Worship is recognizing and responding in adoration and submission to the presence of God.
Worship is a term that covers everything from our life choices to a formal church service to a personal time of devotion with God. A complete worship definition, then, needs to include each of these areas. To help cover all of the nuances of a complete worship definition, this article is divided into four sections:
Worship Definition – Broad Meaning
Christian worship is recognizing and responding in adoration and submission to the presence of God through Jesus Christ. Worship is a very broad concept and should include all aspects of our life, not just our formal worship or devotional time.
Lifestyle not ritual
One of the greatest errors Christians make is to believe that worship is an action that is restricted to a specific time and/or place. Many people connect worship only with their devotional time or their Sunday worship service. Others restrict it in their minds even further to only the music time of the Sunday service.
This is a grave error. The Bible is full of warnings that God is more concerned with our lifestyle than our worship-style. God looks at our heart not our rituals.
For example, in Amos 5:21-24 God warns Israel that He will reject their worship. He will reject them because of their unrighteous and unjust behavior.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen. Amos 5:23
When our lifestyle is in opposition to our verbal worship God will reject our songs and declarations of praise. God has no interest in our fake flattery. God is not fooled by our pious rituals. True worship of God is reflected in our daily behavior.
The most important part of your worship is your daily choices and actions. A life dedicated to living in God's presence is a life of worship. A life dedicated to yourself is still a life of worship – but it is a life of self worship.
“There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” David Foster Wallace
Worship Definition – Personal Worship
Personal Worship is the act of spending time with God on a regular basis for the purpose of deepening our love and respect for God and being changed into the image of Christ.
Worship begins at home. Therefore, true worship starts with your personal time with God. Our lifestyle of worship and our corporate worship should be an outward reflection of our personal worship.
Like all worship, personal worship requires that we recognize God presence and then respond to that presence. Bible reading and prayer are usually form the core of our personal worship time.
Bible Reading and Prayer
Every believer should spend time each day developing their personal relationship with God. We don't have to limit our times of personal worship to bible reading and prayer, but those two elements should form the foundation of our daily time with God.
Through bible reading we learn to recognize God's presence and listen to Him, and through pray we enter into communion with God – thanking Him, praising Him, sharing our desires and needs and silently waiting upon Him.
Worship Definition – Corporate Worship
Corporate Worship is the body of Christ coming together to honor and adore God in Christ. This is traditionally done every Sunday morning and, in some traditions, Sunday night and Wednesday night, but could include any gathering of Christians where God is the focus of the meeting.
Worship Does Not Equal Music
Corporate Worship is often mistakenly understood to be the music portion of a worship service. But, in reality, the whole service is a time of worship. It is important for Christian leaders to realize that all of a service is, or should be, designed to draw people into the presence of God so that they can be changed by His presence. Each element in the service should help people draw closer to God.
Every Element Should Be Worship
We can easily see many of the elements in this light: Singing, Scripture Reading, Sermon and Communion are all clearly designed to help us honor God and respond to His word and presence. Many Christians forget that the offering is a time for them to respond to God. By giving to God something of value to themselves the offering is certainly a time of submission, trust and worship. Even the announcements can be a time of worship if we see them as a reflection of the life of the body of Christ.
The key to Corporate Worship is to focus on the heart and not the rituals (and all churches have their rituals/order of service/liturgy) and realize that all of the service is about worship. It is all about helping people draw closer to God and submit to His Lordship or it is not worthy of being in the service at all.