Divisions in the Assembly
The worship assembly spans over numerous generations all coming together into one unified glorification of their Creator. To see and be a part of such an experience enriches one’s life (Ps. 133:1). Nevertheless, with so many people of various backgrounds and life experiences, many worship goers expect and appeal for different preferences in worship. Baby boomers want this but not that, millennials want that but not this. Many church leaders solve the problem of the generation gap by offering different worship assemblies. Several mega churches offer ‘traditional worship’ at one time and ‘contemporary worship’ at another time. Other churches will have ‘Junior Church’ or ‘Youth Worship Assembly’ in one part of the building while the traditional or the adult worship is being held in the auditorium. While church leadership defends this system with any number of opinions and feelings, the real consideration should be the biblical authority for splitting up the assembly based on worship preferences.
Divisions in the worship have existed long enough for Christians to see the long-term effects of the system. Younger generation’s assembly or children’s church have been known to add or to take away from the traditional acts of worship mentioned in scripture. The implication in the minds of Christians that grow-up in such divided systems is that church should cater worship to the Christians, rather than the Christian should cater worship to God (Matt. 15:7-9). The elders or those responsible for special groups ought very carefully and seriously to consider the following questions: Have you not considered that the juniors will want to take their worship trends to the main auditorium when they become adults, or find a church that will? Is it not sending the message that worship should be dictated on the preference of the attendees rather than God? Historically, do you not know that these junior churches have ushered liberalism into the congregation as a whole? How is this practice not having the faith with respect of persons when the elders group people based on gender, age, profession, education, or race (James 2:1-3)? No New Testament authority exists for separating worship assemblies based on respect of persons.
Advocates of divided assemblies make numerous defenses for keeping the different groups separated. “Parents can focus on the preaching and praise better without having to deal with babies and children making messes and making noise next to them.” “Children and teens can get more out of the services when the worship is catered to their level of understanding.” “If people are too distracted by what they do not like in worship, they will not focus on what they need to focus.” “Why come to worship service at all if people cannot offer the right mindset to God?” While all these defenses may seem reasonable on the surface, none provide a biblical foundation of authority for dividing the assembly based on worship preferences. If one takes away the biblical foundation of authority to act in worship, one could justify anything. Is having to put effort into worshiping God the way He wants unreasonable? Should a Christian give up on worshiping by biblical example because it is hard? If Christians must make an effort in worshiping God, then they are doing it right, not wrong (James 1:2-7; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 10:36). The saints come together to bring glory to God, they shouldn’t compromise on it because it is hard (Eph. 1:6; 3:21).
The Bible describes the worship of Christians as a designated “assembling” (Heb. 10:25). 1 Corinthians 11:20 clearly requires the church to assemble (1) together, (2) at the same time and place for the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, in the coming together to partake of the Lord’s Supper, Christians are to “tarry one for another” (1 Cor. 11:33). Paul rebukes the Corinthians for having divisions in their assembly both in doctrine and in respect of persons (1 Cor. 11:17,18). Paul believes what he heard about their cliques or separate groups within their assemblies and rebukes them for it because it only served to create schisms within the church (1 Cor. 11:21). Dividing into junior or senior churches only creates a further disinterest between the young and the old of the church. What would forbid one to separate himself into a class of his own, on the allegation that his feelings, desires, and moods of worship differ from all others? This is the argument some are using today to justify home worship thus absconding from the church altogether to worship by themselves at home. These facts necessitate the conclusion that all present are to assemble to together in “one accord” (Acts 2:46; 4:24; 5:12).
Biblical examples do provide a basis for congregations to worship in different cities and regions as a means of expediency (Acts 9:31; Rom. 16:4; Gal. 1:2). The brethren of the first century worshiped all throughout the day and night on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). For example, the multiple services throughout the day to keep from overcrowding the auditorium do not conflict with the aforementioned principles, nor do nurseries that allow people to still be a part of the same worship in a different room. Any group of Christians who met to worship must do so together in accordance with the biblical examples without respect of persons. The Bible provides authority for dividing the universal church into assemblies based on geographical locations, but there is no biblical authority for dividing up the church based on worship preferences.
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