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Ethnodoxology’s time is here: How engaging local artists can expand God’s kingdom

Author: Brian Schrag (BES), with Robin Harris (RPH)
Date: 13.01.2014
Category: Arts

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Originally Posted in English

RPH: This term – ethnodoxology is new to most people. What does it mean? BES: Ethnodoxology is a theological and anthropological framework guiding all cultures to worship God using their unique artistic expressions. The term derives from two biblical Greek words: ‘ethno’ from ethne (peoples) and ‘doxology’ from doxos (glory or praise).

RPH: How long has it taken for ethnodoxology to emerge as a strategic missional approach? BES: In 1993, the term ethnodoxology had probably never been uttered on this planet. However, by 2003, a network emerged called the International Council of Ethnodoxologists (ICE).  By 2013, ICE was connecting hundreds of individuals and scores of organizations, had produced a remarkable two-volume scholarly and practical foundation for the new discipline, and helped spearhead a reorientation of mission education and practice. 

Ethnodoxology’s power 

RPH: So why is locally grounded artistic communication so powerful for the expansion of the kingdom of God? BES: Artistic communication

  • is embedded in culture and so touches many important aspects of a society;
  • marks messages as important and separate from everyday activities;
  • involves not only cognitive, but also experiential and emotional ways of knowing;
  • aids in remembering messages;
  • increases the impact of messages through multiple media that often involve the whole body;
  • concentrates the information contained in messages;
  • instills solidarity in its performers;
  • provides socially acceptable frameworks for expressing difficult or new ideas; and
  • inspires and moves people to action and can act as a strong sign of identity.

Perhaps most importantly, local artistic communication is generally created and owned locally. There is no need to translate foreign materials, and community artists are empowered to contribute to the expansion of the kingdom of God. 

RPH: In what ways has the church traditionally engaged the arts in cross-cultural ministry, and how does ethnodoxology connect to those approaches? BES: At least three broad approaches in relation to the arts come to mind:

  • Some cross-cultural workers approach the arts in a Bring It – Teach It framework, teaching their own arts to people in another community. This can lead to unity among diverse Christian communities, but it excludes local arts and artists.
  • In another framework called Build New Bridges, artists from one community find ways to connect artistically with members of another community. This approach results in collaborative artistic efforts, often in response to traumatic events.
  • In a third approach, arts advocates take a Find It – Encourage It stance, learning to know local artists and their arts in ways that spur these artists to create in the forms they know best. The advocate enters local creative processes, helping give birth to new creations that flow organically from the community. This approach usually requires longer-term relationships with people, and above all, a commitment to learn.

Keywords: Global Analysis, Ethnodoxology, Worship Arts

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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down marolyn (2)
United States

Linda, I wish to comment once more about the statement "there are over 7,000" languages spoken in the world. Imagine, when God commands us to share the good news, one has to know God has a plan for us to accomplish this task. We use such a small part of our God designed brain. it it exciting to think about the day when it will be revealed how to communicate with all 7,000 languages. I do believe as you said, the arts, the utilization of our body gestures can relay a message without speaking words. and to do so filled with the Holy Spirit, how wonderful indeed!

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down marolyn (2)
United States

Linda, I find your comments most valued. How many time did we  see beautiful pictures of Jesus hanging in most Christian homes; that is not happening any longer, and rarely in some Churches. We are beginning to see the beautiful art of dance becoming very popular in the West. I believe however, every movement needs to represent the words of God; an expression of Biblical truths just as with words to Christian music. There must be some standardization across the world otherwise we begin to just have an artful performance which one might interpret however desired.

Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Linda_Campbell (1)
United States

There is a real need for beauty in the church. It is a reflection of the One who is Beautiful, and a pointer to the Beauty in the throne room in Heaven. Revelations chapter 4 describes the beauty of God on His throne in terms of the colors of precious stones - jasper, carnelian, emerald. The twenty-four elders surrounding the throne are also beautiful, dressed in white with crowns of gold on their heads. The beauty of nature is also present - lightning, thunder, blazing fire, and the sea of glass, clear as crystal. It is encouraging to remember that when we pray to God, His beauty comes along with His goodness and greatness in answer to our prayers. When we bend to Christ and seek to obey Him, our inner self takes on the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is breath taking for the world to see.


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