"Why are there not signs outside churches that read: “Theologically Significant Worship,” or “Worship Appropriate to a Meeting between God and His Assembled People,” or “Worship That Is Literarily Apt and Thoughtful”? Why do the signs say “Contemporary Worship,” as though that criterion were itself worthy of promoting?"
That quote comes from the introduction to, "Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns" by T. David Gordon (can be found HERE).
It is an interesting thought...we put the term 'contemporary' on a lot of things without regard to what it means, and more importantly, what it doesn't mean. It's not just our music either. Historically, we used quite a few criteria for selecting our hymns, and in the same vein, our worship content. Gordon submits these criteria as historically important to the church-
> theologically orthodox lyrics
> theologically significant lyrics
> literarily apt and thoughful lyrics
> lyrics and music appropriate to a meeting between God and his people
> well-written music with regard to melody, harmony, rhythm, and form
> musical setting appropriate to the literary form
Then he says, appropriately, that only an arrogant generation could imagine that it could possibly replace and surpass (and render obsolete) all previous hymns with a new body of music. I agree.
We should seek to evaluate the worth of our music not with the label of 'new' or 'old' but with the consideration that it is gospel-centered and appropriate to the meeting of God and his people. Some contemporary music does these things well (consider, "In Christ Alone" for example). Some traditional music does not (consider, "The Savior is Waiting" as a classic example of B.A.D. traditional music). Even the idea of mixing contemporary music with traditional music (the so-called blended worship style) is a bad idea of the content is wishy-washy and not gospel-focused and God-glorifying (and yes, I have a problem with singing 'Jesus is your boyfriend' songs in worship...it is not God-glorifying but rather self-glorifying).
If you want to hear some good stuff, go HERE and listen to some samples of the T4G 08 conference music. I bought the CD, and I love it, along with my kids. That's how a worship service should sound.