Worship…what is it?

Worship, in the Christian traditions, has taken on many forms and expressions…but what is it? Bob Roglein, in his book, “Experiential Worship”, makes an excellent point, “Ultimately it doesn’t matter what we are saying or doing in worship if we don’t know what it means” (Rognlien, 2005, p. 88). This is true, when we consider that ‘who we worship’ is foundational to ‘how we worship’.

The editor of “Worship Leader Magazine”, Chuck Fromm applies the working definition of worship across our diverse expressions thus,

It is the opinion of Worship Leader magazine that the centre of worship communities is the preaching of the Scripture, which in partnership with the Holy Spirit of God, becomes the Word. From this central act of worship, a community is formed and constantly reformed. Music serves the reading and preaching of Scripture and ultimately the responsive process, but it is not the main thing. God chose the word “Word” to represent Him. Jesus was thus the “speech of God.” Word is therefore a metaphor for God. Singing, it can be argued, is a form of speech. We often refer to music in God’s house as sung prayer. But speech is a broader communicational concept than merely a song. For example, Psalm 19 speaks of nature pouring out praise to God, day and night. (Fromm, 2007, p. 6)

I like the theological balance conveyed in Fromm’s description of worship. It’s central theme is focused on God’s Word and allows choice expressions, such as singing, to find their way into our ever evolving traditions. It could be argued, however, that we are only ever one step away from disrupting the ‘theological balance’. Gary Parret writes, “Almost every time I hear the word worship used by believers today, it is clear that they are referring to singing praises” (Parrett, 2005, p. 40).

I know that I have found myself ‘over-balancing’ on many more occassions than I would like to admit. Activities, such as singing do play an important role in many of today’s worship traditions, but we must continually assess through self and group reflection whether our focus remains squarely focused on God’s Word or whether other fancies, such as singing, have won our attention.


About Dr Daniel K. Robinson

Daniel is a freelance artist and educator. In 2011 Daniel completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. He has served as the Australian Voice Association (AVA) National President (2018–20), National Vice President (2009–11) and National Secretary for the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (2006–11) and was awarded the ANATS National Certificate of Recognition for service to the profession in 2012. Daniel is the principal Singing Voice Specialist for Djarts (www.djarts.com.au) and presents workshops and seminars to church singers across Australia and abroad. He and his wife Jodie have three children and live in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Posted on May 15, 2009, in Worship - Definition and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the post Daniel.

    What I love about the definition above is the centrality of the Scripture in corporate worship.Indeed, it’s right to go on and say that this hearing of the Word, expounded in preaching and bible reading, is formational for the church, and also constantly reformational.
    Just one quick provocative thought on the fly….
    On worship when we gather corporately, do you think it is healthy to still call our meeting in a certain building “in God’s house” as the definition above seems to?
    Something for us to think about and discuss.

  2. Thinking further, I must say that we cannot ignore the clear biblical teaching that worship by individuals and God’s people is not just a once a week corporate thing.
    Have you read David Peterson’s “Engaging with God”?

  3. Hi David,

    Firstly, thanks for contributing to the blog.

    David Peterson’s “Engaging with God” is on my ‘to read’ list…so in short; no I have not had the opportunity to read it yet. Regardless, I do agree with your comment that, “clear biblical teaching [on] worship by individuals and God’s people is not just a once a week corporate thing.” Sadly, the individualisation of worship is an all too familiar culture within our modern worship paradigms, and not merely for the reason of the ‘familiar trinity of I , Me, My’ (Parrett, 2005) which is so readily written into our modern chorus’; moreover because we have lost our focus on who we worship. As D. A. Carson so nicely puts it:

    Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. (Carson, 2002)

    Carson, D. A. (Ed.). (2002). Worship by the Book. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    Parrett, G. A. (2005). 9.5 THESES ON WORSHIP. Christianity Today, 49(2), 38-42.

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