Last week I started reflecting on the origins of what we consider to be contemporary worship in hopes of really defining what "contemporary" means. I wanted to take a couple of posts to look at a couple of major movements/influences in contemporary worship.
It is impossible to look at contemporary worship (that is explicitly congregational) without mentioning John Wimber and the Anaheim vineyard congregation. I have described this before (see The Vineyard Model), so I want rehash it out. I searched pretty far for some examples of this congregation, but wasn't able to find a great example from their first few years. What I did find was a video highlighting worship at several conferences a few years in the future.
What is interesting in the video (in the earlier segments) is the absence of screens or lyric sheets. I have had some great conversations with Dr. Lester Ruth about this congregation and the lack of lyrics can be considered a key component. Where many complain about the repetition in contemporary music, these simple songs allowed for a great engagement. If you want to listen to another track that does fit our time period in question, I blogged about the first Vineyard recording here. All of these songs fit inside this boundary.
To see how this style of worship still appears, lets check out the infamous Saddleback Church.
This fast fowards us 30 years into the future, our own current time. While the songs might be more complicated and require a screen to view the lyrics, the music still sits well within the Southern California beach culture. This was a noted quality with Wimber and the sequencing on Rick Muchow fits the paradigm.
Southern California has provided a musical (and theological) outline to both the early contemporary movement as well as how large churches "do" worship in congregational settings. These influential churches branded and marketed their worship to churches all across the world and led the way in the contemporary movement. It would be safe to say that without their songwriting, instrumentation and innovation as far as order of worship we might not have the contemporary church now. The success of these congregations engaging with God in this manner mainstreamed contemporary worship and gave permission to existing traditional congregations to begin new services.
I imagine this music might not appeal to everyone. But I don't want to start ripping apart some examples that have existed for decades. Lets just note this as we continue to think about how we can best continue to define contemporary worship.