Is Contemporary Worship Fading?
We could use more philosophical friars, and parishioners (an archaic term used to describe a member of a church). How so? Well, for instance, I recall the first time I attended a contemporary worship service in the 1990s. The music wars were raging between traditional and contemporary worship enthusiasts in many churches. Before walking into church that day, I was unaware of those music wars. Afterwards, all I knew was that I had found a church that played and sang music I could relate to. Without looking back, I tossed the hymns, choirs, and organ music that suddenly seemed so ancient and boring.
Fifteen years later, I find myself sitting in a different church, but the music is still contemporary. I now struggle occasionally during worship to express what is in my heart for God or receive what God has for me. Has the newness of contemporary worship passed on? Is contemporary worship music, ultimately, too shallow? Was contemporary worship music a flash in the pan? Am I overly dependent on style? Is the problem the church? Is the problem the drummer?
Clearly, large numbers of Christians still feel close to God via contemporary worship. Contemporary worship fans often get little out of traditional worship. And many traditional worshipers get nothing out of the contemporary format. But even traditional worshipers can feel stale in their worship.
We live in a culture that provides a plethora of choices. Just look at the variety of music genres. But choice does not by itself broaden our horizons. Even though we have many choices available to us, we often gravitate to our innate likes. For example, when I was a child I naturally loved Kool-Aid. But I gagged when I tried coffee for the first time. Same goes for wine. Some pleasures in life are what they call an “acquired taste.” That is, if you keep gagging it down, you will often learn to love it. My parents used to insist that I try new foods. Otherwise, I had no right to turn my nose up when those new foods were set before me at the dinner table.
The principle of acquired tastes applies just as well to spiritual matters, such as worship styles. Now that my taste in beverages is more sophisticated, I would soon tire of Kool-Aid if I had to drink it all the time. Pondering, in a philosophical sense, the implications of whether contemporary worship is losing its ability to move worshipers towards God led me to the obvious realization that every style of worship eventually loses its newness and fades. At some point, contemporary worship will no longer be contemporary. Thankfully, God has blessed us with the ability to experience him and praise him in more ways than those that naturally feel good to us. I recommend such ruminations for all believers.
Perhaps the next big shift in worship will be towards contemporary prayer, though I haven’t figured out what that might look like.