Many churches use the word “worship” in various titles. The person who leads the singing is often called the “worship leader” or the “worship pastor”. Those who join the worship leader are called “the worship team”. Sunday morning gatherings are often called “worship services” and sanctuaries, “worship centers”. From “worship nights” to “worship seminars”, we use the word “worship” variously and specifically. This isn’t necessarily a call to stop doing that, but rather a warning to draw our attention to how it affects us.
Let’s take a look, first, at Sunday morning (or whenever a church might gather). Having a worship leader or a worship pastor implies that the pastor who’s preaching isn’t leading worship. In fact, when he proclaims the word of God, he is worshiping, and those who are listening are worshiping. When the plates are passed around, we are worshiping. When we take communion, we are worshiping. When we love one another, we are worshiping. Worship is not confined to the singing. Singing is definitely an acceptable and necessary form of worship, but it’s not the only act of worship when Christians gather.
Let’s zoom out a little bit. Calling Sunday morning a “worship service” implies that our worship is confined to that timeframe during which we are gathered. In fact, for a Christian, worship is a 24/7 event. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It’s right to set aside a time to worship together, but worship is to be our continuous disposition.
Words are powerful. We don’t realize how they might affect us subconsciously. Or for someone who is new to the Christian scene, it might affect them consciously. Again, this isn’t an admonition to totally change a church’s verbiage, but rather to guard our hearts and minds against the misunderstanding of what truly is worship.
For a helpful resource on this, check out Dr. John MacArthur’s book, “Worship”.