Almighty God calls us to love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, body and spirit - our whole life is to be about our relationship with God. The Bible doesn't give a formal definition of worship. However, the English word 'worship' comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means 'worth', and scipe or ship, which means something like 'shape' or 'quality'. So worth-ship means to declare worth, or to attribute worth, to God.
God calls us to express our worship, both personally and corporately, with others who love the Lord as an expression of our gratitude for what God has done, and our longing to know more of God and God’s purposes for our lives, our church and our world. You do not need a special building or room to worship God as there is nowhere God isn’t and you can create ‘sacred space’ wherever you find yourself.
Creating opportunities that bring us closer to God and bring God closer to his people is our highest calling. One’s aim is to facilitate/lead/curate wholesome acts of worship that encourage people in their relationship with God, within the love and presence of God. The mystery that is God means that no one act of worship can ever fully achieve this. However, the ethos/atmosphere should make a stranger feel welcome and give the gathered group a sense of the presence of the living God.
In order to navigate the vast worship resources available we have offered a few examples of different ‘ingredients’ for worship in seven potential contexts or settings. The examples given in each context are in no way prescriptive, but just some ideas to help get you started. It’s also very important that you feel free to mix and match for your own situation, as you will be the best person to know what will work in your own context. God has created us to be creative with all our senses, so many of these activities are multi-sensory and help us develop a holistic understanding of God. If one of these ideas leads you to do something totally new instead, then so much the better!
The ingredients of worship
Life would be rather monochrome if we ate exactly the same food day-in-day-out and it also would not reflect the immense creativity and mystery of our God. Just as different weightings of flour-to-sugar-to-butter make different types of cakes and biscuits, so are different ‘ingredients’ of worship able to create fascinating encounters with God. And just as one meal with even the best ingredients does not exemplify the ‘only’ way to enjoy a meal, so one style or act of worship with a set menu of ingredients does not embody the ‘only’ way to worship.
The ingredients of worship can be thought of in the same way that food ingredients come together to form the ‘menu items’ of a meal in a restaurant: starter, main course, sweet and coffee. These are the traditional stages of a meal, indicating its direction and ‘feel’. Of course, you could eat items on the menu in any order. However, our appetite and experience generally dictate the shape of a meal. Our appetite for worship offers us a similar, though perhaps less rigid, pattern for the menu. The act of worship you prepare, facilitate, lead or curate should have a movement or flow running through it, so that worshippers feel they are travelling forward with a sense of direction.
The ingredients suggested below are not just the standard ones that people traditionally like to include in a corporate act of worship – such as hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon – but ones that expand our thinking. For instance, consider how much participation there is (not just an expert at the front telling you what to think or do). Consider how ambient music might be helpful. Silence? Colour? What other symbols are helpful? The list is endless.
One could study the Psalms and New Testament to see all sorts of different ingredients:
- kneeling, standing;
- receiving God’s word;
- blessing one another;
- sharing ‘peace’ with one another;
- adoring God;
- praying for others;
- thanking God;
- sharing hospitality;
- pardon and forgiveness;
- ambient music;
- eucharist or communion;
- laying on of hands;
- potentially using multimedia;
- use of colour, touch, smell and taste;
- specific moments of participation;
- dedicating oneself afresh to God;
- specific listening experiences.
Remember, we want to create acts of worship that are worthy of our God.
A helpful list of ingredients is given in the table above or the menu to the right. Remember, this is just a starter-for-ten list of ingredients that are most often found in acts of worship. It is not intended to stifle your own creativity. As ever, you must adapt and create wholesome acts of worship for your own context.
As we grow in life, we change and develop. We often find that what once used to nourish and resource us doesn’t quite fit the bill any more. There are also many ‘seasons’ in life where circumstances affect how we relate to one another and to God. Creating opportunities that bring us closer to God and bring him closer to his people is our highest calling.
One’s aim is to facilitate, lead or curate wholesome acts of worship that encourage people of ‘all ages and seasons’ in their relationship with God, within his love and presence. The mystery that is God, means that no one act of worship can ever fully achieve this. However, the ethos/atmosphere should make a visitor feel welcome and give the gathered group a sense of the presence of the living God.
In order to navigate the vast worship resources available, we have given two or three examples of different ‘ingredients for worship’ in seven potential contexts or settings in the table above.
The examples given in each context are in no way prescriptive, just some ideas to help get you started. It’s also important that you feel free to mix and match for your own situation, as you will be the best person to know what will work. God has made us to be creative with all our senses, so many of these activities are multi-sensory and help us develop a holistic understanding of God. If one of these ideas leads you to do something totally new instead, so much the better!