What is worship? | Back To The Garden

What is worship? Let’s go back to the garden to find out.

In this blog post, if you hang in there with me, I hope to provide a valuable framework to understand worship better. Whatever you know about worship, set it aside; please don’t throw it away (you may need to pick it up later); I want you to journey with me as we rediscover worship and answer the question– what is worship?

If you asked ten people, “what is worship?” you’ll most likely receive ten different answers. Why is that? Well, as we’ve embraced various forms of worship, our understanding of worship has evolved and continues to do so. So trying to answer the simple question “what is worship?” can prove to be complicated; however, it’s necessary.

To understand worship for all it is, we must transcend common ideas of what worship is and seek God for a fuller understanding. To do that, we start by recapturing God’s original intent for worship by going back to the Garden of Eden; there, we find a biblical framework for what worship was, is, and forever will be.

What do we see about worship when we go back to the Garden?

We don’t see “worship” as we know it today in Genesis chapters one and two; furthermore, we don’t see church services. We don’t see pastors or worship leaders. We don’t see people singing songs, bowing down, or even praising God. We don’t see offerings. To our surprise, there’s no religion, i.e., formulaic ritual, to worship God. Please take a moment and think about this, then let it sink in. There’s no religion in Genesis chapters one and two; we don’t see ritualistic ways to worship God until after Adam and Eve sinned against God.

In Genesis chapters one and two concerning worship, we see relationships. God created Adam and Eve. They were in a relationship with one another and with God. God was present with them; he blessed them, gave them authority, and they were present with each other in a relationship. This insight may not seem like much, but it’s a big deal; let me explain it further.

“In the Genesis garden narrative, we see the Glory of God extended through His creation’s harmonious relationship with each other.”

Dele Okuwobi

What can we learn about relationships when we go back to the garden?

We realize that relationships are at the pinnacle of God’s creation. Adam and Eve were in a relationship with one another and with God. God was present with them. God blessed them and gave them authority; Adam and Eve had a harmonious relationship with God, each other, and creation.

“God saw all He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and morning—the sixth day.” Genesis 1:28-31

The harmonious relationship God had with His creation was very good. We didn’t see a need or requirement for worship in any of the standard concepts of worship we know, like praise, lifting hands, etc. The blessing of God to Adam and Eve was eternal relationships on earth, and that was enough. Adam and Eve enjoyed relationships with each other, God, and creation.

“Righteous relationships are the seeds for giving God glory continually.”

Dele Okuwobi

In answering the question “what is worship?” We see God’s glory extending.

In the Genesis garden narrative, we see the Glory of God extended through his creation’s harmonious relationship with each other. Adam and Eve’s relationship with God, each other, and creation gave God Glory. His perfect design functioning as it should, extending God’s Glory. When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” His answer? To love God, to love others, and to love yourself. Jesus taught the law, and the prophets, the entirety of the Bible at that time, hung on to the commandment to love (Matt. 22:37-40). And to love requires a relationship, whether momentarily or lifelong.

Righteous relationships are vital to giving God glory.

The insight given here is simple; relationships matter to God. Righteous relationships are the seeds of giving God glory continually. Because we are always in a relationship with others, we continuously have an opportunity to Glorify God through those relationships. When we treat other people with the love of Christ, we bring Glory to God. Relationships were there in the garden and the gospels. In the gospels, Jesus elevated relationships as the highest commandment by teaching His followers to love one another.

It’s in plain sight; relationships are vital to giving God glory. Even the greatest commandment has the idea of giving God glory through the way we treat others baked into it. We can’t get away from it. To give God glory, one must have righteous relationships. Still with me? Let’s keep going; what else do we see in Genesis?

What going back to the garden teaches us about work.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

In the garden, we see the mandate of work as God’s blessing to establish a glorious partnership with his creation. Work allowed Adam and Eve (us, too) to partner with God and practice faithful stewardship over all He entrusted. It’s incredible; God chooses people not to grovel at his feet but to reign and rule with Him through work partnership. Work was part of God’s original intent to extend his Glory on earth; the blessing and reward of that faithful stewardship was dominion over the garden.

We do not see church services, singing songs, bowing down in reverent worship, or any form of worship as we know it today. We see a series of relationships with God and His creation through the mandate of work as a glorious partnership.

  1. Work allowed Adam and Eve to have righteous relationships with each other, creation, and God.

  2. “The Fall” was not just a fall from grace; it was a loss of the ability to partner with God to extend God’s heavenly Kingdom to earth through work.

  3. When they disobeyed God, they also lost their relationship as co-workers with God in the garden.

Work matters.

We can not take work lightly; what you do matters significantly to God. No matter your job, don’t fall into the trap of believing it is insignificant. As followers of Jesus, we must be aware that we have an adversary whose native tongue is a lie. He comes to still, kill, and destroy. When it comes to our work, he often wants you and me to think that our work isn’t significant. When and if this happens, take Colossians 3:23 to heart; it says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” This passage reminds us to work at maximum effort for a maximum God because we truly work with and for His glory.

So, What is worship?

Relationship + work = worship. And I define worship as the perpetual (continuous) glorifying of God through relationships and work. All spaces are sacred, so our daily activities involve relationships and work. Deciding to work with God and bring Him glory through those relationships and our work firmly establishes our union with God and others. So yes, how you treat your colleagues’ matters. How you go about your work matters. Our work glorifies Him. With this view in mind, we are reverent in our relationships and work, for this is how God originally intended for his creation to give him glory.

“Relationships + Work = Worship .”

Dele Okuwobi

Recapturing what worship is.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar. First, be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Returning to the garden, we can recapture the heart of worship. It is there that we rediscover that worship, as we know, was not presnt in the garden, but what we do see in the garden is the perpetual glorification of God through relationships and work. As we open our hearts to God’s original intent in the garden, we see that relationships and work are at the heart of giving God glory. For all other forms of worship to be everything they can be, we must have this understanding firmly entrenched in our hearts. Relationships + Work = Worship


To learn more about relationships + work = worship, Pastor Dele Okuwobi gives a message titled “Relationship with God.” In this sermon, he uses Genesis one and two to rediscover God’s intent for Worship.

Back To The Garden | Week 1 Sermon
OlaDele Okuwobi
OlaDele Okuwobi

OlaDele Okuwobi is the Directional Pastor of 21st Century Church, a church plant launched in Cincinnati, OH, on September 20, 2020. He is co-founder of the Love & Unity Project, a consulting and coaching agency helping churches and organizations combat personal and systematic bias by utilizing a combination of theological and social scientific training to ensure measurable and lasting change.