Defining Worship

In church life, you hear the word “worship” used to describe many different aspects of Christianity. Many times it is used as a description of how the entirety of our lives should be lived to please God. Paul was using it this way when he said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) Evangelist D.L. Moody famously said that that problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar!

As a worship leader, when I use the word worship, I am usually referring specifically to a time set aside to focus on God and encounter Him personally through things like prayer and song. We are just a few weeks away from the Fourth Annual PGBC Worship Band Camp where we will be teaching students about worship and playing various instruments in worship. (For more details about our camps, you can read some posts about it here.) One of the things I like to try and do each year is to get the students locked in on what it really means to worship God.

My own particular attempt to define “worship” comes from two books that have challenged me to think more deeply about this topic. In Warren Wiersbe’s book, “Real Worship,” he says that “worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, body – to what God is and says and does.” I love this definition – the response of all that I am to God – because it calls back the Bible’s greatest commandment: to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)

Another quote that has shaped my understanding of worship is by author Rory Noland in his book, “The Worshiping Artist.” Noland says that worship is “passionate, zealous, uninhibited, all-out engagement with the presence and character of God.” I like the phrase “all-out engagement” because it reminds us that worship is active and not passive. I don’t worship by passively listening to a song as entertainment. I actively focus on “the presence and character of God” as I think about and sing the lyrics and sometimes respond in physical ways such as clapping my hands (Psalm 47:1), raising my hands (Psalm 63:4, Neh. 8:5-6) and even (gasp!) dancing. (Psalm 149:3)

From those and other sources, I have developed my own short definition to shape my understanding of what Biblical worship is in this context. Worship is:

  • Meeting with the God of the universe and seeing who He is
  • Which causes me to understand more clearly who I am
  • So I become more aware of what He wants me to do and be.

This definition only scratches the surface of worship, of course, but I have found it to be a good starting point when teaching students. By the way, there is still room in this year’s worship band camp for rising 5th to 10th graders – no previous experience or knowledge is necessary and we will have you playing an instrument in a band in no time! Click here to register!

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