I don’t like most rap music. I also don’t like most country music. I don’t like fried chicken. And I really don’t like any kind of nuts.
“What,” you might ask, “does that have to do with anything?”
Well, for some reason these are my preferences. Some people, actually, many people, would probably disagree with them. The reason for this is because all people have different preferences about certain things. Some people like certain things one way, and a whole other group of people would like it even another way.
We are functioning in this culture with a “Have it Your Way” mentality. Personally, I think that is great when it comes to many things in our culture. I like customization. I really enjoy being able to pull up at a fast food place and tell them exactly what I a want. I really envy kids who, when they are sick, now have the option of putting a flavor in those old, nasty antibiotics and other medications that made me gag when I was a kid. Overall, the adaptation of culture to accomodate the preferences of most people is a cool thing.
However, when we bring this mentality into places where preferences and customization don’t really apply, then that creates chaos. For instance, it would be impossible for a person to get on an airplane and tell the flight attendant, “I am really glad to be flying, but I really don’t like turbulence. Could you find a way to fly without it?” Or imagine going into a doctor’s office and telling them, “I am really glad that you can heal me, but could you please do it without examining me? I really hate the way it feels when you stick that tongue-thing down my throat.”
Ultimately, when it comes to timeless things, things that transcend our preferences, we really have no right to demand change.
So, when we apply this understanding to our experience of gathering together as a church family there is something great and precious to learn. In fact, you can apply this specifically to when preferences collide on a generational level in a church body. One generation prefers a more traditional type of service with particular song genres (hymns), instruments (piano and organ), vestiges (choir robes), etc. Another generation prefers a more contemporary type of service with particular song genres (rock, contemporary acoustic-driven songs), instruments (guitars, drums, keyboards) and vestiges (anything but “formal”). What should the outcome be when preferences collide? Should the church split to form two new services? …two new churches? …different points of emphasis during the month/year? …should one preference win the day over the other?
Among the variety of questions that would be asked by anyone in this situation, most of our answers breed disunity instead of unity. It is for this reason that I would encourage another option: acceptance.
Could it be possible for a younger generation to joyfully accept and applaud the preferences of the older generation? And likewise is it possible for an older generation to joyfully accept and applaud the preferences of the younger generation? Absolutely, but there must be a principle that guides our attitude; and that principle is this: each generation embraces the Gospel of Jesus Christ in different ways and it is the responsibility and privilege of other generations to rejoice that other generations are embracing the Gospel.
If our attitudes towards each other are guided by this principle, then it is no longer and battle between the gray-hairs and the green-horns. It is a church family that is unified around the attitude of Jesus, who “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:5-11).
In conclusion, I will leave you with an illustration that my pastor used a few weeks ago. As a church family, we have the option of being like a bag of marbles or a bag of grapes. When conflict arises, we can clang around and bash against each other like the bag of marbles. Or when conflict over preferences arises, we can be like the bag of grapes, bumping together and getting squeezed only makes us come together more and become one.