Note: This article is part 2 of our Blog Series on WHY we do what we do at DSChurch. Remember, if we ever lose track of the why, the how really doesn’t matter. In this blog series we are identifying the motive behind our methodology so that instead of our corporate worship becoming stale and meaningless repetition, we’ll have a renewed purpose and passion which pleases God.
The Book-Ends of our Corporate Worship Service: Why Do We Have A Weekly Call to Worship and Benediction?
Each week at DSChurch you notice in your bulletin (or on the screens) that we begin each corporate worship service with what we consider our “Call to Worship“. You also notice that we conclude our services with a “Benediction“. Why do we do this? Why is so important to us that we do it weekly? Could it be because, well, we’ve just always done it that way?
The truth is, there are many reasons why we do these things with regularity. Let me explain…
The Call to Worship.
Worship is something we offer to God every day of our lives in everything that we do. Worship isn’t confined to the space within the walls of a local church but it’s a privileged calling that believers have whether at church, at home, at work or at play. That 24/7 calling to live lifestyles of worship leads to an interesting question…If we are already worshiping as we come in the church doors, why do we have a Call to Worship?
It all comes back to a little, beautiful word “corporate.” When we hear the Call to (corporate) Worship, understand that we are called by God as one community of believers to worship Him together…corporately. The unique aspect of The Lords day, Sunday, is not that we worship on that day and not others; it is on that day that we worship the Lord of all…. together.
There are several reasons why we consider the “Call to Worship” to be important in the life of our church. First, we live in a society that teaches us to think highly of our own ability. We are a fiercely independent, self-motivated people. In my estimation, the Call to Worship seems to put us in our rightful place. We come to worship because God has summoned us to do so. We come to worship because God initiates our coming, not the other way around. So the corporate call to worship reminds us of God’s sovereign reign over us.
Second, the earliest word used to describe the Church in the Bible was ekklesia. (we talked about this on Sunday morning.) Its root is the Greek word kaleo, which means, “to call.” The people of God, as the ekklesia, are “the called-out ones.” When we hear the Call to Worship, we are being reminded of our identity as those who’ve been called out and set apart by God for His holy purposes and His glory. This truth reminds us of the fact that we are not our own. We are reminded that we are “strangers” in this land. We are reminded that we are treasured and loved by God. So the call to worship reminds us of our identity in Christ.
When God is recognized as the central figure of Sunday morning, and when He, not you or I, is seen to be the reason we are here in the first place and the one to whom we all must respond to, the elements of worship can be seen in a different and truer light. When we begin our “Call to Worship“, it serves as a trumpet blast that reminds us that this meeting is no merely human meeting, planned and controlled by our human agendas, but a special meeting called by God, on His divine authority, for His purpose of meeting with his people. In the call to worship God himself speaks through the worship leader. We lay aside our agendas, realize where we are and what we, and focus our attention on the unseen God..
Another reason we need the “Call to Worship“?….Because we are bombarded by life. Throughout the week we find ourselves tossed about in this world of sin and brokenness. In a sense, we can forget God. We can forget His promises to us in Christ. We can forget who we are. We can forget that we’re designed for communion with our God. And this forgetfulness allows us to create personal idols without even realizing it. We begin to worship lesser things—people, money, possessions, prestige, the “perfect life.” The Call to Worship jolts us back into reality. It is a bucket of cold water on our world-induced trance and reminds us that He is our God and we are His people.
At the conclusion of our worship services at DSChurch, before our congregation heads out of the doors, as the Pastor, I lift my hands and pray a prayer of blessing over our people. This is called the benediction. Have you ever wondered why we do that each week? The word “Benediction” was introduced to the English language around 1432 and comes from the Latin word benediction which means “to speak well of or to bless”.
A benediction is simply a blessing spoken over a person or a group of people.
The benediction most likely derives from Number 6:22-27 which says this: “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ˜Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
What tugs at my soul concerning this passage is that last phrase, “So they shall put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” What does it mean to say that Gods name should be put upon His people?
Think of a branding iron. In the Old West, cowboys would brand the mark, or name upon the cattle to ensure all who came across them (including enemy poachers) would know who these cattle belonged to. In speaking a benediction over His own people, God is putting a mark on them, so to speak, and the main function of that mark is to identify them as his own and beckon the blessings of God upon them.
Therefore, the reason we raise our hands and speak a blessing over Gods people at the end of every service at DSChurch is to mark them with the name of God and thereby beckon the blessings of God upon their lives
So, when you think upon and practice The Call to Worship and the Benediction as we gather at DSChurch remember that they aren’t just something we do for the sake of doing them. They have a specific and important purpose. The Call to Worship and the Benediction are important traditions not only in the history of Christian worship services but great Spiritual reminders as well As they are the book-ends of our corporate worship settings, starting and concluding our services, they point to us to a critical truth about the type of worship that Pleases the Father: God always gets the first and last word. We understand the Call to Worship as God’s call to us. If we are ever to have a relationship with God, it is God who must first initiate to us. Likewise, in the Benediction, it is only by God’s blessing (which is what a “benediction” is) and power are we able to go out into the world and accomplish the Kingdom mission He has given us.
Soli Deo Gloria!