Worship and Cultural Diversity

Worship styles are fundamentally a matter of culture. That means that the outward form of the worship service does not need to be the same everywhere. The key to the worship service is that a suitable environment is created in which people can come into the presence of God in the context of the body of Christ. Worship is a meeting between God and his people.

Robert Logan puts it well when he explains that the worship service should take people through a process of active response to God – helping them recognize who he is, what he is like, who we are and what we are like in relation to him, the change he desires to make in our lives, and our proper response to his will for our lives (Beyond Church Growth, page 77). This should be done in a way that is culturally relevant. In other words, the goal of worship, leading people to meet God, is best attained in the context of their particular culture.

Why we worship and what happens to us when we do are the substance of worship. How we worship, or the form, is rooted in our culture. If we first understand why we worship God, then we can adapt the form so that it is culturally relevant. This means that although it is essential that the substance of worship be the same everywhere, the form of worship will inevitably vary from region to region and from congregation to congregation. Certain forms of expression are more comfortable, expressive or appealing in some areas than others. Resources also vary from place to place, allowing some to use worship styles that are not feasible in other places.

We do not need an identical worship form in all our congregations. But every congregation needs to provide an environment allows the people to express their worship and praise to God in a way that is meaningful to them as they experience and share his forgiving grace and empowering love. Because our congregations come from different cultures, we will naturally gravitate toward varying worship environments.

Joseph Tkach

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