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Worship and Mission for the Global Church AND Creating Local Arts Together

Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxlogy Handbook
By James Krabill, Frank Fortunato, Robin P. Harris, and Brian Schrag, eds. William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St. Pasadena, CA 91104, 580 pages, 2013, $37.49.

Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxlogy Handbook
By James Krabill, Frank Fortunato, Robin P. Harris, and Brian Schrag, eds. William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St. Pasadena, CA 91104, 580 pages, 2013, $37.49.

Creating Local Arts Together: A Manual to Help Communities Reach their Kingdom Goals
By Brian Schrag. William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St. Pasadena, CA 91104, 282 pages, 2013, $24.99.

Reviewed by Mark Hijleh, professor of music and associate dean for academic affairs, Houghton College.

The vision in Revelation of worshippers representing “every nation, tribe, people, and language” as a “new song” is sung before the Lamb of God is a compelling one. Resulting from many years of coordinated theory and practice among a wide range of experts, this pair of companion volumes produced by leaders from among the International Council of Ethnodoxologists (ICE) provides an extraordinarily rich array of material on an essential topic in missions: how the arts are flourishing at the vital center of Christian worship cultures across the globe, and how these may be enlivened even further.

The sweep and importance of this effort is vast indeed, for, as Calvin College’s John Witvliet puts says his foreword to Worship and Mission for the Global Church, “the most life-sustaining, gospel-embodying, Christ-proclaiming artworks of all time…are the fruit of an astonishing combustion of elements, the juxtaposition of the enduring gospel of Jesus Christ with the altogether contingent dynamics of the multiple cultures that overlap in any given time and place,” and thus have the power to “advance God’s reconciling and redemptive work all over the globe.”

The ethnodoxological work described and encouraged by these volumes stems from a calling to facilitate the indigenous authenticity of artistic Christian worship in each and every cultural context. This claim is not an exaggerated one, for the set reflects the work of over one hundred contributors from more than twenty nations serving on every continent but Antarctica.

Divided into three roughly equal sections, Worship and Mission for the Global Church begins with a wide range of essays on history and theory before moving into a fascinating series of stories recounting how the arts play out in the worship lives of Christian communities throughout our world. A final section demonstrates how to encourage the continued creation and practice of indigenous artworks for this purpose by erecting the educational and cultural infrastructures needed to sustain such activity. Happily, the volume addresses the ever-challenging topic of integrating the arts with preaching and teaching ministries, as well as the role of ever more sophisticated technology in the creation, distribution, and preservation of art.

Brian Schrag’s manual, Creating Local Arts Together, provides more specific tools for ethnodoxological work in the field. For readers planning to put into practice the ideas from the first volume, this companion is a must. To the credit of all involved, these tools are presented in a way that makes them truly useful for the wide variety of interrelated arts one finds in world cultures—music, dance, visual art, poetry, and a number of theatrical elements. It succeeds in the difficult task of doing so in ways that both respect and transcend difference.

Some readers may not be able to escape the conclusion that this sort of work relies on analytical methods arising largely from the Western mindset. However, in an age of globalization this tendency toward helpful synthesis really is the West’s best contribution, and one that needs no apology.

In the great culmination of Christ’s return, believers from many cultures will offer their distinct voices and local colors as their new songs of praise and worship ring out—but it will form a complex and dynamic harmony rather than a bland cacophony, each artistic element reflecting aspects of the one Creator of all things within the whole. The ongoing work of ethnodoxology demonstrated in these volumes gives us an inkling of how such a global manifestation of the local might come to be.

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EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 123-124. Copyright  © 2014 Billy Graham Center.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.

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