Contemporary Worship Music

Contemporary really means current, for us, current musical trends. Some people call some music contemporary that’s been around for 30 years. I’m not saying they’re wrong – but to me, what’s contemporary is not the music as it is written, but the music as it is performed. For example, since we’ve previously talked about hymns, I firmly believe some traditional hymns can be transformed into contemporary works of art. Just look at “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” that was transformed into a powerful contemporary worship song called “The Wonderful Cross“. The words were written in the early 1700s by Isaac Watts and the music written in the early 1800s by Lowell Mason. But here comes Chris Tomlin, J.D. Walt, and Jesse Reeves in 2000 and they, leaving Watts’ words and Mason’s melody intact, write a short chorus, change a few chords, and have one of the most popular hymn-transformations to date. So the old music and words can be made new (or contemporary).

Then there are the brand new songs – in contemporary musical stylings. Some say they repeat themselves too much. Like the story of the old farmer that went to church in the big city with his son who had moved there for work. The church was new and did contemporary music. When the old farmer got home, his wife asked him about the services. He said this, “Suppose we had a cow that needed milked. In our (traditional) church, we’d say, ‘The cow in the barn needs milked.’ But here, they said, ‘The cow, the cow, the big brown cow, the one in the barn, our barn, down in our pasture, the cow in the barn, yes, our barn, she needs, oh how she needs, Lord, you know she needs milked, Oh Lord, help us to milk, to milk, our cow in our barn.’ Well, that’s about all we did at this church.”

Now, yes, this is an obvious exaggeration… but there is a point to some of the repetitions. First and foremost is that contemporary writers emphasize some theological points with repetition. For example, Chris Tomlin’s “Forever” has a bridge that repeats “His love endures forever” about 16 times, plus twice per verse. But just take a look at the hymns of the bible – the Psalms. Where Tomlin takes this from is Psalm 136 – of which the phrase, “His love endures forever” is repeated over 20 times… if it is okay for the Word of God, its okay for God’s people to sing. Plus, there are many other repetitions – think about how many times we see “Sing for joy to the Lord” or “Shout to God” or “Clap your hands” in the Scriptures. Repetition is a literary tool for making a point (or emphasis).

Repetition can also be a musical need. So that songs can resemble their radio, CD, or I-pod counterparts, sometimes repetition is needed. If you listen to most songs on the radio (Christian, rock, pop, or country) most have the same form (or structure) musically – verse 1-chorus-verse 2-chorus-bridge-chorus. The contemporary music of worship does the same as needed.

That’s enough about what I understand about the subject. I’ll tell you more in the next post about how I think a combination of the two (traditional and contemporary) is what’s best for the majority of the churches seeking to not only take care of those they have in their midst but also reach out to those that they haven’t reached yet.

I hope God blesses you in your search for him. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that when we seek him (God) with all our heart, we will find him.

Traditional Worship Music

Traditional – in most cases, the extreme is music that is quite old, more than 30, 40, or 50 years old. The term traditional is used because it’s what churches have traditionally done in their music and worship for decades. It is their “tradition” and each church has it’s own. I helped in a revival a few weeks ago and the music they “normally” sang was southern gospel hymns I had never even heard before (and I was raised in a traditional church).

The positives of traditional music in worship are
1) it helps the worshiper who has a connection with the song – spiritually and/or emotionally. Many claim “Amazing Grace” as their favorite hymn due to some past spiritual or emotional experience with the song. Every time it is sung, they immediately connect with God through it’s text and music because they remember this great and awesome past experience and it encourages them in their faith.
2) traditional hymns have a depth of doctrine that is not found very often in the contemporary music. Many hymns speak of the greatness of God in a way that expounds upon a believer’s knowledge of the Scriptures. These hymns speak in language that is not spoken regularly and therefore lift “new” expressions of worship to God.

The negatives of traditional music in worship are
1) a new believer with no past connection to the hymn, might easily get “bored” with the archaic language and strophic nature (same tune with many stanzas).
2) Younger believers connect with God through music styles that they hear on a regular basis. They seem more drawn to worship when they hear musical stylings that imitate or recreate what they hear on their radios,CDs, and I-pods – and nothing in mainstream music resembles the hymn (except some classical music).

Next Blog – Contemporary Worship

I hope God blesses you in your search for him. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that when we seek him (God) with all our heart, we will find him.

First Blog

Why Music and Worship? Because that’s who I am. I am a minister of music and worship. That’s not only my job, but my passion. I’ve spent 7 years in school and about 12 years professionally pursuing the subject of music and worship and how it not only affects people, but its place in the local church. And it’s not been easy.

If you have any knowledge of this field, you know that it is filled with two major sides – that emphatically oppose the other side. The two sides: Traditional versus Contemporary. Now, yes, it is true that a great number in this field have a broader understanding that both sides have their merits and that some form of combination seems to be the most logical way for local church use – myself included.

Next Blog – Traditional Worship

I hope God blesses you in your search for him. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that when we seek him (God) with all our heart, we will find him.