Local worship music has impacted individuals and communities within the AP as it reaches people emotionally and personally, leading to profound breakthroughs in their relationship with Jesus.
To worship in one’s heart language is something often taken for granted. For many languages, there are a variety of styles and songs available to pick and choose what to sing in Church or at home. For some, though, it can be hard to worship through song, as music was not a part of their lives before following Jesus, nor are worship songs readily available in their heart language. Local worship music has impacted individuals and communities within the Arabian Peninsula (AP) as it reaches people emotionally and personally, leading to profound breakthroughs in their relationship with Jesus and inspiring them to engage more deeply with their faith.
“Listening to audio worship songs has inspired me to look deeper into God’s Word, which I didn’t do before,” shared Amina*. “I am energised and enthusiastic about evangelism and soul-winning as a result of listening to the audio worship songs regularly. I have also learnt not to be jealous and to love others, even those who despise me.”
In one AP country, OM workers discovered that the idea of using music to worship God is often strange when Arabs first start to follow Jesus. In Islam, music is opposite to worship, and there have been many restrictions on music and singing across the AP. In some areas, music has only been played in public places in the past ten years. However, music is becoming more popular among Gulf Arabs, especially the younger generation. The influence of Egyptian Arabic songs is growing, as are English-language pop anthems. They are played in the malls and on the corniches, though in some places, the music is still silenced during prayer time. As Jesus followers discover they can sing and dance, they rejoice as the lies they believed about music are broken down and they begin to move in freedom.
From the heart
Worship styles and types of songs are not uniform across the entire AP within communities of Jesus followers. Different regions and communities have distinct views and practises regarding the role of music in their worship. Some believers may find singing during worship new, but as they grow in their faith, they want to worship and express themselves from the heart. When they do this, a beautiful sound emerges from their love for Jesus and the giftings God has given them. They find ways to worship Jesus in their own language in their own way, not prescribed by others.
In one AP country, a partner organisation is involved in developing indigenous music so that people may worship in their heart languages. They see that locally-produced worship music has the potential to be a catalyst for spiritual awakening and transformation. These songs often resonate more deeply with individuals in the region as they reflect their own culture, experiences and values. This connection to cultural and linguistic heritage through music can aid spiritual growth and bring listeners closer to Jesus.
Social media has helped connect people with different worship music. The Arabic version of “Oceans” by Hillsong has been widely used and listened to by many in the region, as has the Arab-world song “Blessing” produced during COVID-19 lockdowns. Worship songs in Arab believer’s heart language help create a sense of belonging and authenticity, making it more than just an activity they are told to do — it becomes a way of expressing their faith and identity.
“This Christmas, I had the honour of collaborating with my sisters and cousins to prepare the church celebration,” explained teenager Layla*, a member of a local congregation in an AP country. “We were responsible for selecting worship songs and creating a play about the birth of Christ. The experience was incredibly uplifting and inspiring for all of us. I was particularly delighted to discover a local-language worship song for Christmas, as well as an audio episode that focused on the birth of Christ, which helped us to create a meaningful and impactful play. As we worked together, I couldn’t help but reflect on my dream of becoming a worship singer in the future. Whenever I hear a hymn or listen to a story in my dialect, I feel a sense of excitement and inspiration. I pray that one day, either myself, or one of my sisters, will have the opportunity to fulfil this aspiration and bring joy and inspiration to others through music.”
The next time you worship in your heart language, praise God for how He is working in people’s lives through music — in the AP as well as elsewhere in the world. Pray for more worship music to be created that will reach listeners and resonate in their hearts.