I’ve never liked the term “contemporary” worship. As Lutherans, we really should be talking about intentionally contextual worship that speaks to our communities.
One example is Immanuel Lutheran Church, Easton, Calif. Located in the middle of the ranch country of the San Joaquin Valley, Pastor Paul DeMant found a large unchurched population among the local ranchers. In an area where the locals love country gospel music, there were virtually no congregations that offered it in their worship services. The mission response was Easton Country Gospel congregation. Meeting on Sunday nights, the band is country, the crowd is in cowboy hats and gear, and the service speaks the gospel to a growing community in their context.
Richie Furay is a country musician who is wholeheartedly contextual. Each of his songs can be used within worship in many of the traditional spots (prelude/postlude, offertory, etc.) but why not use them more directly? Use “Hallel” as a Gospel acclamation or “Send Me” as a benediction with the congregation singing the chorus.
Contextual worship is not having everyone move to a Christian easy-listening style, it’s having congregations sing the praises of God in the music of the people of your neighborhood. Rock, country, gospel, reggae, jazz—yes, even classical organ liturgies.
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