Contemporary or Traditional?

Contemporary or Traditional? April 6, 2011

Someone passed along this link to me the other day. It’s a blog post on contemporary versus traditional worship. I thought it was relevant enough to similar discussions concerning SG that it was worth discussing here.
We’ll start with this bit:

The goal of corporate worship is to honor God and bring men and women to His Son.  Keeping that in mind prevents our preferences from getting in the way.  In my years of campus ministry our goal was to have God honoring worship that used the musical style that was the same as the musical style our students were listening too [sic] when they drove into our parking lot.

Sigh. Here we go again. Am I the only person who’s getting just a little bit tired of the old, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s good music or not as long as people are coming to Jesus” line? Raise your hand if you’re like me, which means you think artistic excellence actually matters. (Of course, heaven forbid we should ever suggest that a flawless Charles Wesley hymn might actually honor God more than a mushy, inarticulate bit of modern worship fluff.)
Just think about this for a minute: “…Our goal was to have God honoring worship that used the musical style that was the same as the musical style our students were listening too [sic] when they drove into our parking lot.” Let’s apply that today: Suppose that the students were listening to rap music as they drove into the parking lot? Does this mean that the church should immediately jump up and say, “Oh, this is terrible, what were we thinking to not include rap music in our services?” Imagine, if you will, special music a la Toby-Mac…I’m trying, and it ain’t flying.
Now look at this passage:

If I had just gone with musical styles that I liked – evangelical 1950′s and traditional hymns – I would have been happy but the end would not have been achieved.  Selfishness and consumerism are the culprits that cause the split over contemporary vs traditional music.  Which is “better”? Neither!  They are both means to an end.
Which we use or any blend thereof should be determined by our target audience not by the preferences of the people in the pews.

Hold it. Hold it right there. Now push rewind and listen to that last part again. Then ask yourself this question: Exactly what is being said here? Essentially, this person is saying that the people in the pews don’t matter. The only important thing is attracting people outside of the church. The people who are already faithfully coming are just supposed to live with it. And if they leave, the implication is that they are being selfish, narrow-minded, and un-evangelistic.
Does this strike anyone else as…well, a little insulting? Think about it: Instead of telling the people who would refuse to come to church because of hymn-like, traditional music that they’ll just have to deal with what we have, we’re supposed to tell our own congregation that they’re being narrow-minded for taking issue with a modern, lower quality style. Instead of keeping high standards, we’re supposed to bend and change according to the demands of a “target audience” with much lower standards.
In a word, balderdash. Rather than catering to today’s culture, we should reflect that our culture is in a sorry state indeed if it is producing people who are no longer capable of distinguishing between excellence and mediocrity. If we can make that distinction, it’s not our fault that they can’t. God wants the best we can give Him, and if some whiny people are going to complain that the music isn’t loud enough or cool enough, they can go jump in the proverbial lake—or perhaps the nearest emergentist swamp.
This person closes with a helpful word from Dad:

My dad just turned 89 last week and he goes to a church that recently replaced their choir with a praise band, their hymnals with a projector, and their organ for a drum set.  His response – “I don’t really care for it.  They are too loud and I don’t know the songs.  But the church is growing and that is what counts.”

Poor guy. Sorry, but I’m not nearly so cooperative. I consider it to be grossly unfair and an inauspicious reflection on the Church that people like this fellow are being forced to put up with every new fad that comes along. The people engineering this type of thing in their churches had better watch it, because one of these Sundays they might look out to find that those “people in the pews” aren’t in the pews anymore.
One final thought: How if this pattern of catering to the outsiders were to be extended to matters of doctrine? What if someone were to decide that it would be off-putting and insensitive to present people with the unvarnished gospel message and began watering down what Scripture actually says? What if churches began telling people who came in that their lifestyle didn’t matter, that doctrinal truths were non-essential, and that Jesus just wants them to feel good about themselves?

