September 19, 2020

The Evangelical Liturgy 6: The Call to Worship

SB_6-3-2009_(15)_SRNLNRHW“Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming; for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness.”

No element of the evangelical liturgy is as clearly Biblical as the call to worship. It is deeply rooted in Biblical language, Biblical history and Biblical theology.

God’s call is fundamental to the general announcement of salvation and the specific work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. God’s call creates, gathers and identifies. It invests an ordinary gathering with the significance of the people of God entering into the presence and purpose of God in worship.

The call to worship is a re-enacting of fundamental and highly significant aspects of the life of the individual and corporate people of God. We are called to God, called to worship, called to mission and called to present attentiveness to the Word and its work among us. We are called to think of God and to hear his commands and invitations.

In my own experience, there is a sense of betrayal that happens when a worship service fails to include a formal call to worship. The informality of many evangelical services is spiritually discouraging, leaving the worshiper with no corporate experience of God calling him/her to attention and the glad work of worship. It is as if we have simply been put together with no purpose any more significant than to do the next thing we are asked to do on someone’s list. Our identity, our “calling” into the experiences of praise, prayer and worship has been forgotten or completely overlooked. There’s something profoundly wrong with the relatively meaningless beginnings to many evangelical worship services.

Have you ever been at a worship gathering where the service began with nothing? Perhaps an awkward attempt at humor followed by the announcement of a hymn? No call to worship. The impact of this lack of seriousness and intention is real. It discourages, not encourages, worship with heart, mind, soul and voice.

Now, I understand that if a call to worship is not specified it is not likely to be included, and I understand that habits such as beginning a service with humor can simply be a way to let off a moment of nervousness. But in the context of worship, the call to worship’s absence sends us out in no direction, with no identity and leaving the responsibility of creating this identity and purpose to something else in worship.

In the meantime, who are we and what are we doing? The call to worship established this important context, and I believe that is fundamental to meaningful and intentional worship.

The loss of the call to worship or the replacement of it by- of course- more music- is a significant and damaging loss. And a totally unnecessary one.

A clear strong voice, calling us to recognize God, to be serious in joy and whole-hearted in singing, praying and hearing…this is a fundamental element of worship. No technology needed 🙂

This is an area in which the “seeker” model of worship presents a real challenge. The call to worship is antithetical to the purpose of seeker worship, which is to include those who do not consider themselves to be the people of God or in relationship with God. It is in this area that many Christians struggle when their church leadership asks the church to relinquish the familiar external, liturgical signs of being God’s people and take up a more missional, seeker-friendly identity that abandons things like the call to worship.

Resources for calls to worship are easily found in books of worship, common prayer, services and liturgy. In his excellent book Christ Centered Worship, Bryan Chappell has an outstanding discussion of the call to worship and examples of finding/constructing them from various sources in and outside of scripture. Many resources for calls to worship can be found on the web.

Designing an appropriate call to worship that encapsulates the direction of a worship service is a great help and encouragement to every worshiper. I hope those wanting to establish a liturgical renewal in their churches will learn to design calls to worship that speak to the congregation, invoke the presence of God and focus the purpose of worship.


  1. This is good, and your brief highlight on the corporate nature of the call and worship as a whole is highly important. Sunday morning worship goes beyond just me and Jesus. It becomes Jesus and His people. Something is truly missed if the believer either skips out on corporate worship or fails to see the corporateness of it.

    So I agree wholeheartedly that a lack of CtW robs the congregation of something important and can easily set the stage for a man-centered, me-centered experience, even when the rest of the service is planned with the opposite intentions.



  2. We don’t necessarily have a formal call to worship. We do always have a Scripture reading and a formal benediction.

    Something else we’ve added is that our pianist who is also an Assoc. Pastor speaks to us before certain worship songs. It’s wonderful in that he keeps us focused on Christ Who is the reason for our singing.

  3. For the Orthodox, the proclamation “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages!”, answered by the congregation singing “Amen!” signifies that Earth has ascended into Heaven and Heaven has descended to Earth. Kairos superceeds chronos and we are in a Holy Place and this is Holy Time.

