What does it look like to lead corporate worship gatherings with people from different nations, across numerous ethnicities? In this interview, Thomas and Symphony Keys discuss musical worship in the Church and cultivating a heart of worship among various ethnicities. The Keys acknowledge that their primary focus above all things is keeping the Word of God foremost and number one, as they lead worship in Spirit and in Truth. In doing so, the Keys are able to present doctrinally sound worship, while appreciating the worship styles of the generations, ethnicities, and cultures they are immersed in at the time.
- The Word of God
- Appreciating Different Styles
Corporate Worship in Multicultural Context
What are some things you take into consideration when you’re preparing to lead corporate worship gatherings for people from all these different nations, all these different ethnicities?
Yes. Over a hundred nations at our church.
So the main thing, focus number one that we get into, even talking through worship throughout the week with our worship pastors and worship leaders there, is making sure that the word of God is number one and that whatever we’re doing, that it is exactly what the word of God says in our worship time. So that’s foremost. We want to make sure that we’re reflecting Christ, John 4, worshiping Him in spirit and truth in everything that we do.
A Multicultural Context
So once we get that down and make sure everything is doctrinally sound, then we get into the questions about, basically in our worship, how can we be appreciative to all the different ethnicities there? What is ideal to some cultures that pertains to worship styles? Because we have a tendency, kind of, in our western hemisphere for everything to match the certain styles of the time, of CCM.
And so it’s like what we try to do is find different ways to appreciate different styles from different areas of the world. So a quick example, we would do songs that people know, a song like Mighty To Save and maybe add a little bit of a reggae flavor, a reggae feeling to it. That kind of switches it up a little bit, trying to make sure that our worship is not just multicultural, but also multi-generational as well, because a lot of these places that they have access to the Hillsongs of the world. And we can take those songs and add different flavors to it, so it can be appreciative to all the countries.
Understanding Multicultural Worship
And the hardest thing I think with doing multicultural worship is not tokenizing it, but making sure that they’re appreciated as well. And you can do that by adding different styles into everything that we do. But making sure, of course, back to number one, that it is reflecting what God says in His word.
That’s probably really freeing and you probably get to be creative in a way.
We have an orchestra there. So one of the cool things about the Mighty To Save arrangement that we did, it was with full orchestra, with brass-
… and strings. So you have string players that are probably playing Brahms and Bach, doing reggae rhythms on the violin.
So it was really cool.
That’s really cool.
So it was awesome to be able to add that in to our worship experience.
Very cool. Man, I Facebook stalked you.
Oh, my goodness.
Multicultural Worship in Action
And so I saw that you recently got to go on a mission trip to Ethiopia. Did you get to lead worship while you were there? And what’s something that God showed you? Was that your first mission trip out of the country?
It was my first time out of the country-
… intentionally for missions.
And man, it was life-changing. It was so many adjectives to explain how it was being over there in Ethiopia, as my father would say the motherland, to go over back to Africa and to be able to serve. We did a lot of serving in various orphanages out there, as well as some VBSs. And each area I had my guitar on my back and was able to do some worship in different areas.
Worship throughout the World
And man, a particular story about just seeing God work over there was at a opportunity to go to a boy’s orphanage called Kolfe, had young men in from eight to 18. And when part of our team went there earlier in the week, they were told that, “Hey, we don’t know about bringing the gospel there right ahead. We need to kind of hold onto it a little bit.” But as the week progressed, they said about 90% of the young men there had accepted Christ.
And we were handing out Bibles-
… and handing out our tracts and not only able to share the word of God, but also being able to disciple them as well and lead them in the way. “This is what this scripture says.” Right?
Connecting to Different Cultures
So being there, one of the last days I was there, I had my guitar and I met this young man that was actually a keyboardist. And he said, “Hey, man, I play the keyboard.”
I was like, “No way, me too.” So we go all the way to his dorm room in the back with about 20 of the young orphans there. And we go into his room, he has a melodic on the wall, a bass guitar, all these different instruments. He goes to his keyboard, he says, “All I know is this jazz song, Take Five.”
A Multicultural Connection Within the States
And I knew this jazz song, because from New Orleans, know a little bit of jazz. So we played it around on the keyboard doing those songs. And then all of a sudden I thought to myself, “We have about 20 young men here, a translator. What song can we sing that will really punch home the gospel and something that will help them on their daily lives?” And I thought of Break Every Chain says, “There’s power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” So we sat there in their room. It’s a really simple song, because Amharic is a really complicated language. And we went through that song. And the translator as well as the 20 guys there helped us translate it-
… from English into Amharic. So when we left, all the boys were singing, “Break Every Chain, [foreign language 00:04:18].” My Amharic is really bad, but it means not only break the chain, but God breaks the yoke.
And we were able to sing that song together. And then being able to lead worship with one of our worship pastors at McLean, DJ Corkey, we actually went and sung that song at a conference in Amharic-
Power of Worship
… that there’s power in the name of Jesus. Over thousands of people there hearing that [foreign language 00:04:36], that He breaks the yoke.
That’s awesome. Praise God for that. And your Amharic is way better than mine.
So Symphony, a question for you, just as a spouse of a worship minister, a worship pastor, what would just an encouragement for wives of worship pastors, something that you could just encourage them and share directly with them, what would be something that you would say?
Something I would encourage spouses is to remember that God is faithful. Sometimes you may feel lonely. Sometimes you may feel like you’re not getting enough attention. Remember that God is faithful and that you’re never alone with Him. I also want to encourage them to pray for your spouse. Encourage them. Motivate them. Remind them of why they were chosen to do that specific job. And it may get tough sometimes, but remember that God is faithful.
Connecting to Multicultural Worship
That’s good. So y’all have a 15-month-old.
… who’s adorable.
How do you help cultivate a heart of worship in your home, even with her at a young age? And then how do you even combat within the home, because I know as a worship pastor, it can become his profession, your job.
So how do you combat that and keep the richness of worship in the home-
… so that it’s majoring in the right things and it’s focusing on the right things and it’s not just your job. How do you do that?
Okay, so this may be a little weird, but we have Alexa Echo Dots all over our house.
Worship in Modern Times
And so yeah, it’s a little creepy, but we have them all over our house. And so we’ll just, every day almost, we will say, “Alexa, play,” a particular song or a particular artist, or a particular album. And so we have it where we can play it all over the house-
… wherever we are. And so we usually do that. And then Aria has her own piano and guitar. And so when we’re worshiping, she will actually get up, go to the piano, or try to get her guitar and actually try to sing and worship. And it’s just so awesome being able to see her join, being like her parents, worshiping by lifting her hands and singing.
And you asked also about us combating, we just tell each other every day, we remind each other every day that worship is a lifestyle. It’s not just a job. So we worship wherever we are, whether it’s at home, whether it’s at church, whether it’s in the car. We try to worship in whatever atmosphere we are. We always want to give God the glory and praise.
And we try to do that.
Amen to that.
Amen. And just piggybacking on that, worship ascribing work to God, and we can do that in so many different areas. And I think in worship, we always think it has to be just music.
But in our giving, in our lifestyle, in the people that we meet, we want to make sure that we’re ascribing work to God in whatever we do.
Learning More about Multicultural Worship
That’s a good point. I think that possibly @ariakeysworship should be its own Instagram channel. I’m just going to go ahead and put that plug in there.
Okay, let’s do it. Let’s do it.
We should, because she loves worship.
Yes. We’ve thought about that. Her name is Aria Harmony.
Oh, you did.
So we thought about @a.harmonykeys, so like a.harmonykeys, just …
There you go. See? Y’all got it. Y’all got it. Hey, this conference is really focusing on the Psalms-
… talking a lot about the Psalms. Is there a psalm that has just really been rich for you guys that God’s just used to teach you more about His character, who He is? And what’s God been showing you through His word, specifically the Psalms?
Growing from Corporate Worship in a Multicultural Context
Yes. Yes. It’s so amazing because I’ve actually been in the Psalms so much the last month. Our worship pastor at McLean’s, he’s always telling us to look as deep as you can into the Psalms, because that’s David talking to the Lord, and Solomon. So one of the Psalms that really encouraged us before we even relocated, we just came to McLean about three months ago, was Psalm 37, specifically, Psalm 37:23. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. He delights in His way.” So in making decisions in our life, we were always concerned. What should we do? But we understand that God orders our steps, that wherever we go-
Trusting your Worship
… we’re going to trust in Him. Even though Jesus says, “No, man, it’s good,” but we know that as we walk in our lives and we trust Him and put Him before everything else, that He’s going to orchestrate and that we just step back and allow the Lord to work.
It’s a good word. It’s a good word. Yeah. Man, Thomas, Symphony, thank you guys so much for joining us here.
Yeah, thank you.
We really appreciate your time.
No problem. Thank you, brother.
We’re just excited to have you guys here.
Excited to be here.