There are a lot of words that could be employed when describing Central African Worship: energenic, loud, fun, intense, enthusiastic, even sweaty. But the word "typical" would never make my list.
Oh certainly, there are some things that seem to be standard fair for every worship service here. First, they never, ever, under pain of death, start on time. Of course, that's true for nearly anything African. But it is especially true for the church services. In fact, my scheduled teaching this morning was postponed as they were still waiting for some of the brothers to show up. Bonnie taught, and she did an excellent job, but she started late.
Second, when the electricity is on, the worship goes downhill. Without electricity, you can hear the beautiful African voices blend in their distinct harmonies. The natural drums add their unique rhythms to the mix. The authenticity of the worship can almost be tasted. But when the electricity is on, out come the guitars and amps. Now I have nothing against guitars in principle, but here the guitarist seldom knows the songs being sung. So he fiddles around hunting for the right key and then generally gets in the way. Likewise, the person on the soundboard seems to make it his personal ministry to ensure that all the mics and speakers are over-driven as much as possible so that distortion drives fidelity from the field. Of course, this isn't unique to Africa. Every third-world nation—at least the ones I've experienced, and I've experienced several—has the same guitarist and soundman. Thus, in contradiction to my previous confession of addiction, I find myself praying that the electricity will go off during the service.
Nevertheless, in spite of these distractions, I love the worship here. The Africans sing at full volume, nothing held back, no polite embarressment. They don't just move…like David they dance with all their might. Their worship is characterized by a complete lack of inhibitions. Oh that the western Church might sip just a little from that cup.
Please understand, I'm not saying that their worship doesn't have issues. It is oftentimes repetative and without much doctrinal content. And frankly, that's a big problem. We must worship with the mind as well as the heart and body. I just wish that the doctrinal content of some of our great hymns could be wedded to the exhurberance and physicallity of African worship. I probably won't experience such an improvement this side of eternity. But I confess I look forward to that great day when we gather round the throne together and the Africans begin to sing.