    • Christiane/L's says

      Holy Time: I have had ‘experience’ of this on several occasions. At an Orthodox service, time seemed to ‘stand still’, it was so beautiful. When consciousness of time goes away, what comes in its place is holy indeed.

  4. iMonk,

    I would be very interested if you have found any resources or articles on “seeker-friendly” calls to worship? Something that sets a tone of worship for the faithful, while respecting the sensitivity of “seekers” who might find such a tone to be exclusive.


    • Tom Meacham says

      Hi Luke, do you mind if I share? This was a call to worship used in a Christian (Disciples of Christ) service:
      Leader: Welcome in the name of Jesus Christ.
      All: Whether we are young or old, whether we are first-time or longtime worshippers, whether we come full of doubts or confidence, joy or sorrow,
      Leader: In this place we are a community bound together because of what Jesus did for us when he was lifted up on the cross.
      All: All are welcome in this place.
      This was followed by the “sharing of the peace”.

      • Interesting. I like it – the message is clear; but the medium could be off-putting – i.e., memorized recitation and response. For the brand new visitor, sitting and staring blankly during this kind of call could be just as awkward as any traditional call or invocation.

        Maybe it could/should be printed in a bulletin so visitors know it’s coming?

        • In my experience in a DOC church in Indiana, everything you could possibly wonder about was printed clearly and helpfully in the bulletin.

  5. I have been following your series and I am delighted with your thoughts. I do have a couple of questions that may or may not be appropriate at this point in your series.

    1. When is the right time for community announcements? In the churches I serve, they come between the Prelude and the Call to Worship. If you are seeking a flow or movement from prelude into the actual worship time, do the announcements at that point interrupt? And, if not then, when?

    2. Do you follow the Call to Worship with a prayer of some sort, like a Prayer of Invocation or a Prayer of the Day?

    Thank you for the great series on worship.

    • Gary,
      From my perspective, community announcements should come before the prelude. We consider the prelude to be a time to focus our hearts and minds on worship, and our musician considers the prelude to be her offering of praise at the opening of the worship service.

  6. Mr. Imonk, this series seriously owns. Please, when you are finished, publish it as a pamphlet. This needs to be read by way too many evangelicals. Thanks for the resources link. I am putting all this to use as you write it, I can’t understate how helpful it is for me. I am buying Chappell’s book immediately.
    The call to worship is particularly neglected these days. Your typical fundagelical only understands it as a good song for opening worship, but the only one that anybody knows is “Come, Now is the Time to Worship.” And you can’t just use that song every week. Two other songs that really need to be discovered that can help with this are Mat Papa’s setting of Psalm 95, and the Getty’s “Come People of the Risen King.” Both of these songs done right can seriously rock, while at the same time, seriously set the tone for worship in a way that is biblical.

    • I second this. It would be great to be able to download a PDF or something of this series to share/study/discuss with our leadership team.

      Thanks for taking the time to articulate these things, Michael…we need to hear them.

  7. Dan Crawford says

    As an Anglican priest, I introduced a call to worship in every church where I ministered because people tended to regard the nave as a community hall. I used one or two Scriptural verses (usually from the Psalm appointed for the Sunday) followed by two minutes of silence followed by the opening hymn. I thought people would dislike the two minutes of silence, but in every church, people told me how much they appreciated it and how much it meant to them to have their spirits quieted before worship.

    Thanks for a wonderful essay.

    • dan,

      the 2-minute silence is a great idea. i think this is a wonderful way to “be still” before God and a time to really adjust to so-called “worship” mode. there are so many distractions and hinderances. and keeping quiet makes us realize first of all the greatness of God, and that He has initiated calling us into His presence, not of our own worth but bec of and through the Lord Jesus.

      thanks for sharing.


  8. Steve Newell says

    At my Lutheran church, we start with the Pastor saying “The Lord be with you” and the congregation responds “And also with you”. During the Easter season, the Pastor says “He is risen” and with the response “He as risen indeed. Alleluia!”.

