Multicultural RelationshipMulticultural Worship

The Importance of Relationships for a Multi-ethnic Worship Leader

This quote came out of my mouth last week as I was teaching a seminar at the Calvin Worship Symposium. I was addressing a room full of multi-ethnic worship leaders and pastors and I said, “unless you are willing to make friends with people who are different than you, don’t expect your church people to sing songs that are different.” A lady in the back of the room said, “say that again!” And so I repeated myself.

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.

Later last week at Calvin, in a different session, we were talking about 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. So, my question to you is…

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

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One thought on “The Importance of Relationships for a Multi-ethnic Worship Leader

  1. Josh – I am intentionally pursuing relationship with people different from me. I have enlisted the help of a “culture coach”, who is willing to help me navigate the adventure and allowing me to verbalize my thoughts and ideas, and identify stereotypes that may not be helpful towards gaining understanding. Thank you for sharing your thoughts… You are always challenging and stretching me to deeper more meaningful loving relationships!

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