Worship: What is it? Part III

We’ve been taking a look at the various definitions and uses of the word “worship”. Let’s see what we’ve discovered in Part I and Part II:

1) Original English – “to give worth to” (weorthscipe)
2) Translated in the Bible – “to bow down” (proskyneo); “to serve” (latreia)
3) Traditional Church use – usually refers to the liturgy, or order of service

tn_IMG_7803 Now we’ve come to the most exciting part – how the word “worship” is being used in today’s church, by today’s Christians.

Tim Hughes on Worship Definitions: “Worship is the total alignment of our heart, soul, mind and strength with the will of God. It is our whole-hearted response to God’s extravagant love and mercy.”

David Peterson, in Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship, writes that worship is "an engagement with God on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible."

Bob Kauflin, one of the inspirations for this blog, goes through a few more in an article titled Why Define Worship & Worship Defined. He also goes through a whole series on his blog called Defining Worship.

In fact, today you’ll find that there are many different definitions of what “worship” is! The most common themes revolve around responding to God and the expression of that response, and also (as mag commented) a simple “giving glory to God”.

For the next post, I’m going to share on what I think about all the different definitions. Meanwhile, I want to know what you think.

What’s your opinion on having different definitions? Leave a comment!

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~ by jonhyz on January 11, 2009.

27 Responses to “Worship: What is it? Part III”

  1. Is Glory an entity? Is praise an entity? why give? Oh. God needs more glory. God needs more praise. Really? my what an egoistic God we have here…

  2. please continue to read David Peterson a lot more… His statement is really much deeper than it seems. Too much worship is focused on me……. and I and you.. Satisfied after every service?

  3. imo there can’t really be one definition of worship for everyone. its a deeply personal thing, as it is how each person relates to God. the position in which we each come to God each day is our personal worship to Him.. so one day my act of worship may be coming before Him humbly, yet another I come before Him dancing and giving Him praise.. etc..

    Anon, i don’t really understand what made you see God as ‘needing’ more praise and glory.. i feel our act(s) of worship are more edifying for ourselves anyways. and God isn’t egoistic; when He says He’s the God of the Universe and He wants our praise, i would imagine it to be in a rather matter-of-fact tone..?

  4. I was using sarcasm… THis is but ACTS of worship.. You are not answering the point… I say that God needs more praise and glory because our lingo (and not what the bible says) often says we should give him more (see mags definition) How does one give glory? Is worship Personal? the israelites took it corporately, its not a choice to decide today i will be humble.. are you saying tomorrow you are not? remember you are saying this is an act. Is it about relationship? This definition you give is very much pagans do as well. Don’t they give things, dance sing?

    Funny how you can say its about God and now worship is about edifying ourselves. So you come to church to feel better about yourself?. I’m saying if you say that God needs more praise isn’t that making him sound egoistic? you say its a matter of fact tone. LIke “zhou, Give me more praise.. now..?” Is that how God says it. The bible doesn’t point it out that way either.

    Read Isaiah 1: 10 – 17. These acts are not worship. God doesn’t need the smell of steak and mutton any more thanus shouting praise you God! Bless You God!

  5. actually i think that saying that “worship is about God” is kind of a misnomer. EVERYTHING is about God isn’t it? if people ask you – why did you go to this school, or why did you eat char kway teow for lunch, the answer should be, funnily enough – to give God glory! (it’s like the answer for every question)

    IMO there are many different ways to bring God glory e.g. sing praises with your lips, or by edifying the body, or by keeping yourself healthy. These are actually ways of “engaging with God on terms that He proposes” . I’m planning to write a post about this actually, so stay tuned!

    @Anon: thanks for sharing your insights! could you sign off with a name/nickname so it’s easier to refer to your posts? (in case there are other anon. posters)

  6. If that is the case why do people spend so much time, investing so much time on that 1 hour of worship, Geez they can’t even turn up on time. I don’t see how singing makes God glorified. You can sing all you want about God, does that make any difference? what terms are you talking about? Has he laid down a bunch? David Peterson writes that no in the way of eating drinking. Worship is not about God. Of course we can argue worship as a noun, verb.. etc there are books of this title.

