Preparing for Heaven: Joining Missions and Music

June 18, 2024

Host: Dr. Jamie Mitchell

Guest: Josh Davis

Note: This transcript is taken from a Stand in the Gap Today program originally aired on June 18, 2024. To listen to the podcast, click HERE.

Disclaimer:         While reasonable efforts have been made to provide an accurate transcription, the following is a representation of a mechanical transcription and as such, may not be a word for word transcript. Please listen to the audio version for any questions concerning this dialogue.

Jamie Mitchell:  Well, welcome friends and welcome to another Stand in the Gap today. I’m your host, Jamie Mitchell, the director of church culture at the American Pastors Network. Years ago I taught in a Bible college and one of the classes I taught had a section on worship. Now, full disclosure, the only musical instrument I play and I play it pretty well, and that is the car radio. But I have a love and an understanding of the necessity and proper development of God honoring Christ, exalting spirit-led worship. I love everything about worship. I love all kinds of worship music, whether contemporary or traditional. I love participating, planning, leading in worship. I also understand that worship engages all dimensions of a person’s being our mind, our will, our emotions. I know we love to learn and sit under great teaching and we’re very fulfilled serving and using our gifts, yet it is worship that has the eternal ramifications.

Jamie Mitchell:  It will be the one thing for sure that we will all do in heaven and we will do a lot of it. And when we worship in heaven, friends, remember what the scriptures tell us. It will be every tribe, every nation, every tongue worshiping together in harmony and unity. I can hardly wait for that day with that in mind. It would be both natural and strategic if we got a headstart on this heavenly worship and begin to understand and incorporate and really embrace worship from different cultures and people groups. Today on Standing the Gap, we want to investigate how music and worship are linked and really move outside maybe your comfort zone as we consider our worship preferences. I’ve entitled today’s program Preparing for Heaven, joining Missions and Music, and my guest today is an old friend and someone who has taught me much about how to appreciate and engage in international, maybe cross-cultural worship. And it’s Josh Davis. Josh is the founder of Proskuneo Ministry that uses missions and music and finds a common ground with different cultures, both bringing people together in unity and honoring God through cross-cultural worship. Josh, welcome to Stand in the Gap.

Josh Davis:          Thanks, Jamie. I’m really glad to be here with you today and to get some time to talk about one of my favorite things to talk about.

Jamie Mitchell:  Well, Josh, let’s get started talking about your story and your ministry and how did you get passionate about cross-cultural or international worship and the desire to see the nations exalt the Lord, and in doing so, why the name?

Josh Davis:          Great question. Yeah, for me, this is very personal. I grew up in a pretty conservative and monocultural church in Florida and really love to worship God even as a kid in that church. But worship looked very one dimensional. One of our favorite verses would’ve been be still and know that I’m God. There was this real focus on reverence and the value of Rev reviewing God in worship, silence, awe, that kind of thing. I can remember people getting riled up when someone would clap their hands in church. And even as a kid, it was kind of shocking to me and I didn’t understand it because I would read in Psalms versus like, clap your hands all you people. But we didn’t do that in my church growing up. But then when I was 13 years old, my parents decided to follow God’s call to become missionaries.

Josh Davis:          And so we moved, left everything everyone behind and moved first to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and then to the Dominican Republic. And it was like a whole new world opened up for me in terms of worship. Some of the things that I had only read about in the Psalms we were now doing on a regular basis on Sunday mornings, like clapping our hands to the Lord or maybe shouting for joy to the Lord in worship. There was a lot more range of expression, but at the same time, there was none of the be still and know that I’m God, part of worship that I had grown up with. And so I began to just get this bigger and fuller picture of worship as I engaged with brothers and sisters in Christ from different cultures. And then fast forward when I moved back to the United States as a young adult, I realized every Sunday when I went to church, I had to decide was I going to be American when I went to worship or was I going to be Dominican when I went to worship?

