A Brief History of Evangelicals:

                 By Monk Preston                                      (Co-Founder & President, The Prayer Foundation )


Image: The Prayer Foundation logo (with white Celtic cross on a green shield). There are an estimated 1/2 billion Evangelical Christians in the world today (estimates actually vary from 1/4 billion to 1 billion as of 2006). 

Photo: "Skellig Michael" Copyright Irish Tourist Board.

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."Photo: Inside the Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park, Alberta (Canadian Rockies).  Photo Copyright 2006 S.G.P.  All Rights Reserved.

Often thought of primarily as a Protestant movement (a notable early exception would be the Devotio Moderna ("The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas Kempis) movement in the Catholic Church, and some would even include the Franciscan movement), 20% of American Catholics now consider themselves to be Evangelicals, as the Evangelical movement spreads like wildfire throughout Central and South America and is a fledgling movement among Eastern Orthodox believers in Greece.

Peter Waldo and the Waldensians remained in the Roman Catholic Church while teaching Evangelical doctrine from the 1100's on.  (St. Francis lived Evangelicalism in the 1200's).  John Wycliffe and his Lollard Monastic Preaching Order taught Evangelical beliefs  from the 1300's on, and John Hus and the Moravians did so from the late 1300's on.  The Brethren of the Common Life with Thomas Kempis  was an Evangelical movement in the Catholic Church in the 1400's.

October 31, 1517

Martin Luther unintentionally began the Protestant Reformation on Oct. 31, 1517, when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of  Wittenburg Cathedral, calling for reform of the Roman Catholic Church, in  which he was both a Priest and an Augustinian monk.

Martin Luther and John Calvin laid out the basic Scriptural Teaching for "Protestantism", seen originally as "reform" movement within the Roman Catholic Church, and a return to a New Testament "Biblical Christianity".

1100's - 1517 

These same doctrinal teachings had actually already been taught and practiced for at least the previous several hundred years by other groups within the Roman Catholic Church, including the Waldensians, John Wycliffe and his Lollard preaching Order, and the Hussites (Moravians).

New Testament Times

Taken from the New Testament Scriptures themselves, Protestants believe the key doctrines of the Protestant Reformation to be the original teaching and practices of Christ, the Apostles, and the Early Church.


Martin Luther translated the Bible into the vernacular (in his case, this was into German), and William Tyndale was martyred for translating the Bible into English.


The Great Awakening, led by Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley saw the birth of modern "Evangelicalism".

1700's - 1800's

Methodist Circuit Riders and Baptist preachers spread the Evangelical movement throughout the United States.


The great worldwide missionary movement of the 1800's spread Evangelicalism throughout the world.   

In the 1890's, Liberal, "Modernist" Theologians began apostatizing from belief in the historic Biblical teachings of the Christian Faith, taking several entire and formerly "mainline" Protestant Denominations with them.  The result has been the loss of millions of members from these Theologically liberal Denominations, and their subsequent relegation to irrelevancy (some of the liberals who attend them even jokingly now refer to their own Denominations as the "sidelined" Denominations), as more conservative Denominations have experienced explosive exponential growth over this same period of time.


R. A. Torrey began the Christian Fundamentalist movement in response to Liberal/"Modernist" Theology, but the movement was soon taken over by an anti-intellectual and legalistic strain in the 1920's and 1930's to R.A. Torrey's deep disappointment. 

Around WWII, in response against both the Liberal, "Modernist" Theologians and the Fundamentalist extremes, the current modern Evangelical movement of moderates was formed, led by the Rev. Billy Graham.

1950's - 1960's

In the 1950's and 1960's the intellectual Christian high ground was recovered by Evangelicals through the work of C. S. Lewis, Francis A. Schaeffer, Paul E. Little (Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship), and others.

1970's - Today

 From the 1970's through today, the Evangelical movement spread to 20% of American Catholics through the Charismatic/Pentecostal "Renewal" and in Asia in Korea.  Today Evangelicalism is spreading like wildfire throughout Central and South America, and in China

There are an estimated 1/2 billion Evangelical Christians in the world today (estimates actually vary from 1/4 billion to 1 billion as of 2006). ___________________________________________________________

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 Copyright 2007 S.G.P. All rights reserved. 

   Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright Irish Tourist Board.  

Photo: a lone monk of The Prayer Foundation in a wooded area.