At the beginning of each chapter in Essential Worship, Greg Scheer gives a quick assignment to help the reader engage in the material for the present chapter. The first chapter’s assignment was “How do you define worship?”¹ I confess that I did not take Scheer up on his challenge then. Still, I thought it was an interesting and important question; one to which I would return some other time, I told myself.
At my church, on the last sunday of June, we put on a special worship arts service. It’s called Selah: Pause, Reflect, Praise. Selah (סלה) is this Hebrew word that occurs 71 times in the Psalms and no one really knows how to translate it. While scholars debate different possible translation options, Bibles sometimes give us a footnote telling us that the word means, “Pause, Musical Interlude, or Crescendo.” So that’s what we do in these services. We pause, taking more time for the arts and singing together. We incorporate more musical interludes and artistic elements that are designed to help us reflect upon a theme of worship. And we crescendo in our understanding and practice of praise.
I absolutely love getting to plan this service. This was my third year of doing so. Two years ago, our theme was Adoration and Action: we are made to Worship God, but we do so through our action in this world. Last year, we used the Psalms to illustrate the breadth of our worship: we can worship God through any season as seen in Psalms of Orientation, Psalms of Disorientation, and Psalms of Reorientation.² This year, I wanted us to spend the service focusing on God’s holiness and glory.
With that general focus in mind, I brainstormed song choices, artistic elements, and the general arc of the service. As I began to put the pieces into an order, the theme became clear. And as I prepared my short teaching time for the service, I accidentally came up with a definition of worship. I did not set out to come up with a definition of Worship. I was not thinking of Scheer’s assignment. Instead, this definition just came about. This definition is not comprehensive. It’s not perfect. It’s not the only needed definition of worship that we need. But it is a definition. Here it is:
Worship is our proper response to the revealed glory of our holy God.
Like most definitions of worship, this needs to be defined. During my teaching time in the Selah Worship Arts service, I presented and defined this definition using three terms, two visions, and a leprous king. And instead of giving you my teaching notes, I thought I would have you watch video of the service.
I highly suggest watching the whole service (if you have an hour and thirteen minutes to spare). This is in part because I am incredibly proud of my worship arts teams. They put in a lot of work and energy into this service. I also think it is of benefit to hear the explanation of this definition in the context of the entire service. Here’s that link:
If you can’t spare the time for the whole service, but want to hear how I develop this definition, then here is the link to just my teaching time: