What is Worship?

Dear friends..

I blog a lot about leading worship and having proper perspective on the subject of worship, and I felt it important to lay a foundation on what worship is.

What is worship?  Worship, in its simplest definition, is an act that places worth on something.  And the truth of the matter is that everyone indeed worships something, be it self, money, power, an ideal, or anything.  I believe that worship by its nature forces the worshiper to pledge allegiance: we eventually become consumed by the object of our worship.

Isaiah 43:7 says that we were created for God’s glory, to worship Him.  To worship God is part of the fabric of human beings; it is wired into our DNA.  Darlene Zschech puts it beautifully: “It is the ultimate expression our existence craves.”  God seeks for us to worship Him (John 4:23).

I deeply believe that worship inevitably happens when man catches even a glimpse of the Glory of God.  In moments when I behold His wonder-filled presence, it is my knee-jerk reaction to worship… and it is yours, too (Romans 14:11)!

Too often, though, worship gets flattened out and reduced to a neat package of songs, but worship itself is so much larger.  Romans 12:1-2 makes it clear that worship necessarily involves our entire lives.  Worship by definition must involve sacrifice––it must be costly.  King David confesses, “I will not offer to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24; for a similar example, see also Luke 21:1-4).  We cannot bring to God merely a portion of ourselves or a nice, comfortable offering.  The worship of God demands that we present our entire selves.

Worship is a choice that starts from the inside-out.  It is never performance-based, deed-based, or merit-based.  It is always heart-based (Psalm 51:17).  In fact, God is displeased with our “worship” when we practice the what but forget the why (Amos 5:21-24).  It is important to remember, too, that it is the Spirit of God who enables us to worship (1 Corinthians 12:3), and He will continually teach us how to best worship.

Philosopher and author C.S. Lewis says, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.”  And it’s true.  Worshiping God enlightens mankind and causes us to ‘look up’ to greater things.  It is in worshiping God that we find ultimate peace, satisfaction, and purpose.

So then, in a practical sense, what does worship look like?  It is thoughts, words, and actions motivated by a heart that humbly desires to please God.  It is surrendering self for God’s greater glory.  It is deciding that God is more important than holding onto unforgiveness or disobedience.  It is deciding to serve God even in the most desperate and painful of times.  And such a life will be marked by certain signs, including the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Friends, this is certainly not an exhaustive presentation on the theology of worship, but I hope it gives you a fresh perspective.  It is our purpose.. the calling of every single individual who has ever lived and who ever will live.  We exist for the glory of God.  And, oh, how He takes such GREAT delight in us.  He delights to stoop and bless us, responding to our praises.

Worship leaders, I pray this gives you some sort of insight into the why behind the what, and that you are refreshed and encouraged.  Let me leave you with a simple Scripture verse:

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord!  (Psalm 150:6)

So much love…
Josh

P.S.
It was brought to my attention that I had somehow disabled the comments section below!  I hope that I have fixed this now…  I appreciate all the feedback, emails, and tweets I receive for these blogs.  Some of you have great things to say, and I think others would certainly benefit from your thoughts.  Please leave some of your own thoughts in the comments below.  I would love to dialogue with you.  Thanks!

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