I attend a church made up of three congregations. There’s the 5:30 Saturday night congregation, the 8 AM Sunday morning congregation, and the 10:30 AM Sunday morning congregation. Some of the 8 AM people pass through the 5:30 service occasionally, and the 8 and 10:30 people cross paths in the airlock of the 9:15 Bible classes, but even there, it’s less about the congregations coming together and more about a whole different group who happens to attend Bible study at the same time. A house divided…
At what point does it become OK for a congregation to be this way? We are there together to make up the Body of Christ, yet we can’t be together because we won’t sit in the other’s service. We are divided not by time (although some have chosen when to go and make it a point to follow that choice), or because of a propensity to attend Bible class before/after the church service. We are divided because of music and liturgy.
Our congregation has become the congregation of the Divine Service and the congregation of the Contemporary Service. Those who attend 5:30 PM or 8 AM do so because they want to attend during the worship service from the Lutheran Service Book. They enjoy the hymns and cherish the settings of the Divine Service, and want to go to church when they know they will be comfortable and able to worship in a predictable and reverent manner. The Contemporary Service people go to 10:30 AM because they like the music, and the way the service changes every week, and how it fills them with faith and gives them hope for the week to come.
Both are valid and healthy ways to think about and participate in church. Both services include the key parts of any worship service: Confession and Absolution, the Readings, Songs and Hymns, a Sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and Blessings and Prayers. Each service builds faith and brings the forgiveness of sins. Each strengthens the children of God in the Body of Christ. And it’s tearing us apart.
We are not to seek a church of faithful INDIVIDUALS! We are the whole Body of Christ, His Bride the Church, and yet we would never set foot in the other’s service. And why not? Because we would say, “I don’t worship that way.”
It is a work of the Law to believe that church is only to be done as the Divine Service lays out, rubic by ordinary by proper, start to finish. It is also a sinful heart who would criticize the worship of another because it is “repetitive” or “boring”. We have become the circumcized and the uncircumcized of the early Christian church, divided by practice and by our view of the other’s worship style.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:14ff: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Christ is the One who gathers us up and brings us together. We are not a church because we share a building. We are a church because we share Jesus and Him Crucified.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” -Ephesians 4:1-6.
We are to love one another, not tear the other down or turn up our noses. We are to worship with one another, not because we have to, but out of love for one another, and because we are the one body, with Christ as our head.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” -Ephesians 4:15-16.
I have sinned greatly in this as well, for I have stated, quite plainly, that I do not like Contemporary worship, and key changes during songs, and sermons from the communion rail rather than the pulpit. I ask for your forgiveness, and the forgiveness of my Lord, for I have torn down the faithful worship of others. I am not proud of my actions regarding the other service, and I will seek to understand and encourage those who would sing to the Lord a new song.
I ask of you the following: attend a service you normally would not. Share Christ with the brothers and sisters in your church, in your one congregation, at the table of the Lord. Seek to build each other up, and understand the faithfulness that comes not from liturgy or from songs, but from the Word of Christ, and the Supper we partake in Him, and the Baptism we have received through Jesus our Lord.