God's Kingdom without Borders

The Vine Institute

God's Kingdom without Borders

Heart Music

Christian worship unavoidably gets wrapped in cultural expression–language, ritual, artistic style and symbol. This becomes a good and beautiful thing, using a people’s cultural “heart language” (including, perhaps, their mother tongue) as they converse with the Almighty in ways that are customary, familiar and, well, “heartfelt.” Sometimes we push the envelope a bit beyond our own cultural comfort zone by experiencing multicultural worship or at least some elements of it–also a good and beautiful thing! As I write this I have a flood of joyful memories from events we’ve been privileged to help sponsor and plan, namely a local gathering of the Global Day of Prayer and a recent event called Worship Without Borders–Mexican bands with young women dancing, Vietnamese worship songs with on-screen translation, prayers led by an African pastor in a kind of “open” style like a concert of prayer, chain-dancing to a praise song led by a worship leader from Ghana, Anglo songs in English and French, etc. This can greatly enrich us, giving us a taste of God’s heart for the peoples of the world and our (borderless) heart for Him!
Recently my wife and I enjoyed a delightful visit with our daughter in Quebec; she married a “Quebecois” and lives outside Montreal. Two experiences we had brought into focus for me this notion of “heart music”–a piece of the same fabric as “heart language.” First we worshiped at their church (all in French, of course), where most of the worship music was simple American or Western praise songs and hymns we knew but translated into French: the single exception (and it was exceptional!) was a centuries-old French poem about Christmas set to a beautiful French-sounding tune. (I found myself rushing up to the worship leader afterward to see if I could get a copy of that French song and learn it!) I had to wonder if most of the music was not really “heart music” for these people. The second experience put a finer point on that issue: we got treated by our daughter and her husband to a Cirque du Soleil stye performance by a family of what looked like Quebecois lumberjacks (of all things!). They juggled with hatchets, tossed heavy logs, flipped and landed on a thin log held by two others, etc., and all accompanied by very distinctive Quebecois musical instrumentation and ballads. They love story songs and typically use guitar, sometimes accordion, and a trademark foot-tapping that resembles tap-dancing; the music is upbeat and yet has a plaintive quality. It takes a little work for me to appreciate it, but it’s beautiful and quite engaging–especially to their Quebecois compatriots.
My reflection on this risks stating the obvious: why didn’t more of that local lumberjack “heart music” show up in the local worship service? Of course it’s been trendy for American rock-style “praise songs” to catch on in cultures all around the world–in many cases a foreign “heart music” simple translated into one’s mother tongue. Is this trendiness healthy? I often wonder about this even in American culture: while indigenous American rock music has certainly “taken stage” in our churches in a major way, other forms mostly have not, one example being blues and jazz (the most original American music). Some have said blues might be the richest current-day form to express the Bible’s psalms of lament.
Well, I could go on and on but won’t. Indigenous or imported? How important is the role of “heart music” in our worship of God?
What’s your take? We’d love to hear your comments!
D. Rowe

Posted in Multicultural on 31 January 2013

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