Multicultural Worship

Why Sing in a Different Language?

Why would we sing a worship song in a language that no one in our congregation speaks?

Good question. I am glad you asked.

1) Are you sure that no one in your congregation speaks that language?
Are there really none of those people in your congregation? No one whose heart language is Spanish or Korean? If you were to look at me, you would never guess that Spanish is one of my heart languages. You can’t tell by looking at someone what languages they speak or don’t speak. And, if there is even one of those people in your congregation, then truly “them is us,” as a good friend of mine likes to say.

2) Because worship is not only expressive, but formative.
We should sing in worship not only the things that express our hearts, but also the things that should express our hearts. (Kind of like teaching a kid to say “Thank you.” It actually can cultivate thankfulness.) If we are only expressive in our worship, we would never sing “in all I do, I honor You.” Because we all know that is just not true. However, it is what we want to be true.

Singing a song in a foreign language can help form many things in us. It can make us more aware of our neighbors across the street or around the world. It can cultivate a heart within us for those who are different from us. It can remind us that God’s heart is for the people in the community surrounding our church. And our hearts should be for them as well. If they aren’t, we shouldn’t be content with that. So, singing a song in one of those languages, could be a way in which we put our hearts in position for God to share more of His heart for those people with us. What cultures and languages are spoken right around your church building?

3) Because worship is not about us.
There is a real tendency in us to make worship all about us these days. How many times have you heard, “The band was tight today. They played some of my favorite songs. Worship was awesome today!” If we don’t like the worship at one church, we just find another church. As if worship were about pleasing us. Worship is about GOD and His glory. Is one language adequate for fully expressing God’s glory? Is one musical style sufficient? Singing a song in a different language can be an opportunity to see GOD as bigger than my own language, my own cultural style, my own preferences, my own boxes that I put him in.

4) Because God exists outside my comfort zone.
Many churches have worship wars (or worship skirmishes) over traditional and contemporary, and so they ask, “Why in the world would I add a different language or style to the mix?” The people in your congregation may find that they are on common uncomfortable ground if you sing a song that isn’t comfortable for anybody. And in that moment, recognize that GOD can be honored by our humility, by our teachability, by our willingness to get outside ourselves, by our desire to see Him exalted….i could go on and on…

19 thoughts on “Why Sing in a Different Language?

  1. Thanks for posting that! Those are awesome points and are very helpful. I am leading worship a few times this month where I want to do a song in another language ( like Amrit Vani or Abre Mis Ojos) and have found myself thinking… “but nobody knows that language…” Even if that is the case, I should consider points 2-4 and realize that God very well might want a song in another language!

    1. Mariah, yes. yes. yes. it is certainly worth considering. Don’t put God in a box. And don’t put the people that you are leading in a box either. You never know who is out there…who has been on a missions trip…who God is calling to learn a language…who is praying every day for India…or who God might tap on the shoulder while you are leading one of those songs. Sometimes it is as simple as saying, “Today we are going to do something a little different…we are going to sing this next song in Hindi, exalting the Persons of the Trinity, and ascribing victory to Jesus. As we sing, remember that Jesus has the victory. The battle belongs to Him. Whatever you are going through…’Jai jai Yeshu, jai jai ho!’ “

    1. You are welcome, Glenda! Keep on…it is worth it…and there is much that is happening that you can’t see with your own two eyes…

  2. i always feel like i’m part of something so much BIGGER than my own self/personal worship when i’m surrounded by other languages .. more like a “field” of wild flowers .. and not just one potted plant .. =) .. aj

    1. Absolutely! the truth is we ARE part of something so much bigger…it is such a shame when we forget this reality! “in open fields of wild flowers…”

  3. The sounds of other languages can be beautiful and can help us see the beauty people we didn’t understand before. It chips away at the walls. Embracing those sounds begins to help us embrace the person.

    1. Kathy, well put! “Embracing those sounds begins to help us embrace the person.” May it be so…and may we love as God loves…

  4. Josh, that is amazing. I will definitely be using this in the future! Keep on serving him!
    Ke Akua pu! (God bless you!)

  5. I am involved in a multi-cultural church, Cross Cultural EFC in St. Paul Minnesota, and we sing and read scripture in Spanish. We do not have any Latino members and rarely have anyone Latino people that visits us. We also incorporate scripture reading, singing, and prayer in Hmong and some other languages during our worship. These are things that we feel called to do, because anyone who loves Jesus Christ is a part of His church, regardless of race, color, nationality. I personally feel that if someone who attends worship, whether that person is a believer or a non-believer, will feel comfortable in a setting where people are diverse in the way they worship even if the person attending is not hearing their heart or native language. They can sense that God’s people are willing to do things different, things that don’t come naturally, to show the love of Christ to someone who is different than themselves.

    1. Larry, it’s great to hear from you! I agree that it is a powerful testimony to others when we are willing to do things differently…things that don’t come naturally…more like super-naturally! May God bless you and your church! If we can ever encourage you all, let us know!

  6. 1st Corinthians 9:22 comes to mind concerning diversity in worship, where Paul says that he becomes all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some.

  7. when you sing a song that people do not understand how do you want other in the congregation to understand what you are singing

    1. Great question!!! We have a translation appear on the screen (or in some printed paper material). If these options are not possible, the worship leader will explain before the song starts what it means, and how to pronounce it, etc.

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