Dear Next Gen Family:
Our next article anticipating our April Next Gen Conf. comes from a great friend to the movement. Those who have attended previously would know with deep fondness the name of Josh Davis. The founder of the multicultural worship and arts movement, Proskuneo, has blessed us with his gifts of multicultural worship. He simply does not let us settle into a monocultural expression of worship during our week together. An added bonus is his gifts in speaking the Word to us as well which he served with such keen insight on prayer from our last gathering.
So, here we take an excerpt from his book, Worship Together in your Church as it is in Heaven, to glean how we can better appreciate and in some small way understand the great variety of cultures that come to our NGLC. Those who’ve had cross-cultural experience can identify with the clarity of his contrast between high and low context cultures. Learn well from the article, better still, go buy the book and bring a slightly increased skill in cultural discernment when we meet.
Above all, enjoy and continue to prepare your heart. See you in April.
With much love,
Jim for the NGLC Team
Not just text…but context!
The following is an excerpt from Josh’s book: Worship Together [in your church as in heaven]
Are the setting and process in which an event takes place important? Is the format important or just the content? These are questions of context. In general, cultures tend to be either high context or low context.
High-context cultures, on the one hand, believe that the setting, location, and process of an event are as important as the event itself. Recently, I organized the entertainment for a festival in our community. I was not in charge of assigning different performers to venues, but I was responsible for making sure that everything went smoothly. In the middle of the day, I was approached by the Ethiopian manager of an Ethiopian dancer who was to perform in the gym. He was irate. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that the gym was not an appropriate place for her dance performance. “There are people playing basketball in there!” he exclaimed. Because I had studied this cultural concept of context, I immediately knew what he was saying. Assigning the dancer to the gym communicated to him that she was not as important as those who were assigned to the auditorium. (Though, for the organizers, who were American, the assignments were made based on audio capabilities and other functional issues.) For him, something beautiful and expressive should not and could not happen in an environment like a gym. He was insulted. We made some adjustments and allowed her to perform on the stage in the auditorium. And though there were very few people in the audience, he was satisfied because the context matched the content. High-context cultures tend to pay more attention to body language, facial expression, and tone of voice and not simply to what is being said. How is as important as what.
Low-context cultures, on the other hand believe that the content is more important than the setting. They tend to be more analytical in their thinking and can separate content from context. For them, a magazine on the topic of multicultural worship that is written by people from all one culture is fine, as long as the content is good. Because the Americans planning the festival I mentioned above were low context, they thought nothing of putting a traditional cultural dance in the gym. It had the most appropriate sound system for such a performance. It did not occur to them that the smell of sweaty basketball players might not be conducive to setting the scene for the beautiful dancing. They were thinking analytically. Low-context people don’t see the need to dress up for special occasions. After all, what makes those occasions special (from their perspective) is the reason for the occasion. Certain church cultures value dressing up more highly than others. These cultural values are not wrong or right (both types of churches can come up with biblical reasons why they should dress up or dress down), but it is helpful to be aware what they might communicate to someone else.
Consider yourself. Do you identify more with high-context or low-context culture? What about your church/ministry/organization? How do you see this affecting your life and ministry?