Musical style is a popular topic in churches these days. The arguments seem to boil down to Traditional vs. Contemporary. The main issue is this really does not describe the root of the problem. I’ll attempt to explain, hopefully without creating a new crisis.
Traditional, for the most part, describes what one is accustomed to hearing. This varies from generation to generation. Each generation has what they consider to be Traditional music. Generally speaking, in today’s current debate Traditional refers to hymns. More specifically, it refers to hymns written in the past two hundred years or so, from the time of Wesley forward. My question for those that prefer Traditional music is this: what was being sung in churches before these hymns were written?
Did you know the music of Wesley and others were not welcomed in all the churches of his day? Folks in those days preferred their “traditional music” over this new music that was being introduced. It caused quite a stir. So technically speaking, those that support Traditional music today are actually promoting the Contemporary music from a couple of generations back.
I remember in my teenage years the frustration I felt when leaders of churches in the 1970’s and 80’s refused to allow “contemporary” music to be used in worship services. Most of these songs were written by Bill and Gloria Gaither. Now, you would be hard pressed to find a church that does not use some of their music. That was only forty years ago.
Let’s take a look now at the argument used by those that prefer Contemporary music. The most common voice that I hear in this debate speaks of needing “new” songs. They say, “We don’t want to be traditional.” This group does not really understand what they are attempting to do. In essence, they are starting a new tradition! A tradition of being non-traditional is still a tradition.
I do not use these terms when I speak of Praise and Worship. Musical style is not the point. Age of the songs being sung, to me, is not relevant. The only thing that matters to me is this: Is the Lord being worshipped? If we can leave a gathering and answer this question with, “Yes”, then we have done our job. Let’s take the rhetoric down a notch, realize that we are all on the same team, and find a way to walk together down this road called Praise and Worship. We all have something to learn from one another.