    There may be a few announcements but they are specific of the worship.

    Then there is a ringing of the bells.

    • I got up on easter Sunday to open the service at my Baptist church and said, “He is Risen”…..
      ….silence. I was shocked. I was raised in a Calvary chapel and even I knew the proper response to that. We have a lot to learn from the Lutherans about preserving the words of the faith.
      I swear sometimes I feel that the Baptist church is some what of a mission field… 😛

      • the baptist church for all of it’s good points, and there are some, is a messy, often sloppy, unpredictable animal raised on a healthy dose of anti-intellectualism

        • And the irony of it all of course is calling it a “mission” field given a typical SBCer’s emphasis on missions.

        • Austin: that is gettng cut and pasted, and I’m not even Baptist (Vineyard, actually, but your comment is so on the money, its application is bleeding over……LOL ….and cry a little.

          Greg R

        • As a missionary – having circulated among a large number of Baptist churches, I tend to classify their outlook as more of a non-intellectualism than a purposeful anit-intellectualism. Sure, there are those few who rant and rave about the current crop of Christian thinkers, but for the most part, my observation is that many Baptist churches simply ignore them or are completely unaware of them.

          • In general that is probably a more acurate accuont and description than my summary

          • Steve Newell says

            As one raised in the SBC, most SBC churches are acreedial and ahistoric in their understanding of the Church and her history. Of course, one could make this claim about many “evangelical” churches today as well.

  9. iMonk,

    i’ve always believed that the Call to Worship is one of , if not the most critical in the liturgy. it sets the tone and mood in a godly way. christian consumerism has really diverted us from the true essence of corporate worship.

    thanks for the series. will be echoing these insights to our youth and pre-teen class for them to have a biblical foundation of what the service is all about. i am wary of these kids thinking that services are all about Hillsong United. i really appreciate the different traditions of christian liturgy especially the lutheran and anglican.

    have a blessed day!


  10. Invocation will be addressed as a separate post. Please see the Intro.

    Announcements. Depends on your liturgy. I prefer them before everything. Actually settles people down for the prelude. At the end, attention lags. At St. Pats in Lex, they do it between the two Liturgies. (After Word, before Eucharist.) That feels a bit awkward to me, but I also sense some theological placement in terms of the life of the community.

    • Christiane/L's says

      Doing ‘announcements’ at that time: after the Liturgy of the Word and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist) may actually be traditional, because from time immemorial, catechumens were ‘dimissed’ following the Liturgy of the Word. There was this ‘break’ in the ‘mass’, as catechumens were not considered ‘ready’ to be present and partake of Eucharist until they were formally received into the sacramental life of the Church.

      A ‘natural break’, but a very old, old tradition. They could hear messages, and depart prior to the Eucharistic Celebration.

    • Oh, yeah! Reading the notices while they’re taking up the collection, after the Prayers of the Faithful but before starting the Liturgy of the Eucharist? We do that, too.

      Possibly because the collection is part of the Offertory (the ushers bring up the baskets and place them before the altar) and probably because while everyone is scrabbling in their purses and pockets for change and passing around the baskets, you might as well forget prayer and instead announce the school openings, the parish sale of work, and the death notices 🙂

  11. our call to worship

    after SS and after we sing happy b-day and happy anniversary and folks put their dollars in the plastic church for the children’s home offering

    “yall come on up to the choir”

    not good

  12. Imonk,

    Are you at any time going to address the issue of “dress”. And not in the issue of what the congregation is wearing, but clerical attire, vestements etc?

    • I said somewhere in a previous that such things are at the disgression of each church in regard to various factors they should consider.

      But I would oppose any minister wearing anything without the clear understanding of its meaning. I usually preach in a preaching robe (black with a stoll) when I’m at the Presby church, but never at the Baptists or at chapel.

  13. Austin kinda hinted at where I was going to come at this from.

    As much as I like the call to worship that opened the article, sadly, what I’m normally accustomed to hearing is, “Hi there; how y’all doin’ today?”