Sound familiar? It should. Because the sad truth is that it’s not “what if” anymore. It is happening right now, today, under our very noses.
Maybe that doesn’t scare you, but it sure scares me.

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  • quartet-man

    Now THAT is some good preachin”!

  • Wow. I have a feeling I’m going to be one of the few in the minority on this one.
    “Instead of keeping high standards, we’re supposed to bend and change according to the demands of a “target audience” with much lower standards.”
    Standards according to who? Just because some of the newer music isn’t a style you like, it doesn’t mean its a lower standard.
    Some new songs aren’t the best, I understand that. But some old songs weren’t the best either. What happpened to them? They faded over time. Similarly, thats what will happen to weaker songs of today.
    Not every traditional song that is written becomes a hit. I’m sure Bill and Gloria would give you a firsthand account of this. What if SG music was judged solely on the quality of “There’s Not A Hoof Shall Be Left Behind”? Similarly, not every contemporary worship song will stick. But you can’t judge the whole lot of songs just on a few of the songs out there. Judge it on the entire body of work.

  • That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve listened to a lot of old music and a lot of new music. I could find good new songs out there if I tried, but if you look at the big picture, there is a decided decline in quality between “then” and “now.” And if you think about it, who is keeping new church music at least tolerably good? People like the Gettys, who are deliberately trying to write in an old-fashioned style.

  • Wow, you decided to ruffle some feathers, didn’t you?
    I’m tired of this argument, and I’ll just sit back and watch. But I thought you might enjoy a little anecdote I’ve been watching develop. [OK, so it wasn’t so little after all. -AH]
    We’ve got this guy coming to our church now. The story goes back to when the former pastor’s son-in-law backslid and left his wife for another woman 10 years ago. He married her and didn’t take too long realizing he’d jack-knifed his life. After about six years, he got saved again (sorry to my Baptist friends), and God had mercy on him insofar as his new wife, who’d never known anything about God, wanted to turn her life around, and at least attends church faithfully and cleaned up her act. She had these two teenage children. The boy married a young girl from our movement and left her after they had a baby. The girl sought God for a while, and then got pregnant and moved in with this not-yet-divorced guy whose recreation as a young teen was sitting on the porch drinking with his dad. He was scruffy with a barbed ring through his lower lip.
    So far, so good, huh? But the stepdad who unleashed this whirlwind doesn’t have anything he can really do about it except pray. And he’s doing that. The young guy married his girlfriend last year. Her parents brought the baby to church all they could, and the young couple came off and on. And then more and more, and I think the boy attends all he can now. He and his little girl came all by themselves a couple of weeks ago. He stands up and testifies about how God has changed his life.
    My brother and his wife befriended them, and my brother says this boy’s goal was to be in a Jesus rock band and go around singing his atrocious homemade Jesus rock songs. Or at least playing them; he can’t sing on key. He told us several months ago, though, that he’d stopped listening to that secular music. He said that the cuss words get in your mind, and want to come out of your mouth, and he didn’t think he ought to be talking like that.
    But our hymns just didn’t connect with him at all. I’m the piano player and can look out over the small congregation from where I sit, and he’d just sit there looking around while everybody else sang. Last Wednesday, we started to sing “All for Jesus.” I was afraid I hit the wrong rhythm on it, but my brother was playing rhythm guitar and it seemed to be just fine. It’s a slow 4/4, and don’t worry – it wasn’t rocky at all, just piano and six-string and mediocre singing. I looked back, and there was our friend. His lip ring disappeared a long time ago; he’s clean-cut now; and he had a song book in his hand and was nodding as he sang, “Oh, what glory, how amazing! Jesus, glorious King of kings, deigns to call me His beloved, lets me rest beneath His wings. All for Jesus, all for Jesus, resting now beneath His wings.”

