Many of the newer churches today tend to be built around a target age group. I get this. It makes everything easier and has more curb appeal. But sometimes I hear from people who’ve joined churches like this, and who come back feeling that something is missing in the homogeneity of the church.
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.
I agree. You can explain a lot of things by music and style, but when you see a church that has nothing in common in terms of music and style, but in which there is genuine love, you have to look deeper to the Gospel.
I’m looking forward to Tullian’s upcoming book Unfashionable, by the way.