The “Washington Post” published an article on how many evangelical churches are now, in a big departure for many of them, practicing Lent. The article went on to deal with an bigger phenomenon, that cutting-edge congregations are abandoning the baby boomer church growth movement in favor of what they are callingancient-future worship:
This increasing connection with Christianity’s classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent calendars at Christmastime. Others have formed monastic communities, such as Casa Chirilagua in Alexandria, modeled on the monasteries that arose in Christianity’s early years.
This represents a “major sea change in evangelical life,” according to D.H. Williams, professor of patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. “Evangelicalism is coming to point where the early church has become the newest staple of its diet.”
Experts say most who have taken on such practices have grown disillusioned with the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches embraced by baby boomers, with their casually dressed ministers and rock-band praise music.
Instead, evangelicals — many of them young — are adopting a trend that has come to be known as “worship renewal” or “ancient-future worship.”Those familiar with the trend say it is practiced mostly by small, avant-garde evangelical churches, though not always. Last summer, the national convention of the 2.5 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, an evangelical wing of the Lutheran denomination, voted to revive private confession.
“I definitely sense a hunger for acknowledgment of life’s mysteries and of the mystery and beauty of God,” said John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., which recently hosted a “worship renewal” conference for 1,500 people. “There’s a hunger for deeper engagement — ‘Don’t just sell me a product at church, but really put me in touch with the mystery and beauty of God.’ “
Right, the LCMS is a BIG avant-garde evangelical church! Actually, we have ALWAYS had confession and absolution, as codified in our 16th century doctrinal statements, though it has fallen into disuse among many congregations (but by no means all). Anyway, I’ll let that go. I realize that this gets tied up with the “Emerging church” movement, which has problems of its own. The point, though–that “the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches” will not satisfy for long and will produce a hunger for historic Christianity–is what I have been writing about and predicting for a long time.