Evangelical Influence on the Amish

| Wed Sep. 19, 2007 2:51 PM EDT

Religion News Service has a great story about Steve Lapp, a former member of the Amish community who became an evangelical healer.

While Lapp himself is an interesting character, the story is bigger than just him: Some members of the Amish community, it seems, have begun to adopt evangelical styles of worship:

With his talk of supernatural healings and events, Lapp seems more at home—at least theologically—in Pentecostal churches than among the Amish. But he is just the most extreme example of an evangelical influence creeping into the Old Order Amish community, according to a number of observers. The trend may be most evident here in Lancaster County, which, with 25,000 members, is one of the world's largest Amish settlements.

The Amish "are realizing that the Great Commission is about going into the world and preaching the gospel and not just having your little community rules and regulations," Lapp said.

More and more Amish talk about "a personal relationship with Jesus," and the "assurance of salvation and forgiveness" while attending Bible studies, singalongs and revival meetings. Alarmed Amish leaders have banned large-group prayer meetings and Bible readings as dozens of Amish families consider joining other churches.

Increasingly, evangelical churches are non-denominational, since many church leaders feel that the differences between Christian sects are arcane and ultimately unimportant. The Amish, though, have long valued their separateness from the rest of society. If evangelical nondenominationalism is beginning to reach all the way into this insular community, its influence must be profound indeed.