First let me say I don't like the term "evangelical." I never use it for myself, and I don't recall anybody ever using it when referring to me. It has been used to marginalize and define people for political and / or popular media purposes. Yet, the word is out there and is both descriptive and misused, so if you can't beat them, we'll join them for the sake of this conversation. An Evangelical is basically defined by two things: (1) They had a point in their life where they had a conversion to Jesus Christ, an experience that they can point to. (2) They believe the Bible. Even that second definition is variously defined within the movement. But it is safe to say "Evangelicals are Bible believing converts to Jesus Christ." It has nothing to do with political associations or social activism.
As such Pat Robertson is certainly an evangelical, as is Jimmy Carter. Ollie North by definition is an evangelical, as is Bono from U2. (listen to the podcast where he talks about his faith and inspiration.) Jerry Falwell falls into the category, as does Joel Osteen. Deion Sanders, George Foreman and Kathie Lee Gifford all register as evangelicals. It's a pretty broad category, as the definition is pretty generous. Folks that have come to believe in Jesus and the Bible. Evangelicals can be found everywhere as they live and work among us. You won't however find too many in New England and the Northeast, as the Time Magazine map shows.
The Time Magazine map (from the "America turns 300 Million" issue) shows the number of evangelicals per one thousand people. The tan color (double click the map to blow it up) of New England shows less than 100 in 1,000 are evangelicals. People who converted to Jesus and believe the Bible. George Barna shows similar statistics and has Connecticut at the very bottom of the barrel of evangelical adherents. We are 'dead last' with the lowest number of converts to Jesus in the USA! Wow!
New England is a bona fide mission field with less than 10% evangelical. We send missionaries to countries with larger Christian populations than that. According to Patrick Johnstone of "Operation World" (who tracks believing populations around the world) countries with larger believing populations than the state of Connecticut include Guatemala with 23%, Nicaragua with 15.1%, Ethiopia with 13% and Zaire with 21%. Don't hear me wrong, we are responsible as New Testament Christians to send our people to fields abroad. But Connecticut is as dark spiritually as many fields we send missionaries to. Read my friend Bill Lamorey's post about church planting / missions work in Connecticut.
It's not just Connecticut, although we are the worst in the country, but much of the Northeast is in a similar condition. Here's some more statistics:
* Of the 86 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, those with the lowest proportion of evangelicals were Salt Lake City, Utah; Hartford, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island.
* Involvement in an adult small group is most prolific in Shreveport, Louisiana. The three areas with the lowest rates of small group participation are Albany (NY), Boston and Providence.
* Adults are most likely to claim they have a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with other people if they live in Birmingham, Alabama. That perspective is least common in Providence and Green Bay.
* Believing that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today” is most common in Tulsa. It is least predominant in Boston and San Francisco.
* One out of every six residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington are atheist or agnostic – nearly double the national average. Atheists and agnostics are hardest to locate in Louisiana and Missouri.
There are other areas around the country that have relatively low percentages as well, including parts of southern California. The difference there is the density of the populations. So while the percentages may be low, the numbers are high. Los Angeles County has a small percentage of Evangelicals, but because of population density has millions of them.
I'm not complaining. But we do have our work cut out for us. It's appropriate for us to maintain a missionary posture and find creative and innovative ways to reach more people with the Good New of the Gospel of Jesus.
We've definitely got a lot to do, but God is good! Let's roll up our sleeves and let God do His creative and innovative work among us>
Look out Connecticut, here we come!