Earlier this year a team of four worship musicians combined efforts to conduct an historic worship seminar and songwriting workshop with local pastors and musicians in South Asia. The four worship musicians represented a triad of ministries: a large multi-campus church in the Midwestern United States, OM Arts' Heart Sounds International (HSI) and the Webber Institute’s GROW Centre. More than forty local pastors and musicians made a 36-hour journey to take part in this workshop.
Three years ago a team from HSI and the American church visited South Asia to survey the worship life of churches and make plans to do a songwriting and recording project with local musicians and pastors. After taking a three-year hiatus, at long last, a team from the church and HSI decided to conduct simultaneous events—which took place in early February.
During these simultaneous projects, the American church's teaching team took one part of each day to conduct biblical teaching, while the music team held sessions of worship teaching and songwriting facilitation (based on the worship teaching) for the remainder of the day.
There were many significant moments. One of these occurred when the pastors decided that, instead of only attending the biblical teaching portions, they would also join the musicians to be part of both seminars. The workshop leaders followed a routine template, providing worship teaching with songwriting instructions using verses related to the teachings. And each time, the groups of pastors and musicians came back with new songs to share with the entire group. Meanwhile, the recording team captured the events on audio and video, facilitated by the US church's professional videographer.
Perhaps the most significant moment of the week was when the team witnessed a new genre emerge from the pastors. They had learned about worship planning that includes an intentional sending—commissioning people to live out the truths they've heard in the preaching—as part of a closing benediction. Benediction scriptures were handed out and the teams went to work composing something new to them: a benediction song. The first group’s song was in their usual joyous call-and-response style with drums. Remarkably, however, two of the three new songs had no instruments and the songs were in a quieter, slower, more devotional style, sung together in unison—something the team had never heard from them during either trip.
Additionally, these two songs had been written simultaneously in two different locations of the building. The team was speechless. One of the team's members asked some questions about these contemplative songs: “Are these existing melodies?” No, they are brand new. “Do you have other songs like this?” No, we’ve never heard anything like it. “Why did you choose to write like this?” Their simple answer, "We didn't know how to write a benediction in song, so we prayed. We don't know how it happened."
These pastor-musicians instinctively knew they needed to compose in a new genre. The teaching team realized the pastors are sending out their congregations into challenging environments to be salt and light, so the way these benediction passages needed to be sung was different from everything else they sing. All knew it was from the Lord! Everyone was witness to an historic event.
The projects concluded with two days of non-stop recording. Among the songs recorded were a children’s song in English (with students from a nearby school), songs from earlier decades performed by a soloist in her dialects, and the songs from the pastors in their own tribal language and dialect.
The American church will continue to send pastoral teams to work with these pastors. No doubt musicians from the church will also join these teams to see the birth of more indigenous worship songs from the local pastors and musicians.
One of the speakers summed up his thoughts about the future: “We are watching the birthing of new ethnic worship songs. We will likely see these songs sung by the vast numbers of believers around the throne in the ages to come."