This Sunday I am preaching on Acts 6:1-7. It is the account of the first real challenge to the church's unity. The incident that Luke recounts exposed an ugly division within the body of Christ in Jerusalem. The division, which was along cultural lines, was a greater threat to the young church than active persecution from Roman and Jewish authorities had been. At Metro East we have made some deliberate choices not to segregate along lines of culture, musical preference, etc. There is little doubt that dividing in these areas "works" in that people often prefer everything to be disigned around what makes them most comfortable. But doesn't the Gospel lead us toward putting down the impulses? Doesn't the Gospel move us out of our comfort zones that we might take hold of the unity that Christ has already given us? (Ephesians 2).
Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham's grandson) has written a very helpful post on this issue. Among his observations, he writes:
"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."