    My fondest memory is of a Saturday night thing that met in the ’70s in suburban Toronto, Canada where at a certain point a “holy hush” would simply fall over the auditorium for about a minute. Awesome. From there, the worship leader would simply start playing and we would begin.

  14. While rarely having an official “call to worship” – I’d never begin a service without focusing us on the One we’ve gathered together to worship.

  15. There’s a really important point here, thank you.

    I am not quite convinced though by the premise about the character of worship (or about the assumption that one person has to do this to and for the community).

    I don’t mean to question your proper challenge for us to take seriously the character of the God whom we serve, or the need for our gatherings to be characterized by awe – and I take it here your implied audience is the mega-Church culture that presents entertainment as worship. I mean that such a “call”, often ending (in one tradition I know) with “let us worship God” makes an odd statement in the end about what we are doing the rest of the time – before and after Church. “Worship” doesn’t mean Liturgy, good or bad, it means service. We have to worship outside Church as well as inside. Calling people to “worship” therefore doesn’t actually manage to capture whatever it is that is distinctive about the event we call “Church”.

    And I think the notion of the “clear and strong voice” really reflects the culture of classical Protestantism more than anything distinctively biblical. That doesn’t make it right or wrong, I know. But a group of Christians who gather and start their time together singing authentic praise to God have clearly been called, and are calling one another, to do something.

    The question is, what is that something? Does this vague idea of “worship” really tell us?

    Thank you for your ministry on this site – Peace to you.

  16. I don’t know what a call to worship is. What tradition does it come from?

    Lutherans usually ring a bell: “DONG DONG DONG.” I think that’s a good call to worship.

    Then either sing a hymn and wait for the stragglers or do invocation and confession & absolution.

  17. Andrew: The call to worship God as a gathered community is not at war with the worship dimensions of vocation and life the rest of the week. That’s someone’s church shaped spirituality and it should be clear to any semi-attentive Christian.

    You guys that have never heard a call to worship… Go visit some churches.

    • So how much is this covered at the SBC seminaries? Until I started looking around when I left an SBC church I didn’t realize what I had been missing.

      • I can’t speak authoritatavely, but here is one of my experiences. I work with a gentleman who is a bi-vocational Music Minister/school teacher at a local medium sized congregation that has been very healthy, mission oriented, and fairly still very SBC conservative in worship, i.e. not liturgical but with an order of worship.

        There recent pastor who had been there for many years but had very close family ties in the church left on good terms to move to another state. They just got their new pastor. This Music Minister I know, who is currently a seminary student at a very well known SBC seminary is very excited b/c now he “might be able to finally get a drum set,” the “new guy is much more eager to move contemporary,” and “since the new guy has no family ties he will be able to force the change easier.”

      • Ross,

        I don’t know about SBC seminaries, but when I was at Reformed Theological Seminary (non-denom, but mostly Presbyterian), the CtW was discussed as part of our worship class. Good stuff.


  18. I agree with Miguel. This series needs to be condensed into a printable format so that it can be circulated…it is desperately needed. Amen to using a good CtW. I would add to that a proper benediction. An older couple recently suggested to our Pastor that we begin using a benediction (what a novel idea) instead of the usual, “Ya’ll have a good day”. His response was to look at them like they were from another planet??

    • Chas,

      I”m on the other side, I wish my congregation would push me for more formality and order. It has taken two years of constant gentle pressure just to get them at ease with an extra scripture lesson, the Lord’s Prayer etc.

      I’ve actually had folks complain about the Lord’s prayer as being to formal. 🙂

      Welcome to my world.

      • I hear you. On my end the word “liturgy” is a foreign word. While our service is exceedingly structured time-wise, the content is very casual and sorely shallow. If we could succeed in adding a responsive reading now and then it would be a miracle. Will we ever find balance:-)

  19. My recent experience of going to a Catholic Mass at home in Ireland had all the elements of drawing close to God, but boy did we whizz through it. The call to repentance by silence was so short I marveled at the holiness of the congregation – needing such a short time to think of their sins!

    No matter what design of worship we have as congregations if we are not careful we will become care-less and it will show. God’s word just says “Be Still and Know that I am God” We have plenty of scope to help us get there.

