Academic interest in and journalistic curiosity about the development of evangelical churches in Europe continues, as evidenced in recent publications.
The Swiss weekly L’Hebdo (January 10) devoted its cover to the growth of evangelicals, summarizing the results of a newly published research book by Jörg Stolz and a team of scholars at the University of Lausanne (Le Phénomène Evangélique, Labor et Fides). In Switzerland, evangelical believers of all types represent nearly 3 percent of the population (in addition to a portion of the faithful with evangelical leanings in the established Reformed Church).
While this seems to be modest at first sight, evangelicals as a whole are not declining (in contrast to mainstream churches) and are committed. In absolute numbers, there are more evangelicals than Reformed worshipping every week, although the latter still make up 28 percent of Swiss residents. Eighty-seven percent of evangelicals in Switzerland attend church at least once a week.According to the researchers, a main advantage of evangelicals is their competitiveness: not only do they know how to market their message, but they also have varied offerings for modern people, relying on social networks.
A strong sense of belonging characterizes more than 96 percent of evangelicals, and community feelings are strong, with few evangelicals marrying people outside of the fold. A much stronger emphasis on values (e.g. moral values) also contributes to a sense of collective identity. While a number of Reformed believers who move to another place let their affiliation lapse, evangelicals usually will reaffiliate with another local congregation. The researchers distinguish among three types of evangelical groups: conservative (10.7 percent), charismatic (32.5 percent) and classical (56.8 percent).
About a third of converts come from nonevangelical backgrounds, and this is even more the case with charismatic congregations: half of their members were not raised in evangelical families. Evangelicals of the charismatic type are reported to be especially innovative, refashioning constantly what they offer. Influences of the charismatic style and beliefs can be found in evangelical churches of other types as well.