The Contemporary Traditionalist

In the church, much is made over the words “contemporary” and “traditional.” Those who are considered “traditional” are often characterized by pews, organs, robes, suits, choirs, pulpits, hymns, liturgy, and reservedness in worship. In contrast, those who are considered “contemporary” are quite often recognized by their jeans, bands, lights, backdrops, video augmentations, and doxological exuberance. Traditional worship is often antique and ordered. Contemporary worship is often fresh and flexible.

However, in light of this discussion, I would like to propose this statement: The best contemporary worshiper could be the most traditional. This thought came to mind when I was reading Proverbs 22:28:

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.   

I am not sure what the author’s original intent was in presenting this truth. Perhaps he was speaking of ethics in real estate. He could have been writing on standards of purity. However, regardless of the scriptural writer’s specific focus, the point seems to be the following: 

Ancient standards and practices, set forth by wise and godly fathers, should not be quickly and foolishly disregarded. Traditional landmarks are to have contemporary relevance.

Therefore, an application to ecclesiastical worship is in order. In the Reformed tradition, we make much of the phrase “semper reformanda” which means “always reforming.” In our doctrine and walk, we are always seeking to realign ourselves with the truths and principles found in God’s Word.

Therefore, today’s worship is different than yesterday’s. Today’s worship is better than yesterday’s. Today’s worship is more contemporary than yesterday’s, because today’s worship is better aligned to the “landmark” set by our fathers. And our fathers are not found in 20th century Fundamentalism, or in 17th century Westminsterian worship, or even in ancient Roman Catholic liturgy, but in the first century apostolic example.

Therefore friends, let us be contemporary in our worship, by not forsaking the traditions of our inspired founders. Then, let us relax a bit and allow some flexibility to those who keep the ancient standards in a different manner than we prefer.


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