If you are involved in leading praise and worship in a non-westernized society, you may be facing the question of whether you should modify your worship style to fit your culture. Most of the styles of leading praise and worship are heavily influenced by the church in the developed nations, and if you are in an emerging nation it is important that you do not reproduce what you hear on worship CDs, but start leading praise and worship within your own culture.
Leading Praise and Worship is About the Lord
Contrary to what you might believe, leading praise and worship in a developing nation is not about westernizing your church! Admittedly, there are many wonderful praise and worship songs that have been beautifully produced by the Western Church, and it is tempting to play and sing the songs exactly the same way that you hear them in recordings, but I do not believe that this is what should be done.
Leading praise and worship in church is about pointing people towards the Lord, and I believe that the Lord wants to meet people where they are at and in their own culture to impact their lives. If we continue to use music as an excuse to introduce Western culture, and we are conveying to the people that the Lord commanded us to worship in an exclusive way, the way of the developed nations. If you are leading praise and worship, this is your opportunity to show people that God is relevant to them in their culture.
As I write this article I’m sitting in a room in northeast India, where these beautiful Indian people are singing songs that I recognize but in their own language. Some songs are in English, but many of them are in a language that the people understand best, and this is part of leading praise and worship in your own culture. This style of music and worship, however, would not be out of place in any American, English or Australian church, and this way I feel that those leading praise and worship are misled.
One of the great difficulties facing the early and medieval church was that much of the original writings were in Latin, a language which the common people did not speak! However wonderful a worship song is, if the people have no understanding of the meaning behind it is practically useless! If you are leading praise and worship and you want to make it relevant to your culture, one of the first steps is to translate the words into a language that your people will understand.
Leading Praise and Worship is About Expressing Your Culture
However, leading praise and worship in your own culture needs to go beyond simply the words. Most cultures have a specific way of expressing themselves musically, and I believe it brings great joy to the heart of God when he hears people worshiping using their own cultural instruments in their own cultural style. For some strange reason, those leading praise and worship seem to always want to make the sound more Western, rather than embracing the music and style of their own culture. Perhaps there is a mystique to Western culture, but when you are leading praise and worship you have an incredible opportunity to blend the Western sound with your own cultural instruments and style!
So if you are leading praise and worship in your church, and if you live in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, India and South America, please try and express your own culture in your worship. This will bring much joy to the heart of God, and also to your people and your country. Western music is attractive, especially to young people, I would suggest the two blamed on the styles of your own culture with Western music to create a unique expression of worship the Lord.
If you are leading praise and worship, you are in the perfect position to blend words and music styles to create a form of worship unique to your culture.