Two words you’ll hear quite often in the church world. Contemporary was the buzz word in the 90s. Relevant became the buzz word in the new century. Many of us have grown tired of referring to our services or music style as contemporary, but since the Christian music community has grabbed on to it so firmly, it is hard to avoid. And what’s the difference between contemporary and relevant?
I suppose the best place to start is the dictionary. Here is the common meaning of each word:
Relevant – closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.
Contemporary – belonging to or occurring in the present; following modern ideas or fashion in style or design.
And what’s the difference? Contemporary takes on more general terms applicable to society or an entire generation. Relevant is, well, relevant. It is more specific to a group of people or situation.
Relevant applies not just to generational differences, but to personalities and preferences as well. (Remember personal preferences are not always a bad thing.) We all have preferences, and if they helps us worship and connect with God better, then they are also relevant.
How does all this apply to the church? It means each congregation of people has its own relevancy. The music may be traditional and or contemporary. The instruments may be organ/piano, or a guitar/drum driven band. (By the way, “blended” is another buzz word I had just as soon see us lose.)
What songs, styles, and presentations are relevant to one group may be completely wrong for another group across town. For a church to be relevant, it has to look inside and outside. What methods and styles will best reach those attending and those trying to be reached? Relevance is all about preferences, just not in a selfish, demanding way.
- The New Traditional Church (acmul.wordpress.com)