Post 1: Series Introduction and Definition
As a pastor I find that one of my biggest jobs is helping to plan and lead worship. I don’t know if all pastors are as involved in the worship service as I am. I imagine that some focus mainly on planning, and delivering the sermon each Sunday, and leave the “worship” to the worship leaders. But that isn’t my experience.
When I became the head pastor of our church, an English service in Kigali, I committed myself to building up the worship of our church. As I saw it, we hadn’t been very intentional about what we were doing on Sunday mornings, we had gotten into a routine of just showing up and hoping worship would happen. We had allowed worship to be simply what the worship leaders and choirs were doing, and since that wasn’t our job, we had become disconnected from the planning and leading of worship.
I’m sure we were walking a street that travels in both directions, but as the leaders of the church we should have been more intentional to make it clear that the whole service is worship, and that we were involved in it, participating and leading. So we resolved to focus on worship, and creating services of worship. This of course meant that the pastors needed to work more closely with the worship leaders, and the choir. As we did this we noticed that the service itself started to feel more coherent, and unified.
But I also realized that the people I was leading worship with didn’t have a clear sense of what worship really is, they didn’t have a big enough theology of worship to allow it to be more than just the songs. This blog series is meant to fill in the picture and expand for pastors and worship leaders a vision of worship big enough to include the whole service and all of life. I hope this helps them find common ground on which to work and worship together.
A Basic Definition
Let’s begin with the main question: What is worship? How would you define worship?
If we simply look at the word, “worship” comes from an old English term, “worth-ship.” “Worth” is the primary idea behind worship: it is about recognizing and giving worth to someone or something. In addition to this basic definition, the Biblical words for worship include ideas of honoring (to bow down), giving service (or sacrifice), and showing respect (sometimes called “fear”).
Any of these words could be applied to a person, or even to things, but Christian worship is ultimately about ascribing worth to God, as Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” John’s vision of God’s heavenly throne room is a vision of unending worship. God is worshiped in heaven because he is worthy of worship. John also sees the Lamb, Jesus, who with God is worthy of glory and honor (5:9, 10, 12). The climax of this vision is that God and the Lamb are worshiped by everyone and everything: “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (5:13). Worship is much bigger than just the style we use on Sunday. Worship is a heavenly reality we get to enter into from earth.
It probably goes without saying, but it is possible that worship be directed, or misdirected to lesser things, those things less worthy of our worship. Christian worship is about the honor, service, and respect of our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Lord is worthy above everyone and everything to receive the worship of His people.
We will add to this basic definition and talk about some of the ways we worship in future posts. But for now, how does this basic definition of worship challenge you about what we do in our worship services? How does the vision of Revelation 4-5 expand your understanding of worship?