  • That is a nice story. I do think Robin Mark is one of the classier worship leaders out there.
    The main thing that really turned me off about the original piece I linked to was the utterly dismissive attitude towards faithful church-goers. It’s this implication that WHATEVER the church decides to do in the interest of “bringing outsiders in” (which could involve some seriously annoying music), nobody should complain at all—because after all, how dare they interfere with something designed to reach people?
    The other sticking-point for me was this complete artistic tin ear. The author was discussing the music entirely in evangelistic terms, completely ignoring the question of what it means to have GOOD music, as well as not seeming to think it made a difference.

  • JJ

    Whether or not they use a praise team and full band, a choir, or a lone pianist, many worship services today are bland — because the powers that be seem to choose songs that all sound the same in a rigid devotion to one genre.
    1. It’s a cliche, but variety IS the spice of life. Celebration is fine, but it needs to be balanced by quiet meditation. Corporate singing is great, but solos are also valid.
    2. Catering to culture is never an exact art — because culture is not one dimensional. Otherwise, there would only be one genre of music being sold.
    3. Using great songs, regardless of style, should be the goal.

  • I think it’s good that you brought up variety, because that’s a problem I have with the bulk of modern P & W—it’s extremely repetitive both musically and lyrically.
    In terms of sheer musical and lyrical interest, hymns just are more varied and interesting.

  • JJ

    Interesting fact in this whole discussion:
    J. Wilbur Chapman wrote the lyric to the hymn, “One Day,” in 1908. Casting Crowns recorded it with new melody under the title, “Glorious Day,” and many think it’s a brand new song.

  • I think the whole “re-work old hymns with new music” thing has had mixed results. Sometimes it works very well—Chris Tomlin has done a great job adding little choruses to songs like “Amazing Grace” and “When I Survey,” and he wrote great new music to “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”
    But other times it doesn’t seem to work as well—for example, what Casting Crowns did with “One Day” isn’t dreadful, but the new melody isn’t nearly as good as the old one.

  • Keith Waggoner

    Your assumption is that the people who want to keep the hymns wish to do so because the songs are of a higher quality than contemporary choruses. As someone who travels to churches of various denominations across the country, that is almost never the case. They might occasionally say so, but the fact is that they just have a sentimental yearning for the good ol’ days as well as the good ol’ songs. It’s usually all about comfort zones. “I want to sing what we’ve always sung and do what we’ve always done.” Unfortunately, there aren’t enough people who are educated enough musically to prove that perceived difference in quality outside of the “7/11” derogatory comment thrown the way of modern music that is just as annoying today as it was back in the 1980s. As one who has studied hymnology for several years, it is my educated opinion that there has always been bad songs written for the church. You can find them in any era, in any style. For every “And Can It Be” there are 10 songs of fluff. Over time those songs are appropriately dropped from the church music “vernacular” due to their poor musical or lyrical quality. There has always been better and worse songwriters and better and worse music. We often compare the scores of songs written in the last 10 years with the scores of hymn classics written over hundreds of years. Not exactly a fair sampling. There are great songs being written today that will stand the test of time. And, today’s generation will be making the same arguments for their stylistic favorites 40 years from now that many of us make today.
    I have no problem with calling bad music bad. But to paint modern music with a wide brush, while at the same time not acknowledging the bad music found within the hymnal is disingenuous.
    Now, I will say I agree with the sentiment of one of the quotes mentioned in your post: “In my years of campus ministry our goal was to have God honoring worship that used the musical style that was the same as the musical style our students were listening too [sic] when they drove into our parking lot.” If the church is full of people 50+ years of age, it just as much a mistake to feed them a heavy diet of brand-new worship songs accompanied by screaming guitars with uber-loud amplification as it is to feed a steady diet of hymns to high school students. It’s not relevant and doesn’t allow the congregation to worship naturally. The worship leader and church musicians must be cognizant of their church culture and makeup. Introduce new material, yes, but make sure it’s quality. Revisit old hymns, yes, but make sure they’re of high quality. In fact, the worship leader has a responsibility to lead the ENTIRE congregation in worship.
    In regard to your closing analogy, there IS a danger of watering down everything the church stands for in order to reach others. That doesn’t have to happen. However, it’s a mistake to equate singing a contemporary chorus with watering down theology. There is a huge difference between the methods a church employs and the Message the church stands for and preaches. Methods and styles can change (and often should change), but the Message never changes. Giving musical styles and the Message equal footing is wrong in any case. We DO have a divine, biblical mandate to reach our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The church exists to reach the lost, to train disciples, to edify the saints, to encourage the hopeless, and to worship our Heavenly Father corporately. Music is an important tool to be used in this mission. It might be a classic Wesley hymn, a contemporary Tomlin chorus, a stirring Gaither song, or even a toe-tapping get-up-and-move song, regardless of style. It all comes down to quality lyrics and quality music. And that responsibility lies with composers, worship leaders, church musicians, and touring music groups.
    These so-called “worship wars” are divisive and do nothing to advance the Kingdom. God help us all to “give of our best to the Master” while simultaneously having the grace to “endure” musical styles that we might not enjoy or appreciate.

