I have read a number of articles recently on the pros and cons of contemporary worship music in the church. Some maintain that today’s contemporary songs lack the substance of our traditional hymns. Advocates of contemporary music claim that many traditional hymns are so outdated, their message is lost in translation. Some express the opinion that contemporary music should be obliterated from our worship services while others want nothing to do with traditional hymns.
I grew up in a traditional Baptist church where we sang from the hymnal while the music director stood behind a podium waving his hand to keep time and the choir stood behind him singing to the congregation. I love the old hymns and our church had one of the most talented choirs I’ve ever heard.
In the 80’s to early 90’s I attended churches that sang hymns in the service, but also added “praise songs” to the assortment. These songs were not in the hymn books so the words were projected on a screen. The tunes were more upbeat and current, but toned down enough to satisfy most regular church attenders.
In the early 90’s I was introduced to what we now call contemporary worship music. It was refreshing to learn songs that spoke of the majesty of God and the love and compassion of our Savior in a current rock and roll format. I’ve seen people engage in worship in a way that I had not seen before, with hands raised in praise to our God.
In each scenario, I have been compelled to worship many times, regardless of the music format. In each scenario, I have also merely gone through the motions, completely disengaged from worship. I’ve come to realize that the music format has very little impact on my ability to worship. My ability to worship is directly related to the attitude of my heart.
It seems to me that we have placed an inordinate emphasis on the style of music we use in our worship services. I believe there is value in the traditional as well as the contemporary songs. Both have some great songs and both have songs that are not so great. Some prefer one over the other, some like both, and some like another style of music. My former church began a rotation of rock and roll, gospel, traditional and yes, even country music in an attempt to appeal to everyone’s tastes.
But worship is so much more than singing songs in a worship service. Worship is an attitude of the heart in the acknowledgement of and submission to God “whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving, or by deed done in such acknowledgement.” If we do not have a heart of worship, the style of music we play and sing in church is irrelevant.
Let’s stop worrying about what kind of music the other churches are playing and place the emphasis where it should be … a heart of praise and thanksgiving for God.