Having looked at a few definitions of worship (although I realize I’m barely scratching the surface), I wanted to offer some practical ideas for changing the way we talk about worship. Some of these are so ingrained in our vocabulary, I feel radical even suggesting them.
1. When using “worship” as a verb, include the direct object. (My apologies to those of you who thought you’d never have to think about grammar again.) We aren’t simply gathering to worship – we’re worshipping the Father, our merciful God, our great Redeemer, etc. So, “I love to worship!” becomes, “I love to worship the Savior!” “Let’s worship!” becomes “Let’s worship our glorious God!”
2. Limit the times you use “worship” as an adjective. (More grammar.) Most of us live in a culture of worship music, worship styles, worship CD’s, worship songs, worship conferences, worship videos, worship t-shirts, etc., etc. While some of these uses are legitimate, we’ve probably passed the saturation point.
3. Avoid using adjectives to describe worship. (Don’t you wish you paid attention in English class?) How did the early Christians survive without Celtic worship, liturgical worship, contemporary worship, prophetic worship, emerging worship, traditional worship, alternative worship, charismatic worship, post-modern worship, X-er worship, Boomer worship, and Buster worship? (Sorry if I didn’t mention your church.) Most of these phrases refer to music styles or forms, not our worship. And it’s good to remember that unless our worship is offered to God through Jesus, it’s not accepted anyway. (1 Pet. 2:4-5)
(Let me interrupt this list to say again that altering our speech won’t automatically make us authorities on biblical worship. But it may keep us from distorting or limiting what it means to truly worship God. And that’s a good thing.)
4. Use words in addition to “worship” to describe what we do when we sing together in meetings. Alternatives include corporate praise, congregational song, exalting God in song, or simply, “the singing time.”
5. Apply the category of “worship” to activities other than singing. On Sundays, we frequently tell the church that we’re going to “continue to worship God through giving our tithes and offerings.” While singing God’s praises is an act of worship, so is preaching, as is listening to a sermon with a desire to respond to God’s Word. Evangelism, serving, encouraging others, and everything we do can be seen as an act of worship to God. (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)
6. Find terms other than “worship leader” to describe the person who leads the singing in your church. Possibilities include worship pastor, lead musician, music team leader, music pastor, corporate worship leader, leader of corporate praise, one who leads the congregation in the act of lifting their hearts and voices to God. (Okay, that might be a little long.)
7. Finally, substitute other words and phrases when you would typically say “worship.” Once I asked some men in a discipleship group to write out a one page definition of “worship” without using the word. It was a challenging but helpful exercise. The Psalmists don’t seem to struggle in this area:
Ps. 95:1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psa. 34:3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Ps. 96:2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name.
Ps. 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.
Ps. 150:6 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
We have no greater privilege than bringing glory to our merciful and magnificent Savior. Let’s work hard at expanding our worship vocabulary to reflect the infinite greatness of the One for Whom and through Whom we exist.
Thanks for reading, and have a God-glorifying weekend,