Defining Worship

Last year I was part of a 9-month theology and worship seminar. The very first (and very last) assignment of the seminar was this: To write a definition of Christian worship.

This might seem easy…maybe even elementary…but I challenge you to try it. Define Christian worship in a sentence or two. It’s not easy (Perhaps in a future post I will share my definition).

I share this challenge because definitions matter. English can be a squishy language. Often we talk past each other, or hold silly disagreements based on a lack of understanding rather than disagreements of substance.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” — A.W. Tozer

It is pretty much impossible to define worship without having a working definition of God. This is the basis of many theological misunderstandings — we start with the details rather than the primary assumption of who God is.

Fortunately, we aren’t the first ones to think about God. Who is God? What is God’s nature and purpose? What is God’s relationship with human beings?

I don’t have all of the answers to these questions…I don’t even know if I have a handle on most of the right questions. However, as I read history and theology I find a trail of thought that is appealing. There is a precision to good theology that is lacking in most modern discourse.

All of this to say…when we gather to worship we should bring our minds as well as our hearts and voices. Those of us who lead congregational worship should be careful with our language, because the language we use shapes our (and our congregation’s) idea of God.

*As an exercise, I challenge you to write a definition of worship. Revisit your definition periodically…perhaps even share it with others who can help shape your understanding of worship. You may not find the perfect definition, but I can promise you that you will grow as a result of thinking deeply on worshiping God.





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