they
participate in prayer or scripture study groups on a weekly basis (75%). By
comparison, they listen to religious radio or watch
religious TV programs less often; about a third (37%) do so weekly, and 29% do so seldom or never.
from the Global South are more likely than those from the Global North to
participate in prayer or study groups and to tune in to religious media. For
example, about half of the leaders from the Global South (47%) watch or listen
to religious media programs weekly, compared with about one-quarter of the leaders
from the Global North (23%). Renewalist leaders are also more likely to engage
in these activities.
all the evangelical leaders surveyed (94%) say they have received a direct
answer to a specific prayer request at some point in the past. E. Renewalist Experiences
numbers of the leaders surveyed also report having experienced or witnessed
practices that are often associated with renewalist groups. For example,
roughly half or more of the evangelical leaders report having spoken or prayed
in tongues (47%), experienced or witnessed the devil or evil spirits being
driven out of a person (57%), received a direct revelation from God (61%) or personally
witnessed or experienced a faith healing (76%). A smaller but still significant
number (40%) have given or interpreted prophecy.
Not surprisingly, renewalist leaders (that is, those who
identify as either Pentecostal or charismatic) are more likely than other
leaders to report having these experiences. More than three-quarters of
renewalists say they have witnessed or experienced a divine healing (91%), a
direct revelation (80%), an exorcism (78%) and speaking in tongues (81%). And two-thirds
of the self-identified renewalists surveyed (67%) have given or interpreted
prophecy. While non-renewalist leaders are less likely to say they have
experienced each of these things, large numbers still claim some of them.
In particular, two-thirds (66%) of the leaders who do not identify as
Pentecostal or charismatic say they have witnessed or experienced a divine healing, and
more than four-in-ten have received a direct revelation from God (48%) or
witnessed or experienced an exorcism (43%).
these experiences appear to be more common in the Global South, where renewalist
identification is higher. But even accounting for identification as a
renewalist Christian, leaders from the Global South are significantly more
likely than those from the Global North to say they have witnessed or
experienced the devil or evil spirits being driven out of a person. They are
also more likely to say they have experienced or witnessed a divine healing.
And while renewalist identification is most important in understanding
differences in rates of speaking in tongues, there is also a geographic
difference among non-renewalist leaders on this item, with those from the South
twice as likely as those from the North to have participated.
it comes to the prosperity gospel – an issue that generates considerable
controversy among Christians globally – the Lausanne leaders express a clear
consensus. An overwhelming majority rejects the idea that God will grant wealth
and good health to all believers who have deep faith. Only 7% of the leaders
surveyed endorse the prosperity gospel, while 90% say that God does not always give wealth and good health to believers with
deep faith. There is strong consensus on this point among renewalists and
9 See, for example, the Pew Forum’s 2006 report, Spirit and
Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals. (return to text)
10 See the Pew Research Center, Many Americans Say Other
Faiths Can Lead to Eternal Life, 2008. (return to text)
11 For more details see the Pew Forum’s 2010 report, Tolerance
and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2010. (return to text)
12 See Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, 2010. (return to text)
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