Worship Renewal: Key 5 of 6

     The Lord Jesus didn't like exclusive worship.  He went to great lengths to demonstrate the Father's interest in all people, those who formed the "in crowd" of His day, those who were outcasts, and all those in between.  This was not inconsistent with the heart of God in the Old Testament.  God intended the nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests to the whole world.  The corrupted worship of the golden calf made Him resort to Plan B--the tribe of Levi would be priests to the nation of Israel.  We must realize that what God originally intended at Mt. Sinai (to create a kingdom of priests to minister to the world), He accomplished at Mt. Calvary.  The Church is such a kingdom of priests bringing the presence of Jesus to a lost world.

      The mind of man has seldom been that broad or generous.  Most people, it seems, are not by nature inclusive of others unlike themselves. We keep trying to pare the church down and divide it up into small, more manageable, measurable, and malleable groups. 

    The disciples were just like us in their feelings toward other groups.  They could not imagine that Gentiles wouldn't have to become Jews before becoming Christians.  The first church crisis and the first church conference were on this issue.

      From Peter's housetop vision, to the Jerusalem conference in the Book of Acts chapter 15, to the missionary journeys of the early evangelists, to the persuasive writings of the apostles, the New Testament reports the lengths to which the Holy Spirit went to change these exclusive attitudes.  Some people never did get it, but enough people did that within less than three hundred years there was a strong church in every portion of the Roman Empire.  Different ethnic groups held Christian truths in common but expressed them in ways consistent with their own cultures.  This unity of belief and diversity of expression must be the Lord's plan for the Church.  We certainly see it in the Book of Revelation as we get those tantalizing glimpses of heaven where worshipers are seen from every tribe and tongue and nation.

      History records the societal changes occurring in each era, from the smallest scale, like the record of births and deaths maintained in a county courthouse, to the largest, like the procession of historical periods: the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the modern world, and now the post-modern world.  The world changes, but the Church has always found a way to be Christian in each of these ages of man.  In the world today, the Church has found a home in Western nations, Eastern cultures, and the emerging third-world societies.  The Lord's plan seems to be working.

      If this is all so clearly God's plan, why do we have intergenerational or inter-cultural strife over worship?  God wants us to be one whole worshiping family with children and youth and young adults, middle-aged adults, and senior citizens all worshiping together.  While language barriers (including those in the "language" of music) might make it more convenient for ethnic groups to meet together in homogeneous assemblies where common languages of text and music exist, the Church should be as multicultural today as it was in the days of Paul.

      Paul reports that Jesus tears down the walls of hostility between cultures.  Paul and his colleagues built one Church, one "holy nation," to use Peter's words (1 Pet. 2:9), out of Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, rich and poor, ignorant and learned, slave and free.  When we abandon inclusive worship in favor of style-specific worship (for example, traditional services at one time and contemporary at another), we are being driven by the culture.  Our true calling is to be a holy counter-culture speaking the truth of Jesus in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. 

      A vital strategy for worship renewal must include everyone.  We need more than a children's revival or a youth revival or a praise and worship revival or even an evangelistic crusade.  We need renewal, rebirth from top to bottom, stem to stern, from the officer's corps to the rank and file, or any other clich