Worship is not just central to the Christian faith; it is the heart and pulse of the church. It is where Christians gather and celebrate God’s gifts of creation and His salvation to us all. For those who enjoy worship as much as I do, it is an act that strengthens us Christians to live in response and obedience to His grace. Acts of worship are not limited, but can be expressed through music, art, preaching and many more forms of serving in the church congregation.
Having been born in Libya to a Pakistani father and a Filipino mother, then migrating to the UK with my family at the age of 11, I have been exposed to numerous cultures and the difference in the way they worship. This has helped me realise that culture is a key influence in how Christians from different nations worship the Lord. Culture is one of the most challenging part to change in our lives because we grow up with it. Essentially, we were raised by it. This cannot be recognised until we experience and try to understand first-hand what it’s like to serve the Lord in a different country with their own culture. Whilst growing up in Libya, my mother wanted to find a church where she could be “blessed”. I never knew what that really meant as a young boy but whatever church we went to, we went as a family. I remember attending an international church there with people of different nationalities, but the majority of the congregation were Africans. I could easily tell that the culture of that church was mainly African, especially from the style of music they used to worship. Although we enjoyed the energy in that place, we still ended up moving to a Filipino church. We felt more at home. We related a lot more to the language, hospitality and culture.
Now, I noticed that culture is something that is implanted in us and we take it with us wherever we go. Churches all over the world are mainly of the same race because it’s difficult for us to separate from it.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new’ (NKJV).
Every time I read that verse, I look at the part of being a “new creation” and I think of it as being transformed to a totally different being, similar to a bird transforming into a lion. Different creatures, different habitats, different features… Totally different!
So if we are in Christ, we are new and completely changed from our old selves. This also includes culture. We have to be able to conform to the culture in the Kingdom of God, rather than forcing Him to conform to our own. The kingdom of God is unshakeable and we will never succeed as Christians if we do not submit to it.
Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”