You are on page 1of 16

Rivera 1

Melodie Rivera
Professor Jenna Campbell
ENC 1102-0040
726 April 2017
Worship: Analysis of a Textual Way of Life
Worship is an activity associated with religion, in which the Christian community

commonly partakes in, as a way to express gratitude and respect towards God. It might seem like

a ritual but for the non-denominational Christian community it goes beyond that. The view of

worship as an impersonal religious act has transformed into the perspective of a more personal

way of life, reflected through a person’s everyday testimony. This can be achieved through a

variety of texts and genres. The primary text used in the literate activity of worship is the Bible.

The Bible can be read in different ways, however, for this specificA literacy activity it will be

interpreted to fit modern time circumstances.is an activity that consists of speaking, reading,

and/or writing. Other text examples include lyrics, and devotionals that are influenced by the

Bible. Everyday Christians searching for ways to enhance their worship experience with God are

both the consumers and creators. of worship texts. These texts help shape other participants’

contribution to the literate activity of worship. Due to technological advances the sharing of

worship materials has been facilitated, allowing Christians from all over the globe the

opportunity to communicate how God is working in their lives and share their experiences with

others. Through the use of different research methods, the ways in which worship texts

contribute to religious reflection, deepen religious understanding and build religious

communities will be identified.
Entering the Worship community is much like Stuart Greene’s example of entering a

parlor. This conversation has been going on since man began to write about God. According to

Harry Farley, a journalist for Christianity Today, the oldest Biblical texts are roughly between

2,500-3,000 years old. “[Others] are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for
Rivera 2

them to pause,” and go into detail of what has been previously discussed (Greene 29). That is a

very long time and it can quickly become overwhelming trying to piece the different arguments

together.
The focus of the Christian Worship community has been geared towards an impersonal

religious act. Through the years, the weekly routine of reciting hymnals and the monotonous act

of reading the scripture, seems to have become a ritual done to please others, even more so than

to please God. Instead of focusing on this point of view, I would like to draw attention to a

different and more modernized view of worship. Non-denominational Christians are a branch of

Christianity that have decided to move away from the traditional sense. They see their practice of

Christianity go beyond a religionreligious act; it is establishing a personal relationship with God.

Like every other relationship, the more you love somebody the more time you spend with them.

For Christians, their love of God is constantly pushing them to get to know Him. This is done by

reading the Bible, which is also known as the Word of God. Considering this book is thousands

of years old, it can sometimes be hard to understand. Other forms of texts are developed to assist

in the reading and interpretation.
Devotionals are a form of text in the worship literacy community. They are developed

when a member of the community sits down and analyzes the Bible. Thoughts are written down

based on the gained understanding from reading. From there it can remain as a personal note or it

can develop into a message for a congregation of the church. Many times, it is done to share a

word of hope and empowerment with the congregation which leads into the worship service.

During those services, and even on the participants’ personal time of worship, music is generally

involved.
Where there is music, there are lyrics. These lyrics are different than what is usually heard

on the radio. They are still a creative outlet to express oneself, and are usually drawn from

personal experiences but the message is different. The lyrics are brought forth through personal
Rivera 3

encounters with God. This can be from sitting in awe of His creation to His faithfulness in times

of trouble. The lyrics retell personal stories and experiences through the journey of Faith which

others going through similar situations can identify with and relate to.
Overall lyrics within this community are used as a form of religious reflection. This

religious reflection surpasses cultural barriers and is shared across the world. Song lyrics are

used to communicate and encourage others of the Christian faith throughout different continents.

This can be seen through the Grammy Award nominated, Hillsong Young & Free. They are an

Australian worship group that has influenced the Christian community in multiple countries.

They are constantly traveling sharing their touching lyrics with thousands of eager young adults

who are searching for a way to get to know more about God. It might seem crazy, but they are

just one example out of the many worship groups and people actively sharing their Godly

encounters with others. It helps establish religious communities, that encourage one another even

outside of the church. This goes back to the view that worship is no longer an activity, it has

become part of everyday living.
When looking at the texts presented above, a question arises. How do the texts within the

Nondenominational Christian community change personal worship life? When researching

personal experiences the research methods of observational study, interviews and textual analysis

will bewere the most helpful in providing the necessary data to answers the proposed question. I

looked at the use of intertextuality between The Bible and the different texts developed in order

to enhance the personal worship experience.
In order to support my research findings, I used journal articles developed by scholars

from different areas of Christianity. A group of clinical psychologists, part of the Christian

Association for Psychological Studies, conducted research on corporate worship and spiritual

formation. The purpose of the study conducted was to gain a greater understanding of the process

worship leaders go through that contributes to the act of corporate worship. The study was
Rivera 4

composed of different interview questions that each worship leader had to elaborate upon.

Researchers got their insight by studying 26 worship leaders. The main concept discovered

within each participant was the God-Centered approach. This is the view that all the activities

within the community revolve around what is said in The Bible. They also suggested a definition

of worship, which is sharing the essence of God that is experienced in times of prayer and bible

reading. The research focuses on congregational aspects but the evidence suggests the influence

of personal worship time. Worship goes beyond a simple act done in church, it is a lifestyle

impacted by different texts. Taking the view away from an impersonal ritual to a personal

everyday experience.
Along with the study, I used the journal article “The Mystery of the Holy Trinity and the

Experience of God in Liturgy Dogma, Spirituality and Liturgy in Orthodoxy” by Dr. Cristinel

Ioja. Dr. Cristinel Ioja is an assistant professor of Orthodox Theology at the University Aurel

Vlaicu in Romania. In his journal article, Dr. Ioja discusses the Holy Trinity through the set

principles of Christianity, spirituality and worship. He draws a connection between the Holy

Trinity and the Church. He has a similar approach to Father Ciprian Streza, because he also

discusses the relationship between the Trinity and Lithurgy, but the overall focus of his journal

article is the different roles of the Holy Trinity in Christianity. Overall Dr. Ioja concludes that

there is no way to fully understand the Holy Trinity. It is a mystery that the deeper we go, the

more perspectives are uncovered. For my research purposes, I drew Dr. Ioja’s claim on the

establishment of the Holy Trinity. This is seen as what broke the veil between man and God.

Now there is no distance between them and man has unlimited access to God’s abundant grace.

Through this perspective, worship is no longer a ritual done to fulfill religious requirements, it

becomes a personal experience between man and God. Through this source, I was able to gain a

greater understanding of religious concepts and principles in order to better understand the
Rivera 5

personally developed texts and The Bible. This also relates to the use of intertextuality of The

Bible, because passages and scriptures were used within the journal article.
The section “The Divine Liturgy in Orthodox Spirituality: The Mystery of Man's

Personal Encounter with God through Worship and the Ascetical Life” from The Greek

Orthodox Theological Review, written by Father Ciprian Streza. Father Ciprian Streza is a

theologist and a member of the Greek Orthodox clergy. He and a group of clergy members

collaborated in writing The Greek Orthodox Theological Review. This review is a book

establishing the concepts and beliefs of the Greek Orthodox church. My focus was on the section

written by Father Streza, which covers the topic of man’s personal encounter with God through

worship during the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is a special service conducted by the

Greek Orthodox Church with hymns, prayer and scripture readings. This section covers the

beliefs of the Greek Orthodox Church which is a different denomination of Christianity. My

research is focused within the Nondenominational community. However, the reading discusses

concepts that apply to both of the communities, such as the concept of Worship and the effects of

text on man’s personal encounter with God. The communities might have different approaches

but they both participate in the textual act of worship. It is discussed that the word of The Bible

is a way in which God manifests Himself during times of personal worship. The text becomes a

place to establish a relationship and deepen religious understanding. This relates to the creation

of devotionals, having a greater understanding of the Word of God provides courage and a

passion that drives Christians to share the insight they have gathered through texts, which assist

in expressing their Faith.

Based on previous research the Bible is seen as the number one textual source within the

Nondenominational Christian community. This text plays a vital role because it is considered the

Word of God. It is made up of two components, the Old and New Testaments. Each testament
Rivera 6

consists of multiple books, each written by different authors, with a specific message. The Bible

is known as the Word of God because it is said that God revealed each message to His disciples

with the purpose to share it with His people. This book is revered very highly in the Christian

community. Due to the importance of The Bible, all the other texts used by the community

revolve around it. Which means, all the different texts used within my research have at least one

reference to The Bible. Each journal article uses the scripture as a way to establish credibility in

the Christian community. For my research purposes The Bible is the prime example of how texts

affect personal worship time byintertextuality is used within the Nondenominational Christian

community. Members of the community pull quotes and scriptures from this text and use them in

order to develop new texts that represent a deeper understanding or personal reflection.

deepening religious understanding and religious reflection.

In order to gain a greater understanding of how worship texts influence personal worship

lives, I conducted multiple interviews. Since there are different levels of expertise within the

population, the interviews consisted of two sets of people. One set of interviews was conducted

with a group of worship pastors/leaders. They have a higher level of expertise due to their

education and years of experience in the field of worship. The other set of the population

interviewed is the congregation, which are people who attend church and are involved in the

worship experience. The use of these two populations show the different perspectives and how

they all tie together in the textual act of worship. The two groups had similar questions, with

slight differences to best fit the interviewees. The questions were along the lines of how lyrics

and devotionals impacted the interviewees personal worship lives and the process behind

developing worship texts, a copy of the questions can be found in the appendix section.
Worship is many times associated with music. This means that lyrics play a vital role

within the Nondenominational Christian community. According to the people interviewed, lyrics
Rivera 7

have a positive influence in their personal worship time. Based on my personal research, the

majority of song lyrics are based off a biblical text. In order to find evidence to support this claim

I conducted a rhetorically analysis of the song, “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship. I

looked at every lyric of the song and made connections to the Bible and other Christian

principles. This gave me an insight on how lyrics andas texts can deepen religious understanding.
As part of my research I also, collected a sample of a devotional text. Devotionals are

common text within times of intimacy with God in the Nondenominational Christian

community., from a person who chose to remain anonymous. I studied the form and the content

to gain a greater understanding of the text. Similar to the worship song lyrics, the use of the

scripture as a basis was apparent. I studied it in order to gain a greater understanding of the use

of intertextuality between worship texts and The Bible.
Worship lyrics and devotionals each have a different impact on personal worship. A

common trend, however, is they all draw people closer to a relationship with God. Lyrics in

particular can lead to “breakthroughs, which give a clear understanding of what God is doing”,

as described by Elimar Gonzalez, a member of a local Nondenominational Church, in her

interview. Lyrics help shine a light on a different perspective of a situation which encourages

religious reflection. This can be an eye opening experience to those who partake in the worship

activity. Marielis Montanez, a worship leader at her local church in Maryland, shared that “It's

really inspiring to hear that some people can go through the same things as you do and how God

can work in their lives, and that helps you to have a different perspective in worshipping Him.” It

is always reassuring to know you are not the only one going through that situation. By hearing

others experiences, through lyrics, that relate to one’s own gives a sense of hope and helps build

religious communities. When it comes to worship texts there is also an emphasis on God’s

characteristics. It was due to a song that Kathy Serrano, a worship leader at a local church in the
Rivera 8

Orlando area, was able to understand the greatness of God’s love. The song “How Great is Your

Love” had a deep impact on her understanding of God’s endless love, not only in her life but in

the lives of those around her. The lyrics reflected the essence of God and deepened her religious

understanding.
According to Justin Mercado, a member of a local church’s dance ministry, “There's no

such thing as a "perfect"‘perfect’ worship text but an honest one that not just connects you more

with God but also makes others around you feel and connect with that it.” When creating a

worship text one of the most important parts is authenticity. Lyrics and devotionals are based on

personal experiences. Honesty is what speaks to the heart. Things that touch a person’s heart

during their time of prayer are then developed into different forms of texts. A group of clinical

psychologists, part of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, conducted research on

corporate worship and spiritual formation. They got their insight by studying worship leaders.

The data collected proposed four qualitiesone quality of worship “(1) the aim of worship is to

glorify God; (as “(2) God's glory pertainspertain[ing] to what is revealed in the

Christian scriptures; (3) worship is always "culturally embodied and embedded"; and

(4) worship invites full participation as we bring our whole life to worshipscripture” (Abernethy

et al.). In other words, worship is sharing the essence of GodThis shows that is experienced in

times of prayer and bible reading. Worship goes beyond a simple act done in church, it is an act

of service, which constantly requires the use ofkey part of creation of worship texts such as the

bible and devotionals to enhance the relationship between Man and Godis intertextuality by

drawing scriptures from The Bible.
Based on the results from the interviews conducted lyrics and devotionals are not the only

texts that affect personal worship time. Blogs, podcasts and books are all different genres that

contribute to the worship experience. Blogs can cover different topics. An example of a popular
Rivera 9

Christian blog is The Secret Garden. This video blog is geared towards young adult Christian

women. It provides advice and different testimonies of extraordinary women who can be seen as

role models. The general ideas of blogs are to unite Christians with similar interests and tie those

interests to their relationship with God. Podcasts are also a way to share words of encouragement

with members of the Christian worship community. In Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope Podcast, he

shares new scriptures and devotionals with a sense of hope, encouraging others to deepen their

religious understanding. Some churches such as Elevation Church and Bethel Church use

podcasts to share weekly sermons. Books also share encouraging words, such as Crazy Love by

Francis Chan. This book describes the different attributes of God’s love. Another book

mentioned during the interviews was Doxology and Theology by Matt Boswell. This book covers

guidelines based on biblical principles on the life of a worship leader and how to lead others into

worship. This text mainly impacts the worship pastor/leader community but it inadvertently

impacts the congregation also because the information read during the leader’s personal worship

time is implanted to benefit the congregations worship experience.
Along with these books, the Bible was the number one textual source mentioned by every

interviewee. This text is plays a vital role because it is considered the Word of God. The Bible is

revered very highly in the community. Due to the importance of the Bible, all the other texts used

by the community revolve around it. An example of this can be seen in worship song lyrics. My

research findings suggest that the majority of song lyrics are based off a biblical text. In order to

support this claim I picked a song to rhetorically analyze. According to the iTunes Hot Tracks the

number one song at the moment in the Christian & Gospel genre is “What a Beautiful Name” by

Hillsong Worship. In order to understand the context of the song I gathered information on the

writers of the text. Hillsong Worship is the praise and worship group of a local church in

Australia, that through the years has grown and impacted many people. They are a very
Rivera 10

successful group who have obtained the chance to travel the world sharing their vision on the

“unshakeable belief in the power of Jesus Christ. Despite the pain, sorrow and tension of this

world, Jesus is not threatened by the darkness” (hillsong.com/worship). Hillsong Worship seeks

to spread their love of Christ, no matter the situation and circumstances. The power of Jesus

Christ will always shine through and overcome adversity. Through the lens of their beliefs, I

rhetorically analyzed the song What a Beautiful Name.
It is evident that this text revolves around the Bible, the song What a Beautiful Name

starts by stating “You were the Word at the beginning” which relates to the biblical scripture of

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

This automatically establishes credibility within the Christian community because it is

referencing the main text. The overall motif of the song is to exalt the greatness of Jesus Christ.

They constantly proclaim the beauty of all His works. The diction used in the lyrics such as “You

didn’t want heaven without us/So Jesus, You brought heaven down,” “Death could not hold you”

and “You are raised to life again” show that Jesus’ greatest work is considered to be His

crucifixion and resurrection. All of these phrases are related to biblical scriptures. By stating

“One with God” the song then goes on to reference the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a

concept in which God is three people in one. The, the Father, God, the Son, Jesus, and the Holy

Spirit. Jesus explains this when he states “I and the Father are one,”” (New International Version,

John. 10.30). This concept also relates to the personal aspect of worship. As described by Dr.

Cristinel Ioja, an assistant professor of Orthodox Theology at the University Aurel Vlaicu, the

establishment of the Holy Trinity is what broke the veil between man and God. Now there is no

distance between them and man has unlimited access to God’s abundant grace, creating a

necessity for personal worship time, which is enhanced through texts.
Rivera 11

Devotionals are a common text within times of intimacy with God in the

Nondenominational Christian community. As described by Father Ciprian Streza, a theologist,

the time of reading The Bible “creates such a communion that the same inspired word becomes a

revelation from God at the same time as it brings him glory and praise” (Streza 147). It becomes

a place to establish a relationship and deepen religious understanding. A greater understanding of

the Word of God provides courage and a passion that drives Christians to share their Faith.
As part of my research I collected a sample of a devotional text, the writer of the text

wishes to remain anonymous. For this particular example, the text is based on the biblical

scripture found in Philippians 1:12-18 (figure 4). This scripture covers the story of Paul in a

jail cell. The devotional is reflecting upon a difficult situation and establishing a sense of

hope. While Paul is in the jail cell, he continues to praise God and encourages those around

him to do the same. The writer of the devotional takes this scripture and relates it to any

unideal situation. Faith is expressed by assuring that God will take any situation and turn it

around to show His greatness. This devotional was created while reading and

contemplating the Bible. It was a personal act that can also impact others. By sharing his

understanding of what God’s word is saying the author can encourage others to pursue

faith and hope. The devotional is based on a single scripture, but it also mentions other

scriptures to emphasizes the message. The verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that

he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal

life,” is used by the writer to support his claim of the love God has for his people (New

International Version, John. 3.16). The use of Bible references as support gives the reader a

deeper religious understanding of the topic being discussed by allowing them to draw

connections between the two religious texts.
Rivera 12

This research has implications within the Writing Studies and Religious communities.