    Perhaps Ron Owens Book on “The return to worship” is a good starting point. If worship truly is about every part of our lives, why bother about Sunday’s edifying session. (I shudder to call it worship?) I mean, do we really have to have higher quality music, hitting the keys at the right places?

  7. Hi, i would like to clarify something here… i dare not say that i have a perfect definition of what worship is, and i think we’d all agree that worship isn’t confined to sunday morning singspiration.. rather than ‘give God glory’ i think it’s better to say ‘giving God worth’ perhaps it’s the same anyway :S
    in response to Zhou about ‘edifying ourselves’, maybe it’s easier to say, God doesn’t change or become any more magnified than He already is when we worship him, or live lives of worship! Rather, our worship of God changes us, changes our hearts.. that we might come to realise how small we really are, how unworthy we are to be standing here today, to be forgiven by this great God..
    and there’s a difference when we come together corporately to express our worship to God together, on top of our own personal walk and life of worship… when 2 or three are gathered in His name… when the church is gathered as a body of Christ.. there is a difference.. we are encouraged by one another… i always find it encouraging personally! we wanna build a worshiping community… quoting bob kauflin ‘God wants to knit the fabric of our lives together… church has become all aout me-what i’m learning, what i’m seeking, what i’m desperate for..’

    i’m not sure if i’m addressing any of your points, but i believe that we must never not bother about sudays ‘edifying session’

    i agree that many shuder to call that 1/2 hour of singspiration ‘worship’ i myself do.. but let’s just say that it’s wrong use of terminology that happened along the years and it’s important that the church emphasizes to their congregation that worhsip is more than what we do on sunday morning! (:

  8. God is worthless, not requiring you to give him worth to make him worthy. Let’s be certain of that. Its a cliche to say give God worth. A lot of worship jargon is using flowery language. What fabric? You don’t gather to edify yourself even in Zhou’s sense of the word. The Israelites didn’t do that.You ought to realise that before you even dare to worship God.

    What you said is so true yet, Can we radical enough to remove all that is there in the 1/2 hour worship singing karaoke with live band thing? We can’t why not disband the worship team if Romans 12: 1 -2 is really true. If that is what the bible says and you believe it, why waste so much time in this nonsense? (Pardon the strong use of language) After all, what you believe in doesn’t correspond to the action anyway.

    I am glad you don’t believe it is about edifying then why isn’t any one speaking up making noise? Because we enjoy the performance we get? the singing, the praise of men, thats why we emphasize so much on the perfection of singing, music playing?

    Quite worship music, lest we worship music……

  9. @Anon: speaking out is precisely the reason i started this blog =) in fact, i’ve been excited by movements such as the emerging church which does away with the 1/2hr sing-song session, incorporating other forms of “worship”. but i can’t rely on my own judgment alone, so i’m glad if people continue to share their thoughts and we can come to a common understanding.

    i think that there still *is* a place for large corporate worship with musicians – we just have to know *why* we do it (we’ll explore that in time to come). Not having a clear purpose might be the reason why there are so many conflicts in most modern “worship” teams.

    re: “edifying” – the israelites didn’t come together to edify, but the new testament church certainly did. in fact, that was of the major reasons they met – to share possessions, eat together etc. so although we come together on a Sunday to “worship God”, a large part of it should be that we actually come together to give God glory *by* edifying His people.

    do note that in romans 12:1-2, the word “worship” actually means “service” – it’s an example of a translation difference mentioned in What is Worship: Part I.

