Myths About Contemporary Worship
Change is often met with resistance. Most of this resistance to contemporary worship is grounded in a few myths. Here is some debunking of the myths we hear most often:
- Contemporary worship is stupid. Contemporary worship is not a “dumbed-down” version of traditional Sunday morning worship. Among the most common misconceptions about contemporary worship is the notion that because it requires a different format—and because it challenges us to hear from more than one voice—it is somehow less intellectually rigorous than a traditional worship service. This is simply not the case.
- Spiritually alive worship is irrational. We often talk about making our worship "spiritually vital and alive," but this does not mean taking out things that make sense. It just means letting people feel something. Spirituality and reason can go hand in hand; religion should make sense and be based in our own experiences. Worship should speak to our experiences in life, challenge us to develop deeper relationships, and connect us to things that are beyond ourselves—be that in human relationships, struggles for justice, or a connection with nature or God or any other profound mystery.
- Contemporary means loud. Many people hear of worship services with a lot of music and think that it must be some sort of ear-splitting rock music. While this can be an enjoyable way to worship, it is not the only music that a wide range of people (including young adults) find meaningful. Long periods of silent meditation, soft music behind a candle-lighting ritual, poetry readings, and well-written folk or jazz have all been parts of good contemporary worship. Energetic and alive does not necessarily translate into loud.
- Contemporary worship requires a theist theology. While Christian movements, especially evangelical fundamentalist ones, have done a remarkable job in reaching out with exciting and vibrant worship, this does not mean that the energy or the feeling of those worship services is tied to their theology. Humanist calls to social justice, Buddhist loving-kindness meditations, pagan invocations and rituals, or Jewish litanies of atonement are all perfectly at home in a contemporary worship service. We must keep our worship services—including contemporary ones—diverse and welcoming.
- Contemporary worship is for young adults. While young adults are often excited about contemporary worship styles such as Soulful Sundown, plenty of people under 18 and over 35 are interested in exploring new ways of doing worship as well. Good contemporary worship services will attract people of all ages, and will challenge all to walk the talk of intergenerational religious community. You might need a Religious Education program during or after the service (before or after, as you might find that children would rather stay in the upbeat and welcoming space of your contemporary worship). You might need to form a Senior Citizens’ dinner group to eat together before or after the service. Don’t be afraid of attracting a different (and more diverse) crowd than the one that comes to your congregation's traditional worship.