We are to worship God how God wants us to worship Him. This is the apparent crisis in the revolution of worship in our day. The driving force behind the radical shift in how we worship God today is not because of a new discovery of the character of God but rather through pragmatic studies on what works to attract people to corporate worship. Thus, we devise new ways of worship that will accommodate the worship of the people of God to those who are outside the covenant community. We are told that churches ought to be seeker-sensitive, that is, they ought to design worship to be appealing to people who are unbelievers. That may be a wonderful strategy for evangelism, but we must remember that the purpose of Sabbath worship is not primarily evangelism. Worship and evangelism are not the same thing. The solemn assembly is to be the assembling together of believers, of the body of Christ, to ascribe worship and honor and praise to their God and to their Redeemer. And the worship must not be designed to please the unbeliever or the believer. Worship should be designed to please God.
We remember the tragic circumstances of the sons of Aaron in the Old Testament, who offered strange fire before the Lord, which God had not commanded. As a result of their “experiment” in worship, God devoured them instantly. In protest, Aaron went to Moses inquiring about God’s furious reaction. Moses reminded Aaron that God had said that He must be regarded as holy by all who approach Him.
I believe that the one attribute of God that should inform our thinking about worship more than any other is His holiness. This is what defines His character and should be manifested in how we respond to Him. To be sure, God is both transcendent and imminent. He is not merely remote and aloof and apart from us. He also comes to join us. He abides with us. He enters into fellowship. He brings us into His family. We invoke His presence. But when we are encouraged to draw near to Him in New Testament worship, we are encouraged to draw near to a God who, even in His imminence, is altogether holy.
The modern movement of worship is designed to break down barriers between man and God, to remove the veil, as it were, from the fearsome holiness of God, which might cause us to tremble. It is designed to make us feel comfortable. The music we import into the church is music that we draw from the world of entertainment in the secular arena. I heard one theologian say recently that he was not only pleased with this innovative style of worship and music but thought that what the church needs today is music that is even more “funky.” When we hear clergy and theologians encourage the church to be more funky in worship, I fear that the church has lost its identity. Rather, 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.
*Tabletalk Magazine: January 2005. 2005 (6–7). Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries, Inc.