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God doesn’t need an invitation

 

calling-god-down

There’s a peculiar thing I’ve noticed in some of the songs in popular Christian praise and/or worship music—typically the ones you hear at the beginning of the “set”[1. I feel kind of gross about using terms like this connected to a worship gathering, hence the quotation marks.] intended to warm everybody up and get everyone excited. It’s this idea that we are somehow summoning God into our presence. Songs about inviting him into our midst, calling him down, telling him to show up in power, and show us his glory, and all this kind of stuff…

Now, depending your congregation’s proclivities, you’re probably going to sing a song like this today. And I’ve gotta say, to me at least, it’s really weird. It’s not that I’m against being aware of God’s presence, nor am I against praying—or singing for that matter—for true, Spirit-wrought revival. But I’m not sure this is what these songs are talking about. Instead, they seem to be putting us in the drivers’ seat, making us the ones in control during the our time of corporate worship.

In a chapter of The Prodigal Church at least 75 percent of worship leaders will skip, Jared Wilson calls our attention to the heart of this peculiar problem:

The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God. Assuming worship is our initiative. Assuming we are somehow the ones in control, that we are bringing the best of ourselves and our holy desire to worship. But the reality is, worship does not begin with the worshipper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us. (97)

This is the danger of experientialism. It moves us by inches away from the center, from the reality of who God is, of what the purpose of worship is—of who the object of worship is. And if we’re not careful, and the slide continues, our worship songs may wind up more closely resembling the frantic cries of the Baal-worshippers on the mountain than those of Christ’s disciples.

You’re not calling God down this morning. He doesn’t need an invitation. But I have some better news for you: He is already here. The Holy Spirit dwells within all of his people, every moment of every day. He is the one who empowers our worship, who gives us the desire to sing God’s praises. His power has already shown up—and it resides in us. Should we not rejoice and be glad of this?

5 thoughts on “God doesn’t need an invitation”

  1. I loved this blog post. My husband is in our praise and worship team at church and it’s been a sticking point the whole time. They [pastor, worship leader] mean well but you would think they would know better. We also get irked that the praise seems to be one directional and it’s not the right direction. It should go up and not down. It’s not all about us! Thank you for a great read!

  2. Michelle Dacus Lesley

    THANK YOU, Aaron. I thought my husband and I were the only two people on the planet who had even noticed this. He’s a minister of music, so this issue came up for us several years ago when the chorus “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome” was popular. We both cringe every time we hear that or any other song or remarks about “welcoming” or “inviting” God into the worship service.

    I mean, it’s God’s house, right? Would you walk up to somebody else’s house say to the owner, “Hey! You are welcome here!”? It’s absurd and arrogant all at the same time.

    1. When we used to do the song “Arise” by Paul Baloche and Don Moen, people brought this up. Until I showed them it was from Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple. So there is a scriptural basis for inviting God’s presence, even though He is omnipresent.

      1. True, but we also have to be careful to differentiate between OT and NT patterns of worship. The NT emphasis is on the indwelling nature of the Spirit, with God’s people being the temple of the Lord. If we were to draw parallels, a more appropriate one would be to sing of our longing for the second coming, wouldn’t it?

        1. That’s probably going to hinge a little on your pneumatology, and whether or not you encourage people to ask for more of the Spirit (ref Ephesians 5:18 – “be being filled with the Spirit”).

          I’ve not fully processed all of this, but my initial inclination is that it’s not a simple binary answer – much as I like the quote from Jared, I suspect that singing songs inviting God is not *necessarily* an indication that we think we’re summoning God.

          As I say – I think I need to think more on this.

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