Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity. In any city, there is the church universal. Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.
We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world. We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.
These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds. We meet them where they are at. We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”.
Human nature is such that we love our peer groups. Birds of a feather flock together. We all have that tendency. Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves. It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us. And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.
While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity. The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group. There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups. Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated. People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.
Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture. The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.
Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational. Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.
The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). There is a new culture called “Christian”. There is a new man called “Christian”. There is a new peer group called “Christian”.
If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.
If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.
We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen. Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.
I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church. They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it. The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group. All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.
Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society. Both are needed. We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group. Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur. Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them. Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.
Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person. Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter. Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.