Originally published on February 13, 2015
Can you fathom being without the written Word of God? You’re a follower of Jesus, but you can’t read how He healed the sick and raised the dead. You know only what you’ve been taught by your pastor.
For many believers in Northwest India, this is a fact of life. Their language is not written down, and even if it were, many of them can’t read. However, they love to sing. And Scripture songs are being composed in their native tongue and with their heart music.
Last Fall, I traveled with two Heart Sounds colleagues to meet with a network of pastors that my home church trains each year, research their music and discuss the possibility of recording and distributing these songs throughout the churches in the region.
What we discovered was stunning and truly exciting. Without any outside influence, these nationals have composed a vast repertoire of Scripture songs, spanning Genesis to Revelation, all in their indigenous musical style.
When asked what prompted them to use local styles, one church leader seemed baffled by the question. Why wouldn’t we? It’s our music. He explained that when non-believers hear these songs, they stop to listen because it sounds like their music, too. Then they hear the Christian lyrics and are drawn in. Often, Christianity is associated with the West. In many minds, Christian = Western values and Western culture, including the immorality portrayed in the media. Using indigenous music to sing biblical concepts demonstrates that Jesus speaks their language and understands their culture. He’s one of them.
We later learned that this group is unique within the burgeoning denomination to which they belong, as many other groups use Hindi-related songs or Hillsong (Australia) to worship. It is unlikely that there are others composing songs spanning the entire Bible in their heart music styles. Potentially, a recording of these songs could be used to encourage other churches to use indigenous forms to worship God!
It was thrilling to visit the first village church building that my Ohio church built. As I watched a packed congregation of over 150 brothers and sisters playing drums, tambourines and finger cymbals, clapping and singing these unique Scripture songs, my heart swelled with pride and I thought, "Wow, this is my extended church family!"
At the pastors’ workshop, I saw a group of over 40 church leaders singing, shouting and dancing in a circle, and my heart was glad. This area is prone to persecution by radicals, yet these men and women worship God with unbridled joy. What if we threw off our inhibitions and worshiped with the same passion? No doubt we love our Lord, but rarely do we leave our self-consciousness and propriety at the door and worship Him with all we are.
As HSI plans toward a future recording, we are cognizant that these esteemed believers encouraged us even more than we did them. Our presence helped to validate what they are already doing in worship, but their presence exhorted us to worship God with the same passion.