Avoid…. Doom & gloom… The tendency when dealing with the church division is to get all critical or guilty. The Bible makes it quite clear that one day the church will be perfected and we’ll be ok. Rather than see a mess, let’s get together and put the puzzle pieces together. We really do have all the pieces!
Divided by age
A serious division I’ve seen in church since I started attending at 5 years old is age separation. There are huge advantages to meeting people where they’re at. There are huge advantages to kids being with kids, young couples being with young couples, etc. We often go to far. The issue with 20’s and young 30’s leaving the church is an example of the division by age problem.
Divided culturally by age
Each generation in America became its own subculture. Think about it. Each generation has its own style, music, language, literature, forms of communication, etc. Given culture’s push to move people into their niche, sub-cultures grow and multiply at a rapid pace. Society is overly divided and segmented. Who is going to bring life together?
Division by age results in a breakdown of discipleship. In talking with pastors, there is often a break down of discipleship post high school. A man goes to Bible college and maybe seminary afterwards, but post graduation continued discipleship is not a guarantee. It’s almost as if the churches we grew up in handed off leadership development to colleges & seminaries, seldom hearing from them during or after our training. That’s just pastors, a very small segment of our 20’s & 30’s. It is the trend in other areas as well.
Division by age results in loss of perspective & importance. The church needs the energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and I dare say mistakes of youth. Equally, the church needs its seasoned saints to offer their wisdom, be the voice to tell us when we need to slow down and let God, to make sure we don’t forget that God really is at work. Many problems could be avoided by listening to the older. Refreshing viewpoints and challenges to continue growing come by listening to the young.
Retire retirement. An example: I wish every church could have a “retired” pastor who shepherds the pastor or pastors. “Retired” pastors have been there. They know what’s human nature vs a unique situation. They know the questions to ask. They have the sense to let things work themselves out or to get involved. Elder pastors can fill a need in churches: pastors need shepherding too. Retirement is heaven for saints. Until then, seasoned saints have much-needed work to do. We need them to do it!
Take seriously body passages. (Romans 12ff, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4-6) We are truly one body! We are one church. Church should be a place where life comes together. Too much division hurts the body. Brining the body together is an essential because it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that binds us together. Affinity based groups are not wrong! We need them. Having everyone together all the time is counter productive as is the division mentioned. Viewing church as body needs both.
We need to view and operate the church as one body. The danger of focusing too much on affinity is it becomes what binds vs the Gospel. The danger of too much division is you lose. Judges 2:10 There arose a generation in Israel who did not know God nor the things of God. Where did the breakdown start? It ended with not teaching children, but it did not start there.
The bottom line:
Seriously, we have all the pieces to do incredible things for the Gospel. We cannot accomplish it divided. When one part suffers, we all suffer. Growth happens by what each part supplies. At the day of Christ Jesus, we know the job is done. We or the saints after us will get it figured out. The key is putting the pieces together, and that has never been more available than today.
The ideas and energy we need is with the youth. The road map to get there is in the hands of our seasoned saints. Perhaps that leaves the rest of us carrying the middle. It gives a different sense and feel to leadership and our “most productive years.” Think of it this way: Can We be the hero? What if We is the hero? Is We what Jesus meant in His John 17 prayer? What would happen if We, the church, became the hero?