We've come a long way from the "worship wars." But what's the future look like for modern worship music?

Is contemporary worship music dead? Let’s see what we can do to bring it back to life.

Over the past year, as I’ve had the chance to visit some famous churches, I’ve noticed an overwhelming similarity in the worship: a bent towards performance with little spiritual depth.

A week before last Christmas, I visited a big church who opened their service with the rock version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” I don’t know what it was — maybe the lights, the smoke, the season — but I really thought I’d puke. I’ve never been a fan of doing secular songs in church. My philosophy is: Can’t Jesus have at least 20 minutes of our musical attention a week? I can listen to secular music any time I want.

Then the pastor cussed in the middle of his sermon.

Actually, this seems to be a trend, and not the first famous church last year where I’ve heard the pastor cuss during his sermon. I guess it’s the next step in our contemporary quest to be hip and relevant.

The whole thing is giving me an identity crisis. For the first half of my life I was looked at as the crazy rebel who was bringing rock music into the church. Fresh out of college in a church where I was working, the pastor had to preach a message that I wasn’t of the devil to calm the congregation down.

Now I’m starting to feel like a grumpy old traditionalist. When I go to church, I want to hear rocking, contemporary music, but what these ministries don’t get is that I also want a spiritual experience. I want to connect to God. “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” doesn’t really facilitate that.

I know, the seeker movement argues that secular songs make an unchurched person think, “Wow — this church is cool!” There’s a place for that and more power to them — I’m all for growing churches — but at some point (as Willow Creek has admitted) you have to introduce worship.

Why not have it all? I’ve always liked what Seacoast Church is doing — you’ll hear the most cutting edge, guitar driven music, but they’ll also integrate liturgical (interactive) elements like prayer and candle stations, as well as weekly communion during their praise sets. I’ve felt God’s presence at Seacoast, and definitely not at some other cutting edge contemporary churches.

Bottom line: What can you do this week to make your service more “spiritual”? (Isn’t that a funny question!) Comment below and next week I’ll offer some suggestions.  

Don Chapman Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.

More from Don Chapman or visit Don at

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