The Call to Worship

Why? That’s a question I often hear from my children’s mouths. “Clean your room.” “Why?” “Don’t beat up your brothers.” “Why?” “Don’t stick your head in the toilet!” “Why?” 

Children are naturally curious, but somewhere down the line, they stop asking the “why” question to everything and accept things the way they are. But have you ever stopped to ask the question “why” when it comes to the gathering of Christ’s body on the Lord’s Day? 

Why do we listen to sermons? Why do we sing songs? Why do we read the Bible? Why are we baptized or why do we partake of the Lord’s Supper? For many of us, we’ve stopped asking the why and accepted church practices as normative. 

In this short series, I hope to go through many elements included in our church’s liturgy to edify the body of Christ as we gather to worship our Triune God. Today I start by examining the call to worship. 

What is it? 

In the words of Bryan Chappell, “the Call to Worship exhorts God’s people to turn from worldly distractions and to focus hearts, minds, and actions on revering Him.” The call to worship is generally a few lines of Scripture read by the pastor at the beginning of the worship service. 

Why do we do it?

Is the call to worship practice of preference, or is there a Biblical backing to this element? Psalm 100 gives a sturdy foundation for guidance in this piece of the liturgy. The psalm says, 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. 

First, we see from this passage that God initiates the worship of His people; He calls for us to worship Him. The psalmist begins, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness!” We do not invite Him to be present in our midst; He calls for us to worship Him. 

Chappell again is helpful. He writes, “God calls us from all other preoccupations to join the people he has redeemed in recognition, praise, and service of his omnipresent glory (emphasis added).” 

Here, the reader is reminded that God is the One who initiates the relationship, not man. The Apostle Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”- 1 Peter 2:9-10 

I think of what we read in Revelation 5:11-14, where John records for us, 

11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

The call to worship, God invites us to join the worship that is already going on around the throne of heaven. What a fantastic reality. We are not coming into a party of friends or some seminary lecture, “we are invited into the presence of the King of the universe before whom all creation will bow and for whom all heaven now sings.” 

In our church’s call to worship, our scripture reading is typically centered on the theme preached later in the service, and the remaining pieces of our service flow out of this call to worship. 

Second, we are reminded from Psalm 100 that we are to respond to divine revelation. The psalmist writes, “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name (v.4).” Chappell writes, “in the Call to Worship the leader exhorts God’s people to respond to the revelation of the divine nature and blessings.” 

Third, we see from Psalm 100 that we are to respond to His redemption. Verse 3 says, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” It’s incredible to remember that God is pleased with our faithful worship and invites us to participate in His purpose(s). Chappell writes, “though we are weak, He is welcoming; though our iniquities are great, he remains inviting.” 

Chappell adds, “God gives us the privilege of welcome into his presence that we might reciprocate with the gift of worship. Right perception of this gift exchange encourages the worship leader to speak the Call to Worship with the warmth of heart and openness of gesture that such an occasion of mutual blessing deserves.” 

much of this post was an adaptation from Bryan Chappell’s book Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice.

You can find Chappell’s book by clicking this link:

Soli Deo Gloria,

Josh Chambers

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