James B. Torrance notes that probably the most common view of worship is that it is something “we, religious people, do—mainly in church on Sunday. We go to church, we sing our psalms and hymns to God, we intercede for the world, we listen to the sermon . . . we offer our money, time and talents to God. No doubt we need God’s grace to help us do it. We do it because Jesus taught us to do it and left us an example of how to do it. But worship is what we do before God.” Torrance’s questioning of this view might catch us off guard. Isn’t worship all those things we do together when we gather before God—pray, sing, preach, and so on? If this is not worship, then what is it?
Yet Torrance describes the above view as unitarian rather than trinitarian because the agent of worship is the self. The emphasis falls on our decision, our faith, and our response. When we become the primary agent of worship, it is difficult to resist the belief that worship is primarily about us: our feelings, our experiences, even our gifts and talents. It is then difficult to resist the idea that wherever we feel closest to God is where we ought to worship. If I feel the grandeur of God on a mountaintop, then why do I need to sit in some stuffy church sanctuary? Or why do I really need to gather with other people to worship? This view leads to the idea that the church might be valuable but it is not necessary. It may be an important source of support, but it is secondary to the individual and his or her relation with God. Such an understanding, however, is deeply flawed (Newman, 2007).