We talk about “contemporary worship,” but in many churches there is confusion about what “contemporary worship” actually is.
For some, it means the use of contemporary music. The organ is out and the keyboard and guitar are in. “Praise songs” are in and hymns are out.
For others, it means using modern technology, such as PowerPoint presentations and videos. Bibles and hymnals are out; the video screen is in.
For some, it means that “old terminology” cannot be used. We have worship centers rather than sanctuaries and stages rather than chancels. We have opening prayers rather than invocations and talks rather than sermons.
For others, it means avoiding anything done in “traditional worship,” including hymns, prayers, confessions of faith and passing the peace of Christ — though an offering usually is taken.
It means “do your own thing,” whatever that may be — with no guidelines or standards. Just do whatever the worship leaders feel like doing at the time.
Defining “contemporary worship” varies from one church to another and may even vary from one church member to another.
Perhaps we can get a handle on the meaning of “contemporary worship” by looking at the two words we are using.
Contemporary means “existing, occurring, or living at the same time: belonging to the same period of time.” (Random House College Dictionary, 1997, p. 285)
So “contemporary worship ” means worship that is appropriate and meaningful for people who are living now, rather than people who lived 100 years ago or who will live 100 years in the future. That means that every generation in every culture faces the question of “contemporary worship.”