5 Large Churches Who Defy The “Evangelical” Label

It’s presidential election season again and the conversation on cable news is about what will happen to the “evangelical vote.” This conversation drives me crazy! “Evangelicals” have been my tribe for the majority of my ministry career. It’s the group that I call family — not a demographic. The nuance that’s missed by so many in the press is that this slice of the Christian community has a much broader make-up than you’d think after listening to the pundits.

Increasingly, if people ask me if I’m an evangelical, I answer, “If you mean someone who takes the teaching of Jesus very seriously and wants other people to as well … then yes, I’m an evangelical. If what you mean is some narrowly defined meme that includes TV preachers and big hair … then no, I’m not evangelical.”

We’re a big family with a wide variety of folks in our tent. Here are a few churches that defy the typical “evangelical stereotype,” while making a huge impact on the communities they serve.

  • Multicultural & Urban // New Life Fellowship, Queens, NYC // Led by Rich Villodas, this vibrant church is making a huge impact in its incredibly vibrant community. Unlike so many churches across the country fleeing cities as communities shift and change, New Life embraces and celebrates the diversity in its pews … it’s a strength that draws the church together.
  • Peacemakers // Woodland Hills, St. Paul, Minnesota // Woodland Hills represents a breed of new-Anabaptist or Mennonite evangelicals that are rediscovering the values of peace, simplicity and community. This church is radically Jesus-centric and makes a difference in its community.
  • Compassion-Driven // Northland, Orlando, Florida // This church of 20,000 people has built its community reputation on getting out of the seats and into the streets. They’ve been internationally recognized for the way they’ve mobilized resources and people to serve the last, the least and the lost.
  • Thoughtful // Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC // The hallmark of this church is its teaching, which welcomes and engages skeptics. A church for city dwellers by city dwellers, this community represents a thoughtful and measured approach to the Christian faith.
  • Young // Experience Life, Lubbock, Texas // Often, we think of mega-churches as being led by and having the attitudes of boomers, but this is not the case with Experience Life. Led by a 30-something leadership and teeming with energy, this church is a model of next-generation ministry.

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  1. Do we need a new word?

    I think of the word *fundamentalist* which now carries such negative connotations. The word itself is not inherently problematic, but over time the term accrued negative connotations.

    Interesting side note: some of the authors of The Fundamentals were not in agreement with all of the contents of the series. For example, while the series is pro-creationist several authors believed in an evolutionary process.

    1. Dave,

      Yeah … I think the “fundamentalist” does fit in the same category. A good friend of mine says that the problem with “fundamentalists” is that they aren’t fundamental enough … it was a movement that picked and choose what to focus on and often missed the broader themes of scripture.

      Thanks for dropping in!

      – Rich

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.