A Conversation with Nick and Kathryn Kircher
Nick and Kathryn Kircher are on staff with United Adoration. They spent several years as missionaries in Asia working with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Nick is an ethnomusicologist, someone who studies the music of the world. I asked them three questions, thinking of Terry Wildman’s upcoming talk at the UA Conference October 7-9: “Creating in Your Local Context”. You can read more about Terry Wildman here, and sign up for the UA21 in-person or virtual here. The virtual option is only $25!
How might you explain the importance of cross-cultural missions?
Nick Kircher: Cross-cultural missions is important because we want everyone everywhere to be able to have a relationship with the God of all creation. When we share the Good News, we are encouraging listeners to consider a revolutionary way of life and relationship to Jesus and His heavenly culture.
Kathryn Kircher: The arts are so important to communicate the truth that God is the Lord of every nation and He loves every culture. As we worked in Asia, we saw over and over again that when people were encouraged and equipped to worship the Lord using their heart language and the artforms of their own culture, it demolished the lie that they had to leave their culture behind in order to follow Jesus.
Why are you excited about the First Nations translation of the Bible (an Indigenous translation of the New Testament coming August 31, 2021, from Terry Wildman)?
Nick Kircher: A new Bible translation encourages the reader or listener to consider a new possibility using their own heart language thus aiding greater understanding.
Since following Jesus is encapsulated in the two great commandments, we must engage with love which requires all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. The arts help us engage the message emotionally signified by the heart and soul in the first great commandment. Terry Wildman not only encourages embracing this life-giving message using the heart language of the First Nations Peoples but also entertains these truths and relationship with God in song. “How will they believe unless someone tells them?” reminds Paul.
Kathryn Kircher: I’m excited about the First Nations Version because it honors the cultures of Native Americans and communicates this truth that God speaks their language, that He wants to converse with them. I love the way this translation honors the storytelling traditions and linguistic patterns of the First Nations’ oral cultures.
Personally, I’m a product of the Jesus Movement of the 60’s and 70’s. One of the most profound influences of that movement was The Living Bible, which expressed the words of Scripture into modern, accessible language. This paraphrase had a profound impact on me, too! What The Living Bible did for me in the 70’s, the First Nations Version can do for Native Americans in the 21st Century. It’s long overdue and I’m so glad Terry and his team have made this translation!
What is the difference between what Wildman and groups like Christafari are doing, and the history of the missionary movements that imposed their culture on others?
Nick Kircher: The gospel of Jesus Christ by nature has barriers that we need to cross in order to embrace Jesus’ way. Bible translation helps remove the language barrier by making it available in a new language. The musical group Christafari crosses the cultural/musical divide, as does Terry Wildman. Christafari and Terry Wildman are alike in this way. They’re both echoing Paul, who encouraged all of us to become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Previous generations of missionaries required that their converts embrace many unnecessary foreign cultural values to turn to Jesus. We still find cultures around the Globe with residue from that approach. “Do I have to become American to believe?”
Kathryn Kircher: I would defensively add that this perception of missionaries as people who force Western culture on others is erroneous for the modern missions movement. I worked for the missions department of a denomination back in 1976 and even then there was great awareness of the importance of not adding unnecessary cultural baggage as the Gospel was being shared. I know this has happened historically, but these days part of a missionary’s training typically includes this value of honoring the host culture.
Please join us at UA21 October 7-9, 2021 where we’ll have more conversations like this one about worship, the arts, culture, and strengthening the church.
Catherine Miller is a songwriter and writer in Tallahassee, FL. She enjoys planning retreats, working with the UA Online Team, and studying worship theology at Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies.