In a day of specialization, the church often wrestles with its implications. This is true as it relates to worship services. In most cities, folks can find a church that offers some sort of worship service that specializes in a specific demographic group. These services are distinct from the “regular” worship service.
The demographic distinction may be generational, ethnic or style oriented. I understand the rationale behind these distinctions. Churches are attempting to remove barriers between people who may not be the “typical” member and the worship service of the church. That is a noble reason.
However, in our move to remove barriers, we might also be removing something very valuable. The diversity of generations and other demographics can provide a shared worship experience that exceeds what we can experience on our own.
Let’s consider the recorded worship of God’s people when they returned to Jerusalem after exile. They had labored to begin building the temple of God. When the foundation was finished, the people gathered on it to worship God. The trumpets blared, the cymbals clashed, and the people sang songs of praise and thanksgiving. Read the record of this from the book of Ezra,
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised theLord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy,so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
–Ezra 3:10-13, ESV
Did you see how the worshippers responded the same…yet differently? They all got loud during this time of celebration.
- Shouted with a great shout
- With a loud voice
- Shouted aloud for joy
- The joyful shout
- Shouted with a great shout
- The sound was heard far away
That six descriptors in just a few sentences to describe the shared response to God’s goodness. In other words, they got loud!
But notice the distinction between the loud responses of most of the people and that of a particular demographic group. The group that responded differently was the old men.
These old men wept. While others were joyfully shouting, they were weeping. The tears were tears of joy, but they were tears that did not dot the eyes of the younger men.
Why? Because they brought more history with them to the worship service. Upon standing on this new foundation, these aged men could not help but recall the glory of the previous temple. After decades of exile, God was again establishing his temple. They had previously worshipped on that spot. Then they endured the loss of what they loved. To regain such a treasure squeezed tears from deep within their souls.
The young men knew of this history only in an academic way. They had undoubtedly heard the stories of the temple. But they had never experienced it.
Don’t you think that these younger men gained an important perspective on God and his temple by standing next to these men who were weeping in a crowd of shouters? Don’t you think these elders gained by sharing in the uninhibited joy of the young folks?
I love worshipping with those who have a youthful fire for the Lord. I also love worshipping with those who are clinging to the Lord after years and years of spiritual highs and lows.
This same concept applies to other demographic differences. If you have the privilege of worshipping with believers from other cultures, you know this. A common bond exists while the expression of worship might be a little different.