At the National Worship Leader Conference last month, I attended a breakout led by David Manner, the Director of Worship for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. David and I go back a few years, and I was excited to hear what he had to say on the topic “How to Lead Worship In Any Culture.” David talked about how risky it is to lead multi-cultural worship. It requires more than adding a djembe drum to “incorporate African music.” It’s not a matter of including a “global” song every week. Instead, we have to become ethnodoxologists: experts of worship in every culture.
The most impactful part of David’s lecture on inviting other cultures into our worship was this: “We have to find common ground in deference instead of preference.” And even if we’re not talking about multi-cultural worship, this makes total sense. Consider what it means to practice deference in worship…
First, deference encourages us to respond to others, despite the tradition we are accustomed to. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences of worship. So we all have our “comfort zone of worship.” Some of us love to sing. Others love praying aloud. Some like to move and dance when we sing praise. And then there are a multitude of “favorite” worship songs. But if we’re only seeking our own preferred style, is it really an offering of worship? David said of this, “What worship costs is more important than how it comforts.” Are you willing to put your comfort zone aside if it means someone else can worship in their comfort zone?
Second, deference in worship is biblical. Romans 12:1-2 has Paul encouraging us to be a living sacrifice. As in, sacrificing ourselves. And our preferences. Deferring to others has never been easy, and it never will be. It’s a sacrifice, after all. But it is worth it. In his lecture, David said, “Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it, you’re just passing it on.” When we sacrifice for someone else’s benefit, we are blessing God with an offering of worship, and we’re blessing someone else.
Practically, what does this look like? I’m still trying to figure this part out. But it might be as simple as asking a friend, “What moves you in worship?” And if it’s different from what moves you personally, simply listen and consider the new perspective. Knowing their perspective, if it came down to a choice: would you rather worship in a way that includes your friend, or in a way that excludes your friend?