Expanding Our Worship Vocabulary

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,


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6 Responses to Expanding Our Worship Vocabulary

  1. Miriam January 18, 2012 at 6:55 PM #

    Your blog is a really nice, and I love how you always point to Jesus Christ and bring scripture into the picture! :) I will definitely visit more often!

  2. Mark March 29, 2016 at 12:36 PM #

    I am reviewing website descriptions of what the church I am serving in does. This blog is very helpful in evaluating how to say what we want to say. I have your book on one of my shelves. I think I should pull it down and go through it.

    • Bob Kauflin March 29, 2016 at 1:51 PM #

      Mark, I think my book could be helpful…but let me know!

  3. Clara Lidia Garcia Ramirez February 14, 2018 at 1:48 PM #

    I give Glory to God because i was able to find your blog, how beautiful is the Holy Spirit, that provide you this wisdom to share your experiences with all of us. May God bless you and your ministry ten times more than how much you’re blessing mine.

  4. Dawn Smith September 24, 2018 at 1:33 PM #

    I am a the music minister (notice I did not say “worship” leader) in our church. We are struggling greatly as a congregation with an understanding of what worship means and how to go about it. I am so grateful that the Lord helped me stumble upon your website! In 15 minutes I have solved some of my own issues as the music minister, but also it has given me some tools, and very BIBLICAL ones, to use to possibly help bring our congregation together into worship for God and not worshiping the experience. I have been asked to make an introduction to each hymn in service which has put me outside of my comfort zone because of not being able to come up with words and comments that feel fluid and various other reasons. As I read this blog, I realized I do not need my own words….I only need HIS. The Psalmist’s scriptures are a perfect introduction to asking a congregation to rise and sing! They also allow me to use His words to instruct the congregation on singing and worship. Thank you for your biblical insights and inspired writing. You are a blessing!

    • Bob Kauflin September 24, 2018 at 2:55 PM #

      Thanks, Dawn! So glad my site served you!

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