The Word Contemporary
It is sometimes amazing to think of the many different implications of a single word. The word contemporary is such a word. For starters, this word may be used as both a noun and an adjective. We might read that “George Washington was a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson,” or “President Bush’s official portrait employed more contemporary painting techniques than you would find in the official painting of George Washington.”
When it comes to churches and music, the word contemporary has many different meanings. On one hand, the word contemporary might mean “existing at this time.” So you could say, “All the churches in America are contemporary,” meaning only that “All the churches in the United States exist at this point in time.” Actually, it would be hard to imagine a situation where such a sentence would even be useful.
On the other hand, the word contemporary is often used to contrast with old-fashioned in the sense that an old-fashioned church proclaims the Word of God and some contemporary churches believe that even carrying a Bible to the pulpit is offensive to today’s churchgoers. An old-fashioned church looks to the Book of Acts for its pattern of operation; a contemporary church may send out questionnaires to the community to ask what kind of a church they would like to have.
In the area of music, a very old tradition divides music into several categories: church music, theater music, and concert music. This traditional idea essentially acknowledges that church music should be different from other styles. In some contemporary approaches to church music, it is believed that all musical styles are perfectly appropriate for church, whether it is a traditional hymn of praise to God or a modern dance style with new words. It is this notion of the word contemporary that gives us pause. I am not aware of any sensible person who thinks a song is wrong simply because it was written within the last twelve months; when the term contemporary is used in a negative sense, it is used to convey the idea of church music that embraces traditional church music, modern dance music, and essentially all styles as equally suitable for the church service.
Pastor Trieber has long stated that he believes in using old-fashioned music in an old-fashioned church service. By this, he does not mean that a fresh coat of paint may not be used or the church may not purchase new buses. He means that he still adheres to the idea that the doctrine of the church should be guided by the Bible, and the music of the church should be separate and clearly distinct from the music of the world.