  10. “the singing, the praise of men, thats why we emphasize so much on the perfection of singing, music playing? ”
    i agree with you, i think musicians are in danger of of seeking the praise of mmen through their sing,playing.. but may i add that while all musicians try to keep themselves from that direction our musicians or music team, just like preachers (for example) are fallible and thus we see a lot of that happening unfortunately.. thus it is important to constantly keep check on these musicians/singers..

    i think like-wise it is possible to ‘worship’ preachers/preaching.. just that it is more common or apparent in the case of musicians. i think that in everything that the church does in ministry, there is always a chance of worshipping what we do, just as in the case of sunday mornign ‘worship’ … i don’t hink this mean that we don’t preach, we don’t serve anymore lest pp worship what we do instead of God himself.. Well, i’m sure we’d agree on this (:

    i think for anyone serving or any church-goer, we just need to be mindful of that!

  11. I know that the sord means service. But how many perform it? Or even do it… tis got nothing to do with music, infact, it is highly doubtful that music was ever used. I’ve been saying this to the people since the cows came home but would anyone listen?

    I think we are really arguing over definitions. The early people who believed in Christ, perhaps followed what 1 JOhn 4: 7 – 20 would be speaking about. But it was not a session of stroking each others wounds and helping each other to feel better.

    I am calling for us to move away from this whole music thing. Why can’t we take a stand, and chang what ever we call liturgy because it s becoming a hindrance to being a Christian.

    Also I applaud your venture into the emerging church, yet, if this were to be a fad, it would miss the heart of what this movement, or conversation (To use their lingo) is about. Something very much like hillsongs which really is forcing the lingo of worship into their own definition.

    Another point perhaps is the idea of obssesion with music pastors. Why are we creating new scopes? If the bible clearly says in 1 peter 2:9, aren’t we all technically worshippers per se, not specialised groups of musicians posing as leaders whose lives I hate to say don’t reflect what they belief in?

    Perhaps Jon you could explore into the question of what’s the role of the so-called ” Worship leader”. Thanks Guys..

  12. Hi Anon,
    it would help if u made yourself known so that we at least know who you are.

    In my opinion, if music really is so “damaging” to the church, then why is there so much emotion attached to it? I’m not sure about you, but if you’re a musician, you’ll know precisely what i mean. there are very few mediums out there that encompass emotion the same way that music does. Therein lies the reason for why music has been so predominant in the church’s worship. yes worship should be our entire lifestyle, but it is also an event, a moment in time where we express ourselves to God. I find it very mind numbing to express myself without emotion.

    The music is thus a tool, just like a knife can be used to prepare food or be used to kill, music can be misused as well in the church. does this mean we should destroy all knives because they can be harmful? should we do away with music because it presents a risk of abuse?

    now let me twist things a little… what happens to those people who do not evaluate things as intellectually as you do? is our faith only for intellectual people who can make precise understanding of what they are doing? 2 major factors play a part with our faith, and that is intellect and emotion. If we build a church entirely from intellect, we neglect and push aside those people who discover their faith through an emotive sense who cannot force themselves to think theologically about what they believe in. some might consider that a cardinal sin, but is it really? if it is, then we have just condemned more than 50% of the world to hell. the truth is that not everyone who believes in Jesus Christ may have the capacity to understand worship in the extent that you do.

    I’m not saying that we should throw aside our intellect either. there needs to be a balance. Discipleship takes a heavy responsibility in that education.

  13. Hey man, nice blog. All the best for the module. I’m still considering whether I want to continue with my blog.

    Waiting for Mr Stern’s concert. Till then.

  14. Look the point is… if you all agree that music was never in any element of worship as far as the word worship is concerned, be it in hebrew, the septuagintin its various forms of translations.

    this is not an intellectual exercise… its the redeeming of what would worship be. Can we be brave enough, to put aside music as the most important focus.. take a radical approach. Or do we just simply enjoy it for all our worth. Emotion is necessary. How many people consider the ritual of communion. (by this I mean the words being said, and upon reflfection and remembrance (Which is far more important than worship in the sense of music) and feel the great pain of loss which Christ felt.I cry during these times more than when i am lost in the groove mind you. Let me put it this way. What’s the problem wiht Israel, they had great emotion in their singing and went through great pains to get steak and mutton for the Lord, but they completely forgot what the Lord did. Was that worship? Emotion must come from the udnerstand of God and his word. This is the essential aspect of worship, how many times have we in the worship segment read his word agree to it and believe in it.

