Today, I went to Seaford, DE to be a part of a workshop on worship. I was not scheduled to arrive until the first third of the event was over. When I arrived, I asked the host pastor how the first part of the day had gone; it had been their contemporary worship service. He said it had been good, with the exception of one difficult person who had asked a question about contemporary praise music lacking the good theology of hymns.
Hind sight being what it is, I have found myself wishing I had been there for that part of the discussion. I agree with the person asking the question: our hymns have much better theology than most (though not all) praise music. As one of my friends said later, there is a reason it is called "7-11" music: it is 7 words repeated 11 times. But he and I both still love it.
I come out of a contemporary church and I have come to deeply love traditional music too. But when it comes to sheer emotion, experiencing the joy of singing my heart out to God, praise music is what makes my heart sing most often.
I don't think this has anything to do with the inherent nature of praise music in a rock style, or classical music of many hymns. It is simply about the style I have listened to most. Because for me that happens to be praise/rock style, I am more likely to experience soaring joy while singing the style of music with which I am most familiar. (I also experience it singing many hymns.)
I am thinking about a boy I dated in High School. He loved Led Zepplin. I was less than enthused. He shared with me his theory that any human being could come to love any style of music, if they listened to it frequently enough. I think he is right! Led Zepplin grew on me and to this day I like it. Had I not dated him and listened to it just about every moment we were together, I don't think that would be the case. A similar thing has happened for me with hymns- many of them I adore because they help me feel God's presence.
Worship music is about connecting with God on an experiential level. It does also accomplish theological teaching, but that is not why people love to sing. People love to sing because it is a window into the Divine. I don't think that aspect of music should be under valued for the sake of theology because there are other ways to teach theology.
That said, couldn't we have our cake and eat it too? I am United Methodist, so Charles Wesley is the premier hymn writer of my tradition. His hymns, both the ones in the hymnal and the hundreds more not published there but otherwise available, were often set to the contemporary music of his day: bar tunes. This was done to accomplish the same goal of contemporary worship- to help people experience God by speaking in the language of the people. And the theology is truly outstanding.
Couldn't we find a gifted musician to set Charles Wesley hymn texts, perhaps somewhat adapted, to modern rock music? I think it could be awesome.