Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why We Shouldn’t Separate Our Worship Services

            Over and again throughout history the Christian church has found itself required to adapt its worship in order to remain effect in a changing world.  Some of these changes were necessary.  It was necessary that, when the Jewish community began to accept and observe a series of prayers against the heretic (directed at the Christian church), we separated ourselves from worshipping along-side the Jews in the synagogues.  It was necessary that, as the church spread itself throughout the world’s cultures, we transitioned to vernacular worship.  And it was necessary that, when the unified church grew increasingly corrupt, the reformation occur and snap focus back to the Gospel ideals of the Church of Jesus Christ.  However, for every necessary change the church has made, it has also adopted patterns and behaviors that were not only unnecessary, they were at times entirely wrong.
            A trend which is spreading across our church culture with increasing velocity is for churches to hold separate worship services on Sunday mornings to accommodate different tastes of worship (in the Baptist church, this often takes the form of traditional, hymn-based worship versus contemporary chorus worship).  Often the church congregation becomes split, with the elder crowd generally gravitating towards the more traditional service and the younger crowd moving towards the contemporary service.  It is my intent in writing this to point out why separating our services like this is not only a grave mistake, but is also unbiblical.

Separating worship services emphasizes trivial arguments over unified worship.
          
            Simply stated, when we separate our worship services based on the style of worship, we emphasize the fact that our part of the Body of Christ can be separated by conflicts so meaningless as what type of music is played during the meeting.
            Unfortunately our modern churches very of divide, and sometimes split apart entirely, over very trivial matters.  In fact, churches have broken apart over arguments about what color and kind of carpet there should be in the sanctuary.  It should be of no mystery to anyone why we absolutely cannot allow divisive arguments to persist within the church!  How are we to approach our world with the love and gospel of Jesus Christ if we can’t even get over stupid arguments?  We absolutely can’t.  If the world around us cannot see us standing together as the unified body of Christ, then it will never accept the message we aim to deliver.  We can’t preach that Christ is bigger than our trials when we allow simple matters to tear us apart.  We cannot proclaim that we are following the lordship of Jesus Christ when we can’t even get over ourselves in so great an amount as to not argue of the style of our worship.
            Brothers and sisters, the style of worship that employ is simply not important when we compare it to unity in the body of Christ.  We are fooling ourselves if we think that God is more concerned with the type of music we use or the type of clothing we wear than He is with us presenting His son to our world.
            And the world sees our stupid arguments.  They see our stupid arguments and they judge us based upon how we behave with one another.  They see us breaking apart and not even worshipping together because we can’t get over ourselves enough to accept other styles of music or other manners of dress.  Why on Earth would the world want to be a part of our fellowship if that same fellowship is characterized by arguing (or worse!) if that fellowship can’t put petty disagreements behind itself and bond together in the love of Christ.
            Moreover, when we make light of our fellowship such to the point that we will split our congregation apart over stylistic differences, we very clearly trivialized the importance of our community before the entire world.  We show the world that our personal preferences regarding how we worship are more important than our gathering together in the name of Christ to worship Him.  We try to rationalize this separation by saying that we are appealing to a wider range of people, when in reality we are defiling the unity of the church. 

Separating worship services disconnects the elder church members from the younger members.

            I stated earlier that separate worship services often create a disconnect between the older and younger age groups of the church.  When these two age groups are attending separate worship services at separate times and not ever venturing to the other service, they lose contact.  Of course, this is bad because, once again, it breaks of the fellowship of the body of Christ.  However, this also prevents influence of both generations from reaching the other.  The younger congregation members have no contact with the culture of the older members, and vice versa.  Neither side is able to share their wisdom and experiences with each other because they’re simply not in contact.  So why should older members of the church be expected to keep helping with and supporting the younger members?  Because of the love and fellowship of Jesus Christ?  That’s already been severed by splitting the groups up.  How are older and more mature Christians supposed to impart discipleship upon younger members?  They don’t have contact with them.  And are the elders supposed to make decisions concerning the proceedings and activities of both groups within the church if they’re only a part of one? 
            I recently attended the more traditional service at a church which separates its services like this, and to my dismay I noted that, aside from one other person, I was the youngest person in the room and the two of us were the only people in the room whose hair had yet to start greying.
            It is good that older and younger church members be in contact with one another.  The younger members of the church can learn a great deal from the histories and experiences of the older members and quite often older members of the church take joy in seeing and worshipping with the younger members.  More importantly, Christ has called us to be one body.  We mustn’t try to separate these body parts and we absolutely cannot accept it when they are separated.  Instead, we must fellowship together, learn from one another and exist as the unified body of Christ bound in His redemptive work and His love.
            We all have much to learn from each other.  The younger church members stand to learn a great deal from the experiences of the older church members, and the old church members would do well to see the fresh and excitable worship of the younger members.  We were made to fellowship together, to build each other up and to learn from each other what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

And finally, separating worship services creates division in the body of Christ.

            This entire time I’ve been talking about how separating our services divides the body of Christ.  Ultimately, this is the single biggest reason why we should keep our services unified.  We were designed to take part in being one single body in Christ.  The shepherd was intended to watch over and care for one single flock.  For our churches to move forward in Christ’s leadership and in fellowship as the united body of Christ, we absolutely must maintain communal worship. 
            It is bad for there to be disconnect between the separate churches that make up the body of Christ.  However, it is equally bad for the individual churches themselves to have their bodies further disjointed.  I’ve said this over and over again: the church is designed to be the body of Jesus Christ here on this earth.  We are designed to carry out His work unto the world and show the world His love.  In order for us to do that, we must ourselves be united in Him.  It is absolutely foolish for us to allow our body to be broken apart because of disagreements about the appropriate style and dress for worship.  In order for us to effectively work out as the body of Christ, we have to get over ourselves and get over our adhesion to “how we’ve traditionally done things”.  God cares far more that we are unified in Christ than He cares whether we sing purely hymns, purely choruses, or a mixture of both.  We cannot allow ourselves to become so set in our ways and resistant to change that we become ineffective at achieving our purpose in God’s redemptive work, lest we risk being tossed aside like useless chaff.

            So we mustn’t separate our church services.  We mustn’t allow petty arguments over style and dress to split up our congregations.  We mustn’t allow different demographics within our churches to lose connect with one another.  And we absolutely must not allow there to be any division within the body of Christ.  If we allow any of these things to persist, then we risk losing our effectiveness in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.