Bilingual Worship

Music is a type of language that worshipers used to communicate with God and one another. It helps us to sing the great themes of our faith as we tell the wondrous story of God in song. All believers share the language of music….

Musical style functions like a dialect within the language; it consists of the indigenous and natural musical idioms and expressions with which a particular subculture identifies…. Musical dialects (styles) are determined by who we are sociologically and spiritually. We discover them rather than choose them, for the most part….

Do we sing a dialect of our local context and contentedly sing that which is comfortable and familiar to us? Or should we enlarge our song base to reflect a sense of the whole family of God?…

Churches need to become bilingual in their worship voice. People who are bilingual have the vocabulary, the syntax, and the inflection to communicate in two languages effectively and can flow back and forth between the languages with ease in any given conversation. Both languages have become native tongues for them; they do not have to stop and analyze the grammar before speaking; they simply speak and listen. Musical style can be thought of as our first language—the language of origin, the language in which we feel most at home. At the same time, [we can learn] a second language—one that allows us to communicate beyond our familiar circles and our comfort zones, one that acknowledges the music of the whole family of God….

—Constance M Cherry, The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, 187-88

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Song in Its Proper Place

It is unscriptural to view worship songs as capable of initiating or guaranteeing God’s presence….Songs of worship cannot create, deliver, or otherwise command God’s presence. We cannot sing down the presence of God. The presence is already real. Music is an element in worship, like other elements, that helps us to interact conversationally with the triune God who is present, but music must not be given power on our terms.

—Constance Cherry, The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, 67-68

“That would be more characteristic of Baal worship.”

—John Witvliet