Bridging the Worship Gap in Multi-Cultural Churches By Rev. Matthew Todd
One of my observations in serving with the Chinese church in North America is the conservative nature of music praxis amongst those within the baby boomer age group in comparison the their Caucasian Church counterparts. The offshoot of this is a strong emphasis on a traditional hymn worship culture and a wider use of Western classical and traditional worship genre. To a younger generation it would seem that there is a tyranny of choirs and organ music in their churches at present. At the same time the children and youth of an immigrant generation are profoundly musical, talented, and musically flexible.
In visiting the English congregations in Chinese bicultural churches, one quickly realizes that the styles being used are often polarized, and it would seem that the stage is set for the church to engage in worship wars that are bound to fragment the very unity proclaimed from their pulpits. How does a Chinese first generation and English second generation congregation survive together in an attitude of harmony and unity when in the Western context certain Asian cultural values (group orientation, attention to hierarchy, conflict-avoiding tendencies) may potentially lead to relational dissonance over diverse music styles? In an Asian context, duty and obligation are one of the highest motives for making decisions. How can we navigate nurturing the worship of the emerging generation through relevant and meaningful musical genres without fracturing the unity of the Church?
I would like to offer some suggestions on how to enhance and broaden your worship styles within a traditional context.
Seek God’s Presence about what you want to initiate.
Re-evaluate what’s going on in your local church and cultural context.
Become biblically literate: Phil.4:8 “whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good, if there is any excellence, worthy of praise let your mind dwell on these.” Col. 3:16-17 indicates that the Word is to serve as a regulator on the goodness of God and music as a creation of His.
Find other like-minded people in your church. Approach your pastors and elders, share your heart – getting their support can be key. Because the bicultural church is multigenerational and hierarchical, there will be a lot of different opinions to which it would be wise to be sensitive, but not intimidated by. If you can find an elder to advocate for your musical initiatives it can greatly enhance communication and minimize misunderstanding. Whenever changes are introduced it is wise to go slowly. If people sense a Christ-like humility and the Presence of the Lord it will help them get past their reservations over your music styles in the English language service.
Don’t just clone what others are doing; find out what’s authentic for you. Look at the gifts God placed in your church. Are they being put into His service?
Address multicultural diversity. Diversity is God’s plan, as is evident with the spreading of the nations (Gen.11). We should expect to see variety in creativity, so why should Western worship music predominate in Asian churches? Be sensitive to those times when you have joint bilingual services. Consider translating the words in both languages when and if the English ministry contributes anthems or music in those contexts.
Experiment and share with your elders that younger generations are very receptive to worshiping in sensory oriented ways.
Rev. Matthew Todd is the English ministries pastor of Port Moody Pacific Grace Church in Port Moody British Columbia, Canada. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
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