This is pure speculation, but it seems to me that when the modern worship movement came into town, churches became more and more age segregated. There is probably a doctoral student somewhere in America working on this topic right now, so I’ll wait for that book to come out to tell me more about it. But as a general observation, I do not remember churches in my youth having such radical age divides as they do now. And my guess is that music is one of the main reasons for this change.
This is certainly an oversimplification of a larger problem. But music is one of the main ways that a church shows its stylistic preferences. Thus, music becomes an important way for a church to identify itself. My guess is that many people make the decision about where they will go to church based largely on the style of music. It’s just easy to be around people who like the things we do.
The Uniting Gospel
I don’t think anyone has ever gone into a country club and said in amazement, “How did all these people find each other…this is amazing!” No one ever wonders what brings country-clubbers together. It is obviously their wealth, their love for refined leisure and their desire to play golf or tennis. So it’s actually not that amazing at all that they’re together. I’m afraid you could walk into many of our churches and make similar observations. This is the old people church with the organ and hymnbook. This is the young people church where people wear skinny jeans and the music is loud. It’s just easier to divide that way.
But, the beauty of the gospel is that it brings together people who would not naturally choose to be together. Let me show you from scripture how I know this to be true. There was never a divide quite as strong as the Jew-Gentile divide at the beginning of the church. Jewish people spent their lives thinking of all of the ways they were to be separated from the Gentiles. When God started saving Gentiles, this created a huge problem for Jewish Christians. Now Jews were to become one body with…Gentiles?! Think of how strongly Paul had to confront Peter just to remind him that a Jew could eat with a Gentile. Wouldn’t it be easier just to have a Jewish Christian church and a Gentile Christian church? But that’s not what Paul said to do. He knew that a united people in one church would display the beauty of the gospel more brilliantly.
Reconciled to God and One Another
Paul says in Ephesians 2:14-18, “For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
In these verses, do you see the two things that the blood of Christ does?
First, it brings sinners who were far away from God near to Him through the blood of Christ. If we want peace with God, then we have to come through Christ. Only His blood will bring us to God in a way that God will accept.
Secondly, it brings people who were far apart together in one body. Do you see all the phrases that describe what the blood of Christ did to the Jews and Gentiles? The blood of Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility. It created one man out of two. It made peace. And ultimately it reconciled both peoples together to God. P.T. Obrien says in his commentary on Ephesians, “Believers come near to God and to one another (Gentiles and Jews) through the saving death of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The blood of Christ compels us to be unified with those who are not like us apart from Him.
Whatever seemed like the predominate thing that identified me before Christ is now gone. American, Caucasian, young, musician, Swedish ancestry, Southerner. All those things fade into the background under my new title: Christian. And what is the only thing that has the sheer power to sweep away my allegiances from my old identities? The gospel. The blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, bought me back from sin’s captivity. And this is the way that every person comes to God. No one was a little better off. Not Jew, not Gentile. Not African-American or Caucasian or Hispanic or Asian. Not psalm-singer or hymn-singer or Passion Worship-singer. No one. The cross of Christ is what reconciled us to God and is what unites groups of people that were hostile towards one another.
For this reason, I don’t believe we should be content with the generational divide that is prevalent in many of our churches. Doesn’t Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians attack the very center of where most of our church conflicts begin? Deep down most of us think that “we” are better than “them”. I believe my reasons for doing things are better than yours. I believe that my tribe is better than your tribe. I am more worthy of making the decisions than you are. My opinion should be held in greater regard than yours. Paul plainly says that no one has an advantage; thus no one should think that they have more importance (Romans 12).
So, let me ask you, is your congregation marked by a unity that doesn’t make sense apart from the Spirit? Spirit filled, multi-generational unity is a powerful witness to God’s work in our churches. Let’s endeavor by God’s grace to see the gospel of Jesus Christ bring us near to those who are different than us. Let’s plan for, and pray towards fruit in this area. It will take a great amount of intentional service and sacrifice. But it is an endeavor that God calls His church to as we remember that His blood purchased a unity for us that is beyond the natural man.