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Monday, June 11, 2012

Why Sing in Other Languages?

We continue our series exploring how disparate groups can come together in communal worship for the sake of justice and reconciliation. The following article was originally published by Josh Davis at Proskuneo Ministries:

Many worship leaders want to add in global songs, but aren't willing to invest time in getting to know and learning from people who are different than them. What good are global songs if they are not an expression of true heart worship and a celebration of the unity we have in Christ Jesus? Is true unity simply sitting in the same pew singing the same songs?

After searching the scripture and much prayer, we at Proskuneo believe that true unity is much deeper, and has to do with the heart (surprise, surprise!) and with real-life relationships. True unity may be more evidenced in going on vacation together, walking through life’s joys and sorrows together, praying together, and eating together in each other’s homes than it is by singing the same songs while sitting side-by-side on a Sunday morning.

Take a look at this spectrum:


musical authenticity                                                                                                  accessibility

Many times in an effort to make a song more accessible, we dilute it so that it doesn’t seem too “other” or “unusual.” And that can be offensive. Some would say, “you don’t want to sing my songs…you want to take my songs and make them sound like your songs.” And, on the other side of the spectrum, if we lean too heavily towards musical authenticity, we sacrifice accessibility. Some would say, “you don’t want to share your songs with us, you want to sing your songs at us.” And we risk making worship a spectator sport. 

However, in all of this, I believe one of the main keys for navigating this spectrum is relationship. In relationship, true dialogue can occur and we can work this tension out together. We can pursue mutual understanding. We can offer to sacrifice the authenticity of our song stylistically in order to make it more friendly towards others. Or we can sacrifice accessibility, so that we can appreciate the true “otherness” of a certain song or style.

Why would we sing a worship song in a language that no one in our congregation speaks? 
Good question. I am glad you asked.

1) Are you sure that no one in your congregation speaks that language?
Are there really none of those people in your congregation? No one whose heart language is Spanish or Korean? If you were to look at me, you would never guess that Spanish is one of my heart languages. You can’t tell by looking at someone what languages they speak or don’t speak. And, if there is even one of those people in your congregation, then truly “them is us,” as a good friend of mine likes to say.

2) Because worship is not only expressive, but formative.

We should sing in worship not only the things that express our hearts, but also the things that should express our hearts. (Kind of like teaching a kid to say “Thank you.” It actually can cultivate thankfulness.) If we are only expressive in our worship, we would never sing “in all I do, I honor You.” Because we all know that is just not true. However, it is what we want to be true.

Singing a song in a foreign language can help form many things in us. It can make us more aware of our neighbors across the street or around the world. It can cultivate a heart within us for those who are different from us. It can remind us that God’s heart is for the people in the community surrounding our church. And our hearts should be for them as well. If they aren’t, we shouldn’t be content with that. So, singing a song in one of those languages, could be a way in which we put our hearts in position for God to share more of His heart for those people with us. What cultures and languages are spoken right around your church building?

3) Because worship is not about us.
There is a real tendency in us to make worship all about us these days. How many times have you heard, “The band was tight today. They played some of my favorite songs. Worship was awesome today!” If we don’t like the worship at one church, we just find another church. As if worship were about pleasing us. Worship is about GOD and His glory. Is one language adequate for fully expressing God’s glory? Is one musical style sufficient? Singing a song in a different language can be an opportunity to see GOD as bigger than my own language, my own cultural style, my own preferences, my own boxes that I put him in.

Read: 'Where God happens'
4) Because God exists outside my comfort zone.
Many churches have worship wars (or worship skirmishes) over traditional and contemporary, and so they ask, “Why in the world would I add a different language or style to the mix?” The people in your congregation may find that they are on common uncomfortable ground if you sing a song that isn’t comfortable for anybody. And in that moment, recognize that GOD can be honored by our humility, by our teachability, by our willingness to get outside ourselves, by our desire to see Him exalted.

So, my question to you is…

Are you pursuing relationships with people who are different from you? Why? Why not? 

Proskuneo exists to glorify God and promote unity in the Body of Christ through multilingual, multicultural worship gatherings, worship resources, and training of believers in order that lives be transformed and nations come together to worship God.

1 comment:

  1. Check out this wonderful series from Proskuneo that gives simple, practical tips for incorporating multilingual songs into your worship:


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