Imagine your church filled with people of all colors, nationalities, economic levels, generations and even political ideologies all worshiping God together! The problem with this scenario is that most of us imagine how great this could be as long as they worship the same way we do.
Early missionaries went to other countries and attempted to teach indigenous tribes and tongues to worship by singing western songs with western notation and western rhythms only to realize that those indigenous people were not connecting with a deeper biblical and theological understanding of worship. It wasn’t until the missionaries encouraged the use of native dance, tonalities, instruments and rhythms that the various tribes and tongues were able to understand worship in spirit and truth.
We often make the same mistake in our own American churches. We try to create homogenous worship without considering the various cultures and generations of those present and those not present yet. And then wonder why they aren’t grasping a deeper understanding of worship renewal.
Why are we so understanding and accepting of cultural diversities around the world but not across the aisle? And why do we call it missions when we embrace cultural influences on worship internationally and call it compromise when we embrace those influences domestically? If we really want to understand and encourage multicultural worship, maybe it’s time for worship leaders to become ethnodoxologists.
Ethnodoxology is the theological and anthropological understanding and application of how various cultural groups might use their unique and diverse artistic expressions appropriately to worship God. It recognizes God is present in and reveals Himself to other cultures.
The term finds its source in 2 Biblical Greek words…Ethno from the Greek word ethne meaning peoples or people groups; and Doxology, from the Greek word doxos meaning glory or praise.
Ethnodoxologist Worship Leaders…
- Stop trying to fix everything with music. Music is a universal language as long as you live in my cultural universe. So when music is the solitary driver of multicultural worship it will get the solitary blame if it fails.
- Discover and assimilate the heart languages of those who are here and those who are not here yet. Heart language is the mother tongue in which we first learned to express our joy and sorrow.
- Help congregants understand worship as a life to be lived together before considering it as an event in which to participate together.
- Lead and model for their congregations how to live multicultural instead of monocultural lives. How can congregations expect to have multicultural worship when they segregate in everything else during the week? Learning to love, respect, understand and defer to each other outside of the worship service can’t help but positively impact multicultural worship inside the worship service.
- Look beyond Americanism as having a corner on worship understanding and expression. We must look at what God is doing around the world and agree that no single country or culture offers the only acceptible way to worship.
- Base multicultural worship on the understanding that earthly worship should reflect heavenly worship. “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 in front of the Lamb…And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne.’”
- Promote multicultural platforms. Being a multicultural church means more than just singing international songs. It means that the people who plan and lead worship must also represent a variety of cultural and ethnic groups. Few people will believe we desire multicultural worship until we also have multicultural leadership.
- Don’t undervalue diversity by assuming worship is homogenous and therefore eliminates all differences. Multicultural congregations understand that the gospel brings unity amidst our diversity, not in uniformity.
If we are not meant to be segregated by our cultures and generations as we worship in Heaven, then why are we so segregated as we worship here on earth?