During a worship session at the 1998 Youth Advance with outstanding Christian teens in the Delaware Valley, I had asked the young believers to write down a two-word reduction of the core meaning of worship, as they understood it. Here, I shared most of the words they wrote.
The rest of the two-word descriptions show that not every teenager “got it,” i.e., not everyone understood worship from a deeper, conceptually well-founded, and/or biblical perspective:
- Christian fellowship (this has nothing directly to do with worship)
- Conformed like Jesus (clearly an important idea, but a life-shape that resembles Jesus is not worship per se)
- Gathering together (group worship is important, but it is not the whole, nor is it at the conceptual core)
- Learning more (while learning more may well lead to worship, learning is not itself worship)
- Love, family; Loving others; Loving service (no worship here; these expressions speak of horizontal relationship, a la Romans 12 ¹ )
- More music (definitely not the core of worship, although music can obviously be a tremendous vehicle)
- Prayer; Prayer, faith; Constant prayer (prayer may well be filled with worship, but I suspect the teens that wrote this were reacting to the assumption that singing = worship, or perhaps they were over-ambitious in thinking constant communion with God is actually possible)
- Service; Serving God (again, Romans 12 ideas are important, but they are not worship)¹
¹ The ideas of love and service show that good things were in the teens’ hearts, of course, but those ideas are not much more related to worship than grace or atonement or repentance. Soon after dealing with Romans 12 as it relates to worship, I’ll describe some thoughts that shaped—and one response to—the worship times I planned for Youth Advance 1998.