What is “Worship” & How Do I Do it “Fully?”

QUICK SUMMARY: This week, as we start the Advent Conspiracy series, the subject is worshiping fully. But what if you do not know what it looks like to worship? What if the word “worship” is an enigma, an ethereal, intangible concept that does not translate to practical everyday life? Or maybe when you hear worship you think about the music on Sunday morning? Well, if that is you, and you are a little fuzzy on this whole “worship” thing, we would like to bring some clarification to the topic for you. We hope that by the end of this article you not only have a better understanding of what true worship really is, but also have a tangible, practical step or two to take in order to move closer to God through worship.

If you keep reading we will answer the following questions: 

  1. What is Worship?
  2. Do we only worship on Sunday morning?
  3. Is worship just music?
  4. Does worship look the same for everyone?
  5. What is different about worship during the holidays?
  6. What does your worship look like now? How can you take it to the next level?

Looking for more? Keep reading!

by Kendra Hamby

GO DEEPER: (Read the QUICK SUMMARY first.)

1. What is worship?
Let’s start at the very beginning. What is worship? Worship, simply speaking, is a human response to God. More specifically, it is a human response that honors God for who he is and what he does. We worship when we acknowledge that God is worthy of our respect and reverence through a response in our hearts (emotions, decision) and life (actions, words). It is our response to him that is generated by learning who he is and how he is toward us—his goodness, his power, his grace, his forgiveness, his love, etc. That response can manifest in many ways, including but not limited to, spoken, felt or performed praise, thanks, reverence, and obedience. To worship is to ascribe, attribute, or assign worth to something or someone. To worship is to show honor, preference, and deference. We have a big, amazing God whose ways and thoughts are far higher than our own. A God who created the universe and yet knows how many hairs are on our heads. A great God who is not too great to give us a life that is abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. That being said, does it not follow that such a being should be celebrated and acknowledged and esteemed?

Worship, simply speaking, is a human response to God.

2. Do we only worship on Sunday morning?
Simply speaking, no. Worship, while done on Sunday morning, should not be limited to Sunday. When properly and fully understood, worship is a way of life. The things we do during our week can be, and essentially are, worship. The question is, what or who are we worshiping? What or who do we spend our money, time, energy, and love on, and our time thinking about? I do not want you to hear that the only thing you can ever do is be at church and think about God. Obviously, you have to pay bills and take care of your family. We just want to make sure that we are not putting other aspects of life before God. Does he get our prime time, or whatever little we may or may not have left by the time our day is over? Are we giving God our full attention when we are talking with him or are we distracted by life, worn out from the day, or still waking up? Does he get us first, when we are at our best, or not?

On another note, one way we worship God is by obeying him, honoring his wishes, and living our life in his will. So, when you take care of your family in order to honor God, that is worship. When we honor God and treat him with the respect and the authority he deserves, we are worshiping. Every act of life can and should be an act of devotion to God. Making God the lord of our life and subsequently acting like it, is an indirect form of worship.

The question is, what or who are we worshiping?

3. Is worship just music?
Again, no. On a Sunday morning there are several elements in a “worship” experience and each of those can be a form of worship, depending on how we treat them. Yes, the music which is most widely seen as worship, the music can produce worship in our hearts, but it is not the only form. Listening to the message to learn ways to honor God is a form of worship. We are delving into the word of God to talk about how to live our lives in worship. When we tithe we are engaging in worship as well. By giving back a portion of what God gave us we are saying that God is worthy of our finances. The altar time, communion, and prayer are also worship. Taking the time to lift God up and ask him to make a change in our lives and hearts, to become Lord of our lives, honors him and is worship.

Be sure that you realize that you can sing worship songs, get every word and note right, and not worship. You can do all the things I just mentioned, quite religiously, and not worship. If our motive is anything other than to honor, please and serve God, it is not worship. If we give more to get, out of obligation or duty alone, to try to control God, because we want to impress, or avoid some sort of cosmic karma, it is not worship. Singing about God, giving money to the church, listening to truth about God from the Bible can be mere religion (outward function apart from an inward relationship) if we are engaging in it for selfish reasons, or for reason we cannot articulate, or for any purpose other than esteeming God as our great God.

We can sing worship songs, get every word and note right, and not worship.

