Traditional vs. Contemporary Worship Music

A pastor friend of mine wrote this article. Provocative thoughts! Let us hear what you think about this topic. Thanks! – Dwayne

There is a disturbance within the church of today. It is an issue that can take the most loving, most unified congregation and turn them into a bitter, battling group of individuals. The issue is contemporary music verses traditional hymns. Let’s focus on some of the distinctions between the two and hopefully we can come to a better understanding of each and their place in worship.

Traditional Music is what the older members grew up on. It is filled with nostalgia. There are great memories associated with the hymns. Revivals, homecomings and all-night sings come to mind when we sing the old familiar hymns. These songs remind us of family and friends.

We have emotional connections to the old hymns. The Old Rugged Cross moves us to Jesus Christ; we feel the power and majesty of God when we sing How Great Thou Art. And many feel that any attack on the great hymns of old is a direct and personal attack against who they are and where they come from.

Most of the new contemporary music is to Jesus and not about Jesus. Our hymns are generally about Jesus Christ. The new songs primarily involve our telling Jesus about our love for Him. There are very few songs in the older hymns that address Jesus personally, but rather they tell others about Jesus. In contemporary praise music there are very few new songs that don’t primarily address Jesus in a very personal way. There is a key to why this is so important.

In society there are three basic securities for people. One is family. The other is the church. And the other one is the dependability, respect and the consistency of our government. Unfortunately our younger generations have been negatively impacted and have become tremendously insecure. In the home there is a 60% divorce rate in America. The church has suffered scandal upon scandal until society has almost lost all respect for the church. Young people question the integrity of the leaders within our government. We no longer have leaders that we can respect and follow. So where do the young people turn to find security and believe in something that is real? Believe it or not, many turn to Jesus Christ.

They hunger for a personal intimate relationship with Him. Just talking about Him or how much I praise Him, is not nearly as warm and real to them as telling Him personally. That is one of the main reasons why contemporary praise music is so important and so successful in the life of young adults. They can sing to Jesus personally. This is music they understand.

The thing that we must remember is that we are to worship is “spirit and in truth”. It is not the style of worship we use, it is the substance of our worship for the Eternal, Awesome, God of all Glory!

By John Martin, who is pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Waycross, GA. You can contact him at

Leave a Reply