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What is Contemporary Worship Music?

Is it “rock music?” Not exactly, but close. So what is contemporary worship music?

It’s a style of music that’s upbeat and most often played by what you would call a “band,” not a choir. Our church’s Worship Team, for example, plays contemporary worship music with guitars, keyboard, violin, and drums.

They play cover songs from Elevation Music, Bethel, Cory Voss, Crowder, and others. The music is upbeat, some with heavy drums and bass that get the congregation on their feet and moving!

Our First Visit to a Church with a Live Band on Stage

The first time we visited our church, we walked into the sanctuary and saw a band on stage. It was the Worship Team consisting of 8 to 10 band members with an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keyboard and a violin.

My husband and I looked at each other because neither of us had seen anything like that before. The churches we grew up in used the old-time heavy hymnals, one piano and/or one organ playing and we all stood up to “sing.”


Image from Church Music Today

This was a completely different experience. It was like going to a live concert – in church! The lyrics to the songs displayed on three huge monitors in the front of the sanctuary and the whole congregation sang along.

This is our church’s Worship Team!

There are no choir lofts and I’ve never seen a hymnal anywhere in the church building. We don’t need them. Even the old, traditional hymns sound better with a full band playing them.

The Old Classic Hymns Actually Sound Better

what is contemporary worship music hymnal boardI grew up in a Baptist church. The hymns were chosen before the service and the hymnal page numbers were displayed on a board in front of the sanctuary.

The congregation stood and dutifully turned to the correct page in the hymnal. The piano or organ played and we all started singing – sort of.

Sad to say, but honestly, as a young person, it was probably the most boring part of the whole service. All of the songs seemed to be slow, long, and drawn out. I was yawning before the songs were over and had no inspiration to follow along with the sermon that followed.

I always thought, ‘Why does church music have to be so uninspiring?’

Adapting the Old Favorite Praise and Worship Songs

Today when I go to church, even the classic hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” is upbeat with the keyboard, violin and drums while still being a spiritual and reverent song.

Songs like Amazing Grace and I Have Decided are adapted with an extra chorus to bring the songs up to date.

I never thought I’d enjoy – no, love – listening to “Jesus music.” But now – I even have a Contemporary Worship music playlist on a flash drive for my car stereo because worshiping the Lord with music isn’t just for Sundays in church.

Classical Praise and Worship Music

This may just be my opinion, but having an awesome worship team bringing classical praise and worship music to life before the sermon, seems to make the message more inspiring. More people are singing to the songs instead of wearily holding an old hymnal and moving their mouths with nothing coming out.

The Worship team plays music that gets the congregation out of their seats, on their feet and energizes them to receive the pastor’s message from the Lord.

Every Sunday morning they play four songs that we all sing and worship the Lord with before the first prayer and the sermon. After the sermon, the Worship Team plays one or two last songs to end the service.

Some people clap, some wave their arms in the air, some dance subtly in place, and sometimes, depending on the song and how the Lord is speaking to them, some will yell, ‘Yes! Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!’ You can just feel the Holy Spirit filling the church and preparing their hearts to hear, understand and apply His Word.

This New Worship Music Is Not for Everyone

Most of the people you talk to at our church about our Worship Team say they love it; it’s what brought them back after their first visit. It’s one of the reasons we still go there.

And then there are some who visit and never come back because of the music. But, you can’t please everyone, right?

For example, my last two years of school were in a rather strict, private Christian school affiliated with a local, rather strict, Baptist church. They preached against using guitars and drums in worship music. They said it was the devil’s music and Christians weren’t supposed to dance.

Well, that’s not what the Bible says…

Read the Book of Psalms

Many of the Psalms are prefaced with this:
To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Harps and other instruments aren’t the only ones that are “stringed.” So if David’s chief musician used stringed instruments to play songs to the Lord, so can we! And we can wear musician-themed Christian t-shirts while playing, too!

Which Do You Prefer? Traditional, old-school church music or today’s inspiring and energizing contemporary worship music?

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