Evangelicals are growing in number and in diversity throughout America. This is especially obvious in states such as Texas, which is home to many of the largest churches in the country. Seventy-seven percent of Texans identify as Christian, nearly one third of whom call themselves evangelical.
So if you watch cable news, scroll through your twitter feed, or simply have a conversation at the water cooler, you’re bound to hear the term “evangelical Christian” more and more these days.
Yet too often that discussion exclusively involves politics.
Of course, all-things political in this country have reached a fever pitch. It’s as if we now live in a perpetual election season, and it’s all we ever talk about.
As a result, evangelical Christians are labeled and defined almost exclusively by which candidates they’ve supported or which policies they poll in support of.
But evangelicals are not and have never been defined by politics.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re as engaged as any other citizens in our republic, as is our right and duty as Americans, but our values predate America and our ministries speak for themselves.
Evangelicals should be defined exclusively by our belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy of scripture, and the ways we live out our faith on a daily basis – not only in this country but also around the world. Evangelicals are a diverse, eclectic group of people found in every nation on the planet, committed to reaching hurting and broken individuals in practical ways with the love of Christ.
Because of our commitment to love others, we are deeply involved in relief work both locally and globally, and, in fact, evangelicals have been the founders of many of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations. My own church and ministry devotes millions of dollars to providing housing, food, medical care and basic needs wherever we find it lacking, beginning in our own community. We connect face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder with desperate people living in desperate circumstances.
In one nation in particular, Haiti, we have invested more than $3.4 million, building 100 homes, a 30,000-square-foot food distribution center and a 25-acre marketplace providing 2,600 new jobs. Each month we send $10,000 which supplies 270,000 meals to orphans and to those in need in remote villages. We’re one of tens-of-thousands of churches in this country that do the same for the needy here and everywhere in our world. We are often the first to arrive in a crisis and the last to leave.
Here in the United States, for example, we have partnered with the remarkable Dream Center in Los Angeles to provide over $1.2 million in projects that aid in preventing human trafficking, addiction recovery, and homes for teenagers and young adults transitioning out of foster care. Our church has also stepped in when disaster strikes, giving $250,000 to victims of hurricane damage last year in Texas, Louisiana and Puerto Rico.
We’re committed to numerous other endeavors, such as rehabilitating prisoners, donating to food banks, caring for special needs children, helping adoptive and foster families and also spearheading efforts to achieve racial reconciliation in our churches, our neighborhoods and all throughout the country.
None of these efforts are on the periphery; they’re our heartbeat. They’re the reason we get up in the morning.
It’s also worth noting that evangelical Christians are a far more diverse and thoughtful group of people than we’re given credit for. In my church, we have members who voted for Obama, and we have members who voted for Trump. But I can also tell you this: the personality in place is hardly anyone’s top priority.
We are most concerned with individual, specific problems and how we can help solve those problems.
Are we standing up for voiceless, the vulnerable, the unborn, the immigrant, the poor, the marginalized? Those are the questions we’re always looking to answer.
Evangelical Christians have an unswerving passion for the needs of others because we believe in the sanctity of every human life, beginning with the unborn. We are working with all our might for every addict at the end of their rope, and every victim of abuse who’s lost all hope. Our churches and our homes are places where all those who enter can experience the overwhelming and unending grace and love of God.
I’m afraid these facts get lost in the discussion, or never even come to light in the first place. Members of the media and politicians may first think of us as a large voting block, but that’s because all they can see on the horizon is the next election.
Yet, the people in our community know us. They know that we serve with love, and there’s no form of bigotry or discrimination in sight. There is no left versus right dichotomy. There’s only people who God has called us to love in the same way he has loved us: unconditionally.
Franklin leads one of America’s largest congregations, Free Chapel, a multi-campus church. He is a New York Times best-selling author and winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Mantle of Destiny Award for his efforts on racial reconciliation.