Josh Davis:          And I felt like whatever I chose, I would miss out. I would miss out on part of who I was and I would miss out on part of the expression of worship from the scriptures, part of who God is that was celebrated in those different contexts. And I realized there was no place I could go where I could be both of the cultures and speak both of the languages that were inside me, English and Spanish American and Dominican. And as I began to wrestle with that internal tension, I took some time to pray and to seek God about it. And as I did, I kept coming back to scriptures and revelation and specifically also the Lord’s Prayer. Your kingdom come here will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And I caught this glimpse of people in heaven from every tribe and language worshiping as you mentioned earlier, in the same space in the same moment of time centered around Jesus.

Josh Davis:          And I just began to ask God along with Jesus, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that’s how s the ministry that I lead was born. SEO is the Greek word for worship. And so because we work with many different people from many different cultural backgrounds and language backgrounds, we didn’t want to an English title for our ministry. We wanted to go back to some common grounds that we all have because our new testaments come from the Greek. And so we chose the word pros, which literally means to bow and to kiss towards someone or something. And it’s the word most commonly translated worship in our New Testament.

Jamie Mitchell:  Josh, we have about a minute left. Why is it important for people to understand, embrace, and maybe even engage in different cultural expressions of worship?

Josh Davis:          That’s a great question and a couple of things come to my mind. One, it helps us tap into our own identity as we bring our own culture before God. In worship, we don’t want to make it seem like in order to worship God, you’ve got to be American, or in order to worship God, you’ve got to be Korean and do things the Korean way. God is much bigger than that. And as we worship together with brothers and sisters in Christ from different backgrounds, we catch a bigger view of who God is. And I think that’s really important and I think we’ll see in scripture too that God’s heart is for all of the nations, all the peoples to praise.

Jamie Mitchell:  God has a way of putting us in places and experiences and situations that open our eyes to opportunities and needs, and then he gives us gifts and abilities to meet those challenges. When we return, Josh is going to help lay out some biblical and theological principles of how you and I can meet the challenge of learning how to worship in different cultures and connect music and missions. We’re getting outside our comfort zone today and trying to understand worship from all vantage points. Join with us after we take a break here on Stand in the Gap Today. Well, we’re getting ready for heaven here on Stand in the Gap today. Obviously you need to know Christ as Savior first and foremost, and we talk about that a lot on this program. But as believers, we will have an amazing opportunity to worship in all kinds of styles and cultures and tongue and glory. And so the question is why not start now? And Josh Davis has been a leader in this movement. Josh, I know you talk with pastors, you speak in churches, you try to train and challenge. As you discuss this idea of cross-cultural worship with believers and encouraging them to branch out and become purposeful and intentional in that type of ministry, what do you share with them and is there some theological basis for this ministry emphasis?

Josh Davis:          Absolutely. Yeah. I often say that intercultural or cross-cultural or multicultural worship is incredibly challenging. It’s time consuming. It’s uncomfortable at times. And if it weren’t for me being really clear that this is rooted in the heart of God as I read through the scriptures, then I would’ve given up on this a long time ago. And I think it’s really important that we keep coming back to God’s heart in this matter. So I read about this extensively in my book, worship Together in Your Churches in Heaven, but here’s some of the highlights that I would throw out as it relates to the theological foundations. First of all, the principle that God created, the nations, the people groups of the world. We see that in Acts 17. We also see it succinctly in Psalm 86 verse nine, which says, all the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, oh Lord, and shall glorify your name.