4. Does worship look the same for everyone?
God made us all differently by giving us different personalities, likes, dislikes, passions, gifts and talents. Why then would we think that everyone’s worship would look the same? Granted, there are elements of worship that are always present, but people are going to express their worship in a way that makes sense and feels natural to them. Some people worship with motion and outward posture and dance. While others are less expressive and will show their adoration with a quieter reverence. Neither are wrong, just different. Now, are there moments that warrant a silent more reserved show of thanks? Yes. And are there moments when a certain posture can help shift our inner posture? Yes. Those are moments that cab be spoken into and explained by a leader to help people engage more fully. In general, people will worship in a way that lines up with their personality. A quiet, shy person may not feel comfortable raising their hands and being overly emotive. When we feel uncomfortable it is hard to focus on praising. Alternatively, someone who is very expressive might feel stifled by thinking they have to present a somber posture. And, getting pushed out of either of those comfort zones (the shy becoming more demonstrative and the expressive becoming more reserved) may be good because it helps our response and expression to God be deliberate and less automatic, habitual, and protentional devoid of real feeling.

The important thing is that we intentionally engage our heart and mind and not let the season rush by without stopping frequently to reflect, remember, and express.

5. What is different about worship during the holidays?
During the Christmas season our worship should be focused on and directed toward the Christmas story and what it means. Christmas celebrates the truth that God sent his only son to this earth. A son who would eventually die so that we might live. It was the greatest (undeserved) gift of all. So, during the year-end holidays, our worship will center more on being thankful and praising Jesus Christ. We deliberately call to mind what he gave up in sacrifice to come and dwell with us for a season. We tell ourselves and others why that sacrifice is so special and worth of honor. The songs we sing tell the Christmas story. The messages we hear talks about what the night was leading up to. Even our traditions can be an act of worship if we center them around Christ and what his coming to earth meant. Our giving, if done from the right heart and with the right motives, is a symbol of the gift Christ gave. Many people serve at shelters and soup kitchens during the holidays to give to those less fortunate than themselves. When we serve the needy we remember the selfless way God gave to us we are give his love to others as he did to us, and that is a form of worship. The important thing is that we intentionally engage our heart and mind and not let the season rush by without stopping frequently to reflect, remember, and express.

6. What does worship look like to you now? How can you take it to the next level?
We have talked about a lot of aspects of worship, but how do we take worship in our own life to the next level? We would start by deciding what worship looks like to us now. Maybe we were of the understanding that worship is just music, in which case, start by engaging your heart in worship during other aspects of the Sunday morning service beyond the music. Actively listen to the message and work on steps to apply what you learned to your life, out of reverence for God, not just because it makes life or relationship better or easier. Start looking at your financial gift during the offering as an act of worship, done to show honor and respect to the God from who all good things come. Make that moment more reverent and meaningful rather than just automatic. Say a short quiet prayer of honor or thanks as you place the gift in the basket. Maybe Sunday morning is not where you find a lack in your worship. Maybe it is through the week? Make sure you are setting aside regular time to read the Bible and talk with God. Remember to pray through your day, even about the little things that may seem insignificant to a big God. Focus your heart and mind on God every morning when you get up and every night before going to bed. Set an alarm sometime during (at lunch?) the day that will remind you to connect with God in the middle your hectic life. Whatever your worship looks like now, just take one step closer to God. Every time we take that one step in God’s direction we are moving in the direction of healthy worship.

Worship is less about what we do and more about why we do it, or better, who we do it for?

To “worship fully” this Christmas season, do two things:

  1. Think About Worship – Give some thought to what worship, as we defined it here, really is. It is less about what we do and more about why we do it, or better, who we do it for? Do we do what we do for ourselves, or maybe even more for others, rather than for God and in cooperation with his leading? Do we go through our days doing what we feel is right and good without bringing God significantly into the conversation and decisions?
  2. Redirect Your Worship – Once you have reflectied on what worship is and who you are showing honor to in your life, what can you do to direct it more consistently and fully toward God rather than elsewhere? You may not need to do more. (Wouldn’t that be nice!?!) You may just need to do what you already do with more intention, for different reasons, and for a person more worthy of our honor.

The Christmas holiday is great place to begin and the perfect time of year to think differently about our worship. The gift of God that we celebrate at Christmas, and the God who gave it, is never more clearly show to be worthy of our reverence and honor than when we contemplate the extreme and loving way he chose to say and show how much he loves us!

If you are interested in getting some direction from a spiritual coach
to help you worship fully this Christmas, and all year through,

visit The Two Rivers Counseling Center’s page and click “Get Coaching.”

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash