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

Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

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 sound like Mumford and Sons on a Coldplay appreciation day. What’s all that about? 

Should we be bothered by the way that western worship music appears to be spreading across the world with all the pace of a colonial superpower? Should we be worried about the fact that churches in the developing world think that they need to sound like those of us in the west - especially when we know that often it's us flabby westerners who have the most to learn from connecting with Christians living in poverty and persecution. Should we be trying to teach our own churches how to sing different melodies, to learn different rhythms and sing in other tongues as a reminder of the breadth, wealth and beauty of the global church?

Or is this one of those politically correct Friday pickles that’s completely ridiculous? Church should be accessible and sung worship is simply a culturally conditioned response to the love and glory of God. What good will it do to learn songs from people we’ll never meet living in cultures we’ll never visit? Do we really think we’ll be better Christians once we learn how to sing in Esperanto while wearing a Sari and cooking goat stew?

What's your take on it all? Do you import? If so, why? What works? And what doesn't? And if you don't, why not? Would anything make you change your mind?

Modern worship is thriving, and the church is growing most rapidly in countries where English is not the first language. Wherever you stand on the issue, these next few years will see these questions resurface again and again. 

 

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