Young Evangelicals Getting “High” in Church?

Excuse the silly title, but I am intrigued by an recent article doing the rounds about the influx of young evangelicals into liturgical churches. The article is Young Evangelicals Are Getting High at The Christian Pundit.

Young Christians are going over to Catholicism and high Anglicanism/Lutheranism in droves, despite growing up in low Protestant churches that told them about Jesus. It’s a trend that is growing, and it looks like it might go that way for a while: people who grew up in stereotypical, casual evangelicalism are running back past their parents’ church to something that looks like it was dug out of Europe a couple hundred years ago at least. It’s encouraged by certain emergent leaders and by other “Christian” authors whose writings promote “high” theology under a Protestant publisher’s cover.

As one who has recently come out of the Anglophile closet and formally become a neophyte Anglican – Darth Anglicanus – I can resonate much with this article. Many desire a creedal faith that places them in a communion of saints that is 2000 years old rather than throwing their lot in with theological superstars of the sectarian kind or jumping onto the latest fads which have the theological depth of a car park puddle. Many hunger for something that is aesthetic in their worship, rather than just intellectual or emotional. Many seek a sacramental encounter with God in the Eucharist so that one receives the blessings of fellowshipping in a community that feeds on Christ – a sharp contrast to the empty memorialism in so much evangelicalism.

In my forthcoming Evangelical Theology, I propose an agenda for the evangelical churches along several lines:

1. Developing a thicker ecclesiology with a biblically shaped liturgy and a high view of sacraments.

2. Recovering the revivalistic preaching ethos of the Puritans and Weslyans that pursues gospel-driven evangelism.

3. De-platonizing Christian spirituality and returning it to its apocalyptic roots in the invasive story of the gospel.

  • dougchaplin

    Hi Mike,

    I’ll be interested to see the book, but given where this post started, I wonder about your points 2 & 3. The Puritan and Wesley models led people out of sacramental worship and fractured the church whereas there are Franciscan and Dominican models (to name but two) which stayed within it.

    And on point 3, while I think there are real tensions between e.g. Augustine’s Platonizing and Paul’s eschatology, there are also some real problems with returning tout court, to apocalyptic roots. One of the strengths of the Platonizing was apologetic, and another was that it helped deal with the delay of the parousia. (I’m more of an Aristotelian myself.) Arguably, Paul sets a trajectory of moving away from defining “what happened to Jesus” by his apocalyptic understanding of resurrection, and towards defining resurrection by “what happened to Jesus”. That, I suggest, opens a bigger door to interacting with neo-Platoinism than many evangelicals allow.

    • ric

      John Wesley placed a strong emphasis on regular participation in Communion (the Eucharist).

  • scotmcknight

    Mike, I thought the same as previous commenter when I read your affirmation of the Puritans. The one thing they most wanted was to purge the Angican Church of anything that smelled or looked like the Catholics. So that Puritan and Anglican is a strong tension.

    Not sure what #3 has to do with the move toward “high” church.

    Overall that article lacked the credibility of numbers that gave her apocalyptic warnings substance. How many, really, are moving into the more liturgical framework? How many are nibbling on liturgy in nondenominational churches is another question, and does not indicate move toward “high” church. That requires communion with on one of the “high” churches; it requires a church that celebrates eucharist as the high point of the service; it entails lectionary preaching; it means recitation of the Creed.

    I read the article on this so-called high church move as an uninformed rant instead of a reasoned article, which we need. I wrote on this in an article called From Wheaton to Rome, now in a book called Finding Faith, Losing Faith (Baylor Univ Press).

    • Brian P.

      From what I’ve anecdotally see in my non-denominational church’s awkward dabbling, I think we’ll see more nibbling on the crumbs to the point of starvation than keeping of the Feast. I could be wrong. And Michael and The Christian Pundit could be too. This seems to be projection on wishful thinking. From what I’ve seen the research numbers more so say the bigger trend is the rising of the Nones.

  • Mike Juggins

    The trouble with many (not all) Anglican, and Roman churches is that the turn away from the Bible which is God’s word. Some embrace evolution, others accept practicing homosexuals as clergy, still others deny the Deity of Christ. In some ways this acceptance of man’s ‘wisdom’ makes the church more popular. However we are called not to preach with man’s wisdom, but Christ crucified and resurrected. Unfortunately there are too many ‘reformed’ churches that have stepped too far away from the ‘old religion’ and almost thrown the baby out with the bath water. This results in the empty message that you describe. As Christians, whichever church we worship in we must get back to the Truth recorded for us in the Scripture and follow, nay, seek after God with our whole hearts.

    • Brian P.

      I am so glad to not have that “old religion” any more!!! I ***love*** the forced humility that comes with merely having man’s wisdom!

      • Mike Juggins

        I too am glad I no longer have the old religion. But forced humility from man’s wisdom? I’d rather have the simple truth of knowing I am nothing without the God who created all things and the redemptive blood of the risen Messiah.

  • Ray Hooker

    Mike, I can’t speak for the Catholic church, but the Anglican churches that are growing in the US are biblically faithful. The largest number of Anglicans in the world are actually in the Global South (South America, Africa and Asia) which are biblically faithful. They all accept the historic faith as expressed in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, along with the foundation of the 39 articles.Most importantly in the liturgy, not only are the scriptures read but the truth and words of scripture form the liturgy. They may not be a five point Calvinist TULIP, but they value the Bible as the Word of God. There is a range of perspectives, I will admit that the PCA person may not like.. but for me it is one of the advantages because it acknowledges the broader church of the elect. Too often we fight over things that even the most conservative theologian would acknowledge is not necessary for salvation (e.g., limited atonement). The most important thing is to put faith in Jesus and live under his rule, putting his words into practice.

  • LogicGuru

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be Evangelical–ugly, boring, puritanical, didactic, talky religion. I can’t help but suspect that Evangelicals just don’t know what’s possible–the it’s possible for religion to be moving, beautiful, thrilling and sensual–that’s what high church is. Evangelicalism is religion at its worst and gives all religion a bad name. No one who knew the alternatives that liturgical churches offer would put up with that detestable, worthless, stinking garbage. Why be Evangelical when you can be high church? Why eat sh*t when you could be enjoying a triple banana split with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, nuts and cherries? Evangelicalism is poison, something we should all work to discredit and destroy.

  • Mike

    I do hope the claims made in this article are correct. IMHO Low church is the result of Bibliolatry and congregationalism. Congragations can elect the most poorly trained or even untrained ministers. Low church and fundamentalism will almost always be the outcome.

  • Mark

    Yes, some Anglican churches are growing, even in the US. They are liturgical, have 11-minute homilies, and have Eucharist every Sunday. The priests also say it like it is and don’t skirt telling the people what they need to hear. There is also no attempt to be cool, they still play a pipe organ, sing and pray in formal English and are not gender neutral. (1662 BCP, Rite I). The Catholics have even gone back to the Latin mass and it draws a crowd.


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