In it's simplest form, an 'Evangelical Christian' is simply a Christian who takes the Great Commission seriously. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20 (NIV))
Of course, most people consider being 'evangelical' to mean something more. So do evangelicals.
The Barna Group is a very evangelically oriented research and polling organization. For the purpose of their polling, they define 'born again Christians' and 'Evangelicals' as follows:
"Born again Christians" are people who say they have made "a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today" and who also indicate they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria described above plus seven other conditions. These include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.
A similar, though somehat less strict definition comes from the Following Jesus website.
Evangelicals in the United States represent a broad movement of conservative theology that generally adheres to five core beliefs:
A strong belief in the Bible as the authoritative and infallible word of God
A belief is that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ
A personal conversion experience—being "born again"
A personal relationship with Jesus Christ
A willingness to tell other people about the message of salvation in Jesus Christ
A 'Field Guide' to evangelicals. That sounds useful. I wish someone would put together a good one. I wouldn't recommend this one however. It gets mostly 5 star reviews at Amazon, but as one reviewer says, it seems to slip over from satire to mockery. Perhaps I'm a little too sensitive, but saying that evangelicals believe that pretty much everyone (but themselves) is going to Hell does not amuse me, even as satire.
That said, a genuine field guide that truly explains evangelicals while having some fun with the subject would be very useful. Anyone up for the project?
This book, on the other hand, is different. Don't be fooled by the title. The author is not questioning evangelism. Rather, he discusses how to evangelize by asking questions rather than rattling off answers. Both humorous and serious, this may not be a 'field guide', but it is useful. The questioning approach really does look like it can work well for many, especially if you aren't very glib of tongue. Asking questions and listening - give it a try. The books is full of useful examples as well as explanations.