  20. One comment on “seeker” worship services.

    A philosophy of worship under this name has largely evolved into a number of new notions. Now, new and emerging churches talk about being missional. They claim to have learned learned the lessons of the seeker movement in the 90s.

    Even Willow Creek has gone on the record as rethinking, and even somewhat regretting, their use of the notion of a seeker worship service.

    So, to avoid fighting straw men, it might be helpful to specifically define what is meant by “seeker” among *today’s* differing expressions of evangelical worship styles.

    Perhaps this is about “expressly liturgical” worship styles vs. “liturgically implied” worship styles? You know, churches who use bulletins for the order of the service, and churches who use them for announcements only?

    But this difference has to me always seemed to be more one of personality: some people use outlines for their work, others don’t.

    Maybe the beef is between liturgically one or two dimensional worship services (sing, preach, sing, dismissed), and those which are more three dimensional (more consciously reenacting the story of redemption)?

    I’m not sure, but I don’t think iMonk’s beef is about “seeker” services per se.

    To prove the point that it isn’t really about “seeker” sensitive services as a principle, consider this…

    …a church need not be “seeker” or “non-seeker” to recognize that using some kind of a verbal “call to worship” can be effective in clarifying what a new visitor–someone who is seeking to find God–is actually about to experience, is actually about to do.

    • Steve Newell says

      A “seeker” worship service is an oxymoron in several respects. First, a non-believer cannot worship the True God. Second, there are no “seekers” for God. The unbeliever is spiritually dead and it is God, through Christ, who is the true seeker, the Seeker of Souls.

      What many call “seeker” is a nice way to not call them that they really are: Unbelievers. Likewise the term “unchurched” is a PC way to not calling them “Lost”.

      • If someone is seeking God, by definition they must believe in God. I believed in God but I despised Christians, until I began seeking truth and learned that not all doctrines were based in hate and Bible-worship.

        And the “unchurched” may well be more Christian than those who attend church every Sunday. You can’t be a Christian in a vacuum, nor can you be one by simply filling a pew.

    • Christiane/L's says

      I think Phil is on to something here when he writes this:
      “Maybe the beef is between liturgically one or two dimensional worship services (sing, preach, sing, dismissed), and those which are more three dimensional (more consciously reenacting the story of redemption)?

      • Steve Newell says

        What is the world is “two dimensional worship” and “three dimensional” worship?

  21. Thanks for this post! I am a worship leader and have realized in th past year or so the importance of having some sort of a call to worship. It adds so many things to our worship service. It shows us the reason why we worship and invites us to respond to what we’ve just heard read in a response of worship and gratitude. I often will try to find a Scripture that seems to have a similar emphasis that our songs are about to show that these are not new ideas that we are singing, but that they come from Scripture. I’ve found it very enriching to our corporate worship services.

  22. Formal is sometimes better than informal. This called to mind the Islamic blowing of the horn when it’s time for them to say prayers. I may be worng, but I believe Jewish congregations do something similar to begin their services. Also, in my former parish the reader would stand at the podium and greet the congregation with a ‘good morning’ which signalled the start of the mass, or to put it more bluntly, ‘shut up and pay attention!’ 😉

    • Christiane/L's says

      The ‘shofar’ is used more selectively at Rosh Hashanah and at Yom Kippur, as well as several other days during one month of the Jewish year. It is not an instrument used to call to prayer. It has other meaning in their liturgy. The sound is amazing.

      • Most Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Christian congregations have adapted the Shofar as a call to worship for their Sabbath services, even though this wouldn’t be done in normative/orthodox Jewish circles. The main reason this isn’t done in normative Jewish circles is because it may lead to the shofar player carrying it on the Sabbath which is a violation of Rabbinic Sabbatical laws. Also, playing musical instruments on the Sabbath is forbidden by Rabbinic Law as a sign of mourning for the lack of a Temple. It should be noted that during Temple times, however, the shofar was sounded to introduce the Sabbath.

