Frances van den Berg
Paul Neeley, an ethnomusicologist, stated last night in the Performing Arts Consultation that it was his goal to tap into the heart music of a people to reach them most effectively with the gospel. Heart music is usually the traditional music of a people group. It is the music which they have heard and participated in as children, and even experienced prenatally. It therefore has deep emotional connotations.
Church growth in certain cultures has been remarkably slow. Yet, when the people are encouraged to birth indigenous Christian music, an explosion in church growth often takes place!
The 10 000 Akyode people of eastern Ghana who have a flourishing African traditional religion exemplify this. Though churches and schools have been in the area for more than 50 years, the impact of Christianity is still tiny - only about 3% of the people attend church on a semi-regular basis. However, when a cassette of Bible readings and scripture songs was recorded, mostly in Akyode musical styles, the response was phenomenal. The songs spread like wildfire. Shrine priests, for whom it was taboo to hear Christian preaching, actually purchased their own cassettes and played them for their peers. The first duplication order of 100 tapes sold out within a month! Women would stay up late at night to hear the cassette. And children sang the Christian lyrics with gusto to accompany their jumping and clapping games.
Paul Neeley emphasized that God created cultural diversity and delights in a diversity of worship from the various cultural groups. He quoted the following analogy from John Piper: more "depth of beauty" is felt from a choir that sings in harmony. In the same way, when the diverse peoples of the world unite in worship to God, the beauty of their praise reflects the greatness of God far more than if the redeemed were only from one people group. Paul concluded that the only criterion for true worship was that it be done in spirit and truth and emanate from the heart.
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