Volume 18, No. 6 (June 2023)
A New Field
The contextualization emphasis in modern missions values and validates local languages, communication styles, and artistic expressions of the people groups to which the gospel is taken; this is a wonderful development in contrast to how many missionaries used to bring the gospel “dressed in their own cultural “clothing”: language, dress, music styles, instruments, etc.). One aspect of this new emphasis has been the rise of a new field called ethnodoxology. The term was coined in the late 1990s by music missionary Dave Hall, and a recent definition is:
The term is built from two Greek words: ethnē (“peoples”) and doxologia (“praise”). As such, ethnodoxology has to do with how different peoples worship God around the world, using their own local artistic expressions.
Here is an excellent exposition of the approach:
A New Breed of Missionary
Many missionaries who specialize in this sort of arts-consultant work now refer to themselves as ethnodoxologists, or Arts Consultants. Here is a fascinating explanation of how sophisticated the work of these arts missionaries can be:
A New Fellowship
In 2003, an umbrella group called the International Council of Ethnodoxologists (ICE) was birthed; recently the name has been changed to the Global Ethnodoxology Network (GEN). It is not itself a missions agency; rather it is an international network of missionaries and Christian workers, with many different agencies, who are involved in arts-related ministries all over the world. They have banded together for mutual encouragement, resourcing, and cooperation. Much more can be learned at GEN’s website: www.worldofworship.org.
GEN’s stated vision is:
The Global Ethnodoxology Network envisions a future in which communities of Jesus followers in every culture engage with God and the world through their own artistic expressions.
We offer networking, training, and resources for the flourishing of biblical and culturally appropriate arts.
This article, published January 2020 in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (Vol. 56, no. 1), explains who we are: https://tinyurl.com/GEN4EMQ.
Many field studies and instructional videos can be found on GEN’s Youtube channel:
GEN sponsors two traveling courses that are taught in various schools in the U.S. and internationally: (1) “Introduction to Ethnodoxology,” a one-survey (offered for undergraduate and graduate credit) that combines biblical foundations, procedures and skills, field studies and experience in crafting multicultural worship (www.worldofworship.org/introduction-to-ethnodoxology; (2) “Arts for a Better Future,” is a one-week intensive practicum in applying principles and techniques to help communities draw on their artistic resources to enrich lives and meet social and spiritual needs (www.worldofworship.org/artsforabetterfuture/).
A growing number of print resources have emerged from the ethnodoxology movement.
The cornerstone volume is Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook. More than 100 practitioners offer “theological reflection, case studies, and practical tools to help the global church appreciate and generate culturally appropriate arts in worship and witness.” Its companion volume, Creating Local Arts Together: A Manual to Help Communities Reach Their Kingdom Goals, gives a practical seven-step method “to guide an individual or group into a local community’s efforts at integrating its arts with the values and purposes of God’s kingdom.”
Other related resources (more are being added all the time) include:
1. C. Michael Hawn, Gather into One: Praying and Singing Globally (Eerdmans, 2003)
2. C. Michael Hawn, One Bread, One Body: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Worship (The Alban Institute, 2003).
3. Kathleen Van Buren and Brian Schrag, Make Arts for a Better Life: A Guide for Working with Communities (Oxford University Press, 2018)
4. Brian Schrag and Julisa Rowe, Community Arts for God’s Purposes: How to Create Local Artistry Together (William Carey Library, 2020)
5. Roberta R. King, Global Arts and Christian Witness: Exegeting Culture, Translating the Message, and Communicating Christ (Baker Academic, 2019)
New Global Events
In 2003, an event called the Global Consultation on Music in Missions (GCOMM) was held in Fort Worth, Texas. 300 participants from over 20 countries celebrated the use of culturally appropriate arts in the ministry of the church worldwide.(It was actually at this event that ICE was birthed.)
The tremendous response to this event led to a cycle of GCOMM events:
2006 St. Paul, Minnesota
2013 Chiang Mai, Thailand
2016 Nairobi, Kenya
2021 online event
2023 Fort Worth (upcoming)
Before the 2021 event, the name was changed to Global Consultation on Arts and Music in Missions [GCAMM] to better reflect the focus on a wider range of creative arts than just music.)