  • Yes, I’m familiar with a wide range of hymns as well. I agree that not all of them are created equal, and some could even be called “fluffy.”
    But the fact remains that we have yet to see a modern Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, or Isaac Watts. Even if we look at the very best that can be found today, it still doesn’t approach that level of artistry. That’s even if we give modern P & W its best shot, and from there it can only be downhill. I don’t say that because I’m sentimental, or I think the backbeat is of the devil. I’m young and I can get up and boogie with the best of ’em. But I’m interested in quality, both lyrical and musical. And what I’ve discovered is that you can’t beat the “old stuff” when it comes to quality. And you know that goes for a lot of things—music, but also things like books and movies. There’s too much of a push these days to try to “reinvent” stuff for people who insist on having something different. Once again, I’m not trying to ignore people like Chris Tomlin who are trying to do something good—I’m just saying that “good” seems to be about the limit. Greatness is pretty rare in this genre. Now you are right that it’s very new compared to the rich history of the hymn. But I’m looking at a pattern, a trend. It seems reasonable to extrapolate and hypothesize that worship music ten years from now probably won’t be all that much different from the way it is today. As for 100 years from now, I have no idea. But I don’t see a problem with making comparisons based on what we have to work with now.
    As for the quote about matching whatever style the people are listening to when they come in, I think my point about rap music is a valid one. My question is, if you take that approach, how far are you going to go? There has to be some kind of a limit.
    My point about doctrine was not to say that singing a modern praise chorus is just as bad as spreading false teachings. What I was trying to say is that once you get into a mentality of “giving the people what they want” and working around their demands, this can have implications beyond the realm of music. I was pointing out that this over-arching mentality is dangerous and a common factor to watch for, even though weak doctrine and loud music need not necessarily be found together.

  • Also, I think you might have misinterpreted the bit about using the same style as the students in the parking lot. Note that the context there was campus ministry. The students weren’t necessarily Christians. It’s one thing to discuss, as you were discussing, what it’s like to work with the church demographic you currently have. This piece is actually taking the opposite perspective, because it’s recommending that churches pick one sort of target audience and target them regardless of the “50-somethings” who might be in the pews.
    The funny thing is that it’s not exactly a recipe for success when you think about it. To give an example, there used to be a Midwestern restaurant chain called Bill Knapp’s. One was in my hometown, and it was a regular favorite. But it went out of business because the owner decided to give the decor an overhaul in an effort to attract a younger demographic. Instead of being content with middle-aged, middle-class clientele, he tried to go for more. Guess what happened? Not only did he lose his faithful customers, who were put off by the new look, but he also didn’t get the influx he was hoping for from the younger crowd. The result? They bankrupted themselves and had to close down.
    Now think about this in a church context: Exactly what would the church be hoping for? If the church is not already attracting young people, how are they even going to find out how cool and hip the church’s music is? Maybe the idea is that they’ll rock the place so much that the kids will say, “Hey look, that building is rocking! Let’s go check it out.” I don’t think so. 😉

