I think the reason that evangelical Protestants are reading the Church Fathers is that their churches are falling apart.
I was born and raised evangelical Protestant (Coference Baptist), and up until 2001, my husband and I were active members of various evangelical churches. Our list of ministries was extensive; we specialized in working with children and youth. I wrote music, chaired VBS and Pioneer Clubs, etc., etc. etc. etc. You would be exhausted hearing my typical “church” week schedule.
In the early 1990s, we started questioning a lot of the trends in evangelical Protestant churches. At one point, I wrote a little essay called “17 problems I have with evangelicalism” that sparked quite a discussion on a Protestant online group.
E.g., “band wagons.” Any evangelical will know what I mean, but for those of you who don’t, some Christians follow after the latest teacher, singer, author, etc. and jump on the “bandwagon.” Then when it fizzles, they jump off and wait for the next bandwagon to drive by.
This was one of my “17 problems.” (BTW, I see a little of this in the Catholic Church, but so far, nothing as alarming as what we saw in the Protestant organizations.)
A lot of evangelical churches are literally closing their doors, as the megachurches move into town and suck all the members out.
So it’s no wonder that confused evangelicals are searching for roots, for something solid to hand onto. I remember reading a story in a Catholic reader about two little boys who were rowing a boat and got caught in a storm. They prayed for help and they caught sight of a red lamp, which turned out to be a Catholic man’s “saving light” that he kept in the window during storms to help boaters find their way to safety.
THAT’S what the evangelicals are looking for–the “saving light” in the midst of their church storms.