Nairobi Statement

Roger W. Lowther

June 1, 2019Tokyo, Japan

"We call on all churches to give serious attention to exploring the local or contextual elements of liturgy, language, posture and gesture, hymnody and other music and musical instruments, and art and architecture for Christian worship—so that their worship may be more truly rooted in the local culture."


A call to missionary artists!

On January 1996, representatives from the Lutheran World Foundation in all five continents gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to talk about the relationship between worship and culture. These findings have been famously documented in the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture. In this statement, four elements of worship were identified.

  1. Transcultural - Same substance for everyone everywhere, beyond culture
  2. Contextual - Varies according to local situations in both nature and culture
  3. Counter-Cultural - Challenges what is contrary to the gospel in a given culture
  4. Cross-Cultural - Shares across different cultures

The Nairobi Statement was designed to spark and shape conversations about the gifts, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses in local cultures. They affirmed that worship without these four elements was neither biblical nor glorifying to God. Churches of different nations and cultures should look different, embracing the best of local cultures and worshiping through it.

Most churches get stuck on "transcultural" elements of worship. Listening to the sermon and music, one could be at any time or place. Except for differences in language, worship may look exactly the same in urban Japan, suburban America, or rural Romania. The Nairobi Statement asks "Is this the way it should be?" as it calls missionary artists to use their gifts around the globe.