The first time Eric Lige stood in front of Ethnos Community Church to lead worship, he noticed something he had never seen before: Worshipers at the San Diego church were from all over the world.
Lige, an African American, had plenty of experience leading worship at different churches, but most of those congregations had been majority white. Looking out at the Ethnos community that Sunday in 2012, Lige changed.
“I thought, ‘I can’t sing the songs I have been singing. I have to do something else,’ ” he said.
He isn’t alone. As the United States becomes more multicultural, evangelical churches increasingly reflect the diversity of the larger population. In 1998, only about 10 percent of evangelical churches had a lead pastor who was African American, Asian, or Hispanic. Today, that has grown to nearly 30 percent.
And congregations are more diverse too. Roughly a quarter of evangelical churches are now considered ethnically diverse, meaning 20 percent or more of the congregation comes from different ethnic or racial groups. And more than half of megachurches are ethnically diverse according to a new study from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Nearly 90 percent say that is something they are actively pursuing.
Part of that push towards diversity includes multiethnic and intercultural worship music. They want to sing new songs to the Lord—diverse songs, reflecting the diversity of God’s people and the global church.
How to do that, it turns out, is a little trickier. Lige’s first approach was to have someone sing one verse of a contemporary American worship song in another language. Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is a global phenomenon, after all.
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Churches Search for Sounds of Heaven
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