Worship as Play and Participation: Voicing the Praise of Creation

By Dr. James R. Hart, President
The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies

You are about to embark on the most useless discussion there is—the discussion of Christian worship.

Dr. James HartAristotle claimed that the supremely important activities are the most useless, because they exist precisely for their own sake and not for a greater external end. The worship of God is the most useless and supremely important thing we can do. And, therefore, studying Christian worship is a most critical educational endeavor.

Adoration is an intimate mouth-to-mouth relationship.

The mission of IWS is to form servant leaders in Christian worship renewal. What is Christian worship renewal? I submit to you that it is a call to right worship—“orthodoxy”—“right doxology”—“right doxa”—“right glory.” It is a call to right “worship,” right “adoration.” Adoration comes from the Latin word adoratio, which comes from two words, ad ora, which means “to the mouth of,” or “mouth to mouth.” Adoration is an intimate mouth-to-mouth relationship, which is the essence of right worship. The Song of Songs begins, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” The Great Tradition interpreted this as the song of the soul singing to God for union. Union with God through Jesus Christ is the aspiration of right worship. Celebrating the mighty works of God in Jesus Christ in the posture of adoration is the proper aim of right worship.  Right worship leads to the rightly ordered or integrated life, the rightly ordered family, church, city, country, culture, even the rightly ordered cosmos. If you want a primary key to reading the entire biblical narrative, this is it—God is calling his creation to right worship (over and over again). God ultimately wants his people to worship him aright, not because he needs our praise, but because in that great act we become rightly aligned to God through Jesus Christ, the primary worshipper.

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About the author

Dr. James R. Hart has served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies since 2007. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.