Languages of Worship

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and rerun for your consideration and comments.

Imagine this: you feel inspired to adopt a few children. You’ve always wanted a larger family and your (and your spouse’s) heart is breaking for the children around the world who are in need of Godly parents. So, you adopt one Chinese child, one Russian child, and one child who is hearing impaired. For now, each of them only speaks their language (Chinese, Russian, and sign). It’s your first night all together at the dinner table. You, your spouse and your three new children are all seated, staring at one another over a pot roast lovingly prepared by you. Here is my question: what language(s) will you speak at the table?

Maybe the more important question, the one more pertinent for the purposes of this post, is this: will you love these children enough to learn some words in their respective language(s), or will you coldly refuse to learn a single word in their language and just wait for them to learn yours?

Worship styles are like that. They are learned languages. In many cases, they are the only “worship” language spoken by some individuals. Whether or not I am willing to learn the language spoken by my brother is really just a question of how badly I want to communicate with him. Do I love him enough to want to learn his language?

The world is becoming smaller, and there are literally thousands of “languages of worship” around the world. For a local body of worshipers who are at all open to new worshipers joining them, it is becoming more and more impossible to limit worship to only one language (i.e., only one style). As new church members color the landscape of a congregation, they bring with them new languages of worship. When that happens, we have a decision to make, an important question to answer: in matters of public worship, how can we best love them?

I once worked with a church who was having some struggles with relationships between generations (hard to imagine, I know). In one of my sessions with the church, I mentioned this problem almost in passing. That was all I said, “There do not seem to be very many strong relationships between the older generation and the younger one.” The very next Sunday, the youngest adult Sunday School class went as an entire group over to the oldest class and invited them to a game night at one of their homes the next Friday night. But here was the invitation: “We want you to come and bring your games and teach them to us.” There was a lot of dominoes and checkers being played the next Friday night. But can you imagine what that occasion did for the relationships among those two groups?

It wasn’t much of a stretch for that church to also learn the same “trick” with regard to worship styles. I know, I know, there are a thousand reasons why that would never work in your church. I’m just saying, it’s worth thinking about.

One last question: what in the world were you thinking when you decided to adopt all those children?

© Blake Coffee

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One response to “Languages of Worship”

  1. Been there and done that! We would speak to each child in their own language and teach them the English words also. Good analogy though.

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