This month, the Worship Exposed team seeks to shine a light on the topic of Intercultural Worship. If you haven’t done so already, check out the past post for this series:
The week, we are excited to welcome our friend, Dr. Moorehouse to the Intercultural Worship series! Dr. Moorehouse is a professor at Liberty University within the field of Multi-Ethnic Music Studies. We believe Dr. Moorehouse offers incredible insight and wisdom within this specific topic, so please come with open minds and hearts as you read this discussion post. This discussion covered over the course two days, so be sure to check out part two on Monday!
TO SHOW US HIMSELF MORE CLEARLY
God is simultaneously culturally immanent (entwined in and expressed through our cultures and involved in our individual culturally-located lives), and culturally transcendent (meaning that He is greater than our cultural barriers and limitations). He is able to do what no person can do in their own strength—be relevant and relatable to each culture individually, and to all cultures simultaneously. What global worship allows us to do is call into lived experience the reality of the global relevance of God’s person. As the only valid deity in the world, the only true God, the only authority, the only being worthy of human worship globally, He alone will be the final and ultimate object of all cultures’ worship. His desire is for all the nations!
Isaiah 45:22-23 – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”
Isaiah 49:6 – “[The Lord] says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Daniel 7:14 – “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
God is most clearly viewed when we understand Him as being culturally transcendent and always-already relevant and applicable to every person on the planet. He speaks all our languages fluently, he knows and perfectly pronounces our names, and sees our hearts down to our core intentions and motives. Nothing sounds “strange” or “foreign” to Him because he is there already, working in the hearts of the people in a natural way, familiar with us/them at the deepest level. That is who He is…with or without us knowing him that way. How much then will it clarify our understanding of God when we learn to appreciate “foreign” musics as legitimate, “normal,” worship expressions from the hearts of the collective bride of Christ!
TO PREPARE US AS A BODY AND BRIDE FOR THE RETURN OF CHRIST
What drives all of this for me is this question: What kind of church would I want Jesus to find when he returns for us, a splintered, broken, dysfunctional bride whose body parts argue about worship style and preferences, or a bride that understands the true nature of worship, that it, in reality has very little to do with style, or musical “skin,” at all, but the state of the heart and mind of the worshipper. Let’s review the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:20-24, one of the few times Jesus actually talks about what true worship is:
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
I want to end by focusing on what this passage says about the believer’s mindset of worship—that it is not about a place or a method (or worship style). We worship through the way, truth, and life of Christ, so that we may come to the Father in the first place. We worship through the Holy Spirit (whose first act, by the way, when coming upon the apostles was to makes them speak in other languages!). But we also worship by being of the same mindset as Christ, which is to be focused on glorifying God by serving and loving others in Christ’s spirit of humility, love, and justice. Worshipping through new musical and spoken languages is just one way that we can demonstrate this kind of humble love and heart of worship that demonstrates God’s passionate desire to reach the people of the world, regardless of barriers of place or social position. It is one way that we beautify and ready ourselves as the bride of Christ, prepared for the kingdom of God.
I don’t know about you, but I am eager and impatient to experience the fullest extent of the global relevance of God—to worship in and through setting aside our own preferences and comfort for a minute and be willing to step incarnationally into new “skins”—into unfamiliar territory—not just for the sake of an intercultural experience, but to experience and demonstrate the deep, passionate love of God that seeks out the nations. When He comes for us, may he find a bride who is united in our devotion and love for Him by the way we worship musically! Music functions as a way for us to relate, to build global community, and to jointly celebrate God. We have the privilege and joy at this time on earth, to find new ways of connecting through diverse music, to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world in a holy variety of musical languages, and to sing this reality of a global God into acknowledgement by creating global communities that worship Him as he truly is—Intercultural!
Dr. Katherine Morehouse, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Multi-Ethnic Music Studies
Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology
Recommended Track of the Week: "Revelation Song" by Jennie Lee Riddle (Global Edition)
DISCLAIMER: Discussions written by guest writers are completely based on the guest's view and not necessarily Worship Exposed's. However, Worship Exposed is extremely selective when choosing individuals for the discussion page. We strive to only feature those that we believe are prominent and respected leaders within the Christian ministry field. We seek out excellence that will honor and glorify the Lord.