A Taize Type Chant on Micah 6:8
The Whole World in God's Hands - Prayers Rooted in Providence

What is Worship?

This is an article that featured Todd Johnson and Ed Willmington address the question "What is Worship?"  It helps to get inside of the heads of these two worship gurus.



Pastors’ Gathering Explores Worship Issues

Worship was the topic of Fuller’s semiannual President’s Breakfast for Pastors held Thursday, November 9, with speakers Todd Johnson and Ed Willmington, both of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts. More than 100 attended the event in Payton Hall.

“What and who is our worship for? Why do we worship?” These must be central questions we ask in our churches, said Todd Johnson, the William K. and Delores S. Brehm Associate Professor of Worship, Theology and the Arts at Fuller. In his talk “Worship Choices: Going Beyond the Categories,” Johnson discussed what we can learn from early church worship history, and then went on to offer pastors some “neutral terms to help you evaluate what you are doing in your worship, and why.” Professor and author Lester Ruth offers three helpful questions we can ask, he said: First, whose story is being told in your worship—God’s story, or the individual’s story of coming to faith? Second, who do you understand your church to be when you worship—one part of the larger corporate church, or a more autonomous, homegrown congregation? And lastly, where do people find God in your church’s worship—in the Word, table, or music? It is helpful to understand who you are as a church and work to strike a balance between these different elements, Johnson said.

“A Pastoral Approach to Local Church Worship” was the topic of a second talk given by Ed Willmington, director of the Brehm Center’s Fred Bock Institute of Music. First considering how pastors and worship leaders relate to each other, Willmington emphasized the need for a strong level of trust and communication between the two. When bringing worship leaders and musicians into your church, “look past the talent—look for a servant heart,” he urged, and also noted the importance of providing spiritual support and direction to worship team members. “Who is walking alongside them?” he asked. Moving to the pastor-congregation relationship, Willmington stressed the importance of studying and preaching specifically about worship. Congregants need to understand, he said, that “worship is a verb—something you do, not something that is done to you!” Involving the congregation in worship-centered seminars and formalizing a congregational statement about worship are also helpful practices, he noted.

A time for questions and answers with both speakers followed the talks, led by Brehm Center Academic Director Clayton Schmit. “However we conduct our worship,” Schmit said in conclusion, “let us serve the One who is worthy. Then we will be on the right track.”


Tom Trinidad

What is Worship?

From my days in seminary, through various pastoral settings, and now even following my graduate work in liturgy, a definition of worship I’ve found helpful is “to direct our attention and activity towards God.” Having recently reviewed Hotz and Matthews’ Shaping the Christian Life [“The Shaping of the Liturgy” in Call to Worship 41.1 (2007-2008)], I might alliteratively add “affection” as well, referring to both the more superficial “emotions” and the more formative affections in the sense employed by Hotz and Matthews (who borrow from Edwards).

“Directing attention, affection, and activity towards God,” renders another trio (cf. Lester Ruth’s) of helpful questions for planning and evaluating worship. When our people leave worship, have they thought about, felt, and dedicated themselves to God’s interest in the world? Have they been inspired to love God with all their mind, heart, and strength in love for their neighbors? If not, have they worshiped the God of Christ? And if not, haven’t we failed as worship leaders?

A further application of this definition extends beyond the ecclesial synaxis. Lending itself to a more sacramental or vocational perspective, we can routinely ask ourselves in our work, play, and leisure whether our attention, affection, or activity are directed towards God. If so, our entire lives are worship in the Romans 12:1 sense.


Excellent comments Tom and points well taken.
Beyond vocation, those are great questions to ask ourselves daily in each context.

The comments to this entry are closed.