Your Servants are Listening

Your Servants are Listening

What can we do to move our worship services in a God-centered direction—a worship that exalts Him and humbles us? Terry Johnson says: “The single most important step is to fill them with biblical content. Bible-filled services, services in which the songs, prayers, readings, and sermons are full of Scripture, will inevitably be filled with God as well.” This is to simply affirm that God calls the shots in worship. He sets the talking points. He is the Lord; we are the servants.

Christian worship takes place in the context of a covenant relationship between us and God. It is vital that we remember the roles we each take in that relationship: He is the Lord, and we are the servants. Therefore, worship should be an extremely humbling act, reminding us of our own creatureliness. After all, the god we are most tempted to worship besides the living and true God is the god of self. But real worship reorients us and corrects that idolatrous impulse by making it primarily about God and what He desires.

Does the corporate worship we engage in on a weekly basis impress on us our status as servants of the living God? Or do we implicitly think that we are in control, that we can call the shots in this meeting with God? I think there are at least three things that we should ask to evaluate if our worship meets the biblical criteria of asserting the supremacy of our covenant King.

Who Talks First?

The first question is simply this: Who talks first? Is it us or God? It ought to be God—it must be God. Why? Because it’s God’s Word, not man’s, that has the power to constitute a relationship with Him. If we are to come and engage with Him—which is what is happening in worship—then He needs to call us. The Westminster divines explain, “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part” (WCF 7.1). He is too great for us to grasp, unless He makes Himself available to us. This is why Reformed and Presbyterian churches have historically begun their worship services with a “call to worship.” The call to worship sets the stage and structures our services in such a way as to remind the worshipers that God is supreme, and we are His servants.

Who Talks Most?

The second question to ask is this: Who talks most? Is the service predominantly God speaking to us in the reading, singing, and preaching of the Scriptures, or is it us talking to Him? Both are important, but what are we implicitly saying if 75 percent—or even 50 percent—of a worship service is taken up with our words to God? Do we think what we have to say is more important than what God has to say?

Some U.K. readers will be familiar with the voice of Oswald Lawrence, though they likely do not know the name. Lawrence was a largely unsuccessful actor, albeit for one role: since the 1970s he was the voice of the London Underground, reminding commuters on the Northern Line to “mind the gap!” as they stepped off the tube. He served in that role until 2012, when the Underground phased out his voice in favor of an automated voice that would be used uniformly across the entire subway system. No one probably noticed, except for Lawrence’s dear widow, Margaret.

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