Josh Davis:          So there’s this clear reality that God created the nation and that God desires for the nations to worship him, that I think is pretty commonly understood and accepted throughout Christian circles. But then there’s this idea that not only did God create the nations and long to bless the nations as we see in Genesis 12, that God’s blessing over Abraham was also to extend to bless all the peoples of the world, but that God actually desires for the nations to come and worship him together. So where do we see that? We see that in revelation, as I mentioned earlier, revelation five verses nine and 10, revelation seven verses nine and 10 talk about people from every tribe and language and nation centered around Jesus, around the throne in heaven and worshiping together in the same space in the same time. And as we catch that vision of revelation in the back of our minds, I hope we also can be praying that prayer that Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew six verses nine and 10, our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Josh Davis:          There’s a lot that we don’t know about what heaven will look like, but we do have some clear pictures from the Book of Revelation. And one of those is that there will be multicultural worship in heaven, people from every tribe and language. And so like you said, we can practice now. We can start living that eternal reality right now here on earth as it is in heaven. Another thing I would mention too is the early church, the church at Jerusalem, the church at Antioch, if you go back and read the text, it’s clear they were multicultural churches. In fact, a lot of the challenges they were dealing with were intercultural challenges. And we see that the church was born in a multilingual environment as scripture says that Jews from every nation under heaven were gathered there in Jerusalem on that day of Pentecost. So many different parts of scripture help us to understand that. But these are a few that I would point out

Jamie Mitchell:  Thought about this in the past. One of the things that rings so true to me is that language and culture and different locations automatically and almost naturally divide us and keep us division. That’s even why language languages were created. People at Babel, they wanted to reach God. And so God brought confusion by bringing the languages being cultures, people then spread out. And so division occurred, but when God enters a life, he’s into restoring and unifying and bringing back that which was divided. And so sin divides God and worship and redemption brings unity, and I think that’s going to be the glorious picture in heaven is God’s ultimate work of restoration will be bringing all peoples, all languages back together in one voice, singing praises and glory to God. Josh, another question for you on this matter I think is important. What one thing would you encourage American pastors? Because they’re going to have to take the lead on this. They’re going to have to go before their church and say, we may not become a multi-ethnic or a multi-language worshiping church, but we do need to move in this direction, at least be open to it. How would you encourage a pastor to prepare his flock to even start to consider this?

Josh Davis:          That’s a great question, and some of the scriptures I already referenced I think would be great scriptures to unpack in the church community through good teaching and preaching. But I would say if there’s one message that I hoped every pastor would be able to deliver to the people that they lead, it would be that we are part of a multicultural, multilingual body of Christ, multi-generational, so many multis, right? But we are part of this diverse, yet unified body of Christ that centers around Jesus. Jesus is the unifier of the church, and I would love for every Christian, for every believer to not only know that intellectually, but to know that relationally, that somehow we would find ways to connect with the diverse body of Christ that we are a part of.

Jamie Mitchell:  What we’re talking about practically speaking is a church or a pastor, he says to himself, you know what? I think we need to at least open the door to this. It’s as simple as teaching your people how to sing a hymn or a chorus or pray song in another language. Is that helping move the needle and helping move people in the right direction?

Josh Davis:          It is. It is that simple, as long as I would say this caveat that it’s along the lines of relationships. So really not only do we want to be singing songs in other people’s languages, but we want to be learning from and connecting with our brothers and sisters in Christ all across the world. So as a pastor, as a leader in a church, that’s one thing I would really encourage is can you find a way to learn from and to follow the leadership of someone who is your brother or sister in Christ in a way that you could benefit and see a bigger picture of who God is as you experience God through their cultural lens and understanding. And then yes, bring those songs that can be very simple. I’ll share a song towards the end, perhaps that could be a really simple way of introducing different languages and cultures in a way that’s not scary and it actually is quite enjoyable for people once they catch a hold of it.

Jamie Mitchell:  Josh, around most churches today, there are probably some ethnic centrist churches, meaning churches that are focused on one people group like a Haitian church or African American church or a Spanish speaking church, and pastors can reach out to them and try to do some collaborative efforts. Wouldn’t that be a way to open the door for a more Anglo-American English speaking church to experience a cross-cultural taste of worship?

