Worship Wars 7: Unified Worship – Breaking Down the Barriers of Age and Ethnicity
Note: For best impact, begin with the first post of the Worship Wars series.
Many churches seem to have landed on what they feel is a solution for worship wars–provide differing styles of worship so that you can provide an option that meets most people’s personal preferences for worship. Indeed, Saddleback offers eight different worship styles options. As Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, writes in his book, Unfashionable, “Building the church on age appeal…or stylistic preferences is as contrary to the reconciling effect of the Gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions.” Is our effort to reach many through offering a variety of options in worship actually being counterproductive to the message of the gospel? Consider Dr. Tchividjian’s words:
Most churches would agree that racial or economic segregation runs contrary to the very nature of the Gospel. Most would also acknowledge that any sort of class bigotry is antithetical to the Gospel and should therefore not be tolerated. But there’s another, perhaps more subtle, type of segregation that many churches today have actually adopted and embraced. Following the lead of the advertising world, many churches today (and more specifically worship services) are targeting specific age groups to the exclusion of others. For years now churches have been organizing themselves around generational distinctives: busters, boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z. Many churches offer a “traditional service” for the tribe who prefers old music and a “contemporary service” for the tribe who prefers new music. I understand the good intentions behind some of these efforts but something as seemingly harmless as this evidences a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the Gospel. When we offer, for instance, a contemporary worship service for the younger people and a traditional worship service for the older people, we are not only feeding tribalism (which is a toxic form of racism) but we are saying that the Gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It is a declaration of doubt in the reconciling power of God’s Gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an unintentional admission that the Gospel is powerless to “join together” what man has separated. Plainly stated, building the church on age appeal (whether old or young) or stylistic preferences is as contrary to the reconciling effect of the Gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions. Negatively, when the church segregates people according to generation, race, style, or socio-economic status, we exhibit our disbelief in the reconciling power of the Gospel. Positively, one of the prime evidences of God’s power to our segregated world is a congregation which transcends cultural barriers, including age.
Some great thoughts to weigh in as we look at the issue of worship wars. I welcome your comments.
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