  • quartet-man

    I don’t mind new songs because they are new. I try to judge a song on its merits not on its age. I don’t even have to like all of the songs I pick for church (although I try to pick some of the better ones). My “good preachin'” comment is more about the churches who in an effort to reach those not in the church want to throw the members they DO have under the bus. I have no problems with blended worship although I personally would prefer to like all of the songs. 😉 I understand there are different songs and types that appeal to different people. That is fine, but don’t act like everything old has to be thrown out and all of the dedicated, faithful, active people have to deal with “progress”. I know there are also others who refuse to budge and let any new songs in and I disagree with them too. (Although I understand people wanting to like everything, it isn’t necessarily feasible although I suppose some churches can maintain an identity and choose to focus on a certain clientele if they wish.

  • And I don’t mind new songs “because they are new” either. Sometimes they’re good…just (on average) not as good as the old ones (on average).
    My main focus was on the implications regarding the “people in the pew.” If a church wants to make a shift, they should work _with_ their current members instead of acting like their preferences don’t matter.

  • Considering I just accepted a position as the Contemporary Worship Leader in a Presbyterian church (figure THAT one out!!), I’ll offer some of my own insights (and tie this in nicely with Southern Gospel music, as well)….
    The King James Bible was written in 1611. That is exactly 400 years ago. And yet, many churches still cling to this translation of the Bible as being “the” Bible. Likewise, many congregations still cling to hymns written centuries ago as being “better.” It’s not because they actually hold any more quality than modern versions; it’s simply that they’re stuck in their ways, and view it as “safe.”
    Let’s take one of the examples mentioned above: Fanny Crosby. Make no mistake, Ms. Crosby is one of my favorite hymnists. I have recorded and/or sung several of her compositions. But let’s look at one of her more well-known compositions, “Redeemed.” One verse uses the following lines:
    “Redeemed and so happy in Jesus / No language my rapture can tell / I know that the light of His presence / With me doth continually dwell”
    First off, have you heard anyone in the last 50 years use the phrase “no language my rapture can tell”? No, because it’s archaeic. And when is the last time (outside of Bible study) you used the word “doth”? I’m willing to bet NEVER.
    Ok, so the lyrics may be a bit outdated. But the music….oh man, the music is WAY better than anything today!! One, five, one, five….wait, what?? The verses only use two chords?? Yup. A repetative I-V pattern. Sound familiar? Alright, maybe the chorus is better. Four, one, five one, four, one, five, one….AW, COME ON!! More repetition!! This isn’t helping the argument much.
    Is this a cheap shot at the “classic” hymns? Maybe, but I refuse (and I do mean REFUSE) to believe that just because something is older and uses more “classical” language that it is “better.” It’s not. It’s TRADITION. And how is a tradition established? THROUGH REPETITION!!
    I am not saying that there aren’t some really great hymns that could blow any modern song out of the water. My all-time favorite hymn is “It Is Well With My Soul.” It still has some outdated language (“And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight….”), but includes a beautiful chord progression and lots of dynamics. I consider this to be a true classic.
    Likewise, a friend of mine composed a “modern” worship song entitled “All of Me,” that could easily be viewed in the same category as “It Is Well.” Take the first verse: “I’m ready for the darkest nights, ’cause when I see Your guiding light / That’s when I know I’ll find an answer / That’s when I know You’ll be there.” Compare that to the first verse of “It Is Well”: “When peace like a river attendeth my way / When sorrow like sea billows roll / Whatever my lot, Thou hast caused me to say / It is well, it is well with my soul.”
    Two completely different songs, with two completely different language types, and yet they are essentially saying the same thing. Is one better than the other? No. They are DIFFERENT.
    Another consideration for the hymns route, sad to say, is money. The majority of the older hymns (if not all) are public domain, meaning they are free to use. Modern worship songs, however, are covered by various licensing; an organization has even been established to ensure that proper licensing is met within churches (CCLI). Not a huge consideration, but a valid one nonetheless.
    Now, where is this SG tie-in I was talking about? Simple. There are those who feel that four guys and a piano are way better than a full band, orchestration, and drum loops. Doesn’t matter how much you try to convince them otherwise, you will NOT change their minds. Why? Because it’s what they are used to. Same exact principle.
    Songs, messages, even the Bible itself have all been adapted over centuries to cater to different cultures. Why should we chose the last 100 years as the stopping point?

