Which is better: contemporary worship or traditional worship?
My gut reaction to that question every time I hear it is: That is totally the wrong question. The question should be Which style of worship most honors God and brings men and women to His Son? That question begs another: When and where are we talking about? The audience that is variable is us. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His ears have received praise from all sorts of cultures, sub cultures, ages and musical styles. He cares not what style it is packaged in He wants worship from the heart. So the only variable is us.
That is why I believe that styles of worship are means to an end not ends unto themselves. What we call traditional was once contemporary. Whether from the reformation (Luther introduced congregational singing) or the early 1900’s when so many of our “traditional” hymns were written to the Wesley’s who wrote their own music (how contemporary is that!). Luther used pub tunes for songs like “A mighty fortress is our God”. The problem is that so often the style of worship becomes the END instead of the MEANS to an end.
The goal of corporate worship is to honor God and bring men and women to His Son. Keeping that in mind prevents our preferences from getting in the way. In my years of campus ministry our goal was to have God honoring worship that used the musical style that was the same as the musical style our students were listening too when they drove into our parking lot. The reason this was important to me was because music was so important to the students I wanted to bring to Jesus that I looked at our praise music as our “draw”. Our “keep” was the Word proclaimed and the community it produced. BUT if we didn’t draw them we had 0% chance of keeping them.
If I had just gone with musical styles that I liked – evangelical 1950’s and traditional hymns – I would have been happy but the end would not have been achieved. Selfishness and consumerism are the culprits that cause the split over contemporary vs traditional music. Which is “better”? Neither! They are both means to an end.
Which we use or any blend thereof should be determined by our target audience not by the preferences of the people in the pews. My dad just turned 89 last week and he goes to a church that recently replaced their choir with a praise band, their hymnals with a projector, and their organ for a drum set. His response – “I don’t really care for it. They are too loud and I don’t know the songs. But the church is growing and that is what counts.”
That’s what I’m talking about! Bravo, dad!