Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 10, 2010

Simple Worship

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodian Worship

One thing I enjoy most about traveling around the world is the opportunity to worship with Christ-followers in other countries. Over the years I have experienced worship on the steppes of Mongolia, in the African bush, in house churches in China, with persecuted believers in India, in small groups in Kashmir, with Muslim-background believers in Bangladesh, near displacement camps in Darfur, with Spanish-speakers in Mexico and Central and South America, on the island of Trinidad, with the international community in Dubai, among the Kurds in northern Iraq, with prisoners in Cambodia, quietly and in secret in Morocco, in old buildings in Ukraine, and a few other places.

This morning, I had the opportunity to worship with believers in Phnom Penh. There is a simplicity and purity that characterizes worship in so many of the places I visit, including Cambodia. Here are a few observations about today’s worship experience.

W = The Word of God plays a central role in worship here. Scripture passages and sermon outlines are not conveniently displayed on large screens. The absence of technology and PowerPoint means that people must actually use their Bibles. And, nobody seems to mind long Scripture readings or long sermons. Years ago I preached for more than an hour (two-hours with translation) in a church in Ukraine. When I finished, the pastor thanked me but said that the people had walked long distances and had come for more than a one-hour sermon. So, he preached for another two hours. The Cambodians must be related to the Ukrainians because they don’t seem to mind long sermons and lots of Scripture readings.

O = There is an openness in worship here. This morning, one lady left the comfort of her hard plastic chair during a worship song and began to praise God in the aisle. Soon, everyone was in the aisles with outstretched hands. No embarrassment because everyone was focused on praising God.

R = The order of worship here is flexible and the leaders are responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This morning, things changed when the church leaders noticed many unbelievers seated in the congregation. Instead of proceeding with Plan A, they adjusted and abandoned the sermon for a simple presentation of the gospel. As a result, some of those in attendance came to faith in Christ.

S = I love to hear people sing songs of praise. Even though I can’t always understand the words, I can understand the heart. It’s inspiring to look at the faces of those who are singing, knowing that they are expressing their praise to the same God who loves us and sent His Son to redeem us.

H = People come to worship with the expectation that they will receive mercy and find grace to help them in their time of need. This morning a woman who was deaf in one ear asked for prayer. And, this morning she was healed. No fanfare. Folks here have no health benefits, no steady income, and no bank accounts. When they have a need they turn to God first and then watch expectantly for Him to answer. The once partially deaf lady was not disappointed this morning.

I = Worship here is an interactive experience. There is lots of interaction during worship. Nobody is bothered or distracted by the children playing in the aisles or beneath the hard plastic chairs. At the conclusion of the message, everyone is encouraged to ask those seated around them if they know Jesus. And, when folks walk forward to make a decision, others come forward to pray for them. There are many opportunities to interact with others in meaningful, helpful, and encouraging ways.

P = There is a freedom and openness in prayer during worship. When it is time to pray everyone prays aloud at the same time. What sounded like a cacophony to those of us in the room this morning was a symphony to God. He is able to sort out each request with no problem.

I enjoyed worshiping with Cambodian Christ-followers this morning. Experiences like this remind me that God is not an American. He is God and He loves the worship and praises of His people from every nation, tongue, and tribe.


  1. Thanks for posted this article. It’s good to learning for me God’s works, around the world, through many people, like you guys!


  2. The thought of seeing praise like this is so inspiring! The shackles Americans put on the love of God! It astound me sometimes! I wonder if actually planting a seed and watching it grow like they do in the feilds of Cambodia! Is Gods way of showing us how to plant the seed of his word in our heart and nourishing it with love for our fellow man to make his word grow. I understand that each one of us have to open our hearts to God so that his word can be planted by nourishing it with constant care which is worship. Sometimes the eyes in our head is the gateway to our hearts which can feed our souls if we understand the word.

  3. Great article as usual Omar! My thoughts are heavy as I ponder a few questions…… Why do we worry more about what other’s “think” of our worship than are we pleasing to God? I’ve never had the opportunity to worship in another country, but after seeing the children of Watoto worship, they were not the least bit concerned with who was watching or anything other than praise and complete adoration for their Creator!! I don’t think there will be any regard to what fellow man is thinking in Heaven and I once heard what we do here is just practice for eternity…………………… All to His glory!!

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