Culture Clash

Psalm 150:4 “Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing; praise Him with strings and flutes!”

This verse is one of many other verses where it shows us how to praise the Lord. There are different ways such as lifting our hands in worship, clapping, singing, and even shouting. Although these are all biblical ways of worshipping and praising the Lord, I have seen different styles that are implemented by different churches. Some churches do not dance, some do not shout and some don’t even clap their hands. Music styles are also different depending on the race and culture of the church.

During my stay in Libya, the African church that we attended as a family was my first experience of church. It was loud and very energetic! The volume of the microphones the worship leader used seemed like it was maxed. They line up and start to march around the church while singing praises to the King of Kings. The whole church building was a dance floor! There were people in the congregation who brought their own tambourine so they could play it while singing – and they were always on beat. The instruments usually consist of a keyboard or an organ, bass and drums. The style of singing was with catchy lyrics and call-and-response chants. Worship time was free flowing and could end in 20 minutes or an hour depending on the moving of the Holy Spirit. It was an actual celebration!

In the Filipino church, it was a different type of celebration. Yes, there was dancing and singing but they had a group of tambourine dancers in uniform at the front, dancing with choreographed moves. It did feel calmer than the African church but it still brought joy to my heart seeing the effort that was put in choreographing a dance every week for the Lord! The style of music is a lot simpler in terms of chord progressions and rhythm.

When I moved to the UK, we looked for a born-again church to attend. We found one which was predominantly a British congregation. This is when I experienced a culture shock. I thought that every church which is ‘born-again’ is the same as what I experienced back in Libya, but actually it was totally different and not what I expected. Worship songs were somewhat catchy but very much stripped down instrumentally. The songs were led by the pastor with an acoustic guitar and just the drums to accompany it. The people stood by their seats and sang – it was in tune but definitely held back on how loud they could potentially sing. It was very reserved. Some were clapping, a few were lifting their hands up; but no one danced. No marching around the church. The songs were sung exactly like the track. There were no repeated verses or choruses. Praise and worship lasted for 30 minutes every Sunday! Yes it was different. Definitely not what I was used to but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t working in that church. They were genuine Christians with great testimonies of how God worked in their lives. It was just a different culture in comparison to what I’ve experienced.

1 Corinthians 12:6 “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us” (NLT).

God is not concerned about the traditions and culture we practice, but more importantly, He cares about our heart of worship. Not just with our lips, but to focus on worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth.