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Contemporary or Traditional?

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#1 Rick Reed

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 06:58 AM

Do you realize that today’s contemporary church services and music will be tomorrow’s traditional Sunday services and songs? Conversely, today’s traditional services and music were yesterday’s contemporary.
Way too much is made about the “style” of our gatherings and the type music we have. So much, in fact, that people choose where they will “worship” on the basis of style and type of songs.
It’s like we’re at the grocery and are choosing plastic or paper. But at least in that case our choice might make a difference in the environment. Although, isn’t choosing plastic ultimately worse?
But something is wrong with the way we choose our “worship” – big time. It’s like God isn’t even a consideration.
I want to worship with a body of believers who see worship as a lifestyle.
I want to sing with a body of believers who will belt out whatever song they are singing – even if they aren’t particularly fond of it.
Don’t get me wrong. I have my preferences. We all do. But there is only one preference that matters – God’s.
In my English Standard Version Bible the word “tradition” is used 10 times – and nine of them aren’t used in a favorable light.
The Pharisees asked Jesus why His Disciples broke the traditions of men. Jesus said holding to their traditions as they did caused them to break the commands of God.
You choose which is better.
Which command can be broken by following traditions?
Disunity for one.
Lack of love for one another for another.
The one time Paul told the Christians to hold to tradition was in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, when he told them to follow their example pertaining to work.
My Bible doesn’t have the word contemporary but when you think about it, every one of their early “services” was contemporary. They had to be. It was all new.
My Bible does have the word “new” in it. I did a search for the term “new song” and found nine references. We’re told to sing new songs. We’re also told to sing, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
I don’t think I’d ever get tired of singing “Amazing Grace” or many of the old hymns.
Imagine the first time “Amazing Grace” was sung. I bet there was someone who said, “Oh no, not another new song.”
I just don’t want to sing dusty, moldy irrelevant songs during our gatherings.
Also, don’t get me wrong. The problem of disunity doesn’t just fall on those liking traditional stuff. I’ve had my share of bad attitudes. I didn’t like it when all we sang were old songs.
But it’s not really a matter of what I like, is it?
It’s a matter of praising God. Worshipping God. And we can’t do that with a blot on our heart.
It’s a matter of being relevant. That’s the type of gatherings and songs we should sing.
Imagine signs in front of churches that had Relevant Service 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon.
Old or new. New or old. It doesn’t matter or shouldn’t matter if we’ve been made new. All that matters is if it’s relevant.
Remember, today’s traditional songs were yesterday’s contemporary ones. And today’s new songs will become tomorrow’s traditional ones.
Neither really matters. But loving one another does.

#2 Lori Smith

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 03:33 PM


I agree with you; I also think there is a growing hunger among God's people to have more of God Himself. Tradition can be a wonderful thing, but it can also become a replacement for God. People come and sit in pews each week, laugh and talk to one another, go home and forget why they came. The fellowship and ministry is important, but if it replaces God in their lives, tradition becomes tragedy. That was what happened to the Israelites. They were steadfast in keeping the law; they even added more laws so they could keep the law better. But in all of their law keeping they forgot God.

Regarding worship: I think we have grown accustomed to saving it for Sun. However, God indwells us and meant for us to live a lifestyle of worship. I also agree with Tozer that we need to have all of the Holy Spirit. Many strange ministries have made Christians afraid of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is God and God's tangible presence with us. We need Him moment by moment to counsel us and bring us into the throneroom of God. Unfortunately, most Christians live without Him.
In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer writes, "Jesus taught that He wrought His works by always keeping His inward eyes upon His Father. His power lay in His continuous look at God (John 5:19-21)."

#3 Brian Elmer

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 07:57 PM

I find after almost 25 years of leading music in ministry, that yes, we all have our preferences. We all have music that ministers to us - helps us express what we feel about our God. But I do think that in these days of various styles of church music, too much focus is placed on preference of style. What I have resolved is this - it is the condition of the heart that matters most in expression of worship. Often times, our personal preference may not be what HE wants to hear. I am reminded that HE is the object of our worship, not our preference of songs. I have recently been reminded in the book Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland, that if the music, the ability, the instrument, the voice were taken from you - could you still worship the Lord? Thought-provoking stuff. Music is a simply a way to express our worship to an Almighty, Gracious God. It is not worship itself.

I will restate your thoughts a bit differently - all music has been contemporary at some time. That's how I see it. Preference of a song whether new or old, has meaning to worshiper. It perhaps was meaningful at a certain time and place that a life was impacted. Culture, upbringing, exposure, and upbringing play into it as well. Not being "contemporary" doesn't make it irrelevant to the every worshiper.

There will be a day in your life, when the songs you valued will be old and 'irrelevant' to many people in that day. I think of the praise and worship songs of the past 20 years - Lord, I Lift Your Name On High, Shout to the Lord, Here I Am to Worship, Blessed Be Your Name, etc... 5-10 years from now or more, some from these times will be "complaining" that we haven't sung "their songs" in a long time! For a congregation to join in singing songs of worship they will have to learn them, to know them. For most that takes a bit or repetition. I am not sure being contemporary for "contemporary sake" is always the way to go. Give thought to this - are we saying if your congregation of 'worshipers' doesn't appreciate a song that you like that they are irrelevant? Only the one's who 'get it' matter? I hardly think so.

The songs that matter to me may not matter to others. The ulitimate is when a congregation can at least appreciate the differences in preferences... that to me is a picture of the heart of unity - a love for the brethren. Let's move off of the shallowness of personal preferences and cultivate a heart after God.

#4 Rick Reed

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 05:57 AM

Thanks so much for your reply. I wasn't saying contemporary is the way to go or that only contemporary is relevant. By relevant I mean something that will help as in worship, with nothing to do with preference at all. I think if we truly love one another than whatever we sing we will be singing to the Lord.