    • In our parish, the call to worship includes “Please make sure all cell phones and pagers are turned off.” 🙂

    • Northeasterner says

      I’ve been to a Christian service that opened with the blowing of the Shofar. I found the practice to be artificial, bizarre and embarrassing. The sound was NOT amazing (I’m sure it is amazing when it is a real shofar blown by a Jew who has been properly trained in the tradition).

      This congregation of Pentecostalists in the south rejects almost every part of Christian liturgy as “traditions of men” but they misappropriate a Jewish tradition (in a way that real Jews would find shocking or hilarious) and pretend to imbue it with great meaning.

      Tradition is not a bad thing, we can learn alot about how to properly worship from the hundreds of years of Christians who went before us. iMonk’s suggested call to worship is deeply scriptural and reverent and based in a long protestant worship tradition. A mere “good morning” or a silly honk on a shofar is not the same thing.

  23. Carolyn Howard says

    I am Baptist and at the Baptist churche where I am a member and others I have attended have always had a to worship. Some churches have added a 10 – 15 minute praise service (singing)
    before the usual call to worship for the regularly scheduled service.

  24. Dolan McKnight says

    While I certainly agree that a call to worship is an important element of worship and enjoy a spoken psalm or other well read introit, I would also say that certain music is also a wonderful way to call the congregation to worship. Our choir (high church Methodist) processes in, which allows us, after the prelude, to sing a short (less than two minutes) Gregorian chant or a modern piece in a similar mode a capella from the back of the church as a call to worship prior to the procession.

    There are probably hundreds of these available that are not difficult for the average choir. To me, hearing a Gregorian chant floating over my head is the epitome of holiness, a reminder of our connection with the church triumphant, and as being part of the heavenly choir praising God around the throne.

  25. Northeasterner says

    This comment may be a bit off topic, and I’m sure it will be unpopular in this group, but the photo with this post brings up a question:

    Is it appropriate to have youth lead the congregation in worship? If so, shouldn’t they dress up a little or wear a robe of some kind?

    The picture demonstrates some of the informality in worship that iMonk generally teaches against. Based on the context, this appears to be a young person reading the call to worship. I think this informality undermines the seriousness and reverence that iMonk is arguing for in this series.

    • Scripturally, I see nothing wrong with youth leading in congregational worship as the concept of “youth” or “teenager” is a modern development. In the ancient world, there were children and adults, and no intermediate category in between. With regards to “proper worship attire”, again, I see no new testament scriptural basis requiring a certain level of outward formality in order to properly worship. There are more general principals that should be considered, such as edification of the Body (of Christ) and potential distraction that might be caused, but I think the idea of “holy attire” is a human concoction.

      • Steve Newell says


        The reason that a pastor and those leading worship wear robes is to symbolize the robe of righteousness that Christ clothes us with in the Lutheran tradition. In addition, the robe removes the distraction of what the pastor is wearing and helps place the focus on the Word of God and the Sacraments during the worship service.

        The concept of the leader of worship wearing a special robe is biblical since the priests wore special robes in the service to God.

    • Sorry Northeasterner. I never advocate special robes, etc. I don’t oppose them, but I certainly don’t think Jesus requires them. And that picture is of a teenage member of the congregation leading a call to worship- highly appropriate if don rightly imo.

    • Northeasterner,

      As some one who has been thru a lot of hassle lately over “church dress.” Our small congregation almost having split over women wearing pants in church. I and the majority of the church wanted to drop the rule against it.

      With that said, I will still agree with you that we have gotten too sloppy. I know the arguments, and I agree with most of them i.e. God looks on the inside, there are no clear New Testament requirements etc.

      But, and here is the but, it is a slippery slope. If we can not at least agree that folks should wear their best, whatever that might be, then we have cheapened our worship by our sloven attitudes. Should it ever be a test of fellowship? No. Should we have enough sense and awe to realize that we are doing serious business when we worship, that churches although the buidling itself has no power is a consecrated and dedicated place regardless of whether it is a store front or a cathedral? You bet ya.

