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.