Yesterday I got to visit a church in our community which offers a contemporary and a traditional service which run concurrently, with the contemporary service getting a video feed of the sermon when it begins. It was my second visit.
Opinions on music in the local church can often divide people, but this church found a way to satisfy both groups at once. Yes, the one auditorium demographic skews much younger and the other much older, but there is considerable overlap. I spoke to many people after the service; one was a couple (she’s turning 80) who much prefer the more modern service. The other was a guy half their age who much prefers the hymns and the organ.
There is a value to inter-generational worship, and much has been and is being written about this elsewhere on the internet. But both of these worship settings provide that accomplish this, even the demographics are more pronounced in each one.
The thing that got me however was one comment that certain people in the traditional service hold to an opinion that you aren’t truly able to worship God in the modern service, and look down on the younger worshipers condescendingly.
No, it’s not about the music.
The contemporary service meets in a gym.
Therein lies the problem. There are still a number of people who feel that you can’t truly worship God in a civic center, a community hall or a gymnasium; you need a sanctuary that has been set apart for this purpose.
(Given the choice I had when I walked into their building, I chose the gym because I felt I could make a better connection there; that the overall tenor of that service would resonate with me much, much more. I don’t mind the hymns so much, but to listen to the organ would have proved counter-productive and even a bit of a distraction.)
The story of the woman at Jacob’s well in John 4 is more than simply Jesus encountering a woman with a bad reputation; it raises theological issues as well.
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
She was raising one of the Samaritan distinctives: Where should one worship? She’s really choosing to enter into a debate on the thing that separates Jews and Samaritans instead of focusing on the things with which they agree. She’s not looking for a basis of agreement, but looking to argue doctrine. (She’d love the internet!)
But Jesus sidesteps the question entirely.
Stephen, in his one and only recorded sermon, reiterates this:
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?
I just couldn’t believe that the person described in my conversation yesterday seriously believed you can’t worship in a gym, but this mentality still exists in 2016.
If you agree with me that it doesn’t matter, take a moment to prove it. Turn away from your computer or mobile device, or close your eyes, and take a moment to worship God right where you are.