What is the Call to Worship?
By: Richard Sugg
When Jesus spoke to the woman in Samaria, recorded in John 4, he declared that, “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (John 4:21). This was because “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). In Jesus, we have access to God. And by specifying, “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” Jesus taught us that all of our life is meant to be worship.
Our weekly worship services are also intended to lead us to worship the Lord. In our services at Trinity Park, anyone attending will probably notice that week-to-week we follow a particular order of worship, or liturgy. This is intentional, as each part of our worship service has a special function in serving this purpose.
This installation highlights the first part of our service: the call to worship.
Our services begin with a call to worship. This is God calling us to corporate worship. The call to worship is intended to direct our minds and our hearts toward the true and living God. It directs us to the foundation of our hope by pointing us to Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11). The call to worship invites us to stop what we were thinking about, stop what we are doing, and prepare to worship together. It is an invitation to meditate on our hope in Jesus and prepare to hear the word of God, which gives us grace in our lives. When we are experiencing God’s blessing in our lives, the call to worship directs our attention to the Giver of all gifts (James 1:17). When we are hurting, when we are struggling, the call to worship directs us to our great high priest, Jesus, who deeply desires comfort and sympathize with our weaknesses, and who suffered for us (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Practically speaking, if the call to worship is this important, what are some ways in which we receive these benefits? Let us suggest four:
#1: Arrive on time. We can’t hear the call to worship if we aren’t present, or are still finding a seat. Western cultures are more prone to being sharp and short on time while Eastern cultures tend to be more relaxed and social within matters of time. For both cultural backgrounds, the need to be on time as well as congregate after the service and be flexible to God’s shaping of the weekly calendar presents challenges.
#2 Personally participate in the service. Don’t gloss over the meaning of the phrase “worship service.” We follow a God who both tells us, “God is not served by human hands as though he needs anything, but he himself gives to everyone life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Therefore, we approach God in worship services to first receive his love and then ascribing to God the praise he is worthy to receive. He is great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 145:3). Listen to the liturgy as healing to your wounds. When we sing, let it be YOUR song. As you sing the words, consider words. The songs are intentionally chosen. We don’t want to be lulled into a routine where we simply sit, stand, sing, and repeat. We want to focus both our minds and our hearts on hearing God’s gracious words to us.
#3 Ask the Lord to let you experience worship in a fresh way. We gather on Sunday mornings with a hopeful expectation that these words, songs, and time together would be life to our souls. God alone has the power to bring about renewal through the worship service and he ministers to our needs through elements of the service such as the call to worship. The renewal of God will propel us to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:1).
#4 Believe that all of life is worship. Our connection with God doesn’t start when we arrive, and it doesn’t end when we leave. Personal worship during the week is critical for the care of our souls. At Trinity Park, we encourage you to find some way of hearing God’s words of life during the week. Find some way to talk to your husband, wife, kids, or friends about the Lord’s grace. A key application of conversing about God’s grace is to share your struggles with each other and affirm the Lord’s goodness to each other. We need each other in our church to be the hands and feet of Jesus to each other as we point each other to him.
The Call to Worship is a reminder. In our modern world full of busyness, the Call to Worship is the invitation to slow down, to remember the goodness and healing of Christ Jesus, and to acknowledge his relentless love that binds us both with him and with the other people in our church. We hope these practical applications above will guide you to receive the gift of worshipping God more fully.