In the mid 90’s as a new generation of Christians was investigating the Reformed Faith, often looking for new churches, some, with their newest edition of Modern Reformation magazine in hand, were using Michael Horton’s article, Finding a Church as their guide.
With a new vigor, these young Calvinists, even though sometimes obnoxious, were very excited to find out that there were existing churches with good theology. But oftentimes, these same people were perplexed and disappointed when visiting these churches.
Someone newly Reformed is often so full of excitement about finally understanding things like the sovereignty of God, that they talk about theology constantly. But attending a Reformation Church, often full of people that have been in that denomination their whole lives, there is little conversation about these theological matters, for it is nothing new to them. So to newly reformed Evangelicals, these churches feel dead, and in some cases, they may be.
Each historically Reformed denomination is different in many ways. They may hold to the Westminster Standards rather than the Three Forms of Unity. Some have the music in the back, instead of the front. And on rare occasions, there are even some Reformation Churches that throw a praise song in between all of the old hymns, much to the horror of the older members. You will often hear criticism the different Churches have of one another because of these choices.
I am not even going to touch on the historically Reformed churches gone liberal. That is a discussion for another time.
But what you do find in a lot of Reformed churches, is very different than what you find in Evangelical churches. Intellectualism, a sincere holding to the confessions and catechisms, but not a lot of excitement. There have been some changes in some denominations like the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). A few more praise songs, sometimes a band, and an increase in Churches with ‘small groups’. But not without the criticisms from other Reformed denominations who accuse them of turning their backs on their Reformed roots. There is a great fear by many Reformed to look anything like Evangelicals. This has produced a reactionary attitude, which breeds a fear that if we look anything like Evangelicalism, we will be like them.
With the attraction of intellectuals, even a high percentage of college graduates in many of these Reformed churches, it is often personalities that dictate some of the mood in the congregations. Rarely are you going to find a touchy, feely group spending their time in Reformation churches. This has been problematic for many Evangelicals visiting Reformed churches, and accustomed to judging a church’s strength, contingent on their excitement for Christ. You won’t find a fluffy excitement for Christ in many of these Churches.
But has all of this ultimately had a negative impact on the life of these churches? Yes.
To Be Continued. . .