Let us return to Augustine who agreed that we can use a variety of music in our worship, but all that is done should be done with a certain gravitas, a certain solemnity, always containing the attributes of reverence and awe before the living God. The “what?” of worship, the “where?” of worship, the “when?” of worship, and especially the “how?” of worship must always be determined by the character of the One Who is the living God.
Three-quarters of the way through the twentieth century, Francis A. Schaeffer asked the question, “How should we then live?” His book of the same name answered the questions raised by the radical shift in our culture from modernity to post-modernity. The question that we face in our generation is closely related to it: “How should we then worship?” The “how?” of worship is a hotly disputed matter in our day. The issue has been described as the war of worship. If there has been a worship war in the church in America in the last thirty years, then surely by now its outcome has been decided. Far and away, the victorious mode of worship in our day is that form roughly described as contemporary worship. “Contemporary” in this context is contrasted with “traditional,” which is seen as being outmoded, passé, and irrelevant to contemporary individuals. Those who deem the contemporary shift in worship as a deterioration are in the minority, so it behooves us to explore the “how” question that Schaeffer first raised.
The “how” question is related to the other questions usually pursued by the journalists who seek to unwrap the details of a particular story. They ask the questions: “Who, what, where, when, and how?” In like manner, the best place for us to answer the “how” question of worship is to begin with the “who” question. Manifestly the most important question we ask is, “Who is it that we are called upon to worship with our hearts, our minds, and our souls?” The answer to that question at first glance is exceedingly easy. From a Christian perspective, the obvious reply is that we are called upon to worship the triune God. As easy as this answer is on the surface, when we see the concern given to this question throughout the Old and New Testaments, we realize that as fallen creatures it is one of our most basic and fundamental inclinations to worship something, or someone, other than the true God. It’s not by accident that the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments focus attention on the true God whom we are to worship according to His Being. The New Testament likewise calls us to honor God with true worship. Paul reminds us that at the heart of our fallenness is a refusal to honor God as God or to show proper gratitude to Him with praise and thanksgiving. So it is imperative that the Christian, at the beginning of his pursuit to understand what true worship is, gets it clear that the object of our worship is to be God and God alone.
When we move to the “where” question, it doesn’t appear to matter that much. We recall Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well when He said that the New Testament church has no appointed central sanctuary where all true worship must take place.