Leading praise and worship is commonplace in churches across the world, but it seems to me that there is a question of culture? Namely, whose? Yours or mine, western or eastern, local or something imported from America or Australia? Do people from Western culture have the right to impose our cultural values on your congregations?
The big challenge to worship leaders across the world is whether they should reproduce the songs just as they are on the CD, or whether they should adapt them in some way to express their own local culture. I want to examine 3 areas which, if you are leading praise and worship in your home country, I think you need to pray long and hard about!
I have heard time and again English songs being sung in English despite the fact that many locals do not speak the language. I understand that English is the trade language, and also the language of TV and movies, and that many young people want to speak it, but does the average member of a congregation understand what they singing about?
Across the world there are many countries who speak multiple languages, and I think the churches in places like Malaysia and India have a great idea. They might sing a song 3 times, and mix English with the local language on different verses. This keep the original flavour of the song, but still provides a way for locals to understand what the song is talking about.
The Style of Music
There are many styles of music in the world, and we westerners don’t have all the answers. Why not modify the song style to suit your local congregation. If you are in Africa, and reggae music is number one, then modify the style so your people enjoy the song their way!
There are even unique styles of singing, such as Tongan choirs or Indian singing, which might not be a western person’s cup of tea, but they may be perfect for the people of your own culture!
Many cultures have their own, unique instruments, and I think introducing them into worship is a super cool idea! Drums can make a song African, while cymbals might offer an Asian feel. I know the Chinese have some pretty amazing string instruments, while the Indians have sitars. If your culture has unique instruments, find a way to use them to praise the Lord when you are leading praise and worship in your own churches!
So, if you are leading praise and worship do it within your own culture, and do it so your people can understand and relate to what is happening. I don’t believe that imposing western culture and ideals is the best thing, and I do believe that a blend between the two can provide a valid way forward for those grappling with this issue.
Leading praise and worship needs to be about leading your people to a closer relationship with the Lord in a way they can understand, not changing how they worship to make it like a western church!