Skip to comments.Young Evangelicals Are Getting High (flocking to Catholic and Anglican Churches)
Posted on 07/26/2013 5:40:33 AM PDT by NYer
A friend of mine attended a Christian college where almost all of the students, including her, grew up in non-denominational, evangelical Protestant churches. A few years after graduation, she is the only person in her graduating class who is not Roman Catholic, high Anglican or Lutheran. The town I live in has several “evangelical” Protestant colleges: on Ash Wednesday you can tell who studies at them by the ash crosses on their foreheads.
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.
Ten or fifteen years ago, it was American evangelical congregations that seemed cutting edge. They had the bands, the coolest youth pastor, professional babysitting for every women’s Bible study, and a church library full of Christian novels. But now, to kids who grew up in that context, it seems a bit dated or disconnectedthe same kind of feeling that a 90′s movie gives them. Not that it’s not a church; it’s just feels to them the way that 50′s worship felt to their parents. So they leave. If they don’t walk away from Christianity completely, they head to Rome or something similar.
In a way, it’s hard to understand. Why would you trade your jeans, fair-trade coffee, a Bible and some Getty songs for formal “church clothes”, fasting, a Bible and a priest? It makes no sense to want to kneel on a stone floor instead of sit in a comfy chair. And if you’re hearing about Jesus anyway, why does it really matter?
In another way, it’s very obvious why these kids are leaving and going where they are. In her recent article, “Change Wisely, Dude”, Andrea Palpant Dilley explains her own shift from Presbyterianism to apostacy to generic evangelicalism to high church: “In my 20s, liturgy seemed rote, but now in my 30s, it reminds me that Im part of an institution much larger and older than myself. As the poet Czeslaw Milosz said, ‘The sacred exists and is stronger than all our rebellions.’ Both my doubt and my faith, and even my ongoing frustrations with the church itself, are part of a tradition that started before I was born and will continue after I die. I rest in the assurance that I have something to lean against, something to resist and, more importantly, something that resists me.”
The kids who leave evangelical Protestantism are looking for something the world can’t give them. The world can give them hotter jeans, better coffee, bands, speakers, and book clubs than a congregation can. What it can’t give them is theology; membership in a group that transcends time, place and race; a historic rootedness; something greater than themselves; ordained men who will be spiritual leaders and not merely listeners and buddies and story-tellers. What the kids leaving generic evangelicalism seem to want is something the world can never give them–a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality in their parents’ churches and not finding it.
But not all kids who grew up in American evangelicalism are jumping off into high church rite and sacrament: congregations that carefully teach robust, historic Protestant theology to their children are notably not losing them to the Vatican, or even Lambeth. Protestant churches that recognize their own ecclesiastical and theological heritage, training their children to value and continue it in a 21st century setting, usually retain their youth. These kids have the tools they need to think biblically through the deep and difficult issues of the day and articulate their position without having a crisis of faith. They know the headlines, church history, theology and their Bibles, and so are equipped to engage culture in a winsome, accessible way. They have a relationship with God that is not based on their feelings or commitments but on the enduring promises of the Word and so they can ride out the trends of the American church, knowing that they will pass regardless of mass defections to Rome. That’s not to say that the Book of Common Prayer is unbiblical in its entirety–far from it! It is to say that children raised in spiritually substantive and faithful homes usually find things like holy water, pilgrimages, popes and ash on their faces an affront to the means for spiritual growth that God has appointed in His Word.
“He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church for his Mother,” said Cyprian, nearly two millennia ago. Perhaps if Protestant churches began acting more like dutiful mothers instead of fun babysitters, there would be fewer youth leaving their ecclesiastical homes as soon as they are out of the house.
Haven’t seen this trend in my Church.
We don’t have that many young people attending.
We could use some, send them over.
Perhaps you should heed the pope's advice: Pope to youth: shake things up, bring Church to the streets
Try knocking on doors and inviting people to your church. It's amazing how many people respond saying that no one had ever invited them before.
Churches that remember they are churches and not some feel-good day-care center have a far better chance of retaining their youth. Those are the type of church which built America. Their values permeated our forefathers' being and sustained a moral nation.
Young people of potential will only commit to something which they feel gives their lives meaning. Regrettably, most American churches have eschewed meaning in favor of becoming liberal indoctrination centers and a gravy train for their clergy.
There are many, many "former-Protestant-turns-Catholic" conversion stories posted on FR that bear these same marks. The majority focus on converts with a poor command of their former faith, who swam the Tiber in their early to mid twenties. Some bear witness to converts already being swayed by "every wind of doctrine" before they converted. Most of these conversion stories fall into a common theme - "fringe member (or non-member) starts out illiterate and ignorant of his/her own confession, then gains publicity and fame on EWTN by making a loud, trumpeted conversion to Catholicism."
Take, for example, the story of James Akin. A convert in his mid-twenties, he was actually a whole lot of things before he became Catholic in his mid-twenties, but one Catholic FReeper hawked James as being a "former Presbyterian".
