Words are very important, and too often words can have many meanings. Worship is one of those words. There are many responses one could get if they were to take a survey of the word “worship”. From different worldviews to different traditions within the stream of Christianity, there are lots of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Various Church cultures within these streams have various associations and implications when they speak of worship. This is why it is important to apply definitions towards words.
A working definition is a word that remains open to being reworked and reshaped as more information is gathered and more ideas considered. Working definitions leave doors open to constructive conversations and keeps people from getting bound up in one, set thought process. Within these conversations, formation may occur as we allow our ideas to collide, and “iron sharpens iron”. It also admits that we are faulty in our word usage, therefore allowing room for unintentional human error.
Although this definition attempts to be holistic and complete in its words, it may still lead unanswered questions as to what worship is. The following working definition of worship will be unpacked for the purpose of this article: “Worship is a response to the holy triune God within the redemptive covenant fellowship for God’s glory by the Holy Spirit, through the Son, to the Father, and brings about transformation in the believer, which is evident through obedience.” If the reader will allow, let us unpack the phrases and words found in this suggested working definition of worship.
Worship as Response
Worship is a response. Entering the presence of the Creator and Redeemer of the world naturally draws a response from those who enter in. This response can come in many forms. The primary response should arguably be one of celebration. God has redeemed his creation and had brought them back into his presence to have fellowship with him. This is cause for great joy! A natural response when first entering God’s presence is one of fear and trembling. As the prophet Isaiah declared in his vision of the throne room of God: “Woe to me! … I am ruined. It is in the presence of God that one realizes just how wretched he is in front of the Majestic One. However, as the Lord says, “Do not be afraid”, the worship enters a state of adoration. Here the worshiper cries “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, the whole earth is full of your glory!”
Worship is also Trinitarian in nature. All three persons of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are deserving of honor, glory and praise. They each have played a unique role in the story of redemption. As Dr. Don Davis puts it: “The Father is the story’s director. He is the one who made it up. It’s his story. The Son is the champion of this story. He’s the one with the big shoulders that in the end will rescue those who deserve to be rescued and change them all. The Spirit is the executed producer. He’s the one that is telling the story and he’s the one that makes it happen. He’s the power behind the story. He gets all the stuff ready. Lines up all the players. He gets all the acts and the scenes together.”
Each person in the Trinity works together to allow worship to occur and to make the worship effective. First, we may consider the covenant that worship occurs within that was just mentioned above. The Father sent the Son, the Son became our high priest, and the Spirit works among us now to transform us. Secondly, the Spirit inspires us to worship the Father, just as he stirs up the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Son receives our worship and makes it pure, then the Son gives our worship the Father. This is how our worship is Trinitarian.
What do you think so far? Would you subscribe to this working definition of worship? Check back next week for Part II of “Unpacking ‘Christian Worship'”!
Jason Palmer is the Editor of TalkingWorship.com. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.