    What makes you think worship is about intellect? To define it between intellect and emotion is being too simplistic. To say that you have I have condemned 50% of the world to hell? Look Salvation belongs to the Lord just because you profess Christ does not mean you are saved.

    You can be in the culture but not be influenced by it…. Take one more example. Are you simply getting a bunch of people to say the siners prayer and they are saved. Or think, if a bunch of people, who don’t know about God come in and see us singing and dancing getting lost in emotion. So how do they worship? They See us singing and dance and so they think, ok so buddhist worship with real incence, so Christians use incense as jargon, so they mimic the actions of worship. Do you see the problem? The first step is already music, so Christians worship in the style of music? Gosh…

    Ian, I am a musician, I play many instruments, and have led worship countless times, yet I dare to stand and critique this because there are big big flaws, The way the Singapore churches are following big bands out there who make money out of music turning it into some cool fad.Thereis great pain in my heart to see that. You are a theological student.. you know best the issues if you could study deeper into what this all means. You are a leader or will be one, won’t you take responsibility for this?

  15. @Anon, Ian: i think we’re all on the same page here – we all recognise that there are inherent problems with how we think about worship at the moment.

    i also think that music plays other important roles – such as to help people remember biblical truths, to foster community and unity by having the body sing as one, to help people focus on God.

    could you also call it worship? I suppose you could, but as Anon. has pointed out, maybe we elevate music too high on the “worship scale-of-importance”.

    this is a good discussion – it’s covered a lot of the things i wanted to say! so i’ll have to work harder for the next few posts =)

  16. ?! all that in 2 days!

    anon you have a unique point of view which challenges the status quo and i appreciate your candor. i apologize if i worded my first reply carelessly; and that i failed to pick up on your uh sarcasm.

    i do feel i have to qualify my comments and add a view of my views for everyone’s consideration.

    firstly, i feel that defining ‘worship’ as ‘giving God worth/glory’ creates some sorta misunderstanding. like anon rightly pointed out, it doesn’t increase God’s worth or glory. ‘giving worth’ refers to giving God worth in our lives, not to his person. for e.g, everyone has intrinsic self worth because we each are God’s creation, but in my biased view, a certain someone may be ‘worthless’. by my defining that person in my view as ‘worthless’, i have not reduced his/her intrinsic worth in God’s eyes in any measure. similarly, by declaring God as ‘worthy’ (by my actions/in song/in prayer), or when we don’t give God worth (i.e. don’t ‘worship’ or serve God) by choosing the world over Him, it doesn’t change God’s worth or glory in any way, but it pleases God and it edifies us (for giving God worth in our actions and choices serves His purpose in our lives – service)

    secondly, i’m sure we all agree with the cliched ‘jargon’ that ‘worship is a lifestyle’. perhaps that is why anon is against a corporate sing-along-music ‘worship session’ that has truly lost its significance to many christians. to me, ‘corporate singing to God’ (for the want to not use the high controversial word worship) has its unique purposes. for mag, it was the encouragement we find; for ian, it was the expression of emotion; in ‘worshipping’ (or at least, performing what is a proxy for ‘true’ worship, as a body of Christ). for me, personally, corporate singing to God serves as a call (an ‘upward call’, as one pastor whom i can’t remember once described it as), to the congregation, to come into ‘true’, lifestyle-based worship.
    its something like :’hey! you know all the words that you’re singing? God desiring for you to really live like that; not just sing it, live it!’ – so when you sing it, and perhaps realize your need to for e.g. surrender sth fully to God (i.e. emotion). you take that, and come together with a whole congregation wanting to do the same thing for their lives (i.e. encouragement). AND then wrap it all together with a hundred sincere prayers to God; how can one deny the power in that?

