Worship & Culture 6

The “cultures” that are so mixed are not simply ethnicities—though they are also that!—but they represent all the ways people specifically teach their children to order and navigate the world, all the locally specific languages and symbols and habits we use to organize human life.

—Gordon Lathrop, “Every Foreign Country a Homeland, Every Homeland a Foreign Country: On Worship and Culture,” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 13

Worship & Culture 5

Gordon Lathrop has sometimes described culture as the conversation between generations about how best to live on the land.

—Benjamin M. Stewart, “What, Then, Do Theologians Mean When They Say ‘Culture’?” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, ed., 47

Culture: “how we do do things around here”

—John Witvliet

Worship & Culture 4

Worship needs not only to reflect the local, but also the wider Christian community. The God whom Christians worship is transcendent and transcultural, and there is no point in substituting one form of cultural captivity for another. No one cultural form can do justice to the God of the whole cosmos. One fruit of contextualization efforts is that worship resources from one cultural setting can be shared around the world.

—S Anita Stauffer, ” Christian Worship: Toward Localization and Globalization,” in
Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 41

Worship & Culture 3

Christian worship relates dynamically to culture in at least four ways.

First, it is transcultural, the same substance for everyone everywhere, beyond culture.
Second, it is contextual, varying according to the local situation (both nature and culture).
Third, it is counter-cultural, challenging what is contrary to the Gospel in a given culture.
Fourth, it is cross-cultural, making possible sharing between different local cultures.

Lutheran World Federation, Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture (1996)

Worship & Culture 2

The gospel ought never to be entirely at home in any culture. If gospel and culture fit together as easily as hand-in-glove, then the likelihood is that the gospel has capitulated to the values of the culture.… There must always be some tension between gospel and culture. The trick is to tune that tension just right, so that gospel and church can play a transforming role in its host culture. The gospel doesn’t carry with it a culture of its own.  It must always find its place in the culture of the time and place. Nevertheless, it always questions the local culture and holds it accountable before the cross.

—Ronald P. Byars, Christian Worship: Glorifying and Enjoying God, 110

Worship & Culture

Christian worship “swims in creation as a fish swims in water,” as Aidan Kavanaugh has put it. It is permeated with the sights and sounds and smells, the tastes and touch of our material world, and in this way it offers not a disembodied message of escape but rather an encompassing experience of a world redeemed and reconciled to God.

—John H. Erickson and Eileen W. Lindner, “Worship and Prayer in Ecumenical Formation,” Theological Education Vol. 34, Supplement (1997): 23

Freedom of Form 10: Focus

[We are] free to find place and time and dress and size and music and elements and objects that help us orient radically toward the supremacy of God in Christ. . . .

The command is a radical connection of love and trust and obedience to Jesus Christ in all of life.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”