All Worship is Contemporary

Close to our house is a church that might be considered liturgical or at least have its roots in liturgical methodologies. As I drove by their facility recently, their digital marquee sign has this blazing announcement:


If you read some of my previous blogs on the topics of “style of worship”, then you know I think that the church of the 21st century has abused the word “contemporary” and “traditional” when trying to put a label on the “style” of our worship services. Why do we find it necessary to put labels on how we worship the Alpha and Omega? Has God changed from the start of time to 33AD to the 1600’s to the 1800’s to 2018? If not…then why do we try to put churches in a box…and as such, put God in that same box?

“Why do we find it necessary to put labels on how we worship?”

Well, that sign set me off. I looked at the sign and shook my head…REALLY?!?!?

Let me set the stage here as I do not want to get a bunch of hate mail. I also have many friends, colleagues and clients whose church provides what they call a “Traditional” service and a “Contemporary” service, so I am not ragging on them. I totally get what they are trying to communicate. I understand that one service’s musical style, instrumentation, dress code, technology, etc may be different from another service offering.

But the reality is that ALL WORSHIP is contemporary. Period. Let’s look at what the definition of contemporary is:

con·tem·po·rary  –  adjective happening or beginning now or in recent times

It means it is current…happening now. Worship can only be contemporary. We cannot step back in time and worship…we cannot jump to the future and worship either (unless you are Michael J. Fox).

Our expression of our worship will vary…and must vary. We are all unique…so our styles will be unique. What draws us into the holy presence of God is different for each of us. The way we dress to worship will be different based on a whole host of variables. But the expression is not worship. Worship is worship.

Hear me on this…I am not saying one expression is better than another. I believe that context and contextualization should drive our expression, means and methods.

As a former music major and musician, I giggle when someone says they wish we did more traditional music…to which I ask if they mean Gregorian Chant (which was actually contemporary in its day). What they really mean is doing things the way they remember as a kid or the methods a church used when they first became a Christ Follower. That is “Traditional” to them.

On the other hand, what is contemporary music? Chris Tomlin? Bill Gaither? Maranatha Music? Andre Crouch? Skillet? There are almost as many subsets of this genre as there are church denominations.

OK…off my high horse. Do you get my point? Can you see that how we label our worship experiences can be more than just a little goofy and possibly confusing to those we are trying to reach?

I had a friend recently tell me that “If a church has to announce that it has a contemporary service, it probably isn’t .”

All worship is contemporary…our expression of our contemporary worship will vary.

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