A call to worship is an invitation for the congregation to turn their attention toward God. It’s typically not intended to be a lengthy intellectual discourse but a summons. That is, unless you’re looking to invoke a particular tone or focus in a service like Good Friday or Christmas.
The call to worship can be used to address the congregation, or it can be spoken corporately. Here are 10 brief and emotive calls to worship that come directly from Scripture. You can have a lay leader or pastor speak these words at the beginning of the service to the congregation, have the entire congregation speak these in unison, or simply have a worship leader speak these words at the beginning of a song.
Invitation from Psalm 3
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!—Psalm 3:8
This is a perfect example of a call to worship. It’s simple, concise, and immediately reminds listeners that they’re gathered as God’s people. Drawing attention to the Lord’s salvation and the blessings that he liberally pours out upon his children immediately creates an atmosphere of worship.
Call to worship from Psalm 5
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.—Psalm 5:7–8
This call to worship is a little on the long side, but still effective. For an invitation of this length, it’s helpful to have your musicians play under it. This will help draw the worshipers in and keep their attention as the call to worship is recited.
I will give thanks from Psalm 9
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.—Psalm 9:1–2
Obviously, the Psalms are a perfect source to mine for calls to worship. After all, it is the Jewish hymnal, and it’s full of beautiful expressions of reverence. This is a perfect invitation, especially if it transitions immediately into singing.
Shout for joy! Psalm 66
Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.”—Psalm 66:1–4
If you’re planning on kicking worship off with an up-tempo song, this passage from Psalm 66 is a great place to start. It’s emphatic, powerful, and perfect for building up worshipful enthusiasm.
Let us worship and bow down: Psalm 95
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!—Psalm 95:6
Brief but compelling, this call to worship is really on the nose. There’s no question what the congregation is being invited to do. It’s the simplicity of this call that makes it so powerful. It’s a good way to begin a worship service that will start slowly and build to an energetic finish.
Make a joyful noise! Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.—Psalm 100
Here’s another longer call to worship that can be used in a number of ways. You can call people to worship with the first stanza, and build the song choices around the other stanzas introducing each song with the appropriate verses.
You can also have people in the congregation stand up and read a different stanza from their place in the sanctuary as a call to worship.
Great among the nations: Malachi
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.—Malachi 1:11
Here’s an intriguing take. In this one, the Lord calls his people to worship—and that worship becomes an avenue for making his name renowned among the nations. If you use this call to worship, you might even consider increasing its potency by lighting some incense in the sanctuary or use a hazer to simulate what the Israelite people experienced (if you can’t have smoke in your church).
Rest for your souls: Matthew 11
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.—Matthew 11:28–29
If you’re putting together a service with a more reflective tone, this quote from Jesus is a strong call to worship. Worship leaders are often guilty of talking about worship in a way that assumes everyone is already full of joy. This invitation can be used to acknowledge that not everyone comes to worship from the most ideal circumstances—but worship can still be a place where they find peace.
Draw near in confidence: Hebrews 4
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4:14–16
One of the glories of the gospel is that—despite our lack of merit—we all have access to the throne room of God. The invitation to confidently approach God and receive mercy and grace is what sets Christianity apart in the pantheon of world religions. This call perfectly encapsulates this privilege.
Divine invitation from Revelation 3
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.—Revelation 3:20
Highlighting the reciprocal nature of our worship, this invitation reminds worshipers that the Lord ministers to us as we minister before him. For congregants that have a hard time engaging in worship, this call alerts them to the fact that Jesus is waiting for us to reach out.
Finding your own calls to worship
Scripture is full of strong passages for leading people into worship. As you spend time in the Bible, pay attention to verses that can be used to inspire your congregation to worship. Look for passages that talk about the bigness, goodness, and love of God and use them to kick off your worship service!
Share your favorite calls to worship with us in the comments!
If you’re looking for appropriate tone to end your service, check out our list of scriptural benedictions!