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Words for Worship


When you hear the word ‘worship’ what’s the first thought that comes into your mind? Quiet prayer? Solemn assembly? Hands raised? Singing loudly? Wow, that dotted eighth-not delay really makes this song way more worshipful? (ok, that last one may or may not be me….)

Seriously, what do you think of? If you said anything other that a large group of Believers gathering and singing, you’re lying. Here in North America that is the way we define worship at church. At least that’s how we practically define worship.

We’re going to take a journey over the next few weeks, and see how the Bible defines worship. We are going to look at specific passages and see what the original language has to tell us about worship. Sound like fun? Sound boring? Trust me, you’re about to be able to sound way smarter than everyone else you know at church.

Won’t your pastor be impressed when you stroll in on Sunday and tell him that your church really expresses the proskynein aspect of worship, although the folks seem to struggle with the therapenein imperative?

I would be.

Once we see the essence of meaning of these awesome, impossible to pronounce ancient Greek words, we will relate them back to our present-day culture, gauge our own worship experiences we lead each week, and hopefully craft more biblically-based and spiritually-rounded worship experiences.

Each of the perspectives communicated by each of these words is vital, so we’re going to handle them in alphabetical order. Because God is a God of order, right? (bet you didn’t know that the verse really meant alphabetical order…)

So, without further delay (analog or digital), our word for this week is diakonein. That’s pronounced die-uh-ko-nay-ine. IPA, what’s IPA? (Gotta love a good music major joke in there.) This word carries the connotation of someone rendering personal service to someone else. In the First century this might have been something as simple as being a servant at a household, or offering a guest some food. Both in Matthew’s (4:11) and Mark’s (1:13) Gospels this word is used to reference what the angels did for Jesus after his temptation in the wilderness. But the passage I want to focus on is Philemon 13. No, I didn’t forget the chapter, there’s only 1 chapter there. It’s the ignored letter from Paul, ignored by the church these days. It’s almost like it’s the third string epistle.

This verse says: “I would have been glad to keep him (Onesimus) with me, in order that he might serve (diakonein) me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel,”

The idea here is that Onesimus is serving Paul, but that his service to Paul is really service to God. Paul wants Onesimus to stay with him to help him during his imprisonment so that Paul will be more effective at spreading the gospel. So in effect, Onesimus is really worshiping the Lord BY serving Paul. Now isn’t that a warm fuzzy?

How cool is that?
So our first perspective on worshiping God is this: You worship God when you serve others.  So let me ask, how are you working this aspect into your worship experience on Sunday?

Are you giving people the opportunity to serve others, or at least making known real, tangible ways that they can do this?  And a little more personal; how are YOU worshiping God by serving those around you? And how cool would it be for your name to be Onesimus?

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One Response to “Words for Worship”

  1. Hey Chuck this was great information. I shared it with one of my worship teams yesterday and it really brought up some ideas for ways to worship through serving.
    p.s. I’m the same Wes Jackson from way back in the Whitesburg days. I was much younger then but it’s awesome to see you on one of my favorite websites.

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