Contend Earnestly: White Boy Worship

Monday, August 23, 2010

White Boy Worship

I spent this last week on vacation in Suncadia and had some great conversations with a couple of my friends. One of the conversations that we continually had was the problem with Westernized Christianity pressing others to join their club and wear the Members Only Jacket, instead of asking people worldwide to follow Jesus and do it from their own cultural perspective and understanding. One of the things brought up was the fact that God created many different people groups, cultures, languages, contexts, etc. to be a better shadow of the Godhead. They all speak to the person and work of our God. For some reason, it seems as though we Westerners are the ones God truly loves and appreciate because our kids have clothes on, we have concrete floors and our children don't have flies swarming them. I'm calling B.S.

One of the things we must understand is that although the Kingdom of God hasn't yet been totally fulfilled, it has been partially with the coming of our King Jesus. Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Luke 17:20-21

From talking and hearing what is happening around the world, especially in the latest centuries, it seems one of the ways we can see our pompous attitude has come in the way of songs of worship. What has happened is that instead of treating other cultures with respect we have lost the understanding of what it means to sing songs of worship. Check out this verse:

“All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”Selah.
Psalm 66:4

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9

So, what does this look like today then? How should we be the shadow of the perfect that will come? From what it sounds like and what we see from around the world, Westerners have forced some strange things on other cultures. What some will find is that Western missionaries have merely taken Western hymns and translated them into the cultures language and had them sing them. Westerners have also given instruments that are totally foreign to that culture and taught them how to play them. So, what happens? Worship in these gathered churches are Western, just in a different language. Is this what is supposed to happen? I don't think so.

Worship isn't something that is forced onto a culture, but comes through culture and the people. The people should be able to sing songs and worship in all ways through their daily walk. This would mean that we allow the worldwide church to worship in song in the ways they normally would within culture, yet redeemed. God made everyone in his Image, with unique personalities. When we shove our worship or styles on other cultures we are saying not all is equal, but we are above them and they need to learn from us.

I heard a quote this past month that said that there are only two places in the world where Christianity is not growing...can you guess which pompous places those are?

United States of America and Europe

Maybe we should lend an ear, instead of a voice, to those places where Jesus is working mightily instead of forcing ourselves on them. Maybe we should trust in the Spirit to work in these cultures and to see them worship in the ways that God has made them. Maybe we should look to Jesus, instead of our own culture as a means of worship and adoration. Just maybe.

This doesn't just speak to those people overseas, but it starts when we go to the people groups in our own cities that are from around the world. Allow the Spirit to work through their culture, not apart from it. God created culture and different people groups to show off his diverse depth, when we shove our own on others, we rob, not only others, but also ourselves of seeing the beauty of God and his vastness. Maybe when we enter into other territories or other parts that are foreign to our culture we should sit and listen for a long time instead of lending our voice like they have been waiting with baited breath for us to speak and teach them. Just maybe. This is all part of contextualization to all peoples, to all places.

"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14


Alecia Baptiste--Instrument of Grace said...

Oh, my this is so powerful! This has been my my hearts cry for the past few years. God is doing something so beautiful in the world, and I hope that we don't miss out because of our pride. My prayer is that our Great God would break down the walls that divide us, and unify us--His body. Only He can take diversity, and create perfect unity. Honestly, I've been praying (and making my voice heard) that my local church would embrace the diversity within our church. As it stands, the majority culture dictates what is "christian". Even the christian radio stations play only a certain type of music.

Something is wrong. Why can't we see it.

I actually wrote a blog from the point of view of the "non-majority". It's a creative writing, but I hope that others will be able to step inside our shoes for a moment.

Blessings, my Brother!


N8 said...

The field you're talking about is called ethnomusicology, specifically.

I believe that the general idea is for musical folks to go and study another culture's instruments and musical taste, and attempt to help them develop an authentic expression from their culture. Obviously, this is difficult to do without also imposing some of your own ideas.

Even better would be for the outsider to simply introduce Jesus in such a way that it naturally produces the desire for folks to sing praises and let them come out in the organic, spontaneous way that I guess pleases God the most.

I heard a man once describe his worldwide ministry of visiting new church plants around the world and giving them guitars. He even went to the extra effort of trying to provide extra strings and guitar care training.

He was proud of his efforts to extend the worship of God. Then he heard that church planting had slowed in the areas he'd traveled in because they had come to believe that worship couldn't happen without a guitar, and since there was only one guitar, they couldn't divide and multiply unless they could afford to buy another guitar.

If I had a child, and and he was filled with gratitude and struggling to figure out how to communicate his love for me. And if my other child came up and began to lecture the first on the correct procedure of thanking, saying "no, you're doing it wrong!" I think that I would loss patience with the attitude of the second before I was displeased by the efforts of the first.

Just a few scattered thoughts on your subject of the day, brother. Thanks for letting us participate in your discussion.

Jason Anspach said...

I agree that the answer isn't to westernize any Christian that comes along in order to make them legit.

At the same time, I've met more than one missionary or foreign Christian who uses cultural transformation (generally making things more western, but not always) because they live in a culture absolutely infused with demonic superstition. I've met a couple of Kenyans who have never been to the west but imitate western worship because of the hold that the traditional tribal songs and traditions have, even when Jesus is swapped out for ancestor worship.

We've seen how culture was a stumbling block to Jewish Christians and Greek Christians in the NT. The same happens today. Some culture needs to be changed and some doesn't. If you go all or nothing, you end up losing, I think.

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