Editor’s note: Speaking of worship and praise, it is a very familiar topic to Christians. In the past ten years, many brand-new worship and praise groups have sprung up in the Chinese world, such as the overseas music ministries Stream Of Praise, Clay Music, and Joshua Band, all of which have their own characteristics. Their creation and interpretation of sacred music is more in line with the inner characteristics of young people in this era. Through worship and praise, more and more people are helped to establish a close connection with God, leading them into the depth of worshiping God.
Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, invited Nai Yaguang, a Chinese music producer, to have an interview on which themes of “How to Understand Worship and Praise”. Brother Nai, a Generation Y from Kaifeng, Henan Province, is a father of two. He has been engaged in music ministry for 14 years and trained many church workers who worship and serve many churches. Now, he is also leading a Christian music production team and herding the members in the worship group.
Christian Times: How did you come into contact with the mission of worship and praise? Tell me about your spiritual pilgrimage.
Nai Yaguang: Many years ago, when I was studying theology, I once heard the worship songs by the Stream of Praise in a video shop. At that time, it touched me a lot, and I thought to myself, “Oh! It turns out that you can praise like this, and you can express your love for God like this!” As I used to sing traditional hymns and Canaan hymns anthologies, their tunes seem a little old-fashioned to me. I have studied music since I was a child. Before my father became a pastor, he was a school music teacher. He had a great influence on my study of music.
When I was young, I had no idea about the meaning of worship and praise. I even thought that praise was to fill the gap before sermons. Later, however, I found that music worship with anointing can touch people, heal them, give them peace, and help them enter the presence of God quicker.
My father has experienced many difficulties in ministry, so every time he listens to Xiaomin’s hymns (Xiaomin, a Chinese rural hymn composer, translator’s note), he will burst into tears because such hymns conform to the experience, needs and resonance of people of that era. However, contemporary young people experience loneliness, powerlessness, and fear of society. I think today’s gospel hymn composition should consider the current situation. Thanks to God, my team also has many hymn creation and some piano pieces, hoping to bless more people.
For the development of music worship, what we are doing now is just a precipitation process. Many foreign worshipers are indeed blessed, and we are still learning to imitate them so we can learn more from their melodies.
In terms of lyrics, because of our different cultures, we can’t understand the relationship between Jews and God in this particular cultural situation unless we know their cultural background. Our intimate relationship with God is also influenced by the specific cultural background. Of course, Chinese hymns is extensive and profound, and there are many things that we need to explore how to better combine worship. We need to find a balance in the creation of lyrics.
Christian Times: Some pastors think that the modern version of hymns, though nice and mainly comforting, does not lead people into the pursuit of repentance, salvation and holiness of Jesus. Instead, it is more inclined to personal healing and lacks depth. What do you think of this view?
Nai Yaguang: The development of Chinese popular music, in fact, is very short. We traditionally have Beijing Opera, Henan Opera, Cantonese Opera, etc., and the roles and categories in it will be particularly fine. As far as the sacred music of the church is concerned, it has not developed for a long time in China. In the past, translated hymns were sung. Church music used to drive the development of popular music, but nowadays church music is out of touch with the society.
As for the pastors’ point of view, I can understand them. The lyrics I created have caused controversy. Now, when I create them, I will pay more attention to whether I write this song with God’s attributes and Jesus Christ as the center or having myself as the center. Sometimes I also quote scriptures to create hymns. The development of church music in China is very short, and there is no special classification. For example, gospel hymns, excitement, worship, healing, pure music, and so on. Because there are so few creative people in China, more people should be raised to be create. I am also preparing a tutorial on minimalist creation, hoping to do my part. There are too many people abroad who can do different types of hymns. So there will be a lot of high-quality works coming up.
Christian Times: What do you think of the phenomenon that “some people have been in church for a long time, but they don’t like to praise”?
Nai Yaguang: I think it is necessary not only to have holy hymns but also to have all-around skills to touch people’s hearts. Most church music is difficult to master at present, and it needs to be greatly improved in musical literacy and technology. The church can’t be personalized. You can’t just take the lead to worship if you have the heart. In fact, you need to take into account the feelings of others.
When you pick up the microphone and the musical instrument, you assume a very important role, that is, the ‘priest’ that leads everyone to meet God. If you don’t practice carefully, you will go out of tune and play inaccurate rhythm. It will be difficult for those who come to the church to find God to get grace and be with Him, which will also be the loss of the church. When a person has a good relationship with God, they can actually enter His presence in any way, but when they are in a bad state, it may not be so easy. This requires a good environment, hymns with holiness, penetrating voice, a whole band, a sound system, and lights with atmosphere, etc., to help them enter the worshiping mode.
Christian Times: What do you think of the better development of Chinese local music worship?
Nai Yaguang: I think it will take two generations for Chinese worship to really rise. The young people born after 2000 will have a better music environment, and their education level is getting higher and higher, so they need to be the next generation to be raised to create. We can combine the word of God in the Bible with the characteristics of the times to create a new wave of praise hymns.
Worship can be seen separately: one is the worship of music, and the other is the worship of soul and honesty. The first kind of musical worship focuses on music and leads people to God through the medium of music. Secondly, spiritual and honest worship can be without music, and if you aim at Him, you are already worshiping. Worship with music requires professionalism and rigor.
Let’s refer to David again. Why do we say that the restoration of David’s tabernacle means that we will have to pay a great price. David paid for himself and hired twelve shifts of singing and playing the piano to worship. Now, does the church have this person who spends money to train professionals to take a full-time lead in praise and worship?
Christian Times: What do you think is the essence of worship and praise?
Nai Yaguang: Spirit and truth! Jesus said worship with spirit and truth.
In my opinion, sermon and music worship are both media that lead us to meet God. We all need to worship with our spirit and truth. If the leader doesn’t have the heart and honesty, then the follower can’t aim at God. After Israel was divided into the north and the south, Rehoboam built a golden calf in Samaria to control the Israelites not to go to Jerusalem, but to come to him. This is not leading worship. If everyone worships with spirit and truth, everyone can meet God.
- Translated by Charlie Li