One of my favorite aspects of the Christian life relates to music. Like no other religion, Christians sing. It’s part of who we are as Christ-followers. Music permeates our scriptures. The great songwriter, David, wrote:
The psalms that we are privileged to read and sing came out of a personal relationship between the writer and his Creator, and in the millennia since, believers have been writing down their unique songs of praise and adoration, struggle and despair, revelation and understanding of what it means to know the One who gives the song.
Songs of praise know no bounds geographically, ethnically, or socially.
Christ-followers of every nation have been writing music since the moment he was made known and accepted by one in their midst. Having lived in six different countries and traveled to many more, I’ve heard songs wherever two or more are gathered.
Music can reflect the heritage of those who first shared the gospel among a certain people group.
I remember when I sang in the choir of Marcory Baptist Church in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. Many of the songs in our hymnal were the French version of hymns I sang at home. Though the music sounded the same, the rhythm might better fit my host country. Those hymns were sung proudly and beautifully.
The music that speaks to the heart, however, is that which is written by local believers.
I still have a little notebook of the choruses written and sung by my Ivorian brothers and sisters. They might still be in French, but that would be all they had in common with their colonial rulers. The rhythm and the tone were all West African, and the words, well, the words expressed what was in their hearts and what would speak to their people. These songs were sung with much more enthusiasm than the imported hymns because they owned them, understood them.
Songs of faith move with us through life and rise up when we need them most.
As others have expressed before, music is our theology—the lyrical expression of our belief and faith. Teaching new believers a few choruses can make the difference between succumbing to spiritual warfare and winning the battle.
As cross-cultural workers, we need to be willing to let new believers express their faith through song.
When we began a new church in our home in Tunisia, my husband was very concerned about transferring our ways instead of allowing local believers to determine the direction of the church and worship. We had a two-page song sheet that we used for months so that they could learn these simple choruses and then add their own. I was never prouder than when I heard the first Tunisian music cd made by local believers. These were their songs, coming from their hearts.
Developing a collection of local music doesn’t mean it has to be entirely new, as far as words are concerned. Using the words of scripture and combining them with local musical styles is equally valid and important in building the church’s worship.
Has God given you a song to sing? Don’t keep it to yourself, but share it with fellow believers, remembering, to:
Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs ,singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.Colossians 3:16 CSB
Grace and Peace