Contemporary Worship and Historic Christian Practice

As we enter the Advent Season this coming Sunday we will be lighting Advent Candles to commemorate the season in Transformation Worship.  So why do we celebrate Advent and light Advent Candles in a Contemporary worship service.  Isn’t contemporary worship about worshipping in a way that isn’t traditional?  Well, not exactly.

Contemporary Worship is about finding ways to share the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a post-modern audience.  It is about finding ways to communicate the old old story of Jesus Christ and God’s love for us in new ways.  But contemporary worship is not about tossing aside the gospel in favor in order to contemporary.

So, how do you tell what activities in worship are to be updated to make worship contemporary and what things do we do in worship that always remain?   We have to understand that the same basic elements of worship that are found in a meaningful traditional service are also found in a meaningful contemporary service.  In both forms of worship we pray, we sing praises to God, we share joys and concerns, we study the scriptures, we share in gospel music with musicians in the service, we he the message of the gospel preached, and we share in the Sacraments.

What is different is not the foundational content of worship but instead it is a matter of style and context.  In a Contemporary service the goal is to connect with the current culture.  So music is in a style that fits styles of music that are most popular today.  Sermons should confront, as much as possible, contemporary issues that people are dealing with today.  In Contemporary Worship you try to avoid insider language that only active and long time Christians will understand.

Even the way people dress in Contemporary Worship is geared to fit the current relaxed nature of fashion in our culture.  The pulpit robes and albs worn by some pastors in traditional worship are actually based on academic garb and on street clothes worn by an average person in the day in which pastors began to wear such clothing.  So in contemporary worship a more relaxed dress fits our more relaxed culture.

However, Contemporary worship must continue to preach the same gospel of Jesus Christ, teach the same doctrines,  and emphasize a view of history that is Christ centered rather than culture centered.  So why do we continue to light Advent Candles even in a Contemporary worship service?  Because we as Christians need to put the Christian year and the Christian calendar above the secular calendar.  We need to remember that Advent and Christmas are foremost about the coming of Jesus Christ in the world.  And no matter how “contemporary” or “post-modern” we may get, we are here to teach the same gospel which Jesus brought to the world centuries ago.