Josh Davis:          Absolutely. And it can be just a beautiful thing to go and to visit. I live in Clarkston, Georgia, the most diverse square mile in the United States outside of Atlanta, and there’s 60 different languages spoken in a 1.5 mile radius where I live. And for the first two years that I lived here every Sunday with my family, we worshiped in a different ethnic church, Nepali church, a Pan-African church, a Rean church, just every Sunday. We’re able to connect with the body of Christ in these different ways, and we were enriched so much in our faith through that experience.

Jamie Mitchell:  In our case, and this is how you and I kind of met up Josh, we would bring somebody like you in during our missions conference or our global conference. And even in that setting, because most churches have a mission conference, we would certainly bring a dimension of worshiping from different lands and in different languages even during those special times in a year. Isn’t that a great way to, again, give your church a taste of the international flavor of worship?

Josh Davis:          It absolutely is. I am always a fan of starting where you are, just starting with the cultures that are around you. Do you even know the people who run the Mexican restaurant down the street or do you know the people who are part of the Asian grocery store in your community? And then where are the missionaries that you’re supporting and connected to? Where are they serving and how could you get to know songs and worship expressions from those places as well? Starting where we are, along the lines of building authentic connections and deeper relationships.

Jamie Mitchell:  Friends listen, change is scary, change is threatening, but change can open doors for the gospel and change increases our dependency on the Lord. And when you try to incorporate different styles and culturals into a US church, there will be change and there may be some resistance, but there will be a fruitful experience. You got to trust me on this. When we come back, Josh will help us understand the reality of these discussions, but most importantly, some roadblocks that your church or pastor that you might experience trying to bring an international flavor to worship here at Stand in the Gap today. Well, we are discussing a new and maybe uncomfortable idea for churches to consider, and that is to find ways to welcome and blend into their worship experiences, some international and cross-cultural elements, not just once a year during a missions conference, though that’s a great time to do that, but regularly make it a part of what you do.

Jamie Mitchell:  Be intentional about it. My guest today is Josh Davis. He is with Proskuneo Ministries, and if you want to learn more about that, you can go to, P-R-O-S-K-U-N-E-O. Josh, I know that you talk to a lot of pastors and you’ve gone into a lot of churches to help them step out and become a little bit more aware and sensitive in their worship towards different cultures, and certainly living in America, we are a melting pot. We have so many different nationalities here, but let’s be honest, it’s not easy and there is going to be some kind of resistance. What roadblocks might a pastor and a church face if they were to choose to go in this direction?

Josh Davis:          Great question. Absolutely. There’s resistance for sure. And I think one of the things that comes up very quickly is this notion, well, we’ve always done it this way. Why should we try anything different? And it is hard for people who have always worshiped God in one particular way to consider expanding that. I’ll never forget a night of worship that I was leading at a Korean American church in Texas, and we were singing songs from all over the globe, many different languages, many different expressions. And at the end of the night, a young man who had grown up only in that church, he had never worshiped God with anyone outside of that church. He’d grown up in that Korean American context. He came up to me at the end of the night and said, thank you. He said, this is the first time I realized that God is not Korean, and it’s because we were doing something in a different way than what he was used to, that he was able to see that God is actually bigger than his culture and his come from.

Josh Davis:          So there’s that. We’ve always done it this way kind of roadblock. I think another roadblock is this. We all do this. We all interpret scripture through our cultural lens. And a lot of times when you bring people from different cultures together, it kind of produces a rub where we actually have to get more honest and really look and say, am I holding onto this interpretation of scripture through my cultural lens, or is this actually what scripture’s saying? So one of the things we hear a lot about order, for example, is church worship is supposed to be done decently and in order, but I will tell you that order looks very different in the Dominican Republic than it looks in white America, right? So a white American coming into a Dominican church would go, this is not in order in any way, shape, or form, where it is actually following a very set prescribed order within the cultural context of the Dominican Republic and vice versa.

