Worship Is A Verb

Andy Stanley points out “Christians, and church leaders in particular, use the term worship loosely. Let’s face it: We use the term as an adjective… We have worship music, worship leaders, worship centres, and worship services.” Andy Stanley Deep & Wide.p.214

Worship isn’t an adjective.
Worship is a verb.
Worship isn’t a thing. It is something that we do.

Is it possible that the reason we have worship wars and complain about anything we can think about when it comes to communal church worship is that we treat it as something, anything, other than a verb? We to often focus on our preferences rather than the God to whom we worship.

Leonard Sweet points out, “You don’t attend worship; you attend a concert. You participate in worship. You contribute to worship.” Leonard Sweet Giving Blood.p.257

Is it possible the concert trend in worship is because we the congregation has ceased to be participants? After all, if people won’t engage, maybe, we can at least entertain. I am not saying this is what has happened, but possibly it is a contributing factor. It is also possible that the increase in performance and having lyrically cool songs, that we have inadvertently weeded out participation.

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I have a feeling that our lack of theological understanding of the purpose of communal worship has brought us to this point, but we’ll save that discussion for a later post.

Way back worship songs were Psalms and other like Scriptures. As the popular music of the time changes, so did the worship styles. Changes within church music aren’t a new phenomenon. I remember hearing a story about people complaining about a new church song in the 1800s. They said the song was too secular as well as other unchoice words. That song was Ode To Joy.

Just as the typical church song in the 1800s was a reimagining of the drinking songs of the day, so much of the current popular worship songs are on trend with today’s contemporary music. Complete with synth tracks, drum loops, guitar solos, and complex, ambiguous lyrical structures and melodies.

It may take time to teach our congregations what it means for worship to be a verb. In the meantime, maybe we need to try and meet them halfway. Perhaps we need to be a little more selective with our song choices. Reminiscent of the drinking 17century drinking song turn to church hymns we need to find songs that have a current style with easy melodies and lyrical substance that teaches them about a God whose love compels us to worship.

It is just a suggestion, but this might help us see that worship is a verb.

Check out the resources used in this post


2 thoughts on “Worship Is A Verb

  1. Josh, you are bang on. It was in my Pastoral Theology course in 2016 that the author of one of my readings stated that even listing to a sermon is worship.

    The idea that listening to a sermon struck me, as I had considered worship as a verb in a one way communication.
    Yet prior to my retirement, many of the professional workshops I attended involving communication addressed the issue of active listening. This wasn’t an aha moment for me, rather, it was a duh moment.

    Since that lesson, I have included comments in my lessons and sermons that address worship as a verb. We are to ask God for help, guidance, and direction. Believers and non-believers alike know that. Somewhere along the line in my study on the Psalms, one commentator stated that David gave praise to God before asking God for anything. Yet in church how often do we open a service with a prayer of invitation for God to join us? When I open a service, I am now mindful to thank God for something before asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s Truth to us as He ministers to our hearts.

    And this is why I say I had a duh moment, rather than an aha moment. For 30+ years in my profession, I needed to allow people the time to say what they needed to say. I had difficulty with that because when supporting technology, a person can talk for 5 minutes about their problems or complaint when you know within the first 20 seconds what the problem and solution is.

    And I think when it comes to praise we must challenge our worship leaders by asking if we should be satisfied singing words that say “we are worshiping you God”, as if He didn’t already know what we were trying to do. Should we take Jesus parable and proclaim with our lips that God’s love is somehow “reckless”? Relentless absolutely; reckless no way!

    Don’t get me wrong here; I am not advocating hymns only services. What I am advocating is teaching the believer to think holistically about worship. Actively listening to a service may challenge the believer to actively meditate on God’s word during the week. Active listening is required to hear those words the Holy Spirit speaks into our lives. Actively participating in corporate worship engages us within a community.

    After all, isn’t Christianity all about relationships?


    1. Right on. This isn’t about songs or style or whatnot. It is about worshiping God.

      Now, as far as reckless love goes, I do think in the terms of our perspective of God’s love it is reckless. For he lavishes it on everyone and more of the time it is unrequited and met with rejection. If that were anyone else in our life we would imperfectly say, “be careful who you give your heart to.” Yet, God gives us his heart over and over.
      Anyway, I guess we should all strive to worship him because he is great!


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