Reclaiming the Gospel

Currently, doctrinal truth is being restored to the Contemporary Praise and Worship Movement. Songwriters such as Matt Redman and Stuart Townend are capturing the best of musical cultural engagement and gospel truth. Songs such as “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” jam-packed with the gospel message, yet with contemporary melodies, are crossing denominational and traditional barriers. Speaking directly to the observation I made earlier, about many contemporary worshipers believing they have something good of themselves to offer God, Matt Redman writes:

We have nothing to give
That did not first come from Your hand
We have nothing to offer You
That You did not provide
Every good perfect gift comes from
Your kind and gracious heart
And all we do is give back to You
What always has been Yours
We are breathing the breath
That You gave us to breath
To worship You
And we’re singing these songs
With the very same breath
To worship You (16)

On the same album, Redman confronts the ignorance of Unitarian worshipers with these teaching words:

This is a gifted response
Father, we cannot come
To You by our own merit
We will come
In the name of Your Son
As He glorifies You
And In the power of Your Spirit (17)

I would submit that the music of Contemporary Praise and Worship itself is not the message, but the right music can and does better support the message with cultural relevance. Recently, with the influence of Emerging thinkers and the questions that are arising with that conversation, there seems to be a deeper appreciation for traditional and even ancient forms of worship. Churches like Redeemer Presbyterian and Holy Trinity, Brompton, are finding ways to blend Contemporary Praise and Worship with their rich liturgical traditions.

Conclusion

Contemporary Praise and Worship is only about forty years old. Before worship choruses, there were hymns. Every hymn was written within and influenced by a cultural setting, wherever and whenever it might have been. It is unfair for staunch traditionalists out of mere distaste to decry the advent of newer styles of worship music in the church. Their own stylistic preferences have cultural limitations. They do have a right, however, to bemoan the unhealthy effects of Contemporary Praise and Worship. Longing for an emotional experience of God rather than longing for the glory of God is definitely unhealthy and leads to all kinds of problems. Performance-based musical worship is no different than a concert. I would actually esteem it to be more potentially detrimental to the souls of its participants, for it is done in the name of Jesus, whereas a pop concert is done for entertainment purposes primarily. In all, Contemporary Praise and Worship, which began as a culturally engaged, biblical expression of worship, eventually turned into a capitalistic venture, but is being redeemed for the glory of God.

As a worship leader who was brought up in a traditional/contemporary church, I know full well the struggle to fight a reactionary attitude against traditionalism. I saw a thick dividing line between the conservative elderly and the cutting-edge younger crowd. At first I delved into Contemporary Praise and Worship with all of my might. I even attended Christ for the Nations Institute in order to grow closer, I thought, to Jesus. While I was there, however, my eyes were opened to the experiential fantasies of “the presence of God.” I wasn’t drawing near to God; I was creating my own imaginary god out of my emotional experiences. Since then I have quietly come to know the God of the Bible. I have not given up on Contemporary Praise and Worship, though. Yes, I have wrestled long and hard with the pros and cons. And yes, there seems to be more cons. But I have found that Contemporary Praise and Worship can assist in bringing glory to God and joy to His people.



(16) Redman, Matt. “Breathing the Breath.” CCLI#: 4328876. © 2004 Thankyou Music. Used with permission.

(17) Redman, Matt. “Gifted Response.” CCLI#: 4301570. © 2004 Thankyou Music. Used with permission.

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