What is Worship?


In an article from Christianity Today, Delesslyn A. Kennebrew says, “Worship is not the slow song that the choir sings. Worship is not the amount you place in the offering basket. Worship is not volunteering in children’s church. Yes, these may be acts or expressions of worship, but they do not define what true worship really is. There are numerous definitions of the word worship. Yet, one in particular encapsulates the priority we should give to worship as a spiritual discipline: Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary). True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness.”

In other words, worship is not about action or singing, but is a posture of heart. A heart that submits to God, a heart that reveres God, and a heart that honors God. While there are many expressions of worship (singing, dancing, praising, serving, standing in awe), worship first begins with devotion to the One True God.

To worship God means to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy.  -Donald Whitney

Our God desires us to worship in both Spirit and Truth. As Jen Wilkin says, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know”. True worship is more than a feeling, though certainly not less. It’s a response to what we know. True worship starts with communion—fellowship with the Father, joy, knowledge, delight and gratitude for Who God is and what He’s done for us through Christ.

What is True Worship?

It’s giving our lives as an offering, a complete surrender to God and living in response to His love and mercy. It’s letting our heart be conformed to His; it’s letting our minds be transformed by Him.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

It’s standing in awe of God and magnifying Him to a world around you.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Psalm 43:3)

It’s serving because he served us.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

It’s love because He first loved us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

It’s singing because He’s put a new song in our mouth.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:3)

It’s celebrating, dancing, and praising because He has done a great thing!
“Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; 
Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150: 1-6)

It’s humility and adoration because He is exalted.
And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. (Revelation 4:8)

It’s forgiving because He forgave us.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

It’s calling out to Him because He called us.
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

It’s devotion because He will never leave or forsake us.
I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

It’s breaking bread, giving thanks, and remembering the cup because His body was broken and His blood was poured out for us.

Worship is an overflow, an expression of understanding God and responding to Him. It’s loving Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s delighting in and desiring Him above all things. It’s our whole life being offered back to God because he gave His life for us.

This week, as we practice the spiritual discipline of worship, how can you meditate on Who God is and What He’s done? How can this knowledge of Him lead you into worship?

Other Resources:

The Cathedral Within by Sam Hart

Redefining Worship by Dorina Gilmore

Living the Ultimate Life by Michele Slayden

Oh the grace reaching out for me . . .


*Photo Credit: My little sister Jennifer Payne, who captured this picture on a walk in her hometown.


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