  • Hmmmmm. Kyle, I genuinely like you, but your comments about language smack of reverse snobbery to me. Just sayin’. 😀

  • Hey, I can trace my roots back to Henry VIII, but we have a rather noticable detour through Rockcastle County, KY, so it could go either way with me! 😀

  • Sogoguy99

    Your stance, it appears, is that the new direction churches are taking is a bad thing, and that churches should cater to their current audience.
    Let’s ask some questions here. When the people that are in the pews now are gone, who will replace them? While the world continues to move forward, where will the church move? If everyone stuck with 1950’s pop music and never advanced in artistic interpretation, would there be anything new to listen to?
    And now in even deeper terms. When sects of Christianity were first branching off of Judaism, what would have happened if all of the people simply said “we’ll just stay jew, it’s what we know”? When the books of the bible were being formed (by men) and some were left out or changed (by men), what if they would have simply decided to include them all instead of progress forward? What if new translations of the bible were never put together, or more research done on the bible to have a better understanding of the literal text?
    All of these are just a minute number of example of where the Christian church moved forward with their faith instead of sticking with tradition. Without these movements, you wouldn’t believe what you do today, feel what you do today, sing what you do today, or go to church the way you do today. So for you to push for the stagnation of worship services to me is a one way ticket to not growing the message of God and the bible, but losing the message to the forward progressing movements of not only other religions but secularism.
    If I am a young person and I want to go to church, why do I want to go with old people who sing the same songs from 50 years ago? Why did the first Christians follow Jesus? Was it so they could follow the Jewish faith like their ancestors, or do something different?
    To tell followers of Christ that they should not advance in their means of fellowship is akin to telling the first followers of Christ to simply stick to the temple and bring their animal sacrifices, because you won’t get any new people with this radical preacher from Bethlehem. Your opinion of what is good worship is simply not fact, it’s your opinion, which obviously is not shared by others.

  • Wow. That’s a really bad analogy! And as for your question, “If I’m a young person, why would I want to go to church with a bunch of old people singing the same songs that have been around for 50 years,” I’m sorry, but that is just shallow. Whatever happened to appreciating our heritage? And you know, the really ironic thing is that you’re probably older than I am, and I care more about preserving the past than you do. That’s sad.

  • Sogoguy99

    Going to explain how that counts as a bad analogy, or simply state it is so with no supporting evidence? I don’t see much difference between “let’s keep this all the same, we shouldn’t change or we’ll lose people!” and “let us now keep this all to thy same practice. We shall not change or we may lose thee!

  • I must disagree with your shallow comment. I think it’s just as shallow to say that heritage is more important than reaching the lost.

  • Sogoguy99

    Looks like you edited your reply after it was posted, so I’ll address your reply.
    There is nothing wrong with appreciating your heritage, but there is an inherent problem with not moving forward in anything you do in life. Should we all go back to the time before computers, the means of which you posted this blog, because our heritage says we didn’t have computers or the internet 50 years ago? Should we tell all churches to remove their electricity, sound systems, hymn books, etc., because when the religion first started there were none of these?
    It seems to me you feel you know of a proper way to worship that eludes others, or you wouldn’t be posting a blog saying new ways to worship aren’t any good. I must ask, who told you these ways from 50-100 years ago were the correct ways? How about 200 years ago? How about 500, 1000, 2000 years ago?
    The point of looking to your heritage is to know where you started and the foundation for you to build on, not to replicate in the face of changing dynamics. If you really feel this is the only way a person can worship correctly and grow spiritually, especially in attracting the next generation into your places of worship, then the Amish would be the ones growing their churches the most instead of the contemporary mega churches….

