BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Multicultural Worship Music (Part 2)

Previously, we explored how multicultural worship music can help us draw nearer to each other. Here, we see how it also helps us draw closer to God:
Read: where God happens

When we serve others by worshiping together in their heart music, we open ourselves up to new things that God may be trying to say in our own lives. Indeed, we may realize that God is speaking to us through a worship style we have been trying to avoid!

Each culture’s music can help us access different aspects of God’s character. Some styles help us understand the holiness of God, and teach us to how to revere Him. Other genres help make God accessible, and show us that God is our friend. Still others focus on God as a provider, someone who we can rely on and trust.

Josh Davis, founder of Proskuneo Ministries, suggests that “one language or one style is not sufficient to describe the glory of God. There’s no way that one style could adequately capture his beauty, his majesty, his holiness, his transcendence.” Intentionally incorporating many genres into our worship helps us to connect with God across many aspects of who God is.

Scripture tells us that someday every tribe, every tongue, and every nation will stand before the throne praising the name of the Lord (Revelation 7:9). In that vision, we see that God is most glorified when we offer our praise to Him together as a unified, but diverse, body of believers. We sing in many genres and languages because we are part of the global church and desire to live out heaven here on earth.

Baby taking steps
First Steps Toward Multicultural Worship
In beginning a journey toward multicultural worship, we must first examine the aspects of our own worship that are indicative of a particular culture. What theological themes are emphasized? How much of the music is contemplative? How much is offered in praise and jubilation? What instruments are used, and how does the congregation follow along? Once we have identified our own cultural norms, we can begin to integrate those aspects of worship that may be missing from our environment.

Begin to learn about the cultures already around you, in your church and in the broader community. Explore the creative outputs of other groups, sitting at the feet of those who are willing to teach you. Listen to worship music in different styles (even better, host a listening party together with worshipers from neighboring churches). Build honest relationships with folks from other cultures that will allow for reciprocal edification as you draw nearer to Christ together.

Taking careful steps to incorporate new music is essential to its being well received by congregations. It is important to communicate the mission of multicultural worship frequently and though multiple avenues. Guide worshipers by reading scripture, preaching, leading bible studies, and praying for the fulfillment of the multicultural vision of the church. It’s also important for church members to see the principles of multicultural worship modeled in the music leadership, and in the images used in bulletins or on display screens. Offer frequent invitations, forgiveness, and grace for those that are just starting their journey.

As you embark on the journey ask yourself how multicultural worship shapes our understanding of local ministry, the broader community of believers, and of the secular world. How does monocultural worship shape the same? Identify some of the heart music represented at your church. Does it match the music being used during service? Identify what your own heart music is--that music that deeply connects you with God. Then, identify that music that you just can’t abide. Who would you be serving by learning to honor it?

Finally, allow yourself to meditate on the exciting aspects of multicultural worship, as well as those that may be causing intimidation or apprehension in your heart. How can we lean into the tension to better trust God with our insecurities, frustrations, and awkwardness? When we do, we will find that we are rewarded with a more intimate communion with God, and fuller relationship with His people on earth.

This article was originally written for Urban Faith

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Friday Fruit (07/24/15)

Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh
Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Multicultural Worship Music (Part 1)

The All People Band with
UM Church for All People
A multicultural worship setting can be a challenging one for many reasons, not the least of which being differences in worship music styles. The music we use to connect with God is deeply personal. Each of us is uniquely tuned to God’s frequency though our own songs and styles of worship. This intimacy is beautiful and holy, but it can also cause unnecessary division in our churches if we isolate ourselves based on musical preference. Engaging in multicultural worship (ie. including many genres, styles, and languages in our musical encounters with God) enriches our relationship with God, with fellow believers, and with the world.

Our ‘Heart Music’
We each have our musical preferences—songs with which we enjoy worshiping the most. It’s often (but not always) the music we listened to between the ages 18 and 25, and it’s often what we turn to in our moments of most intimate worship with God.

Heart made of treble and bass clefsThis music can be termed our ‘heart music’—those songs or styles that quickly and deeply connect us with God. It could be upbeat or meditative, emotional or reverent. You may dance, clap, shout, meditate, or chant. You may repeat phrases over and over to help marinate your soul in their meaning, or you may weave many words into your songs to describe the intricacies of your theology. Your music may emphasize the rhythms, the melodies, the harmonies, or the text. No matter what approach you enjoy the most, it is probably central to how you experience God through worship.

