A friend recently asked why evangelical churches were being left behind by so many of his peers, I ventured to make my response. Ultimately, I’m glad when anyone commits themselves to a community of the historic Christian faith, but there are good reasons why many young adults are ditching the glam and mall-like structures of the modern church, and exchanging it for the ancient expression of the liturgical traditions (Catholic, Anglican, Greek Orthodox, etc).
Here is how I responded:
One of the problems, as I see it, is how a service in an evangelical church typically privileges the preaching. As a result, certainty often becomes the central thrust, and everyone knows it. Unfortunately, the focus does not help people who are immersed in what is called “liquid modernity,” or a culture whose only grounding is groundlessness; whose only identity is no-identity; whose only foundation is formless. And since this kind of pulpit ministry leaves no room for the curious, or the activity of doubt, folks leave. But it is not because there aren’t more questions mentioned in the sermon notes. It is something else altogether.
The people have become spectators, not participators. This is not true for all churches. (I’m also glad that the preaching is longer than 10 minutes, as it is in most liturgical churches.) Our church also considers itself to be “evangelical.” So the preaching is longer. But the service is not centered on that act. It is centered on the Eucharist, therefore it hinges on the mysterious encounter with Christ, not on certainty. And I really think this is why there are so many people who have been able to stick with church through their dark season of the soul.
One of my friends went through a season where he claims he didn’t buy any of what the pulpit was saying, but he kept going back every Sunday because he knew he could get the bread and wine and somehow that was holding his faith together; long enough for him to come back around to believing in the orthodox beliefs of the church, once again.
His church (btw!) is a charismatic, non-denominational church that started serving communion every Sunday because they realized that it was a meal instituted by Christ and should be held in as high esteem as the preaching. Fascinating.