We talk a lot about worship. We write/read books on the subject. We talk about the “style” of worship we like. There is contemporary worship, traditional worship, liturgical worship. In some churches the argument over what songs we sing, what instruments we use and whether or not we have a praise team or a choir has actually split churches. At many larger churches we see signs that advertise a certain style of worship will be used at one service and another style at a second service. Seems to me that we treat worship like we do other music. Some love country songs, some classical music and other rock and roll.
Traditional vs Contemporary – Us vs Them
So we appear to insist there are two kinds of worshipers. There is the “old crowd” who love their hymns and want something “traditional.” There is the “younger crowd” who want contemporary songs only with drums, keyboards and guitars or, if they do an old hymn need to change it to a more contemporary style.
But is that really what worship is? Should my own musical likes or dislikes determine how I worship?
To those who long for the “good old days” when we had organ and piano instruments and “traditional” hymns, I have to ask: “Do you think worship only started when those old hymns were written?” The singing of hymns was not officially approved in the Church of England until 1820. Yet, without those old hymns the early church clearly worshiped. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesians
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
Matthew’s Gospel tells us after the Last Supper before Jesus went to the garden to pray He and His disciples sang a hymn.
Traditional means: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs,information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice:
If you want traditional music, how far back do we go for that? Just to the hymns of the 1800’s and England? Maybe we should go back to the Middle Ages and the Georgian chants? Most Biblical scholars believe the early church probably sang the Psalms? So if we want to have traditional music perhaps we should only sing the Psalms.
Contemporary means: what is happening right now, marked by characteristics of the present period.
So contemporary worship will be worship that is suitable and meaningful for the current population. It is not for those who lived hundreds of years ago. Therefore, we have to recognize that the “method” of worship will always be changing.
From Psalms to Gregorian chants to Charles Wesley’s hymns to Chris Tomlin’s praise songs.
The Old Becomes New Again
For those “old folks” who long for the old hymns, just hang around a little longer. I found interesting studies as I did some research on the history of worship that many millennials are leaving churches with contemporary worship and returning to the liturgical churches with their organs and old hymns.
Is Worship Just About the Style of Music?
When we have made our focus on worship about the style of music, we have lost the real meaning of worship. Our worship should not be dictated by the style of music we like or dislike. Our worship should be dictated by what we believe. Our worship should be directed toward God, not ourself. In John 4:23-24 Jesus told the Samaritan woman
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
So our emphasis is not about the style of music, rather we have a praise team or a choir or a single worship leader. It is not about the “outward form” of worship. It is about the “inward form” – our heart. God is seeking worshipers who will worship him truly from their hearts. God could care less if we have the latest sound system and the best worship teams if we do not come to worship Him from our hearts. God wants our hearts!