Drawing Nearer to Each Other
We each have our own unique heart music, but so do each of the people around us. Because we all prefer different worship styles, music can become a barrier to unity within the body of Christ. But music can also be a tool for uniting Christians across cultures and backgrounds.

Psalm 67 proclaims “may the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity, and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.” Could the scripture really mean that we meant to do this in isolation from one another?
Incorporating many styles of worship music helps us connect with each other through our respective heart music.

When we take the time to learn someone’s music, we express our love for them in a profoundly meaningful way. By worshiping in many styles, we demonstrate our willingness to set aside our own desires for the sake of ushering someone else into the presence of God. We make what scripture calls “a sacrifice of praise” to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15), and it can be a powerful tool in uniting diverse communities of worship.

Dancing at Coffee House
When a church worships in many styles it sets itself apart as a truly welcoming house of God. Preemptively incorporating the music of the broader community opens the doors to visitors, and offers a welcoming environment once they arrive. It says to newcomers “we hoped you might come, and we’re that glad you’re here.”

Singing in many styles and languages affirms of the multifaceted body of Christ, assisting us in repenting of our divides and ethnocentrisms. It helps us be mindful of sisters and brothers we may not meet until we are singing together in heaven, and prepares our hearts for that day when “all the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord” (Psalm 86:9).

Multicultural worship music helps us draw nearer to each other. Stay tune next week to see how it can also draw us nearer to God...

This article was originally written for Urban Faith

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Fruit (07/17/15)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Multicultural Worship: Fear, Hurt and Conviction

Peter playing the bass
The following is a reflection from Peter Kihyun Park, who is a co-leader of the Multicultural Worship Leaders Network

It’s been over two years since I left a presbyterian church in Minneapolis as their worship director. They had hired me to help them transition from traditional music to become more multicultural.  But two years later I got a call on Christmas Eve that my paycheck would be cut in half.  And, after many vague conversations, church politics, and confidential meetings, it was time to leave.  

As you can imagine it was a really difficult for my family to move to another church, but I didn’t feel like it was a healthy environment for us to remain in, which is to say that I’m hesitant to head back into multicultural worship ministry.  I play bass from time to time at the Brazilian church, but I’ve only picked up my guitar a few times.  

My desire to lead worship with music is still there, but I’m scared of getting hurt again. But I can’t deny what I see in the Scriptures about the multicultural church and how important it is. 

Jesus and the woman at the well in an African culture
What Jesus shows us about breaking your own cultural barriers
Culture is how a group of people express their values in as tangible way.  Some of it is good and some of it is a hindrance. And when you’re involved with multicultural worship ministry you need to begin to navigate, if you haven’t already, through your own culture, and also the culture of other people in the congregation.  This is no easy task because of the unique experiences of each individual.  

But what we see in the life of Jesus, and I might be wrong, is that he was willing to break through barriers of his own culture, as a Jew, to share what God was in the process of doing in their midst...redeeming them and freeing them of their own cultural barriers.  

For example, Jesus in talking to a Samaritan woman in John 4.  This is a big no-no for a Jewish person, but Jesus has something important to say in his message, right?

Part of what he explains to her is that it’s not going to matter if you express your worship to God in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim.  What matters most is worshiping God IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH.  

Could Jesus be talking about himself and the Holy Spirit here? Isn’t Jesus the Truth? (John 1:1) Isn’t the Spirit...well, the Holy Spirit? (Luke 24:29)  

Peter Kihyun ParkWhat does this mean for me?
I don’t know when I’ll have the courage to lead multicultural worship again, but throughout the Scriptures it’s clear to me that ALL OF US were made to worship together.  It’s a vitally important part of the gospel message. 

Our new CHURCH CULTURE calls us to be a forgiving people because we’ve been redeemed by a forgiving God.  And multicultural worship is one of those tangible ways we can express our understanding of this truth.  

So, maybe...just maybe..learning to forgive some of the people at our previous church is how I can find healing, courage, and joy to lead multicultural worship again.  
Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog