What is Worship? What is It Not?

Leaders and pastors reflect on the meaning of worship in our lives and fellowships.

Story by Kate Larsen
Photos and video by JJ Portugal

Worship leaders, who pour out their service weekly, gathered in 2022 to ponder the meaning of worship, seek the Lord, and find refreshment at the West Coast Worship Conference at Calvary Chapel Chino Valley, CA. Holland Davis, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel San Clemente, CA, has organized the event for the past several years with the support of Senior Pastor David Rosales of CC Chino Valley.

The Wildwood Calvary Chapel worship team leads worship leaders from other CC churches at the CCA West Coast Worship Conference. The three-day conference equips worship leaders, musicians, vocalists, senior pastors, and tech teams with resources and refreshes, inspires, and challenges attendees in their relationships with God.

Day One began with worship, and Session #1 was followed by an impactful afterglow service and an open mic night where many shared songs, poetry, and spoken word.

Jered Caballero, CC Chino Valley’s worship leader, shared that at one point during the afterglow, there was an abrupt pin-drop silence. “It lasted that way for a good two minutes, and then suddenly songs started coming out of nowhere in the middle of the hall [with] people’s praises to the Lord. Prayers started going up. I think we began to see that night that the Lord was moving us to experience the Holy Spirit’s power, moving in the freedom we have in the Spirit, and moving within worship.”

Holland Davis (middle right), senior pastor of CC San Clemente, CA, prays with many during an afterglow where prayers and hymns were sung after a time of silence. “Anything we do in response to God loving us is an act of worship,” he explained.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2

The eruption of praise continued during the three day conference as worship leaders and worshipers sought the Lord through songs, Bible teachings, workshops, fellowship, and communion. “My prayer is that people would see and be encouraged that God is doing a new and fresh work within the current generation of worshipers that He has raised up in our churches,” Jered concluded.

Worshipers practice a vocal exercise at one of the many workshops offered. Next year’s conference will be held September 21-23, 2023.

The Heart of Worship

“True worship, worship that is pleasing to God, radiates throughout a person’s entire life.” A.W. Tozer

“There are two definitions I use for worship,” Holland Davis expressed. “The one I use when talking to worship leaders is [that] worship is your prayer set to music. It’s singing your prayers. The Book of Psalms is basically the prayer book of Israel—worship songs directed to the Lord. And so, the worship leader is really the prayer minister of the church, leading the whole congregation in prayer.”

The second definition, Holland offered, is one that meets the heart of Tozer’s sentiment above. “Worship is when we are loving God in each other’s presence and loving each other in God’s presence,” he said. “Anything we do in response to God loving us is an act of worship.”

Ministry leaders participate in corporate worship during the conference. David Rosales, senior pastor of CC Chino Valley, CA, explained that worship is expressed in a variety of ways “including the raising of our voices and our hands to the Lord and giving pure adoration. Worship is drawing near to God.”

A woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. Matthew 26:7

“Worship in its purest form is 100% adoration and devotion to the Lord, and it can come through a variety of means and expressions,” stated David Rosales. “Most commonly, we like to consider worship in terms of our voices being raised to the Lord, but worship is really a lifestyle. It is part of who we are. As a matter of fact, it is the main part of who we are.”

David expounded upon the true meaning of the word worship in the New Testament. “It literally means to be down on your face, to be moving forward in that fashion. It [worship] carries with it the sense of intimacy, a face-to-face intimacy with God Himself. And so, when we are worshiping, we are yielding who we are in totality—body, soul, spirit—as an act of adoration and a lifestyle of adoration.”

He continued, “And I think sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that worship is simply the song portion of a church service or just singing along with a song on the radio. No, it is a matter of life that finds expression in a variety of forms, including the raising of our voices and our hands to the Lord and giving pure adoration. Worship is drawing near to God, and it is a habit and lifestyle of doing so.”

Brenen Beeler, senior pastor of Regenerate Church, Huntington Beach, CA, calls leaders to pray for endurance in the work of their ministry.

Order of Service

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, … and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:5-6

Churches practice in many different forms their length of song and order of worship in services, mostly according to tradition. “We give to Him our worship, then He gives to us—through His Word—His instruction. And then we close by praising Him for what we’ve learned,” David shared.

But be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18b-20

Kelsi Fadness (left), worship leader of Lighthouse Church in Twin Falls, ID, responds joyfully to the call for prayer.

A New Song

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1

The worship leaders described the responsibility and thought that go into selecting the songs for church services—newer or older songs, and the importance of presenting biblically accurate content.

“We are essentially pledged to be faithful to the Lord, and the Lord doesn’t divorce Himself from His Word. So, to be faithful to God, we must be faithful to Scripture,” Greg Fadness, senior pastor of Lighthouse Church in Twin Falls, ID, conveyed. “Worship leaders are called to have a certain level of scrutiny over the songs to make sure they are faithful to Scripture.” There’s room for creativity, he added, but original songs must also be theologically sound and harmonious with Scripture. “The biggest thing is that what I’m writing is true to the Lord and to His Word.”

Leaders participate in a Q&A session. From left: Holland Davis and Adriane Blanco of CC San Clemente; Ray Loo of CC Santa Fe Springs, CA; David Rios of CC Corona, CA; Jason Talley of Wildwood CC, CA; Raymond Gregory of CC East Anaheim, CA; Brenen Beeler of Regenerate Church, Huntington Beach, CA; Dylan Bennett of Joshua Springs CC, CA; Greg Fadness of Lighthouse Church, ID; and Stephen Loo of CC Santa Fe Springs, CA.

Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain Worship Leader Matt Houston shared, “The Bible is my standard for worship songs. I know that when I am presenting a song or I am leading a song to our people, I am putting words in their mouths. The last thing I want to do is lead people astray with words in a song that are not biblical. So that’s always my measuring point—and then making sure the songs we sing are true to who God is and His character.” 

Many gathered with instruments at CC Chino Valley’s courtyard after the last session for a worship circle under the stars; Jered Caballero and his team led the group for several hours. Jered observed that, “God is doing a new and fresh work within the current generation of worshipers.”

A Worshiper of the Word

“Every worship leader should be a Bible student,” remarked Chris Fraley, senior pastor of Wildwood CC, CA. “There is going to be a disconnect when they are not.”

Holland Davis added, “I have invited very talented people in our church to serve on the worship team because we want to influence, … to disciple. But when it comes to that leadership role, it must be somebody who not only has the ability, but also the character, to sustain it.”

Holland also commented on the role of worship leaders in the church, including the roles God has given within the church and the gifts the Holy Spirit distributes. “You could have the gift of teaching and it could be from the pulpit. It could be in one-on-one counseling. There are a variety of ways each of those gifts operate, but it’s the same Lord. It is the same [Holy] Spirit. I look at worship in that light. Worship leading is a pastoral gifting administrated through song.”

A conference attendee takes notes at one of the voice-track workshops. Chris Fraley, senior pastor of Wildwood CC, CA, remarked, “Every worship leader should be a Bible student.”

In Spirit and Truth

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:23

“You can’t worship who you don’t know,” Matt Houston stated. “We are trying to worship in spirit and truth. It’s genuine. It is a time of vulnerability between you and the Lord, letting yourself go and connecting with Him.”

Wildwood CC Worship Leader Jason Talley expressed, “We can worship the Lord without music.” If someone is struggling to worship without music, it just comes back to that heart of choosing to humble ourselves before the Lord and bringing it back to those simple truths like the cross and giving every part of who we are, what we are, what we believe, and how we live our lives as an offering of praise to the Lord. It should all be an offering of grace.” 

People of all ages praise and worship God together during the first afterglow. “We are trying to worship in spirit and truth. It is a time of vulnerability between you and the Lord,” said Matt Houston, worship leader at CC Stone Mountain, GA.


Mark your calendar for 2023 Calvary Chapel Worship conferences: visit ccaworship.com for more information.


Watch as pastors and worship leaders reflect on the meaning of worship at the 2022 conference.

This story was first published in the Winter 2023 print issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine.


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© 2023 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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