What is “worship?”

Worship is a very misunderstood idea – an idea that we, the church, have not helped to define.

Taken from the Anglo-Saxon word, “worthscripe,” the word worship simply means “to ascribe worth.” Worship is the action of delight! Whatever you treasure and delight in, you will, by definition, worship. Using this definition, it is possible that we can worship just about anything. I “worship” my wife, for instance, because she is truly an amazing woman – she is worth a lot to me! But saying that I “worship my wife” doesn’t sound right, does it? Why is that?

The reason that statement doesn’t sound right is because we have a particular worldview about worship that says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Jesus restates this truth about worship when he says, “You shall hate your father and mother in relationship to loving me” (Luke 14:26, my paraphrase).  In other words, the reason I can’t say I worship my wife is that this kind of “worship” is supposed to be reserved for our Father in heaven, and for Him alone. So, in light of the Christian worldview, a better definition of worship is “to ascribe worth as deity.”

The problem with our modern conception of worship is that we have limited this “ascribing of worth” to singing at church on Sundays. I am afraid that we have done this to ourselves when we say together, “Hey, the worship team did great this weekend,” or when we read signs outside our churches that say, “Worship services at 9:00 and 11:00.” In speaking like this, we have only propagated the misunderstanding of the word “worship.”

The New Testament has so much more to say about worship, and it goes far beyond singing at church services.


Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritualact of worship.”

In view of all that God is to us in Christ, respond to him by offering everything to him! Worship Him with everything!

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Worship Him in everything, with your time, money, energy… everything!

In John 14:15, we hear Jesus say, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Worship Him by obeying Him… with a pure mind, a submissive heart to governing authorities, with an attitude of forgiveness and thankfulness… obey him!

Psalm 19 says, “The Heavens declare the glory of God.”

Worship Him by being amazed at his creation, both big (cosmos) and small (microscopic)!

The Bible instructs us to display worship through our…

… trust in Him, (John 14:1)

… hope in Him alone, (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

… delight in all that he is, (Psalm 37:4)

… treasuring of His glory and goodness, (Matthew 13:34)

There are countless ways to display worship. Here are a ton more:

      • Silence
      • Time
      • Energy
      • Giving
      • Forgiveness
      • Prayer
      • Work
      • Sacrifice
      • Reading the Word
      • Obedience
      • Witnessing
      • Gaining knowledge of God
      • Right Relationships
      • Obedience
      • Holiness, and
      • Singing!!!!!

Yes, singing. Here it is! Finally, singing is one of the many ways to delight and ascribe worth to the King of the Universe, and it’s demonstrated all through scripture (Psalm 96:1, Psalm 100, Psalm 40:3, and many more passages). It’s just not the only way.

Take this challenge. Take this opportunity right now, to ascribe worth and value to the King of the Universe. In whatever circumstance, location, or trial you are in, take the time today to worship the One who defines goodness, love, and justice.

Head this final warning. When you come into sing at Cornerstone on the weekends, make sure you are working to have a life of worship that undergirds your songs of worship, lest we hear the words from Jesus, “With you lips you honor me, but your hearts are far from me.” (Matt 15:8) May God help us to rightly value and ascribe worth to him.. in all that we do.

Worship the Lord!

Todd Wallace

Worship Pastor, Cornerstone Church of Ames