From “Happy-Clappy” to hungering for theology

Dr Michael Horton recently made this observation in discussing what this generation wants from a local church…

A lot of younger evangelicals were reared in “happy-clappy” churches with theater seating, a praise band, singing off the wall (both literally and figuratively). They are looking for reverence, history, mystery and transcendence. A lot of them are looking for doctrine, too, oddly enough. According to one Wall Street Journal study, in fact, the number one element that young urban professionals in New York said they would look for if they decided to go back to church: theological discussion groups! I guess I’m getting older.

To me, the megachurch movement was contemporary, but now it’s old news and the generation that was raised in it is now looking for something more serious, meaningful, beautiful, and truthful. Of course, “mystery” and “transcendence” can be a dangerous drug as well, if the object is something other than the Triune God and His revelation in Jesus Christ.

RISKING THE TRUTH, by Martin Downes (Christian Focus, UK: 2009), page 48.

2 thoughts on “From “Happy-Clappy” to hungering for theology

  1. While I have not read the entire context of this excerpt from “Risking the truth” it appears Dr. Horton has missed something very significant from that Wall Street Journal article about what younger evangelicals are looking for in a church.

    Dr. Horton cited the fact that according to a Wall Street Journal study “the number one thing young urban professionals in New York said they would look for if they decided to go back to church: theological discussion groups!” Note that Dr. Horton only seems to draw out from this fact that such professionals are “looking for doctrine.” But what Dr. Horton appears to miss is the the fact that young evangelicals are also interested in *interaction* with other believers in regard to their study of God. For the article speaks of *discussion* groups.

    So its not as though these christians are just interested in learning sound theology by one gifted teacher, but that they desire to be in groups where they might both express themselves about God and listen to what other believers have to say about the Lord. And this is precisely what will occur when a church heeds the NT precepts and principles in regard to having meetings where there can be this healthy interaction and the mutual exercise of gifts among believers when they assemble together (i.e. Eph 4:16, 5:19, Col 3:16, 1 Pet 4:10, Rom 12:6, Rom 15:14, 1 Tim 3:15, Jude 1:20, Heb 5:12, Heb 10:25, 1 Cor 12, 1 Cor 14 etc.)

    Yet, will young evangelicals find such an experience in the traditional church service? They might find sound theology proclaimed by one or two men, but will they find a format that enables them to engage in that NT practice of mutual instruction and exhortation that their hearts are longing for? I don’t think so.

    Among other things, what this article proves is that one of the things that has turned christians *away* from the traditional church is the passive, non interactive nature of it. Significantly, this non interactive nature of the traditional church has no foundation in the NT at all.


  2. Hi Scott, thanks for reading & commenting. I don’t think Horton misses anything here, though.

    I thank God for this hunger for sound doctrine seen in many younger adults these days, and I join Horton in calling churches to be faithful with the gospel and the content of their doctrine.



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