Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component. This week we will focus on the first aspect of our liturgy: the call to worship.
What is the Call to Worship?
What exactly is the call to worship? Why do churches begin their service with a call to worship? Personally, we never did a call to worship in the beginning of a service in the churches that I grew up in. The call to worship is important because we are first and foremost acknowledging that corporate worship is primarily God calling us to worship, rather than us approaching God to worship. The church are those who, as 1 Peter says, are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for His own possession” that God has purchased, redeemed, and secured. Therefore, when we gather together to worship and proclaim the glory of God, it is our Lord himself who calls us to worship him on the Lord’s day.
Generally speaking, the call to worship is a Scripture reading where the people of God are inviting to respond either by reflection or proclamation. The Austin Stone Worship School notes that “it is a well thought out exhortation pulled from and rooted in Scripture that helps to center people’s hearts on worshiping Christ alone.” The worship leader or simply a reader would proclaim from God’s word a portion of Scripture that exhorts us to come into God’s presence with joy, fear, gladness, and celebration. It would cause us to remember and reflect on why we are worshiping in the first place.
Why do a Call to Worship?
Theologically speaking, we believe that in salvation, apart from God’s divine calling (Romans 8:30), we would never come to know him as savior at all. God is the divine initiator, the One who calls us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The call to worship in the beginning of corporate worship points to our belief that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit regenerating and calling us to himself, we would never gather to worship.
From a practical standpoint, the call to worship re-orients the people of God to the things of God and helps set the tone and posture of the worship service right at the beginning. The reality is that many people are coming into corporate worship weak, tired, frustrated, isolated, and hungry—but they don’t know what they need. Perhaps that particular Sunday was stressful—the kiddos disobeyed, the dog peed on the floor, and you argued with your spouse the entire way. As you enter the sanctuary, you are not engaged in the things of God. You’re angry, tired, and disengaged. The call to worship re-orients your heart toward God, reminds you of his sovereignty and goodness, and causes you to worship him again.
Call to Worship Examples
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1-2)
1 Peter 1:3–5 (ESV): 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
This morning as we worship let us look to Jesus and be reminded of His goodness and grace to us. As we begin our service we are going to read a passage out of Colossians 1 that encourages us to see Christ for who He is, our King of Kings (read Colossians 1:15-20).
Scripture says we are to bless the Lord at all times. As His bride we have the unique opportunity to praise His name together and make much of Him. Let’s read Psalm 34:1-3 as we are reminded and encouraged to magnify the Lord together in this place today
Leader: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
People: Jesus was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being.
Leader: What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
People: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Leader: From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1) Let us praise God.