Another favorite is the story of Rodney Beason, supposedly a former Calvinist, and re-solicited as "a powerful conversion story". A first year college student, he claimed to have "a library full of Calvin, Luther, Warfield, Hodge, Murray, Owen, Machen, etc" and to have "helped plant a local Orthodox Presbyterian Church". A little digging on Google, however, and his conversion story was called into question. In the end, Rodney Beason himself signed up to FR just to provide all with the rest of his "powerful conversion story". Having abandoned the Catholic Church within two years of his 2002 conversion, he wishes Catholics would stop (re)publishing his story.
And then there's the tale of Rob Evans. I know what you're thinking - "who is Rob Evans?" Evans' previous claim to fame was a direct-to-VHS children's series titled The Donut Repair Club, marketed to children in Evangelical households in the early 1990s. When he wasn't entertaining children, Rob was a
Presbyterian Pentecostal Baptist multiple-church-splitting spiritual wanderer, who was kicked out of at least one congregation before his conversion to Catholicism. His conversion nicely coincided with EWTN acquiring broadcasting rights to his out-of-production Donut Repair Club.
Finally, there's Fr. Erik J. Richtsteig, billed as a "former Mormon" The problem is, Fr. Richtsteig stopped being Mormon by the time he was just eight years old, meaning he had never held office, never been on a mission, never been through a Temple ceremony. His "Mormon" experience was limited to Sunday attendance (without his mother) "sporadically".
I wonder how many of these Catholic converts actually attended churches that proclaimed the whole council of God? A question I would ask is how many Catholic converts previously went to churches with strong systematic confessions of faith, like the Westminster Confession, and how often were they taught the confession, like in a Sunday School class, and how well did their minister cover all the doctrines in the confession of faith? I would expect some rather weak answers.
-- from the thread Systematic Theology and Catholic Converts
Interesting that young people also vote Democratic in droves. But then, so do Catholics, so I guess it's a good fit.
Here in Brazil, the evangelical churches grew rapidly from the 1950s to the 1990s. The trend towards secularism is noticeable here, and a key reason why 58% of the population considers itself Catholic (down from over 90% in 1950), although the Protestant population appears to have plateaued over the past 15 years.
A great falling away.
I’m sorry, I attend Catholic Mass every week, and I just don’t see it.
The biggest threat to the Church IMO is the near absolute dearth of young people. Not that the Church is doing much to help itself in that regard.
The few who do show up just started getting quizzical “WTH?” looks on their faces when we went to the new Missal.
I have contacts in Latin American countries who tell me the flow is in the opposite direction. Youth in traditionally Catholic countries are flocking to Evangelical churches in droves.
.....Until they decide to get marry and have a family. Then things change.
Somehow the pictures of the kids with the Pope speak loudly.
A friend of mine attended a Christian college where almost all of the students, including her, grew up in non-denominational, evangelical Protestant churches. A few years after graduation, she is the only person in her graduating class who is not Roman Catholic, high Anglican or Lutheran.
...the author’s ‘friend’ apparently has been doing some very thorough surveying over the past several years.
These are the "fruits" of evangelicals who have descended on So. America in droves. However, sometimes, despite their good intentions, these missionary missions backfire.
One day we drove through a small village where I counted three Pentecostal churches on one block. Before the arrival of protestantism, this town was united in its Catholicism. The Catholic parish used to be the center of the community, but now there were multitudes of competing Protestant churches, each promoting its particular brand of evangelicalism: Church of Christ, Presbyterian, non-denominational, Assemblies of God, Mennonite Brethren, and Baptists of every conceivable stripe were all there, scratching around for converts, and reminding their flocks that all the other groups were wrong (especially, of course, the Catholics).
Read the conversion story of Kristine Franklin
The evangelical missionaries ignore scripture:
Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation, but as it is written: "Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand."
See my post #18.
A doctrine and practice within the Church of England emphasizing the Catholic tradition. As the C of E has moved towards more progressive views, a group of "high" Anglicans approached the pope and asked to be received into the Catholic Church. This has resulted in The Anglican Use Rite within the Catholic Church.
Add another ex-evangelical who swum the Tiber to your list!
This article doesn’t apply to me (my family wasn’t churchgoing), but it reflects my opinion of the Catholic church and what it provides that the others do not.
You hit the nail on the head. This isn’t the 1600s where it’s Catholics vs. Protestants. It’s now religous vs. atheism. And our side is losing. Everyone needs to set aside the petty bickering about doctrine and start figuring out how to reverse our losses. They are getting bigger.
For the Lutheran ping list.
I shared this article several days ago on Facebook. Quite interesting.
You want more young people to come to your parish?
Give a copy of this book to your pastor and parish council: http://www.amazon.com/Rebuilt-Awakening-Faithful-Reaching-Making/dp/1594713863/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374847856&sr=8-1&keywords=rebuilt
I’m not saying I agree with everything in the book, but it is a great conversation starter to say the least.
Knowing Jesus is only the start of the journey.
