Monday, March 9, 2009
This past Sunday my sermon included some comments on churches having "contemporary" and "traditional" worship services. My argument in the sermon was that though churches who do this usually do so with the best of intentions (to reach more people with the Gospel), is it possible that segregating the generations during worship actually undermines the Gospel that we are trying to proclaim? In other words, is it possible that this is actually more than a matter of preference but a Gospel matter? The passage that we were looking was Galatians 2 where Peter has withdrawn from eating with the Gentiles believers. Paul confronts Peter and tells him that he is not "living in step with the truth of the Gospel." But why does Paul say this? Peter is just affiliating with those whose culture he is most comfortable with. Peter certainly knows that the Gentile believers are clean in God's sight. Yet in withdrawing himself from them he is implying that in some way they are not as acceptable in his sight as the Jewish believers. Paul is convinced that Peter is implying that cultural differences are more important than Gospel unity.
What are we communicating when our central act of corporate worship each week is no longer corporate but divided? I've scanned the net for anyone approaching this question from a Gospel-centric view point. The only relevant comment I have found comes from Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham's grandson, who was recently called as pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian. Following is an excerpt from his blog:
"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."