by Rod D. Martin
January 21, 2015

Nicholas Stehle posted an article on Facebook today entitled “My Journey Away From Contemporary Worship Music,” which is quite good and worth a look.

My perspective is similar to the writer’s. I was a youth choir director, youth minister, music minister or interim pastor for more than a decade (obviously not full-time, but also obviously a pretty good chunk of my life). Contemporary has its place, and I’ve advocated for it as much as anybody.

But too much of what is called contemporary in a worship setting is completely inappropriate to such use. It is not written for congregational singing, and so much of the congregation cannot sing it. It tends to lack theological depth — it is, after all, intended for personal entertainment, usually on the radio or at a concert — and thus frequently does little or nothing to support the sermon or the teaching ministry of the church. And of course, all too often, what is called “contemporary” is actually the twenty-years-out-of-date preference of second cohort Baby Boomers who just can’t get over themselves. You sometimes expect them to follow the (mind numbing) 17th repetition of “Whoa Yeah” with “and get off my lawn.”

I’m not against contemporary music per se. But the worship service is more important than the stylistic preferences of a few, freequently a vocal few who are themselves in need of discipling and are not sensitive enough to needs greater than what they perceive to be their own to be qualified to lead. And a balanced, rich worship life — in more cases than not — should regularly include those ancient songs (and psalms) of the faith that have stood the test of time and that tie us to those who went before.

This is a small thing to ask, akin to insisting that children eat their vegetables. At some point, they usually learn to appreciate a palate broader than peanut butter and ketchup. They don’t even have to give up those younger pleasures when they do so.