Not everyone believes this. For many, worship is defined by moments of communion with God. It is talked about in terms of the “worship songs” that we sing. “Great worship” involves the best songs being sung with the highest intensity, the fewest distractions, and led by the best leader or band. This makes worship almost exclusively an activity. And in this view, we are put at odds with the church God actually wants us to worship with because they can kill “great worship” with an offbeat clap or a screaming child.
The Way of Worship
I doubt the Samaritan woman came away with this impression when Jesus told her, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). She had just posed to Jesus the age-old question of where one must worship (John 4:20). She wants to talk about where, he wants to talk about how. She seems caught up with the physical, Jesus wants us caught up with the spiritual.
Our gathering on Sundays is intended from start to finish to be a worship service. We certainly worship in song, but we also worship through the reading of God’s word, the preaching of it, through prayer, through sacraments, through ministry to one another, through confession, through the encouragement of others, through love and fellowship. According to Jesus, we must not put much stock in the physical elements of worship. What can seem like a disjointed prayer can actually be more of an act of worship than a smooth one which seems to call down heaven to earth. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Jesus is prescribing that things done poorly are somehow more virtuous. Rather, I think he is jealous that we don’t somehow cease to worship in our pursuit of worship. A pastor named Jason Helopoulos makes a striking point,
How silly it would be for us to rise early on Sundays to play the role of the critic. But as we take our seat in the church pew, our focus and motivation cowers to the voice crying out within, “they are not doing this right,” “they are not doing this well,” “they are not doing this as I would do it.” And in the midst of it all, we move from worshipper to critic. No doubt, the Christian is called to be discerning and discriminating in worship. All that passes for worship these days should not receive our approval…Yet, there is a temptation to spend more time at church critiquing than confessing, judging than rejoicing, criticizing than praising, and challenging than receiving when there is very little reason to do so.
What makes our gathering an act of worship is that it is an overflow of lives that are bent toward the same. We looked at this verse last Sunday, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). This whole devotion, this entire consecration is what God calls our spiritual worship. What happens 10am-12pm on Sundays has more to do with what happens the other 166 hours in the week.
If this is the case regarding worship, then why gather? Because God has given us corporate means. The church down through the ages has gathered to worship as a community in a way we cannot worship by ourselves (Acts 13:2; 1 Corinthians 14:25). And every time we gather it is a foretaste of the worship of our great God that we will share with one another for all eternity (Revelation 4:11-14). On any given Sunday, on this Sunday, let us worship.
This post is the second in the series On Any Given Sunday, which highlights the significance and value of each part of our Sunday service.
 Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 101.
 Jason Helopoulos “The Sunday Worship Killer,” The Gospel Coalition, July 21, 2015, accessed July 24, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/07/21/the-sunday-worship-killer/.