English as a Sacred Language in German Evangelical Worship Music

Reference work entry


Protestantism has been in Germany since the Reformation, but over recent decades, a new strain of international evangelicalism has been challenging the country’s centuries-old religious institutions. Outside groups – and now their local German offshoots – are promoting an international evangelical aesthetic that is changing German Protestant worship. Rather than being an American post-WWII legacy, much of this new evangelicalism comes from transnational post-denominational groups with roots in the English-speaking world, such as Hillsong (originally based in Australia), Vineyard (based in the United States), and Campus Crusade for Christ (also US-based). The combination of new music, language, and theology has spurred a domino effect of interrelated changes: from causing Germans to increase their physical involvement in praise to changing the linguistics of worship. Although sermons are in German and the liturgical lingua franca is German, many of these new German congregations (substantial percentages of which are not fluent English speakers) draw roughly half of their praise songs from English-language sources and sing the songs in the original English. How does English-language music play a key role in this foreign style of Christianity being perceived as modern and desirable in Germany? What values does this linguistic blend promote? Based on field research in multiple Franconian congregations since 2009, this chapter suggests that English-language German worship practices hold modern, cosmopolitan cache while also reinforcing links to imagined communities of global evangelicalism. As such, this chapter explores the social and theological impact of evangelical English as a sacred language in native German congregations.


Protestant Religion Evangelicalism Music Theology Germany English Sacred language 


  1. Butler, M. (2000). Musical style and experience in a Brooklyn Pentecostal church: An “insider’s” perspective. Current Musicology, 70, 33–50.Google Scholar
  2. Butler, M. (2008). The weapons of our warfare: Music, positionality, and transcendence among Haitian pentecostals. Caribbean Studies, 36(2), 23–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Coleman, S. (2007). The globalisation of charismatic christianity. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Crystal, D. (2009). English as a global language. London: Cambridge University Press. Accessed 4 June 2018.Google Scholar
  5. Ingalls, M. (2010). The sound of heaven on earth: Spiritual journeys, eschatological songs, and community formation in evangelical conference worship. Ethnomusicology, 55(2), 255–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ingalls, M. (2011). Singing heaven down to earth: Spiritual journeys, eschatological sounds, and community formation in evangelical conference worship. Ethnomusicology, 55(1), 255–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ingalls, M., & Young, A. (Eds.). (2015). The spirit of praise: Music and worship in global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity. University Park: Pennsylvania State Press.Google Scholar
  8. Lindvall, H. (2012). Behind the music: What it costs European acts to sing in their own languages. The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2018, from
  9. Nekola, A. E. (2009). Between this world and the next: The musical “Worship wars” and evangelical ideology in the United States, 1960–2005. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  10. Nekola, A. E. (2013). “I’ll take you there”: The promise of transformation in the marketing of worship media in US Christian music magazines. In Christian congregational music: Performance, identity, and experience (pp. 117–136). London: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  11. O’Huigin, D. (2013). Catholicism: Why do some people prefer the traditional latin mass to modern, vernacular masses? Retrieved 4 June 2017, from
  12. Pew Research Center. (2018). Being Christian in Western Europe. Retrieved 13 Nov 2017, from
  13. REMID. (2017). Religionen & Weltanschauungsgemeinschaften in Deutschland. Retrieved 10 Feb 2018, from
  14. Richards, J-A. F. (2011). Can I be truly Jamaican and truly Christian? Congregational music and cultural identity in the evangelical church in Jamaica. Presented at the Congregational music: Local and global perspectives, Cuddesdon. 2 Sept 2011.Google Scholar
  15. Riches, T., & Wagner, T. (Eds.). (2017). The Hillsong movement examined – You call me out upon the waters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Rudolph, S. H. (1997). Introduction. In S. H. Rudolph & J. P. Piscatori (Eds.), Transnational religion and fading states (pp. 1–11). Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  17. Schieffelin, B. B., & Doucet, R. C. (1998). The “Real” Haitian Creole: Ideology, metalinguistics, and orthographic choice. In B. B. Schieffelin, K. A. Woolard, & P. V. Kroskrity (Eds.), Language ideologies: Practice and theory (pp. 285–316). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Vasquez, M. A., & Marquardt, M. F. (2003). Globalizing the sacred: Religion across the Americas. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Setnor School of MusicSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

Personalised recommendations