The more committed the young Evangelical is to walking with the Lord, the more likely they will (eventually) hunger for the Eucharist
Just my $0.02.
“Everyone needs to set aside the petty bickering about doctrine and start figuring out how to reverse our losses. They are getting bigger.”
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
I’ve argued with Calvinists often enough that this might sound odd, but it is NOT up to us to convert people. Our job is to faithfully proclaim the Gospel: “repent and believe”. But we cannot make men repent. Not by offering them coffeehouses instead of churches. Not by hiring the reincarnation of Michael Jackson to be the ‘worship leader’.
We can repent and pray, but I’m not sure what to pray for any more - revival, or judgment. Increasingly, I’m inclined to think the latter...
I think you’re hitting it on the head. They leave their church roots because they are not believers - just sprinkled and stamped (this goes for Protestants, too). They wander knowing they are lacking something. They return to something ‘spiritual’ but different from what they grew up in. In effect, one lifeboat picks up survivors from another lifeboat and so on. Protestantism is rife with church-hopping people leaving one church or denomination to find another that tickles their ears or gives them happy vibes.
Personally, I believe when we finally apprehend to robe of Christ and hear his voice, we follow him and religion falls by the way. In effect, we seek to share they overflow of life within rather than be filled by our churches. Religion versus relationship.
It’s only my opinion but I think it wise to never confuse a belief in God with religion. Your dichotomy might be better phrased as belief in God vs. atheism. Religion is a filter or a lens (depending on your view) to God. One need not use either a filter or a lens if one wants a direct experience. Just as many Protestants see no need for a priest to stand between them and God, some see no need for a religion either.
Now that we've torn His Body apart, maybe we should be figuring out how to each bend toward unity, to put His Body back together again.
He wants His Body made whole again, united, not this division we have made and foment, that Satan uses to his advantage against us, to cause Jesus pain.
When I'm not sure what to pray for, I usually turn here:
"Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come Thy will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses As we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. "
Oddly enough, something in there usually jumps out at me as appropriate to the situation.
I think what you're saying is true, but I also think that we have an obligation, through spreading the Word, to make a concerted effort to bring in the sheaves, so to speak. I think in general, we are failing in this. For instance, when high-profile protestant church leaders are becoming entangled in extra-martial affairs and the Catholic church is caught in its own sex scandals, it hurts Christians as a whole because it damages our ability to speak to moral issues with authority.
So instead of sitting around arguing the merits of transubstantiation, the question should be: holy cow! More and more people are turning away from Christ and rejecting the church. Why? And what can we do to fix this?
I was thinking more along the lines of this prayer:
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
“For instance, when high-profile protestant church leaders are becoming entangled in extra-martial affairs and the Catholic church is caught in its own sex scandals, it hurts Christians as a whole because it damages our ability to speak to moral issues with authority.”
I agree, and I agree that we need to engage the lost with more fervor than we engage each other over something like transubstantiation. But in the end, we need to accept that it may not be our failures as Christians that are a stumbling block to this generation, but Jesus Christ Himself.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Do what I do - pray for a revival, and pray for mercy.
An interesting column. and hopeful
Be rooted in Christ!
The congregation closest to me is barely 20 years old and now has a Sunday attendance of around 160, outgrew their first building six years ago. Mostly converts from Mennonite, Lutheran, and Episcopal with a handful of Roman Catholics.
Don’t get me started about liturgical and “traditional” church. I’m getting more turned off by my pastor and his post-modern manner. Love the people (well, 95% of them), love how “diverse” it is, and the pastor is basically good and nice, but the services are getting more and more techno and all about being modern. And this is “Missouri Synod”. Nothing traditional about it anymore if you come see us.
Updating earlier post:
An interesting column and hopeful in that, as they grow older, some young evangelicals are looking for more substance that they have gotten in their particular churches. I find it also is worth noting that missing are the Protestant churches that are going increasingly secular, and I see a distinction between choosing the Anglican and Episcopal churches over the secularizing Episcopal and other old-line Protestant denominations.
I will take issue with the author’s gratuitous attack on Catholicism and conservative Anglicanism in his statement: “It is to say that children raised in spiritually substantive and faithful homes usually find things like holy water, pilgrimages, popes and ash on their faces an affront to the means for spiritual growth that God has appointed in His Word.”
And as Clemenza & Publicus both pointed out it is the growing secularization and atheism of the world is what all of us who follow Christ are in a struggle with, as well as the forces of Satan.
Some need structure to help them grow spiritually, just as a pole bean needs the pole or after an injury, I needed a knee brace to give my knee/leg the required support to help me recover. And giving your friend support on his way to a firmer faith in Jesus and His Father is the best thing you can do. And pray that your friend will find “satisfaction” and a firm faith.
Read the old testament, judgment even affects the remnant.
For me, I pray for revival and mercy.
Thanks for the ping. I have not heard of this trend before, or seen any evidence of it.
I think the largest trend isn’t from evangelical churches to orthodox churches, but from liberal churches to nothing.