By Shannon Baker
SILVER SPRING, Md.—The room was electric. As Fabian Castro of Iglesia ConeXiones led worship in Spanish, the crowd of worshippers responded as they recognized the song’s melody. One by one, they rose to their feet in spontaneous worship, joining in the song celebration.
Their faces beaming, many sang in their own native tongue.
There were many such moving moments at this year’s Language Music Celebration, which is held annually on Palm Sunday at Global Mission Church in Silver Spring. In a departure from previous celebrations, when many of the international groups only led songs that were native to their own cultures and traditions, several of this year’s groups chose songs familiar to all in the Christian faith.
Of note, a combined group from area Korean Baptist churches sang and played the long-time classic, Amazing Grace. A group from Cameroon, West Africa, sang a medley of songs, weaving English praises between their native rhythms and languages. And a combined choir from Chinese Baptist churches displayed song lyrics in Chinese and English.
And perhaps the most telling of the worshipful atmosphere was when several people jumped out their pews and joined the worship dancers at the front of the church as a combined group of Nepalese/Bhutanese church members led in worship. The colorfully attired Asians, Africans, Latinos and Americans were exuberant as they expressed worship together.
There truly was a spirit of worship and togetherness—and unity.
“It was unbelievable,” shared this year’s organizer, Michael Mattar, church multiplication specialist with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D). To him, this was a direct answer to his prayer.
“Music is a powerful mode of communication,” he said. “However, do you realize music is a language through which you are conveying the Gospel?”
Included in this year’s event were the following language groups: Bhutanese, Burmese, Central African, Chinese, Filipino, French, Haitian, Hebrew, Hispanic, Japanese, Korean, Middle Eastern, Nepalese, Thai, Vietnamese, and West African. The evening closed as Phil Gifford, BCM/D church strengthening specialist for music and worship, led the congregation to sing a multilingual rendition of “The Revelation Song.”
Since 2003, international churches throughout the BCM/D have come together to represent their cultures in song and dress as they worship Jesus. After an extended song service, all the guests and presenters gather together for a big, multi-ethnic meal prepared by the various churches.
The Language Music Celebration was started 15 years ago by Jacob Shin, former BCM/D language missionary. Shin wanted to unite the many language churches together so they could build fellowship and partnerships. And he wanted to expose the rest of the BCM/D churches to the incredibly rich diversity of the multi-state region.
During the service, Mattar and BCM/D executive director, Kevin Smith, acknowledged Shin, presenting him with a plaque recognizing his years of service to the language communities throughout the convention. Five others, including Ron Blankenship, director of missions for the Montgomery Baptist Association; Rolando Castro, BCM/D Hispanic church multiplication strategist; Robert Kim, recently retired BCM/D Asian church multiplication strategist; Yim Kwang, interim senior pastor of Global Mission Church, and Chrissie Redding, BCM/D church multiplication ministry assistant, also were recognized for their efforts in organizing the annual event. Taeho Yi also was incredibly helpful to the process, Mattar said. Monroe Weeks served as emcee.
Smith, in his keynote message, urged the attendees, “As we celebrate the diversity of language and culture in the kingdom of Jesus Christ in Maryland and Delaware, let’s make sure that we have a clear common purpose of the exultation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the spreading of his Gospel to make disciples of all kinds of people, or as the New Testament says, ‘All nations.’”
Referencing Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17, he said, “When a crowd gets together, they can have a good understanding and a common purpose … But also, sometimes, crowds can gather together, and it’s just a lot of people together without a clear Christ-honoring focus.”
In addition to the cultural differences, Smith highlighted several contrasts between fellow Baptist churches: “Some of our churches have long services. Some of our churches have short services. Some of our churches have cold churches. Some of our churches have warm churches. Some of our churches have diverse populations within the church. Some of our churches don’t,” he said.
“But whatever the makeup of the congregation in the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, we must be committed to the clear, uncompromising proclamation that Jesus is Lord, and He has come to announce just what He announced at the beginning of His Gospel, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is coming near.’”
He stressed, “Nothing, nothing, nothing is more important than knowing who Jesus is and why He has come.”
To view event photos, visit online at https://tinyurl.com/LMC2017.