30 Apr Feel like worshipping? Why we need a call to worship
I once heard a pastor recount a time when he visited another church while on a trip. As he walked into the service, his first observation was that there was a countdown video, followed by the worship leader beginning the service with, “Hey! How do y’all feel this morning?” This countdown and these first words that began the worship service were used to get people hyped about worship. It was as if the worship leader was trying to manufacture excitement!
I can tell you from experience that this story doesn’t sound too far off from many churches I have visited over the past decade. Some of you might be wondering, “what is wrong with that?”
Perhaps I can explain why it might be wise to start a different way.
As Christians (and if you’re like me) we don’t always feel like coming to worship. As a new father, I can’t promise you my five-month-old daughter is going to sleep through the night. Not at all. This means I can easily show up tired on Sunday mornings. The reality is, there are all types of unexpected things that can wear us out or threaten to hinder our joy before we even get to church on Sunday mornings. By the time the service begins at 10:30 a.m. we might be ready for a nap!
When a worship leader on a Sunday morning asks, “How do y’all feel this morning?” he is probably doing so to get an enthusiastic response. He is trying to get people excited about worship. But if we’re honest, if someone asks how we’re doing at the beginning of worship on any given Sunday morning, our responses should be “tired,” “stressed,” or “angry at our disobedient children.”
There are also those showing up to church who are suffering. They arrive to church feeling sad and discouraged. Do you think it’s appropriate to handle the beginning of a worship service for them like a pep rally?
Again, there is nothing wrong with asking the question, “How do y’all feel this morning?” My desire is that every Sunday morning you are greeted warmly by our Redeemer Church members who genuinely want to know how you are doing. My point, however, is to show that we don’t need a worship pastor who is just trying to get us excited about worshipping God by using pep rally methods. We need real fuel for our worship. We need real substance.
It is my responsibility as a worship leader not to make you feel a certain way or to motivate you to worship. I can’t do that. I can, however, proclaim the word of God to you. I can lead you in recounting what we already know—who our God is and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. I can lead us in remembering that He is a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
When we gather to worship God with our church family—a joyful duty for Christians—we don’t do so in order to chase a feeling. We do so to magnify God; to bless His name. When we proclaim Biblical truth about who our God is and what He has done for us, this fuels our worship and affections in a way that nothing else can.
Make no mistake, our worship should be a deeply emotional experience, but not because we are chasing an emotional experience. We can’t manufacture genuine love and affection for God. Only He can cause us to worship. This is why we often sing songs asking God to help us sing to Him. A great example of this is found in the hymn “Come thou Fount of Every Blessing,” where we sing, “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” Our worship should be an emotional experience because we are responding to the glory of our God displayed for us in His word and in Christ. God desires passionate, heartfelt worship from His people!
This isn’t going to look the same for everyone. Some people might close their eyes and lift their hands in worship while others stand with their hands by their sides and eyes open. Both types of worshippers can be experiencing deep affection for God. As God says, In 1 Samuel 16:7, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Verses like these show us we shouldn’t gauge the effectiveness of a worship service by how many hands are lifted, or how engaged people are by responding “Great!” to a worship leaders’ introduction to the service. Also, this should lead us to plan services with this in mind.
One way we seek to responsibly lead others in worship at Redeemer Church is by beginning every worship service with God’s word—not with a song; not with a “How do y’all feel this morning?” We begin each service hearing from God Himself, commonly known as the “call to worship.” We want God’s word to inform our emotions. He is the One who calls us to worship Him time and time again in His word. He is the One who is worthy of all of our praise and affections. Worship is our response to God; it is not our idea. It is us ascribing to God His worth and glory. “How do y’all feel this morning?” isn’t necessarily a bad question, but a better one is,
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth.
– Psalm 113:5, 6
The answer? No one and no thing. No one is like our God.
Only our God is:
…high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
And only He:
…raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the LORD!
– Psalm 113: 4, 7-9
Our worship should be joyful and full of hope. Every Sunday we need to ground our joy in the only One who can truly supply it. Only He is worthy of our praise, and only He can fulfill our every longing. He is the One who calls us to “…taste and see that the LORD is good.”
When we gather for worship this Sunday, rather than focusing on how we feel, let’s focus on what we know. Together let’s hear from God and in response declare His eternal goodness, faithfulness, holiness and love, and allow these truths to inform our emotions in worship.