Defining Worship: Putting words to our experience with God

worship zach neese Oct 14, 2020

     The word worship comes from the old English word worthship, which means “to give worth to something.” When we “worth-ship” God, we attribute worth (or value) to Him. Worship always communicates something.

     When the world sees a believer worship, people think, Oh, that’s what God is worth to that believer. Heaven sees the same worship and thinks, Oh, that’s how much the gospel, the cross, and the love of God are worth to that believer.

     It is also important to understand the words that our word worship comes from and the culture in which they originated.

     The Hebrew word for worship is shachah. The simple definition of this word is ‘to bow down.’ Our culture is hesitant to submit to authority, but you can’t worship God unless you acknowledge He is King.

     “Oh come, let us worship [shachah] and bow down [shachah]; Let us kneel [barak] before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).

     Shachah is the word used for worship in this verse, and it is also used for the phrase “bow down.” This word is almost always repeated in Scripture. The people bowed down, and they bowed down. And then they kneeled.

     What this word really means is to let the posture of your body reflect the posture of your heart toward God.

     The Greek word for worship is proskuneo, and it has three components. The first is adoration. Our affections should be set on Him. Our emotions should be moved by God. Because He so loved me, I love Him back. That’s expected.

     The second meaning is to prostrate yourself before God. It means to lie on your face.

     And the third meaning is to ‘kiss toward.’ We blow kisses toward someone who is a little bit further away than we wish they were. And heart of a worshipper thinks, God is always a little further away than I wish. Can you come closer, God?

     John 4:23 says, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers [proskunaytays] will worship [proskuneo] the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship [proskuneo] him that way.”

     If you take these three elements together, you have adoration, prostration, and the expression of kissing toward. Worship is love, lordship, and expression.

     Mark 12:30 exemplifies this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

     Jesus says the greatest commandment is worship. This (reaching up to heaven) is the greatest commandment. The second commandment is like it (reaching down to man).

     Love without lordship is empty emotionalism. Lordship without love is dead religion—legalism. And expression without love or lordship is straight hypocrisy.

     If we worship in fullness—love, lordship, and expression—we are attractive to the world. People will see a Jesus who is worthy of love, worthy of submission, and worthy of our hearts.


This article was extracted from Issue 3 (Fall 2020) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.



This article was written by Zach Neese



Zach Neese is a Worship Pastor at Gateway Church where he oversees all areas of worship education including discipleship and worship training classes. He is a seasoned songwriter of many popular songs including “The More I Seek You,” “Alabaster Jar,” “Love Has Done It” and “Faithful God.” Zach lives in Keller, Texas with his wife Jen and their six children; Simeon, Judah, Charis, Maggie, Nora, and Sam. They are his first church and the prize of his heart.


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