    perhaps this can be used to answer anon’s question of the role of a ‘worship’ leader. imo, his/her role is to allow God to use him/her to issue that call.

    true, many many sunday 1/2 hour ‘worships’ are a far cry from inspiring surrender or inspiring more ‘Godly’ lives. but is that enough reason to just simply do away with it? the Church organisation and its history is full of instances that are a ‘hindrance’ to people being Christians – division after division, inter-denominational squabbles, even intra-church politiking, the cases of paedophilic catholic priests which have been turned into household jokes against the Church.. why not simply ‘be bold’ and do away with the Church and have everyone seek/worship God and reach out to others in his/her own way? how would that do in answering Jesus’ call for unity? disatisfaction is healthy, but will only lead to even more division if brought to the extreme

    thirdly, regarding the pursuit of technical perfection in music and singing; for me, its simply giving your best to God. yet another cliche, but to me personally it holds alot of meaning. if you’re playing for God, in every sense of who He is, how can you not give your best? some may say it distracts others, it takes away the focus from God, but is that really enough reason for the music team to not pursue technically good music? giving God good music when we play it – that’s service. perhaps anon would say the solution is then to do away with corporate music-singing altogether, but well, Heb 13:15-16 calls us to continually offer a ‘sacrifice of praise to God; that is the fruit of our lips.’, and corporately, for the reasons i have mentioned above.

    this brings me to a next point – if music was never used in worship, then what about all of the psalms? true, it doesn’t really fall under romans 12:1-2’s definition to offer our bodies (i.e. lives as well), but what about the calling in heb 13:15-16 then?

    Isaiah 1:10-17 in my interpretation of it doesn’t serve to say that from now on the israelites were exempt from keeping to their laws of sacrifices and festivals, but that these should be undertaken with the right, sincere heart – out of which will come the actions in vv16-17.

    so perhaps the reason for anon’s strong opinion with regards to what the Church (refering here to its members at large) has defined as ‘worship’ (i.e. the 1/2 hour time before the sermon) is because we go through a motion of a proxy of worship, claim it is worship, feel good about it, and then leave failing to truly worship God in our lives and to fulfil Rom 12:1-2’s exhortation. if that is the case, this is something that the pastor (or worship pastor) should seek tirelessly to educate and clarify with his/her congregation, and should not be solved by doing away with that time of corporate singing. taking a stand for me is making sure i am accountable to God and my leaders in living my worship to God day by day and not fall into the thinking of defining a sing-along as ALL worship is to me, not pushing for it to be abolished.

  17. haha sorry if my reply was a little outdated, it took me some time to type that out.

    just to add, IF (since no one has replied yet) everyone agrees with me that when we say ‘worship’ is to give worth and glory to God in our lives and not to the person of God Himself, then just as living our lives as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God is glorifying Him, then psalm 108 embodies the aspect of singing to glorify God to the world at large.

    it is so true that in today’s Church, this singing has served more of a stumbling block to Christians and non-Christians alike rather than a exhortation of God’s glory, and Edmund Chan described this as a ‘Crisis’ of the modern church in his book Growing Deep in God.

    but i strongly feel (again) that the solution to this is not abolishing this singing, but a proper concept of worship being taught..

    sorry if i just rambled on just now.

  18. You would best to consider is worship tied to a place? or an action? Zhou, go read the context of the whole of Isaish, perhaps Israels history.. is sincerity the issue? is worship simply about enjoyment? How do you rate excellent worship?

    I mean people say I enjoy worship.. what does that mean?

    No one said anything about abolishing music, I am saying.. unless you know what worship is, music is just a small minute portion of it. Unless we know what worship is.. the songs we sing will always contain the same lyrics.. with its jargon.

  19. Worship is costly, and painful, not in a place where korgs, fenders and all that… where air-con ensures we have a comfortable worship, so that we can enjoy the time with God. (Funny how god is always around yet we only reserve that quiet time with him) the comparmentalization of God is the key for good worship, as most services go. What price do our other brothers pay to worship? with their lives. In a place where there is no electricity or sound how do they worship?
    How does a deaf worship? or a blind?

