The Dialogical Principle of Worship

This short article is the fourth in a series of bulletin inserts on worship at Trinity URC


From the very opening of Scripture, we see that God is the one who calls. God calls into the darkness, “Let there be light, and behold, there was light”. He is the one who calls into existence thing that do not exist (Romans 4:17). Because God’s Word is powerful to accomplish his purposes, his call never goes unanswered. When he called into nothing, Creation sprang forward. When he calls into dead, sinful hearts, saving faith in Jesus Christ is created (2 Corinthians 4:6).

From the very beginning, humanity’s covenantal relationship with God has been expressed by means of a dialogue, a conversation. Throughout the Old Testament, when God calls upon his servants they respond by saying “Here I am!” (Gen. 22:1; Samuel 3:4). The tragic sin of the Fall of Man was underlined by the fact that when God called to Adam, he hid himself in the trees, failing to respond to God’s call. But in our redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ, once again God calls to us and through the inward work of the Holy Spirit who makes the Word efficacious, we respond, “Here I am!”

This is what is happening in worship. Reformed orders of worship are meant to reflect what is known as the dialogical principle of worship. Put simply, worship is a dialogue, a conversation, between God and his people. There is a reason why our liturgies begin with the Call to Worship: God is the one who initiates relationship, he is the one who approaches us in Christ before we can ever approach him. However, it is not only God who speaks in worship – we speak too! We hear his call and then we respond with our grateful “Here we are!” through our songs of praise and through our prayers.

Our liturgy is carefully crafted to reflect the covenant conversation between God and us. This is why after the call to worship, we respond with words of invocation – asking God to be present in our worship service. Then, in response to this invocation, we hear God’s greeting – his response that he is present among us in blessing. The conversation continues as God proclaims his law, and we respond in confession; as God proclaims his everlasting forgiveness of sins in Christ, and we respond in praise and with prayer. The conversation climaxes in the sermon, where God speaks to us through his Word. It then ends in the benediction, when God speaks to us the final words of peace and blessing.

So, as you prepare your heart for worship, know that you’re entering into a divine conversation.  And all those who are in Christ have the wonderful privilege of responding as God’s people, saying “Here I am!”

-Austin Reed and Rev. Brian Vos