  • I’m not sure what modern inventions have to do with it. I was referring to a heritage of aesthetic excellence.

  • And Rob Roy was my ancestor. You can figure out any potential implications of that for yourself… 😀

  • JJ

    I remember Bill Knapp’s! Sad demise.

  • JJ

    Again, why does it have to be all or nothing?
    Unimaginative praise and worship praise teams are just as narrow-minded as the only-hymns crowd, and vice-versa. I’m sorry, but where’s the creativity? I don’t want songs to all sound the same, regardless of the church’s style. Drums do not make every song sound better, and neither do choirs.

  • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with churches doing a mix, as long as it’s high quality and as long as it’s not literally driving people away/making them miserable. It’s burning incense at the altar of progress to the exclusion of all else that I take issue with.

  • What about churches who offer multiple types of musical worship services?

  • You mean a calmer service at one time of day and a louder service at another? I suppose it’s better than forcing people to accept just one style they’re unhappy with, but it still seems like you’re trying a little too hard to please everybody. But at least in that scenario the people in the pews matter to SOME extent.

  • I knew you were in for it ….
    I was tempted yesterday to jump in but I’m going to remain firmly wedged in my spectator bench. (The fact is that we’re not much more likely to convince someone else than we are to be convinced ourselves.) 🙂

  • I’m trying not to take up too much time with it myself. You’re welcome to stay on the bench…unless of course you have a word of support for me. 😀

  • Ha, if I were to truly state all my opinions I would be persona non grata (did I get that right?) around Blogtown. I shall keep them to myself and cheer you on. 😀

  • Ha. Sounds like me already… 😮

  • LOL!

  • Sogoguy99

    It’s real simpl. You are stating you want to stick to tradition over new styles of worship. You have to realize though that the tradition was at one time a “new” thing, and it had the same effect as what you’re saying on current contemporary trends. To say that people are abandoning their worship or are worshiping incorrectly because they choose to bring new style music and draw a younger crowd to continue as an entity is simply incorrect, it’s merely making an interpretation on your part that is not backed up by anything.

  • Maybe you missed my comment below. I’ll repeat it here:
    “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with churches doing a mix, as long as it’s high quality and as long as it’s not literally driving people away/making them miserable. It’s burning incense at the altar of progress to the exclusion of all else that I take issue with.”
    Would you not agree that it is a bad idea to deliberately bully the “people in the pews” into accepting a style that is disorienting to them and drives them nuts?

  • Sogoguy99

    Setting up a contemporary service in no way bullies people into accepting it. This purpose of having the service is to pull people in using a way that they can relate to the best. If the people in the churches that have these services don’t want to go to them, then they shouldn’t go. If they are a type of place with multiple services, then they should not go to the service they don’t enjoy.
    No one is forcing people to be at the churches they are in, you either attend because you enjoy it or don’t because you don’t. Saying a place is “driving people out” of the pews by having contemporary music is simply ridiculous, churches have to have a way to survive with each generation coming in, and if they don’t offer anything to that generation, the church folds. All there is to it.

  • So first you said this: “If the people in the churches that have these services don’t want to go to them, then they shouldn’t go. ”
    But then you said this: “Saying a place is ‘driving people out’ of the pews by having contemporary music is simply ridiculous.”
    Think about it.