Writing Scholars can use the research provided to gain an understanding of the impact of writing

on personal reflection and religious beliefs. The information gathered can also applied to other

texts outside of the religious/worship context of. On the other hand, the leaders within the

Christian community can use the information from this research to incorporate more religious

texts in the church activity to encourage the congregation to deepen their religious understanding

by enhancing their personal worship time.
Future research can be done to study the long-term impact of worship texts within

personal worship time. This research can extend beyond the Orlando area and observe a greater

pool of worship pastors/leaders and members of different congregations. Also, further research

can be done to analyze and understand the impact of worship texts throughout the different

denominations of Christianity. Each denomination has different views on the Bible and other

Christian principles, which can influence the impact of texts in the community. With this I

propose a research question to future scholars: how does the Bible and other religious texts

influence the different denominations of Christianity?
Worship has gone past religious acts and is now considered more of a way of life. This

can be seen through different acts of service both inside and outside the church. Through the

research process of interviews and textual analysis it can be seen that the Bible plays an

important role in worship texts, it is intertwined in multiple aspects of a religious text, and it

plays a vital role in text creation. With the use of different sources, such as scholarly journal

articles and research studies, the positive impact of worship texts on religious reflection, by

deepening religious understanding and building religious communities is evident.
Rivera 13

Appendix

1. How have lyrics and devotionals personally impacted your worship life?
2. What other textual sources affect your personal worship experience?
3. What leads to a successful worship text?
4. What is your writing process?
5. What type of experiences are the texts based of?
6. How do you use the Bible within text creation?
7. What causes these texts to surpass cultural barriers?

Figure 1. Interview questions for Worship Pastors/Leaders.

1. How have lyrics and devotionals personally impacted your worship life?
2. What other textual sources affect your personal worship experience?
3. What do you think leads to a successful worship text?
4. Do you write lyrics, devotionals, or any other worship related texts?
5. If so, What type of experiences are the texts based of?
6. How do you use the Bible within your personal worship time?

Figure 2. Interview questions for Members of the Congregation.

What a Beautiful Name-Hillsong Worship

VERSE 1

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Rivera 14

Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

CHORUS

What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

VERSE 2

You didn’t want heaven without us
So Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now

Figure 3. Worship song lyrics.

1.10.17

Sometimes God places us in very difficult situations. Such as being in jail like Paul. But those situations are 

not meant to bring us down. Instead they are part of God's perfect plan. By trusting in Him we are able to share

the gospel with people. It might seem like an unconventional way of doing it but God is not a conventional 

God, he will do whatever needs to be done to help those who are seeking something greater. These situations 

help build up our faith and our courage so that we can proclaim the Good News without shame. (Philippians 

1:12­18) Spread God's love and do it based on experience. Everything God does he does with love for us. 

(John 3:16) 
Rivera 15

Figure 4. Personal devotional example.

Work Cited

Abernethy, Alexis D., et al. "Corporate worship and spiritual formation: insights from worship

leaders." Journal of Psychology and Christianity, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, p. 266+.

Religion and Philosophy Collection login.ezproxy.net.ucf.edu/login?

auth=shibb&url=http: //go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?

p=PPRP&sw=w&u=orla57816&v=2.1&id=GALE%

7CA454485083&it=r&asid=a5eff9a64f3ccaaa9f022c1347dcc84f. Accessed 16 February

2017.

Farley, Harry. “How Old Is the Bible?” Christian Today, 19 Apr. 2016,
http://www.christiantoday.com/acrticle/how.old.is.the.bible/84327.htm. Accessed 26 Jan.

2017.
Gonzalez, Elimar. Personal interview. 15 February 2017.
Greene, Stuart. “Argument as Conversation: The Role of Inquiry in Writing a Researched

Argument.” Writing About Writing, edited by, Elizabeth Wardle, Doug Downs,

2014, pp. 27-39.
Hillsong Worship. “What a Beautiful Name.” Let There Be Light, Capitol CMG Label

Group/Sparrow Records, 2016, http://hillsong.com/lyrics/what-a-beautiful-

namehttp://hillsong.com/lyrics/what-a-beautiful-name.

Ioja, Cristinel. “The Mystery of the Holy Trinity and the Experience of God in Liturgy Dogma,

Spirituality and Liturgy in Orthodoxy.” International Journal of Orthodox Theology, vol.

2, no. 1, 2011, pp. 106-116, www.socwork.net/sws/article/view/60/362. Accessed 16

February 2017.

Mercado, Justin. Personal interview. 16 February 2017.

Montanez, Marielis. Personal interview. 15 February 2017.
Rivera 16

Serrano, Kathy. Personal interview. 15 February 2017.

Streza, Ciprian. "The Divine Liturgy in Orthodox Spirituality: The Mystery of Man's Personal

Encounter with God through Worship and the Ascetical Life." The Greek Orthodox

Theological Review, vol. 58, no. 1-4, 2013, pp. 141-167. EBSCOhost,

login.ezproxy.net.ucf.edu/login?auth=shibb&url=http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.net

.ucf.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=reh&AN=ATLA0001986327&site=ehost-live.

The Bible. New International Version, Biblica Inc., 2011.