Notes from the Shore

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Traditional vs. Contemporary, and the Myth of Blended Worship, Part IV

This is the fourth and final part of a series on what defines Contemporary Worship, sets it apart from Traditional Worship and why I think Blended Worship is a misnomer. In this part we will look at practical aspects of putting together a Contemporary worship songlist to help engender the aspects of “Flow” and “Connection.”

Part 4: The Songs

Please note that in all my descriptions of contemporary and traditional worship I have not differentiated between hymns (be they 50 or 500 years old), camp songs, or traditional or contemporary choruses. I will make one quick differentiation now.

“Traditional” worship songs very frequently make proclamations about God – His “Amazing Grace,” or He is “Holy, Holy, Holy,” or because of Him “It Is Well With My Soul.” These are important sentiments, and have a vital place in worship. The Psalms are replete with examples of this sort of proclamation. Contemporary songs such as “Tradin’ My Sorrows” and “Days of Elijah” continue this great tradition. Such proclaimatory songs serve two powerful functions. Not only do they exalt God, which is a worthy end in and of itself, they serve to prepare the heart of the worshiper for that more intimate time of communion with the Lord.

One more point concerning songs need to be made. The most contemporary worship band, doing the most worshipful songs for a congregation that is just sitting and listening because it is a “band special” is not contemporary worship. It can be worshipful, but the flow has been broken. Again, I say this with the caveat that these are principals, and not cast in stone. I have been a part of a worship service that very effectively used a “band special” to move the worship forward. In that case the song followed a moving testimony, and the congregation joined in on the last verse, flowing into more congregational worship songs. This is to say that once the spiritual maturity and sensitivities are in place, many variations are possible.

So, armed with this knowledge, and knowing that song style is more a matter of stylistic taste than of contemporary vs. traditional, step out into a more powerful, more life-changing worship in your church. Start with a regular format until you are comfortable with it, and then start experimenting and branching out. One more characteristic of contemporary worship is that it is living and dynamic, and not the same every week.

God Bless.

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