Dialogical Worship

The dialogical principle is one way of talking about our approach to worship. The dialogical principle teaches us that our worship is a conversation, a dialogue between God and His people. Our highest created purpose was fellowship and communion with God as His beloved people, and Biblical worship models that. Biblical worship, therefore, is not just us talking about how we feel about God, or worse talking to ourselves about ourselves. It is talking to God and hearing Him speak to us.

So we open with God’s summoning us to worship, which we answer with a hymn (the Gloria Patri) and a prayer to Him requesting the presence of the Holy Spirit in our worship (the invocation). We then sing two more hymns to God, normally hymns of praise. We follow this with a confession of faith from the Heidelberg Catechism, and then the main pastoral prayer, where we bring our praise, our fears and worries, our confession of sin and request for pardon to God.

After this we hear again from God, with the preparatory Scripture reading. We respond with another hymn, with the confession of the Apostles’ Creed, and with the offering up of our financial offerings to God.

Then comes the sermon, the main block of the service in which we hear from God. The pastor reads the Scripture text and expounds it. This principle shows what a sermon is and is not to be; it must not be simply the opinions of the pastor, inspirational stories, humorous anecdotes or academic lectures. The nature of a sermon is such that it must be the faithful exposition of God’s word. Some certain amount of illustration or of academic discussion can be helpful to this task, and a certain amount of the opinion of the pastor will undoubtedly creep in. But at heart the sermon must simply be the faithful exposition of the text.

After the sermon, we respond again with a prayer asking God to help us understand and apply the truths of His word, a hymn praising Him and committing to apply the truths of His word to our lives. We then ask God’s blessing on us through the prayer that Jesus taught us, God finally dismisses us from His worship with His blessing and we leave His worship singing a final hymn of praise, the doxology.

This is certainly not the only way to apply this dialogical principle; there are many others. But Biblical worship will reflect this principle, that worship is about us meeting with our God, and He is a God who speaks. We delight to hear His word and benefit from it and then express back to Him the praise and worship which He is due.