23 August 2010

Chronological Snobbery (and How to Fix It)

I remember the day, though not the date, when I heard my church was going to break into 'traditional' and 'contemporary' worship services.  I was a member of a vibrant, growing church in the St. Louis area at the time, and was serving as a deacon.  The change was announced to us at a deacons' meeting.  I remember feeling that something wasn't quite right, but I was still a fairly young Christian at the time (at least, I was immature in my faith) and I didn't want to make waves, so I didn't ask any questions.

Boy were my gut feelings right.

The gospel-focused experts now call this divided approach to congregations, 'Chronological Snobbery'.  Tullian Tchividjian (who I've blogged about before) posted a fascinating blog on this topic today.  He says about his church, "For many years Coral Ridge had two very distinct worship services–one contemporary and one traditional. The result was the unintentional development of two different churches under one roof. It wasn’t healthy."

In every church I've been a part of that had divided the congregation by musical preference (age, in fact), I've seen the same signs of unhealthiness.  (In fact, none of the churches I've joined since that first one have had anything other than this same chronological issue.)  I've learned to call it 'age segregation' because the word 'snobbery' is insulting to people even when it is deserved, and even though it is a C. S. Lewis term.  The age segregation causes a loss for both young and old, but most especially for the young.  We are clearly instructed in scripture to ensure that the young and old are integrated in our churches (see Titus 2:3-5 for example).  We throw this out when we age-segregate our congregations.

We also deny the power of the gospel when we do this.  Tullian continues, "You see, when we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel.  Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated."

Why would we as a church want to make such a powerful anti-gospel statement by feeding our own desires about music style?  To avoid the chronological snobbery, we should look both ways, backwards, to the past to see the shoulders on which we stand, and around us now, to see the value in contemporary ways to worship and glorify God, so we can all as one look forward to the hope that is ours in Christ.  We need to take the best of the old, the best of the new, and continue to worship and glorify God together as we proclaim the gospel to the nations; and we certainly need to not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage each other, across all age groups (and any other false division we can think of), all the more as we see the Day approaching (Heb 10:24-25).

I encourage you to go read Tullian's blog in full.

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