“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 107:1
by Lauren Chandler
I GREW UP A CHURCH GIRL. From the Cradle Roll to Graduation Sunday, I rarely missed a Sunday morning sitting on a wooden pew beside my father, mother, and little brother. Squirming in a starched dress and suffocating stockings, I would catch my mother’s correcting glare and surrender to an hour of big words on bulletins. Now, this is all from the perspective of an elementary student who grasped more of the gospel through songs and Bible stories in Sunday School than through Mrs. Williford’s solos and Dr. Hall’s sermons. The gospel was there; my little heart and mind just didn’t have the capacity to catch it — yet.
It was (and is) an important practice to sit as a family and hear the Word sung and preached.
But back to those big words on bulletins. If you didn’t grow up a church kid or your church is of a different denomination, you may have tripped over the word bulletin. What in the world is that? The bulletin is a piece of paper on which the order of worship is printed for all to follow along. Think of it as a less-lustrous playbill; but instead of “Act One” there are words like invocation, invitation, and benediction. The invitation is as it sounds: a chance for those who hear the sermon to respond, either by placing their faith in Christ, receiving prayer, or deciding to join the church. The benediction comes at the end of the service. It is a time to receive and bestow a blessing — a time to remind each other that, for the believer, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13). I saved the term invocation for last because I want this concept to stick with you. To invoke means “to call for with earnest desire.” This is why the invocation may also be termed the “call to worship.”
At the beginning of a praise and worship service, the invocation may be interpreted two different (although often happening simultaneously) ways. One may view the call to worship as a corporate prayer to the Lord to make His presence manifest among him or her. We know God is omnipresent. King David penned a psalm describing God’s inescapable presence. He could go down to the depths and God would be there. He could climb upon the heights and still, God would be there. (See Ps. 139.) But there were also times when David, although he knew God’s presence remained, had a hard time perceiving God. (See Ps. 71:12.)
As Christians, we’re sealed with the Holy Spirit — He takes residence within us — so He certainly isn’t far. But aren’t there times when you want to experience His manifest presence? When you want to “feel” His nearness? When a word preached or spoken or a song hits you square in that tender spot? That’s the heart behind this interpretation of invocation. We are crawling into this. We’re calling upon the Lord to come closer — close enough to feel His breath, smell His scent, and hear His heartbeat.
While it’s certainly good — it’s even encouraged in Scripture — to ask God to draw nearer to us as we draw near to Him (see Jas. 4:8), the call to worship can also be an opportunity for the worship leader or pastor to implore the congregation to “come closer.”
Let’s face it. Who among us hasn’t stumbled into a worship service with the cares of the week heavy on our shoulders, or with sleepy eyes and foggy brains, or maybe simply out of duty because we sure haven’t felt God for quite a while? Most often we’re the ones who need to be invoked — drawn out, called for with earnest desire.
Psalm 107 is a call to worship — a call to the people of God to remember all the ways He has rescued and will continue to rescue. The psalmist is imploring the people to speak out loud of His faithfulness and thank Him for it. He invites us to invite each other to tell it. Because some of us need to hear a certain word right now, and all of us need to be reminded that God is here. •
Lauren Chandler is a wife and mother of three. Her husband, Matt Chandler, serves as the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. Lauren is passionate about writing, music, and leading worship, not only at The Village Church, but also for groups across the country. She is the author of the Steadfast Love book and Bible study.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (September 2017). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.