Churches Debate Over Traditional vs. Contemporary Music

There’s a war brewing inside of U.S. churches. While some congregants prefer the beat-bopping sounds of electric guitars, drums and fast-paced tunes, others seek a more traditional worship experience. The divide, which often hinges upon age and personal music taste, only seems to be intensifying — especially as churches seek to modernize and attract younger audiences.

According to the USA Today, nearly 50 percent of Protestant churches are now reporting that they use electric guitars or drums during worship. This proportion has grown from 35 percent back in 2000, according to a 2010 Faith Communities Today study of 14,000 congregations across America.

While this may seem like a silly argument, there are many who feel passionately that music should be kept traditional, with a focus upon worshiping God and not engaging in the frills of percussion and guitar strumming. On the flip side, others claim that it’s necessary to change with the times. The beats and guitar jingles, they say, simply come with the territory of modernization.

But Rick Muchow, the pastor of Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, says, “The Bible does not have an official soundtrack…There are all different kinds of churches for different kinds of people. We don’t worship music, we worship God.”

This essentially means that there’s no right way to worship the Almighty through music. Some churches, though, recognizing the sensitivity inherent in churchgoers’ prerogatives, have begun to host “themed” services.

Saddleback, for instance, runs services that focus upon various genres of music. According to Muchow, his church offers gospel, rock, alternative and traditional services. Depending on one’s age and musical taste, these options would offer a more copacetic worship experience.

But there are plenty of pastors who would disagree with Saddleback’s musical selections. These much more conservative houses of worship would contend that traditional music is the way to go. Pastor David Cloud, for instance, believes that drifting away from traditional worship may have spiritual side effects.

Churches Debate Over Traditional vs. Contemporary Music

Republican presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, plays bass guitar with the praise band at the Apostolic Church of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich. Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“There is an intense war being waged today for the heart and soul of Bible-believing churches, and one of the Devil’s most effective Trojan horses is music,” he says.

Cloud has gone so far as to launch a web directory that lists Independent Baptist Churches in North America that pledge to stick to the King James Version of the Bible. Additionally, the listed houses of worship ban any and all contemporary music.

This battle is likely to continue raging, especially as contemporary music continues to increase in popularity. What do you think — should churches focus more upon traditional, contemporary or a mixture of the two? Take the poll: