No Favorite Songs

I have never been to heaven, so I cannot tell you what kind of music is sung in God’s royal village. But know this, God has no personal favorite songs. He hears all that we sing in whatever language. It is sufficient for us to compose hymns of praise to him with our own music and in our own language for him to understand.

—William Wadé Harris, Liberian missionary to Côte d’Ivoire, 1914 (cited in James Krabill, James. Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook)

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Mixing It Up

The glory of the gospel is to unite peoples of every language and culture under the lordship of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22; 4:3-6,13; Rev. 7:9-17). So we should not be content with divisions created by different musical tastes and traditions. As we grow to maturity in Christ we should be looking for ways to express the unity that is God’s goal for us: in gospel action, in the exchange of ministries and gifts, in combined services and in the sharing of musical resources and experiences.

—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together: Leading Worship Services That Honor God, Minister to His People, and Build His Church, 143

There’s a Wide World Out There

Worship leaders should begin by finding the center point of their congregation’s comfortable style, then stretch and expand outward from there, slowly and intentionally. It’s important not to overload with some kind of sudden global worship frenzy, but to be gracious about people’s learning curve.

—Debra and Ron Rienstra, Ron, Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful MinistryChapter 10: “Something Borrowed, Worshiping with the Global Church,” 216

Homegrown Worship

When missionaries came to our lands they brought not only the seed of the Gospel, but their own plant of Christianity, flower pot included!  So, what we have to do is to break the flower pot, take out the seed of the Gospel, sow it in our own cultural soil, and let our own version of Christianity grow.

—D.T. Niles (1908-1970), from Sri Lanka

Not a Universal Language

You may wipe away tears of worshipful awe while hearing a mass choir sing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” [Some] who’ve shared the famous chorus in other countries find that it’s not universally appreciated.

  • Senufo people in Ivory Coast said it sounded “like crying music.”
  • It reminded Maasai people in Kenya of noisy jet engines.
  • Tibetans said it was “not steady.” They wondered how a song with so many high and low pitches and loud and soft volumes could be considered fine art.

“Music is a universal phenomenon but not a universal language. In other words, our response to music is learned and not intrinsic,” says . . . Robin Harris, an ethnomusicologist who’s been a missionary in North America, Siberia, and Russia.

—Joan Huyser-Honig, “Ethnodoxology: Calling All Peoples to Worship in Their Heart Language” http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/ethnodoxology-calling-all-peoples-to-worship-in-their-heart-language/?source=news

A Happy Medium?

There are dangers in both extreme ends of this authenticity-relevance continuum. The danger on the authenticity end  is that worship can become culturally irrelevant, out of touch, meaningless; on the other end of the spectrum, the relevance end, the danger is that worship can become captive to a given culture, isolated from the whole church of Christ, and, at the worst, syncretistic through becoming detached from Christian roots.

—S. Anita Stauffer, “Christian Worship: Toward Localization and Globalization,” in Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, ed., Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, 40

Ascended on High! (7)

The Ascension event allowed the disciples and the current worshiper to access the presence of Christ wherever they were located in time and space.

Even the resurrection appearances allowed Christ to be accessed only by those in certain locations. If Thomas was not with the rest of the disciples when the resurrected Christ appeared, the Thomas had no access to Jesus (John 20:24-29). Thomas had to be in the right location to confront the Christ with his challenge and to respond in faith. After the Ascension, access to Christ was open to any worshiper who drew near in heart and soul. In Christ there was full assurance of access to the Godhead wherever the worshiper might be located.

The expansion of the Church has been built on the principle that Christ and the Godhead can be accessed from any point on the globe and at any time in history. The worshiper is no nearer to Christ in the places of the historical setting of the Jesus of Nazareth. Pilgrimage can enliven faith by making real the geography of the Gospels and assuring the disciple that the gospel is not a fable. We know that the life of Jesus is rooted in geography and in history. Yet the access to the exalted Lord is readily available at whatever time and place suit the worshiper. Christians live by this assumption, but it is important to realize that the assumption rests on the doctrine of the Ascension.

—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now: Implications of Christ’s Ascension for Today’s Church,  93-94