life saver

Let’s Save Contemporary Worship


Last week’s article caused a stir and quite a few comments – I think I hit a nerve: there’s something wrong with contemporary worship.

It makes sense: when you water things down you get – not much. Believe me, I’ve been in every type of church out there and have experienced it all. When you add the following things up you get a very unspiritual experience:

  • no Scripture in worship
  • no prayer
  • self-help sermons with little or no Biblical content
  • steady diet of simple, stream-of-consciousness praise songs
  • hip worship leaders who perform, not worship
  • zero spiritual community on the praise team

It’s easy and even natural for those in the seeker movement to fall into this watered down trap in the great goal (as commanded in Matthew 28:19) to reach the lost. One worship leader told me he cut his praise set down because he had reports that unsaved visitors complained there was “too much music” (even more baffling is that this church has some of the best music I’ve ever heard.) Another told me people in his church don’t like to sing so they don’t sing congregationally (I visited that church once and it was surreal – a crowd of people standing, not uttering a sound, as the band and singers performed.)

So how can we save contemporary worship? Step one is easy – inject more Biblical truth into your services. I asked a friend when was the last time she heard Scripture read in her contemporary church. She laughed and said “Never!”

There’s power in Scripture – it’s God’s living Word. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit.”

Find spots in your service where you can use Scripture. Search for verses appropriate to the theme of the service and songs:

During an introduction to a song: In my new Communion Service Guide I suggest repeating the intro as needed and quoting Romans 8:38-30 before the song Never Fail Us: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The chorus to Never Fail Us is based on these verses.

In place of a guitar solo: In the song We Remember I’ve included a guitar solo. If using songs with instrumental solos, try some variety: one time when you sing it use the solo, another time when you sing it use a related verse instead. With We Remember I suggest quoting Ephesians 2:8-10:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

As a reading after an upbeat praise set, right before a worship ballad: Imagine the impact of reading these verses from Psalm 103 before Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons:

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Once you’ve found an appropriate verse to match your theme, then find the best translation. I love using to search for verses by theme and keyword, then I can quickly flip between translations to find the most appropriate one. If your congregation is blended they’ll like the poetic King James or the New King James. Seeker churches will enjoy The Message, God’s Word Translation and the Good News Translation.

Copy and paste the Scripture into your worship projection software for added impact. Some people learn and absorb truth by hearing, some by reading.

Bottom Line: In our disgust for cold, dead traditionalism we’ve thrown out both good and bad. If we’re not careful, the next generation will reject the cold, dead traditionalism of contemporary worship – and the hottest worship trends in the year 2032 will be pipe organs, robes and stained glass.


Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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