What is an exvangelical?
Recently, a contemporary Christian music artist who was previously a member of a band that impacted me greatly in my early Christian life declared himself to be an exvangelical. While I was very familiar with the concept, I had never heard the term exvangelical before. Simple enough, it means “former evangelical.”
He is not the first to use the term, and he won’t be the last. Others who have made similar proclamations refer to it as “deconstructing their faith” or something to that effect.
After reading through the varying reasons why people are declaring themselves to be exvangelicals or to be in the process of deconstructing their faith, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to groan, cry, or take an antacid. It was the typical smorgasbord of complaints: evangelicals are Trump supporters, evangelicals are mean to homosexuals, evangelicals are mean to immigrants, evangelicals oppose the COVID vaccines, etc.
None of those things have anything to do with what it truly means to be an evangelical!
Historically speaking, an evangelical is a Christian who is dedicated to the authority of Scripture, to the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I completely understand that a lot of baggage has been attached to the term evangelical in recent years. Sadly, for many, evangelical carries more political overtones than anything else. As a result, I understand why some would want to distance themselves from what the term evangelical has come to mean.
But, what I noticed while reading the various exvangelical diatribes is that virtually every person proceeded to say things that were denials of one or more of the core beliefs of the Christian faith. While their exodus from evangelicalism began with disagreement on one or more of the issues mentioned above, they all continued into denying one or more of the essential doctrines of historical/biblical Christianity. Whether this denial is a temporary wandering or a “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” moment that will eventually be reversed, it is very dangerous to turn your back on the claims of Christ (2 Timothy 2:12-13).
According to Scripture, a person who previously claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ but then goes on to deny the faith was never truly a Christian to begin with: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, ESV). While the interpretations of Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26 are debated, one thing everyone agrees on is that they are strong warnings against apostasy.
People who allow their disagreements with some evangelicals on non-essential matters to cause them to deny everything evangelicals stand for are revealing their true condition. Such individuals are not truly exvangelicals, as they were never truly evangelicals to begin with.
I think we should all occasionally examine our faith to make sure it is truly and fully constructed on Jesus Christ and His infallible Word (Ephesians 2:20). If you find that some of your beliefs, practices, biases, perceptions, and preconceptions are not firmly built on Scripture, by all means, deconstruct them. If you find that your Christian faith is more about tribalism than it is about worshiping and serving Christ, some deconstruction is in order. Ask. Seek. Knock. Question. Examine your heart. Pray. Search the Scriptures.
The last thing we should do, though, is to allow the sins, mistakes, illogical viewpoints, and absurd thinking of some who claim the term evangelical to push us away from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You do not have to hold to all the trappings of evangelicalism to be a Christian. You do not even have to hold to all the trappings of evangelicalism to be an evangelical. There are many Bible-believing and Jesus-following Christians who do not consider themselves evangelicals. At the same time, at the core of what an evangelical is supposed to be are beliefs and practices that every follower of Jesus Christ should embrace.
You are responsible for how you follow Jesus Christ. “But Lord, I didn’t like all of your followers” will not be an acceptable response when we stand before the Lord at the doors to eternity. The Jesus who is at the core of the true evangelical faith is the only entrance (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
S. Michael Houdmann
What is an exvangelical?