Thinking Like a Missionary in Corporate Worship
In our Worship Leader Boot Camps, we spend much time looking at issues that impact worship, such as theology, culture, styles, and missional thinking. All of these issues can greatly influence decisions we make about corporate worship in our churches. Today, I want to look closer at missional thinking in worship.
Let’s imagine that all of us come together to form a new church. Since we place great value in the Great Commission, one of the first decisions we make is to plant two churches in foreign countries. We decide that we will plant our first church in Moldova – an Eastern European country that was once part of the Soviet Union. We learn there is a rich cultural heritage and tremendous influence from the Moldovan Orthodox Church, autonomous and subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia, autonomous and subordinated to the Romanian Orthodox Church. We explore the culture of the area that we plan to begin a new work thoroughly and determine that the “style” of worship will be rather formal in nature. The worship service may look very different from our Western styles. To give you a better feel for the culture, I share with you a video made on my recent trip to Moldova of a large youth choir singing for a rally:
Note: just as culture and tastes vary widely in your own country, that is also the case in Moldova. We could have also chosen an area that is quite different that would warrant another style of music in worship.
The second church we decide to plant is in the country of Uganda. Would you expect that style of worship to be similar to the church we started in Moldova? Absolutely not. The culture and musical tastes in Uganda are much more rhythmic and active. We would certainly not impose our particular tastes and preferences on this congregation either, unless they happen to be the same.
Here is a clip of worship in one part of Uganda:
Now, we must determine what worship will look like at a third church – our own church. The plan is no different as we think missionally. What is our community like? What kinds of music connect with the culture in languages they can understand?
We never expect a missionary from our church to go to a tribe in Africa and ask them to worship with an organ and piano singing Western hymns. Yet we find nothing wrong with asking the people in our communities (who may never encounter music of the type we use in our churches) to come and worship God in forms that are very foreign to them. If we truly want to reach those that did not grow up in the church, then we need to seek ways to speak a language they understand. The message never changes nor is it watered down, but the delivery system of that message must stay relevant to reach people today.
Keep in mind, what is relevant today may be totally different in a few years. We must always have the freedom to change based on our missionary context.
Your church may be reaching the community in tremendous ways, or your church may be pulling the wool over its eyes to ignore the changes in the culture around it because making changes is too difficult.
For more in-depth study of this, take a look at this post.
Kenny- this is a good article. I finished reading Dave Williamson’s book God’s Singers yesterday and it really made me start to think about trying to cement what I actually believe about what I do. So I started trying to write out my philosophy of worship. This is an ongoing thing for me and I hope that as I move forward I can continue to improve and refine this. However here’s the three main points I have come up with so far:
– Music is the third role of a worship pastor. The first role is to be a lead worshipper, worshipping God daily, and leading people to worship Him in spirit and truth. The second role is as a relational leader, evangelizing the lost and building fellowship within the church and community. The third role is that of a musician and music teacher.
– There is no level of performance that is worthy of the glory of God. The goals of the worship ministry should be worshipping in truth and giving our all to God. If we do this God will bless our ministry and help us rise above our limitations. We should rehearse diligently and strive to improve but our goal should be worship, not performance.
– The focus of worship music is to worship and glorify God. Different musical styles and ensembles are the vehicles we use to accomplish this goal. Styles and ensembles can vary from church to church and from service to service; worship is the one constant.
I thought this tied in well to the point of your article so I wanted to share. One really good point Williamson made in his book is that we are on a continuum and we will never “arrive” as worship leaders. That’s something that I’ve really struggled with when I watch tape of myself because I feel like there are so many areas where I can improve. However I have to look at it from the standpoint of am I giving the best each service that I can give to lead people to worship the Lord? God’s Singers is an excellent book if people haven’t read it. Thanks for all the hard work you do for us. Aaron
A great book. Thanks for commenting!