Posted by Craig Borlase on 8 August 2014

It’s hard to think of a more derided, less respected worship song than Kumbaya. Which is precisely why we think you should be singing it....


1. Kumbaya is not, as the common wisdom goes, a tambourine-heavy predecessor to Hakuna Matata, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life or that Don’t Worry Be Happy song by the guy who whistles really nicely. It does not mean “everything’s fine”. In fact, it means the opposite. Kumbaya means ‘come by here’. It’s a spiritual song that shares the same DNA as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Both yearn for rescue. Both plead with God for intervention. Both inspire faith in the darkest nights.

2. It’s one of rare breeds of worship tunes: a song that calls for justice. If you’re looking for a song to help people look beyond the world around them and spark intercession and action, take another look at the third verse: “Someone’s crying, my Lord, kumbaya”.

3. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the pursuit of the new that we forget what true creativity really is. As George Kneller said, “Creativity… consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.” Looking forward is sometimes a case of looking back.

4. There are plenty of things you can do with the song, from stripping it back to lining it up with some emotive visuals, using it as a response to your prayers or weaving it into a song like Dance Again, Beautiful Things or even Here I Am To Worship. It has that unique quality of being both well known and unfamiliar. It’s a great way of waking people up.

5. Try Kumbaya this Sunday and you will find that some will like it and some will not, both of which are relatively minor reasons to bear in mind when planning your set. The real bonus to playing Kumbaya - aside from the four points above - is the simple truth that it might just people thinking and talking about what they’re singing.

More like this

the Friday pickle - what barriers need breaking in worship?

We sing about God and the mission of the church, right? But we don't sing about every aspect of God, and there are plenty of aspects of church mission that we leave out. Are we OK with that?

the Friday pickle: do in-ear monitors help or hinder?

A decade ago they were the preserve of the über-professional. Today, they’re everywhere. But do those fancy looking ear buds create a barrier between leader and congregation, or do they simply help stuff sound better?

the Friday pickle - should worship leaders be teaching their congregation how to sing songs from other cultures?

I’ve sung ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ in a Ugandan village without any electricity, heard all kinds of Delirious songs filling the air of Mumbai slums and listened as ancient-looking Aboriginals blasted out ‘When I Survey’. But every time we worship at my church we sing in English and we sound like Mumford and Sons on a Coldplay appreciation day. What’s all that about?