I realize that there are many churches out there that have simply outgrown their meeting space. What a great problem to have! I served in a church that had multiple Sunday morning services. You may read my entry today and think that I’m condemning any church for so doing. That is not the message that I want to convey.
However, when I look at the writings of the apostles in the New Testament and the gatherings of tabernacle/temple worship in the Old Testament I’m left wondering if multiple service setups are foreign to a biblical mindset. To say the least, I would assume that the scriptures would exhort a church to only go to a multiple-service-scenario as an absolute last resort. Why?
How can “of one heart and soul” be accomplished if a body is never assembled together? One of the greatest scenes we get of a congregation is found in Acts 4:31-33:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. (Bold mine.)
Notice that the believers in Jerusalem were “together”. I realize that folks can be in the same room and yet miles apart in spirit. But I contend that it is more difficult to be unified in spirit and physically apart than when together. I question the accuracy of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” according to the Bible. The scriptures unswervingly demand that we deal with our differences lovingly rather than avoid them.
Notice that Luke not only mentions that they were physically together but that they were of “one heart and soul”. (Needless to say that there is much more in this passage that is well-worth highlighting but I will stick to my point.) Coming together as part of a congregation challenges me to become less self-centered and more Body-centered. It asks me to lay aside my own personal agenda and take up God’s agenda for the common good. I contend that having, in effect, multiple congregations within the same church goes against this flow.
Many churches have multiple services for reasons other than space. Even though there are churches that really don’t need more space, they will split up their congregation simply because they can’t agree on music styles. Hence the traditional/blended/contemporary service(s) model seen in all too many modern churches. Please forgive me if I’m wrong on this, but how does mutual edification principles found in Romans 14 or 1 Cor. 12-14 play out if a church simply punts on the issue?
As I’ve said before in pointing to what Russell Moore says, we need a new type of “Worship War” in our churches. We need to see young people fighting for the music of their parents/grandparents in their churches and visa versa. Rather than seeing gray-haired folks griping about guitars and drums we should be seeing them rejoice that students are being blessed. Rather than seeing students disengage with blank stares when a Southern Gospel quartet is singing we need to seem them looking over with great joy at their older brothers and sisters as their faces gleam with hearing the gospel sung in a style palatable to them.
Is God not more glorified in a congregation rejoicing in another demographic being edified than in each demographic seeking its own edification? The scriptures don’t tell us to avoid conflict. They tell us to use conflict to die to self and learn how to defer to one another in context of a local church. (Unfortunately, the world bears witness to the fact that we usually split over non-essential doctrine, preaching style, color of the carpet, etc. so why would we not do so over such a controversial subject as types of music?)
In my opinion, having multiple services due to music styles is akin to a husband and wife sleeping in separate beds, eating in separate rooms, and having separate checking accounts just to “save the marriage”. If those measures have to be taken, there’s not much of a marriage being saved. No, to really save a marriage, it requires confession, repentance, humility, service, and love and being together as it happens. It’s no different with a congregation.
There may come a day when I might be at a church (again) that has multiple services—for good or bad reasons. I might even have to eat my own words in this entry. However, I still stand by my sincere belief that a split is still a split. As good ol’ Willie once said, “What’s in a name?”