Over the past few weeks, my worship team has been reading The HD Leader by Derwin Gray. The book speaks about building multiethnic churches and embracing diversity. According to the book, a homogeneous church is one that is made up of 80 percent or more of the same ethnicity. Ring any bells? I certainly grew up in a church that was homogenous. Every Sunday we had a full-on production: big choir, praise and worship team, a loud and passionate preacher, and it wasn’t church without a b3 Hammond organ. My church experience shaped my perception of what worship was “supposed” to look and sound like. It was what I was comfortable with, and for a long time, it was all I knew.
I moved to Nashville, the music mecca, a few years after college and my perception of worship and church began to change as I was exposed to new styles and sounds. But just as fast as I was learning new sounds, my walls went up even faster to defend the sound I knew and loved. I was quick to become defensive when I’d hear from other people that the worship style I was used to was not “true worship” because it was too busy, or too loud, or too distracting. However, at the same time, it helped me realize that homogenous churches have led to segregated styles of worship.
All this to say, I want to challenge us, to celebrate the abundant variety and diversity of sound around the world. After all, that is exactly what the body of Christ truly looks like. All nations, ethnicities, tribes, and tongues singing of the greatness of our God. It’s important to have an inclusivity of all styles of worship in our churches, and as worship leaders, our main goal should be to connect people to God through song. How can we do that successfully without broadening our knowledge and growing our spheres of influence?
Last week I released a single entitled, Sanctuary. It is a culmination of spiritual awakening, my encounters with people and experiences abroad as well as locally. My greatest desire is that this song and my future worship inspired music, will be a bridge to connect people, different sounds, and cultures. As I am on this road of discovery and growth, I don’t have it all figured out, and I may not know what is to come, but I am learning and trying to challenge myself and my comfort zone every day. The conversation surrounding a homogenous church and segregated worship is an important one. The issues that exist are not going to be resolved overnight, but we can be the catalysts of change starting by challenging ourselves and encouraging those around us to do the same. There are many ways you can engage, to get started, try these:
- Listen to music that’s outside of your norm. I have been trying this and recently discovered country music is not that bad :). I love the stories that are told and how visual it is. Find something to celebrate about the music you choose and try to use it as inspiration when writing your next song.
- Have a conversation with someone that thinks differently than you. As Dr. David Anderson says in his book, Gracism, “distance demonizes but as you come closer you will find that they are your brother.” You come closer through conversation. When having the conversation, approach it as a student, be ready to listen and to learn.
- Give vision to your team(s) with a plan of action. What does multiethnic, multigenerational, diverse sound worship look like for you? How do you plan on being intentional and strategic about building that in your life and church? And talk about it. Challenge one another. Grow.
By guest blogger Joel Buckner
Joel is the Protégé Program Director and a Worship Leader at National Community Church in Washington, DC.