Why spend time defining worship? Is it really that big a deal? Isn’t it more important that we simply do it?
It’s hard for us to know whether or not we’re doing something if we’re not sure what that “something” is. If I define “eating” as simply looking at food, you wouldn’t enjoy coming over to my house to “eat.” If “breathing” is something I only do when I get with a group of people on Sunday mornings, then how do I describe what I do the rest of the time?
I heard theologian David Peterson say that defining words is important because not only do we use words, but words use us. That’s true, even if we’re unaware of it. Once we assign meaning to a word, it both reflects and shapes our world view. That’s why conversations about evangelicalism, the emerging church, or even Christianity can be confusing. We have to agree on what those words actually MEAN.
“Worship” is anther one of those words. When someone refers to worship, they can be talking about any number of things: a time of singing, a meeting, a style of music, a certain type of religious liturgy, a mystical experience, something in contrast to “praise,” or a type of Christian band. Do any of these comments sound familiar?
“By the third song, I was really worshipping.” [Who or what were you worshipping before the third song?]
“Worship gets me to the place where I don’t have to think about anything.” [Worshipping God actually requires thinking very clearly about the Word, works, and worthiness of God.]
“Will there be worship at the meeting?” [Definitely. The question is of who or what.]
“With only 20 minutes, we really didn’t have time to worship.” [As though we “warm up” to worship God, rather than seek to honor him with our every thought and action.]
“Fred is doing the worship this morning.” [Hopefully, everyone else will join in.]
“I really love your worship.” [This is a comment I sometimes get after leading God’s praise in song. I usually respond by saying, “I hope you worshipped too!”]
“Susie’s a real worshipper!” [This probably means that Susie is physically expressive when she sings songs of praise to God. Whether that means she’s a worshipper of God or not requires a little more information.]
Please don’t misunderstand these comments. I’m not encouraging anyone to become the “word police.” There are few things more obnoxious than someone who misses your main point because they’re adjusting your use of a certain word (and my friends have told me more than once I’m that obnoxious person). However, thinking and speaking of worship more broadly and biblically will both clarify some of our discussions and, more importantly, contribute to consistently passionate and God-honoring actions in all of life.
Thanks for reading. May the glory and goodness of our Savior, Jesus Christ, fill your view and strengthen your heart today.