      I think it says something about us when we dress more sloppy for church than we do the mall. I think that says somethign about our priorities, but i also think this is a problem unique to our times when folks are casual about most things, and we have clothes for all occasions unlike our ancestors.

      As far as robes or clerical wear? I used to be totally against it, but just like the argument for an order of worship even though we all have them just not written down, we all have clericals. Whether we are a seeker sensitive guy in jeans, slacks, polo, or extra-medium t-shirt, or a guy in a business suit we all have clericals.

      I want take more space here other than to say I have started experimenting with a clergy shirt/collar when I do visits and have even worn one to church a few times to preach. I have much positve to say about it even though I know others disagree for reasons from theology to asthestics.

      • I came to faith while in college. The fire-insurance stuff was presented significanly more gently than “turn or burn”, honestly. But even in the past few years, I’ve gained more of a passion for following Christ.

        I wear collared shirts and dress pants all through the week – with steel toes (required for where I work). I had one senior gentleman one day tell me a few years ago that “Ten years ago, you’d be asked to dress appropriately for church.” My response (snarkiness is my middle name), “Then ten years ago, I’d have never been more than a visitor here.”

        I’ll wear a collared shirt, but jeans and sneakers for me.

        In other news, in Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna (Barnabooks, 2008), the authors discuss the justification for “dressing for church” was about the fact that a congregant never knew just into whom he might run while attending. Royalty and nobility were more likely to have mingled with the middle and lower class during church attendance than any other time of the week. The best way for the middle and lower class to get noticed by the elite was to dress as well as possible, to make them seem to belong in the elite as well.

        In truth, there is no upper crust or elite in the Kingdom of God – south of Jesus, of course.

        • Derek,

          Just a jab at you, really in playfullness more than anything, since you appreicate snark.

          but I run into nobility every week at church:)

          no i get what you are saying, and I can see a man who wears a suit everyday not wanting to put one on, and i’m saying that is a bad thing, i’m just wondering what message we send with our dress when we are too casual, can you be casual about worship dressed “up”? sure

          • I hear you, austin. But, here’s the rub. Jesus wasn’t about the place.

            His conversation with the Samaritan woman went a little something like this (John 4):

            19″Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

            21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (NIV,

  26. I will add two things.

    1. And Imonk knows this better than anyone working with kids as I do every day. You have to be very careful when you talk to students about their clothes. Their entire persona is often built around their clothes. To attack their clothes is to attack them. it is best to gently guide by example

    2. I am fully in support of youth having full participation in every service. in fact I dislike the idea of a youth sunday despite that we have one scheduled this week

    • At my ex-girlfriend’s parish they had the youth lead the sunday evening service every week. They would do everything that a layperson could do in a Catholic service. It was very well done, very tasteful, etc. In fact, I think it was my favorite of their regular services.

  27. Michael, you might want to add a tag to “Evangelical Liturgy” on this post. Seems it got lost somewhere. (I use your tags to navigate and KNEW this post was here, but it wasn’t in the list.)

  28. Carolyn Howard says

    As a small child the churches I’ve attended always had a place for the children to participate in worship. It was part of the learning process to teach children that one day he/she might be in a leadership role or could aspire to a leadership role if they so desired. On certain Sundays, the children were responsible for all aspects of the service except the sermon. We also learned how to pray using our own words. Adults need to remember that not only are we responsible for our own spirtuality but also to show and direct children in what spirtuality is and can be.

    Let’s not judge our spiritual leaders by what they wear. On Communion Sunday our pastor wears a white robe, other Sundays he may wear a robe or a suit. The most important thing is the word
    that he delivers. God wants folks to attend services and recognize that he/she can receive a spiritual blessing that leads to being a true Christain. Lot of people shun church because they feel they do not have the proper clothing. When the body is clean and the clothes cover the person appropiately, let then come to church in whatever they have.

    Where is the Christain spirit that judges what a person wears to church.

    • Carolyn I would agree but I would also push back gently and challenge you a little.

      Why should we be concerned about the “body being clean?”

      I’m just showing you that you too have a standard, it’s not New Testament based either.


