Worship in a Multi-cultural Church

Worship team in Nepali refugee camp
Worship team in Nepali refugee camp

For those of you may be following this series I would love to hear feedback. Our experience is a work in progress, and we are always stretching to grow, minister to needs more effectively and just become closer friends. So here you have the best I can give on the area of worship.

To begin we worship in both English and Portuguese. There is also at our church a group of Bhutanese for whom English is their second (or third) language. Choosing a set of worship songs each week is a journey into a strange new land! When we are serving in the way the Holy Spirit wants, the praise and worship is wonderfully fulfilling! We get to see just a tiny bit of John’s vision of from Revelation:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb  Revelation 7:9

The Holy Spirit not only loves unity: He also loves diversity. But in order to be able to flow as one in our time of worship we need to be able to also sing with understanding. Not every great new worship song that works in a single language congregation works for us. Here are three things we have learned through several years of struggle, blessing and learning from one another.

A) Keep it simple! Yes you knew that already, but at our church if we forget this rule for any reason the result is instantaneous. The teens will usually still be happy (they know all the new songs and speak the best English) but anyone above the age of forty begins to tune out. There is no purpose in trying it again , in singing louder or in closing our eyes. As worship leaders we are in fact worship shepherds. If a shepherd is running ahead while yelling at his sheep to hurry faster he will soon find his flock scattered. Some will be lost and left behind the last hill. Some will be doing their best to keep up, but are weary rather than blessed. The goal of our praise is to come into God’s presence as a family. Simply because I like a song won’t make it work. The language needs to be simple, passionate and repetitive. Simple happy songs that everyone can sing and enjoy can be a great encouragement at the beginning of our praise time.

B) Learning is a process. Not all of our lives are the same when it comes to hearing and learning new songs. The vast majority of our people listen when they can to a little music, but few will have the leisure during the week to hear the latest Christian songs or to plan on checking out the cool you-tube videos that are produced by the thousands. For us to get a hold of a new song that works it is a lot of work. We all have had to work to discover new songs from both our languages. Americans need to learn to sing in Portuguese but just with our Brazilian brothers and sisters their first songs will need to be simple. It helps to have a rotation that brings us back around to the same songs again and again until people begin to have confidence. The extra repetition may feel strange to the worship team members but it will not seem strange at all to the people. They will appreciate the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Most of all God will not mind a bit! He delights in hearing songs a thousand times if it is coming from our hearts. Worship time as His family is not about producing a professional quality live concert. It is about patiently tarrying for one another in love so that together we enter into the throne room of God.

C) Changed Expectations   As Jesus was seated at the table in Bethany for the dinner, His friends and followers had a lot of different types of expectations. Martha wanted to honor Him with a banquet. Lazarus was just delighted to sit next to Jesus and listen. John and the other disciples were still struggling to come to grips with the magnitude of the last miracle. But Mary did one simple thing that focused all of them on the worth of Jesus. She went into her room, took the alabaster jar and broke it open pouring it over Jesus hair and His feet and then she stooped to the floor and wiped His feet with her hair. The entire room was for that moment experiencing the depth of the worship that flowed from Mary’s heart. She had a changed expectation of Jesus. She had no more to say and no more requests of Him. She longed only to give to Jesus her very best while He was near. In our worship time together the amazing honor and glory of Jesus needs to be our focus. We do not need to imitate something we imagine our worship time should be, or try to duplicate what we thought was pretty cool at the last Christian concert. Worship in our blended congregation can be amazingly deep and powerful when we expect only that Jesus will be pleased. Jesus will be honored. Jesus will really be at our center. Then we can discover that in our worship ,we are one thread in a woven garment of believers from every nation tribe and people!

One Comment Add yours

  1. I enjoyed reading this post as one who’s lived abroad for three years, I have a true love for learning more about “all” God’s people around the world!

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