Josh Davis:          So you’ll have these different conflicts that will come to the surface, and it actually is a beautiful opportunity for us to challenge some of the things that we’ve held onto that maybe not are actually biblical, but are actually our cultural interpretations. That takes a lot of sensitivity, a lot of care. Another thing that will come up is people’s past experiences with people from different cultures and languages. A lot of people have had negative experiences relating to people outside of their culture or their language, and those things will surface in those multicultural worship environments. But as pastors, it’s such a beautiful opportunity for us to shepherd our people through and help them deal with those past experiences that may be resurfacing and help them begin to see themselves as part of God’s family together with brothers and sisters in Christ who look very different from them and sound very different from them as well.

Jamie Mitchell:  Josh, at the core of, and having done this, having been a pastor and moved the church, that was, I used to jokingly say that we probably could have named the church Our Lady of Caucasian persuasion. It was very white, very Anglo, not very international, but there was a heart within the Church of Missions, which made it easier to move. But as I have watched this, at the core of resistance is a fear, and it’s a fear that comes from the whole idea that I want to be comfortable and if there’s something that’s unpredictable or not something that I know how to do or even how to say a certain word or how to pronounce thing, that just creates such hesitancy on people. And if they can be given the freedom to do that and encouraged to do that and basically said, it’s okay if you can’t say these words properly, at least try. And I guess that’s one thing I want you to address, Josh, if a church wants to try this or do this to initiate this in their congregation, give us three or four ideas that they could consider or could try that would really help move the needle.

Josh Davis:          Yeah. Well, first of all, to that idea of comfort, I like to say frequently God exists quite comfortably outside of our comfort zones. So that’s one way I give people permission to just start to be uncomfortable. Romans 12 gives us that picture of worship being us as living sacrifices. And I often think, well, how comfortable is worship for the sacrifice that’s being offered on the altar? Specifically when we look at the Old Testament system, worship was not comfortable at all for the animal being sacrificed. So yeah, I think especially in US culture, we’ve equated good worship with comfortable worship, and there’s something to that. There’s something to being able to open our hearts because we’re in a safe space, but there’s also something that could be idolatrous about exalting comfort over other truths of scripture as well. So yeah, how do you start? I would say start small and start where you are.

Josh Davis:          For example, if your church sings hymns and you have a few beloved hymns that you sing on a regular basis, and you’ve got missionaries who are serving in specific countries of the world, could you ask the missionaries if there are any translations of those hymns in the languages that they’re working with? And could those translations be put on the screen, for example, in your church on Sunday? Or could you even learn how to sing one line of Holy, holy, holy, or how great thou art in one of those languages represented by the missionaries that you’re connected to? So that’s a small start and it’s a starting from where you are. Another way to start from where you are would be to build a relationship with an ethnic church leader from across town or across the street. And when it’s appropriate, invite them to come and share a song or share a word of testimony or read the scripture, excuse me, read the scripture in their language in your church on a Sunday morning.

Josh Davis:          Just very simple ways that we can begin along the lines of relationship and starting small so that people, we don’t want to throw people in the deep end of the pool right away. We want them to have a positive experience stepping outside their comfort zone and then realizing, Hey, it’s okay. God is here. We are part of this beautiful, diverse body of Christ. And then they have freedom and e courage to take steps from there. So start where you are, start small and go slowly. And then the last thing I would encourage is for people to stick with it. A beautiful story from my own family is my daughter, when she was really young, we would be singing in lots of different languages on a regular basis. And for whatever reason, her favorite worship song was in Sudanese, Arabic. And she had memorized all the words at age four, and she could sing them all from memory, and that was her favorite worship song.

Josh Davis:          And she thought that it was in English because it was her favorite song and she knew she only spoke English, but it became one of her songs. And that’s one of the beauties of this is as we start small and we go slowly, but we stick with it, something that can start out like, oh, I’m singing their songs from across the nation or across the lands or across the ocean, eventually it can become one of our songs. And that’s a really beautiful thing, I think, for helping us strengthen that connection in the body of Christ.

