There are many ways of defining, describing, and illustrating what worship is—at its core. If we strip away the particular songs and structures (which vary from church to church and culture to culture), what IS worship? A definition we work with here at Point Place UCC goes like this:
we reap the expression of praise and the formation of lives.
Thus, the goal of worship is to help the people of God develop roots into the Story (the Scriptures, the Gospel, the Story of God’s work in the world), and then to create space where God’s people can express praise in response to that Story and have their lives formed by that Story.
What fits your definition? What challenges it? What implications do each of these definitions have for the practice of worship?
- John Piper: “Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth.”
- Robert Webber: “Worship does God’s story...The story of God is communicated in the narrative of Word and Table...I find thinking about worship in terms of content, structure, and style is a good way to organize our thoughts.”
- Eugene Peterson: “Worship is the primary means by which we immerse ourselves in the rhythms and stories of God’s work, get a feel for proper work, creation work…When we walk out of the place of worship we walk with fresh, recognizing eyes and a re-created, obedient heart into the world in which we are God’s image participating in God’s creation work. Everything we see, touch, feel Everything we see, touch, feel, and taste carries within it the rhythms of “And God said … and it was so … and it was good….” We become adept at discerning the Jesus-signs and picking up on the Jesus-words that reveal the presence and the glory. We are more deeply in and at home in the creation than ever.”
- Thomas Oden: “Worship is not finally a matter of serving or satisfying human feelings, but of serving and rightly glorifying God through song, proclamation, teaching, and acts of mercy.”
- Abraham J. Heschel: “Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God.”
- David Crowder: “Worship and justice go hand in hand. If what you’re singing doesn’t change what you do, what’s the point of singing?”
The Worship Architect, by Constance M. Cherry [See Church Library], especially:
- An image of how different musical styles converge in worship
- A breakdown of the seasons of the Church Year
- An introduction to different worship styles
- A simple 10-step checklist for designing worship services
The 1-page description of what we can learn from how some other Christian traditions worship,
“Creating a Worship Space” visual to be inspired by different worship spaces.
Rachel Held Evans’ article, “Stop Trying to Make Worship Cool,” about what we should really be shooting for as we shape worship.
Richard Foster’s image-filled article, “Renewal Through Worship,” which describes the variety we need in worship.
What to Watch
Francis Chan’s video, “What Is Worship?”
BiFrost Arts’ intro videos which asks some of the key questions facing us about worship: “Liturgy, Music, and Space,” “Learning Lamentation,” “The Cry of the Poor”
What to Listen to
Valerie Hess’ podcast, “Worship as Spiritual Formation.”
Talks from the “Cry of the Poor” Conference
What to Ponder
- John Dorhauer: “What would you do if the only goal was to create a moment where the sacred is encountered?”
- Thurman William: “We need worship services to be not just ‘seeker friendly’ but ‘suffering friendly.’”
· Psalm 95
- Isaiah 6:1-8
· Luke 7:36-50
· Revelation 4
What Resources to Know
Bifrost Arts: this is a worship music group with a deep theological foundation for worship
https://cardiphonia.org/resources/: a site with links to more worship resources and ideas
http://re-worship.blogspot.com/: great site for prayers catalogued by seasons/themes
http://www.reformedworship.org/: an archived journal with ideas for sermon series, themes, and different insights into worship
http://www.messychurch.org.uk/: some ideas for involving children in worship