    • I think that what we think about what others wear to church is more about our preferences than God’s.

      • i would agree, but at what point does God begin to care? i’m sure you have a line somewhere too

        • I don’t know that he ever DOES car about what we wear. Don’t know if you’ve got any kids, but I don’t care what my kids are wearing if they want to climb up on my lap and be held. Of course, if they’re a bit dirty, I might want to change MY clothes first. 🙂

          In all honesty, I think the more we focus on what other people think of us or what we think of other people, the more we are NOT focusing on God.

          • I think you are running a risk of going to far in our liberty to not assume that there is in corporate worship some sort of obligation of decorum.

          • Are you saying that Jesus didn’t make me COMPLETELY free? Did Jesus say, “Come as you are” only to the unbelievers and then once we get them converted, they have a new set of rules to keep up with?

            Law –> Gospel –> Law ?


            If there’s a risk of a person going too far in his or her liberty, then Jesus didn’t do what he said he did. The price he paid wasn’t enough. Close, but no cigar.

  29. carolyn,
    that last comment came across more snarky than i meant

    i think i basically agree with you

    come as clean as possible, cover yourself, and wear your best

    i think that is respectfull

    if the best you have are sweatpants then wear them, but don’t come in a torn t-shirt when you have a closet full of polo shirts in your McMansion in the suburbs

    • Carolyn Howard says


      I am open to constructive thinking and reflection and I appreciate your comment. It leads me to rethink my comments and the meanings of my statements. Thank you.

    • This sort of conversation could go on and on of course. It’s true that Jesus accepts us as we are and that we have “liberty.” At the same time, Paul makes a point of stressing decorum in worship, including our appearance. Further, the point he drives home is that we should be sensitive to what might offend others and not look at “liberty” as an excuse to do whatever we want. Making church an extension of one’s living room where the kids can run around freely, you can lounge around in your pajamas (or other extremely casual clothing), etc doesn’t seem to demonstrate the proper sense of decorum in worship or sensitivity to others that Paul teaches. What message does it send to non-Christians when they see Christians treating Sunday like any other day, church like any other place, “worship” like any other secular event? Why should atheists have any respect for God or for Christians when Christians themselves show no great respect for Him or for each other? As you said, it’s different if you’re poor or have not been taught appropriate manners, but when there’s a closet full of polo shirts you would wear to meet a special person or to an interview, why does church only rate the sloppiest outfit in the wardrobe?

  30. iMonk,

    I’d like to address your opening comment: “No element of the evangelical liturgy is as clearly Biblical as the call to worship.” Are you referring to the exhortations to worship God found in many of the Psalms, or to something else? I agree with your endorsement of the call to worship for pragmatic reasons, but if you’re also going to endorse it for Biblical reasons, I’d like to know what they are.

    As one who hasn’t heard the phrase “call to worship” (or even seen an order of worship in a bulletin) in the past seven years, this post definitely stood out. In most of my more recent church experience, I’ve found that someone will inevitably pray before we start singing in a corporate meeting.

    When I was a worship leader, I would often start off by sharing a Psalm or other Scripture, which really helped to focus and strengthen my heart. I like starting with Scripture, because it brings revelation of who God is, and it’s from our revelation of God that we worship. However, I’ve been in many spontaneous worship meetings where we just started singing, and they have been some of the best times. I think it depends on the crowd and on the situation.

  31. As one of the non-evangelical readers, I would like to know what is the “call to worship” as you are defining or using the term. Sounds like the Orhtodox Antiphons or the Catholic introductory rites. Same-same?

    Also, like Rob above, I too would like to know more on the Biblical grounds for a “call to worship”. A quick Google on “call to worship” shows many instances, but no citations of scripture supporting its use in a liturgy.

    Justin the Martyr in his First Apology does not mention a “call to worship” in his description of a 3rd Century church service.

    The 5th Century Apostolic Constitutions does mention a call to prayer, or Ectene, at the start of the prayers of the faithful, but after the scripture readings. Justin Martyr does mention the prayers of the faithful in his description of a church service. (

    God bless…