Jamie Mitchell:  Josh, a couple of things I did along the way. One was I put just a simple little survey together just trying to understand the global awareness of my congregation, and I asked, do they speak a different language? And I was shocked how many people in my congregation knew different languages. And then having that index and having that understanding at different times, I kind of dropped in. It wasn’t every week, but every now and then, I would tell our worship leaders or our worship pastor to use so-and-so they speak German or use so-and-so they speak Spanish or they speak Romanian, and either have them read the S with an English translation as well, or have them pray as part of the morning service in their native tongue. And I guess one last thing, and that is use YouTube. There is YouTube. I’ve always tell pastor that I might be working with the idea of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Jamie Mitchell:  Try it, see what happens. Well, when we come back, we’re going to follow up and end our conversation, but we have something special for you. Josh is going to lead us in some international worship. Don’t go away. I think you’re going to love this ending as we are talking about cross-cultural worship here that stand in the gap. I’ve had such a joy talking with my friend Josh Davis about cross-cultural worship and trying to give you a little taste of what it may be like if you bring that international flavor into your church. Josh, I want to do two things in this last segment. First, I want to talk about fruit. What fruit have you seen in pastors and churches’ lives if they are willing to take the risk? And then I want to give you an opportunity to share in music and to give people a little taste of what that is. But give us one fruit, one thing that has come away from churches doing this that you have seen and has been a real blessing to pastors and churches.

Josh Davis:          Yeah, when I think about fruit, I think about Jesus prayer in John 17 where he prays that all of us would be one, just as he and the Father are one, so that the world would believe that Jesus was who he says he was, and that Jesus was sent by the Father. And there have been numerous times where I’ve seen a group of people gathered. None of them looked like one another. They didn’t come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds, they didn’t come from the same language backgrounds. Or maybe were even born in different countries. And here they are gathered singing praise to Jesus in a variety of ways, variety of expressions, and the world. Watching through the windows or somebody who doesn’t know Jesus, who shows up in one of those situations just is astonished what could bring so many different people together in one place, especially when we see how often the world is divided along the lines of race and language. And the answer is Jesus. Jesus is the unifier of the church. And so this fruit of a testimony of the goodness of God and the reconciling power of Jesus Christ, I just can’t think of any better fruit than that.

Jamie Mitchell:  Amen. Men, women, young, old, poor, wealthy, black, white altogether, lifting up the name of Jesus. What a beautiful picture, Josh. With the time remaining, I thought we can give people a little taste of heaven. One of my favorite Josh Davis songs is King of Glory. And as we’ve been discussing this, would you be willing just to play and sing this song and then give us a little taste in this song about how to use it cross-culturally?

Josh Davis:          Sure, I’d be happy to. This is a song I wrote a number of years ago, and I never thought that it would travel across the world and be translated into so many different languages. Love to share it with you. It’s based on Psalm 24, king of Glory. Allow I roll out the my heart, lift up my head, all that you are king. Glory, ight, king, glory. You’re welcome. Before my heart bow down, king of glory. King of glory, Arabic in Russian. Just imagine people from every tribe and language singing at the same time in different languages. Glory.

Jamie Mitchell:  Oh, Josh, thank you, thank you. Thank you for allowing us to get a little taste of what heaven is going to be like. And again, friends, you can go to and find out about Josh’s ministry. I would encourage you reach out to them. They have a number of international worship leaders there, and you could take advantage of that. Bring them to your church, let them help you experiment and learn a lot about culture. Josh, again, thank you so much for being with us. Bless you and bless your ministry. Thank you for challenging our thinking. And hopefully this has inspired you. Maybe direct your pastor or your worship leader to listen to this program. They can go on our website and listen to it and learn from it. And I’m going to encourage you to venture out and engage in the mission field through music. And to do that, you’re going to need courage. And as I end every program, I want to challenge you to live and lead and even worship with courage. God bless you. We’ll see you back here 23 hours from now for another edition of Stand In the Gap Today.