  • quartet-man

    The perception seems to be that young people always want new music, and older people old music. Although those might be the norm more often than not, they aren’t all of the time. I know young people who love Southern Gospel and older people who love newer music.
    Saying that people aren’t being forced out is wrong. It is taking already established services with already established people and changing a lot of things whether they even want it, like it or not. Some say that only new music reaches people today, but I know some who are ministered by the older. I am I suppose middle-aged now and I loved the hymns even as a child. They were older then. They can still reach people today.
    Now, I don’t object to having blended (mixed) because there may be some who like one kind or another and it is probably not realistic to give some everything and ignore others (if they exist in your congregation.) I object to throwing the old out because it is old or because people feel they have to keep with the Joneses and do new. There are churches all over the place who do new music. Old is being forced out a lot of places. People can find churches with the new if they desire.
    I also don’t mind I suppose changing one service to contemporary and another to traditional (although it is still forcing some already established people to change service times) . Maybe it is better to start a new service, but then you get into more workload for us overworked, underpaid church employees. That leads to another question. How many times do you hear that a pastor should preach a more contemporary message because the traditional doesn’t cut it? I am not sure I have seen churches where the message is totally different, but I haven’t been to many.
    As far as reaching the lost, see my above comments about the availability of new music as well as the fact that old music can minister too. Is it the only one that can? No. Is new music? No.
    I was around when Coke changed their formula. Let me tell you, people resisted in droves. Coke was at least smart enough to retreat even though they tried to save face by having Classic Coke and New Coke both being around for a while and saying many preferred the new. Guess which one is still around?
    I bring the point above up to show that trying to cram things down your “customers’ ” throats is not smart. Not everything that is new is progress. Not everything that is old is bad. Should we hold on to the old instead of embracing better things? No. Should we dismiss something because it has been done (and is working) to something less good because we feel we have to change things? No.

  • quartet-man

    One more thing, there seems to be an idea that P&W music will reach the unchurched. Now maybe it can, but I am sorry, it isn’t like secular music much at all (what I have heard). I think the pop music I like from the ’80’s still sounds more modern to the unchurched ear than today’s P&W music. It certainly does to mine.

  • I still haven’t decided if its a good or bad thing. Sure, people are more likely to get music they like to hear, but it also creates an obvious split in the body of believers.

  • Many good points made here. And good point too about young people and old music, something I didn’t even touch on. More young folks out there enjoy “the old stuff” than you might think. Witness yours truly as an example. Then again, I was raised not to turn my nose up at old stuff just because it was old. I suppose kids who are might have a different attitude. But in that case, doesn’t that indicate that something needs to be changed in these kids’ attitude instead of changing how we do things to accommodate their snobbery?
    And of course you made the excellent point (which should be obvious), that “change” does not necessarily equal “progress.” Sogoguy was trying to make analogies to things like the Jews following Jesus (??) or the progress of modern technology, with the supposed moral that the musical changes under discussion are similarly “progressive.” Why should we assume that?

  • Chris Unthank

    Isn’t a little reverse-snobbery ok though, considering just HOW much snobbery there is side of traditionalists?

  • It depends on the context I think. And it really sounds awfully shallow/juvenile to just say, “Aw come on, that old stuff uses words like ‘thee’ and ‘thou…’ I mean give me a break, nobody talks like that anymore!”
    It’s difficult to see how someone like that could appreciate things like history, great literature, the beauty of language, or great music that happens to be a couple hundred years old. These are things of value, I would think most people would agree. To take that kind of attitude is doing no great service to yourself, really.

  • I just thought I’d share – Last night, this same young man requested a song from the hymnal for the first time:
    “That God should love a sinner such as I;
    Should yearn to change his sorrow into bliss,
    Nor rest till He had planned to bring me nigh,
    How wonderful is love like this!”
    And I really believe that it was a better choice to expose him to this stuff until he learned to appreciate it than to have gone chasing after new songs when he came up months ago and asked us if we knew “As the Deer.”
    (I know many people will disagree with me, but I’ll stand my ground – even beyond a religious level, I think he’s bettered as a person by an appreciation of hymns.)