What is worship?
This is a very big question. Many people will define worship as a service one attends. Many will define it as an act we do. But since we are talking about the limitless, Living God, there ought to be more to the answer than just these two options.
Some have said that worship is giving your best to God. This is a good definition, but there are some implications to this that I think need to be teased out for us to have a very good handle on worship.
Worship, by definition, is God-focused (in a Christian context). It is giving our best to the only One worth it. And this is where we need to be careful. What passes for worship in many congregations today is not God-focused at all, but people-focused.
We have services that are evangelistic in nature, where everything is chosen based upon the perceived needs of the people outside of the congregation in the hopes that it will draw them into the fold. This is evangelism, not worship. Both are necessary for a healthy church, but they are mutually exclusive for the same thing. Worship is God-focused. Evangelism is other-focused. Churches that confuse the two do neither well. They sing praises to God with an eye on how the community will receive and respond to it, rather than God. Worship is not evangelism in a proper sense. The Holy Spirit can corner, convict and convince a person in a worship service, but if that is the main focus of the service, then it was an evangelistic crusade and not a worship service.
We have services that are geared towards the desires of the people already present, be they contemporary or traditional services, so that we don’t offend those who are coming and supporting the congregation. This is congregational edification, not worship. In extreme instances this can lead to a certain style of worship being frozen in time because it is what we do and how we do it (and even give theological justification for only one style of worship as being God-pleasing to the exclusion of all others). Again, this is focused on the people, not God.
For worship to be worship, yes there needs to be a way we can insert ourselves in a way we understand with what is going on, but the focus should always be on offering something that is God-honoring and God-pleasing. Do we do what we can for Jesus Christ–regardless of how people outside of the congregation receive it? Do we give God our best? Do we use all the talents he gave us to point back to him and give him praise in a way that draws ourselves (the ones doing the offering) closer to God?
Jesus commanded us to evangelize people and to disciple people, to reach out to those outside the community and build up those inside the community, but we also need to take time as the Body of Christ gathered together to simply offer our best to the only One worth receiving it. We need dedicated time as the people of God to offer worship to God.