    Do you see the point? We are making worship so essential that the real emerging churches in third world countries are hence forth borrowing our idea, cutting out cds, having great lights.

    Can I ask you.. if emotion is important why not study a course on music and psychology. to enhance our feeling of God?
    HAve you seen the aspects of worship colleges? They focus , on lighting and how it affects the mood of worship, telling you to play suspended chords to enhance worship, teaching you sound… but do they teach you how to worship?

    Sadly.. I say they do not..

    Please… music can be part of it.. but the whole worship service is off.. its a specialized trade for the christian economy..

  20. Anon,
    i would have to agree quite substantially with what you said in the past two messages. but once again, we don’t know the context from which you speak from because we do not know who you are.
    talking to someone from a worship college on the other hand has brought me insights to understand that what they attempt to do is not out of an ill intention, or eve a mislead one.

    i don’t know if the next comment i make will be correct, but i sense a great deal of cynicism from you with regards to this whole matter, but have you actually talked to the worship college people first hand before you make a comment on that? perhaps it helps a great deal to put yourselves in their shoes and try to understand what they are trying to do as well.

  21. Interestingly enough, we’re doing Martin Luther now in Church History… just some quotes…

    “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world”

    “I have no pleasure in any man who despises music. It is no invention of ours: it is a gift of God. I place it next to theology. Satan hates music: he knows how it drives the evil spirit out of us.”

  22. “Wisdom that comes form heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
    dear anon, i do recognise and totally agree about your point in losing our focus on true worship as we follow in the footsteps of men who has walked/modelled the Christian walk before us. I personally do not lead worship of any sorts, but when i do hear of criticisms of this guitar player not being good enough etc, my heart gets uneasy because i feel that God accepts our personal best as musicians and singers, not the best that others have attained and hence we shouldnt be living just to meet the standards that others achieved. maybe thats why some of us have erred, in our comparing spirits, which is so often disdained by God in the OT, and maybe that might be a reason that no matter how hard we try to perfect the lightings and sounds, it sometimes precipitates as a whole new “specialized trade” for christian bands to outshine another, sell more cds than other, get more supporters than another.
    to me, you have a very important point that we should all consider, but i believe that with anything that God has convicted you about this whole worship thing, you might want to consider what God says about such insights/wisdom.. so often we have so much truths to speak of, yet we fail to handle the responsibility of sharing such wisdom in a way God would have wanted us to..
    God might indeed be using your argument to point us back in His direction of worship, but i really do believe if anything were to change, it would be peaceloving, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits (rmb Gal 5:22) and considerate to the whole community of Christians, including people who have missed the whole point of worship.

  23. remember.. the word tolerance…. i tolerate you… means i hate you but well just bear with you.. Jeremiah.. you know that guy? Poor guy.. he definitely wasn’t very peace loving… Yet he spoke with truth.. and he died for it.. but of course Israel never listned. Is the measurement of all this about.. loving each other? Did jesus say he came bring peace.. no.. he did not.

    Thats’ fine.. shall cease to comment.. enjoy the self-petting and I think this whole worship thing is a mess..

  24. okay folks! i think we’ve gone beyond the sharing of thoughts on worship here. i know that we all feel strongly about this issue, but we’re only at the beginning! let’s give time for everyone to develop their thoughts a little bit more.

    i’ll be closing the comments on this post for now, and i’ll be writing my next post soon, so maybe we can then take it from there =) peace

  25. […] I – Definition of Worship in the OT & NT Part II – Definition of Worship in the Church Part III – Definitions by Experts on Worship Part IV – Why it’s our fault Worship is all messed up Part V – Differences between Individual […]

  26. […] know, I’ve been thinking about what Anonymous said in his comments a while back. I can understand where he is coming from and his views are not […]

  27. […] “means of engaging God on terms that He alone proposes” […]

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