Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture

While I was looking through some worship related web stuff, something caught my attention. The Lutheran World Federation created a document in 1996 called the “Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture.” It caught my eye because my wife was raised in Nairobi. This is a synopsis of that statement that I got from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website:
1) Worship is transcultural. (Worship has certain dynamics that are present on every continent.)
2) Worship is contextual. (Worship reflects local patterns of speech, dress, and other cultural characteristics.)
3) Worship is counter-cultural. (Worship resists the idolatries of a given culture.)
4) Worship is cross-cultural. (Worship reflects the fact that the body of Christ transcends time and space.)
I appreciate how this addresses the commonalities and the differences that different cultures have in worship, as well as the constant struggle every culture has in overcoming their idolatries. I might change the term “counter-cultural” with “reformational” because while we resist idolatries in our culture, we are also salt and light which reforms our culture. Maybe their “contextual” is intended to reflect this idea, but I don’t think it does.
In fact, after reading parts of the full statement, there are more things that stick out to me that I think are dangerous. For example, the “transcultural” point is fleshed out to look a lot more like the unified reformed liturgy position that some of my PCA peers prefer. This position believes that in order to unify the denomination, all our churches should worship using the exact same liturgy regardless of cultural differences.
So, maybe this is just a good spring board to get us thinking more about how Worship and Culture interact.
Any thoughts?

  1. #1 by Aimee on October 13, 2005 - 1:22 am

    I think it important to make a distinction when talking about what worship is versus what it should be. There is very little (i.e. nothing) that we can say about what worship should be that could have an origin outside of scripture itself without being fallacious. I almost wonder if hours and hours are spent in conferences coming to agreements and making statements based on overarching principles such as acceptance and diversity which, while good in and of themselves, are not governing principles per se.

  2. #2 by Krista on October 13, 2005 - 1:39 pm

    I just married into the RPCNA where they have a much, much more conservative view of worship than the PCA where I was raised. They only sing the Psalms from the Psalter, they don’t use any instruments, and the music type really discourages body moving (%22dancing%22). So my husband would say that these delineations for worship are appropriate insofar as the people sing Psalms.
    (By the way, he used to be but is no longer of the conviction that everyone must sing Psalms. He’s relaxed to the point where he sees it as a conscience issue; if he were to sing something but a Psalm, he’d sin.)
    So my perspective on worship is changing. Since attending this sort of worship service, I’ve noticed a few changes in my own worship-convictions: 1) I get irritated and distracted from my own worship when instruments distract me from hearing and seeing my fellow church attenders as they sing. This mainly means organs (too loud!), but can include piano and other instruments. 2) It’s easy NO MATTER WHAT to lose focus when worshipping. Whether it’s distracting instruments, unfamiliar cultural setting, bad singers, bad worship leaders, ignorant lyrics, too many thee’s and thou’s…it just takes a little to get us off track. 3) Much of worship is composed of what kind of singing (or whatever) we’re used to. It might feel like a conviction, but that doesn’t mean it it. It just might be the feeling of being very uncomfortable, as you might feel, say, in another continent’s farmers’ market. 4) It’s so easy to forget the command to love when we converse about worship. (They will know you are my disciples if you love one another; God is love; love bears all things…endures all things; do not consider yourself more highly than you ought but rather with sober judgment; love covers a multitude of sins; etc.)
    Hope that makes sense! Keep up the good blogging.

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