Church attendance has been steadily declining, according to some recent polls. Some attribute this to a decline in religious affiliation amongst the younger generation. But for many people, they quit going to church because they feel that the church is archaic; between the outdated hymns and the ultra-conservative nature of most churches, it’s just not a place they would like to be. The rise in non-denominational megachurches has been great for those people who want their worship experience to be more interactive.
This presents a question that has plagued every church in recent years: do you stick with your traditional form of worship to retain the members that you already have, or do you switch to a more contemporary format to reach out to those who feel alienated by the old ways of the church?
Personally, I’m a traditionalist. I love the sound of a pipe organ, I love a lot of the old hymns–especially the Lenten ones, like “What Wond’rous Love Is This”–and I especially love the subtlety of the worship. For me, contemporary worship is too “in your face” for poor little introverted me. Being in a community of worshippers in silent reflection and repentance is beautiful to me. I don’t need lights or amplifiers or anything of that nature.
Granted, there are some contemporary aspects I like. I think that acoustic guitars should be in churches, because they add a sort of ambiance that is missing with strictly pipe organ, or even simply piano. Some of the songs that are considered “contemporary Christian” I know as camp songs, and camp holds a special place in my heart, so I love those songs.
Really, the only problem I have with contemporary worship is when it becomes a huge show. A worship band of piano, guitar, drums and singer I have no problem with; a band of three guitars, bass, drums, synthesizer, six singers and amps and mics for everyone that happens to be playing worship songs I have a problem with.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a church that worshiped in the latter way. To briefly (and somewhat unfairly) summarize what the service was: giant worship band, a video, giant worship band, children’s sermon, regular sermon, giant worship band, end. It was a giant show, and I didn’t find any substance in the entire service. The sermons were feel-good sermons, the songs were all positive and upbeat, and there was nothing that allowed me to grow in my faith with God.
For some people, this works. For some people, all they need is the reassurance that they can depend on God for everything, and they get that reassurance by attending a church that is fun and meaningful for them. I’m all about that. What I’m not about are megachurches that treat worship like a concert, and build multi-million dollar stadiums with lights, smoke, and state of the art sound equipment. It’s a materialistic approach to worship, and one that isn’t necessary.
The traditional worship is the way to go, because there is no emphasis on feel-good Christianity. Being a Christian is not easy. It’s not as easy as singing a couple of songs and getting a spiritual ego boost. Christians are one of the most hated groups of people in the world, mostly because they are one of the most hateful groups. If you don’t learn how to grow deep in your faith and how do defend it, your faith is meaningless.
It’s like the parable of the sower in Mathew 13. My experience with contemporary worship is like the seed that fell on the rocky soil: the plants sprung up quickly because there was some soil, but died just as quickly because there was no sustenance. Traditional worship is the good soil: it gets in deep, analyzing and internalizing the Scripture, making it worthwhile, relevant, and important.
Granted, this is only one person’s opinion. Maybe the ultra-contemporary worship is your style, and you get something out of the experience that I’m missing. But from what I know to be true, traditional worship is the true and worthwhile form of worship.
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