As a lifelong worship leader, songwriter and music director in a cross-cultural church, I have gotten used to being a pioneer. Multi- and cross-cultural worship may be highly respected and trendy, but very few Christians of any ethnic persuasion want to do the heavy lifting.
But recently, I came across a book that was very encouraging. Josh Davis and Nikki Lerner, using their experience as singers, players, and leaders of worship, recently wrote a book on multicultural worship: Worship Together: in your church as in heaven. Lerner is the active worship leader of a large multicultural church in Maryland, and Davis has visited every ethnic church in the greater Atlanta area. This book gets a lot of credit for being the first one I have read written by hard working colleagues, not professors.
There are so many reasons for having worship together during the most segregated hour of the week. But, the authors hit on an important point that we in multicultural worship easily overlook-- we are called to be worshiping communities, not just have worship experiences. I am guilty as charged, having pounded the floor from my piano for decades trying to get that effect, that feel, that sound. Thank God he uses us, even when we realize we are sometimes imposters. Relationship is as important as the formulae for diversity, and our music ministries are a start, but not the whole picture.
The authors urge us to use what we do have, not bemoan what we don’t. They challenge us to turn obstacles to assets, which reminds me of all the efforts we have made to include Latinos in our worship. Our Spanish speaking numbers are small, but our congregation is singing and reading scripture in Spanish.
The end of the book really struck me. Nikki Lerner says the hardest thing about multicultural worship is loneliness. But when we look down the row of singers and see the folks we are nurturing and loving through our worship, we shed tears of rejoicing, just like the Psalmist says.
As a white Christian musician, I have been privileged to interact with so many people of color in worship, and sometimes experience the justice and mercy of a God who will call all nations to himself. Every worship leader cries on Sunday as God meets us in our fumbling efforts, but to cry with brothers and sisters across ethnic lines has a sweet spirit unparalleled by homogeneous fellowship. As the authors of this exceptional book say, “remember that you are not alone, that there are people all over the world who are pursuing the same vision.”
I would encourage any worship leader or musician involved in, or interested in multicultural worship to consider reading this book.