Chapter OneThe Ministry of Ushering
PREACHING, TEACHING, MUSIC, AND USHERING
Any act of Christian service that helps direct people into fellowship
with Jesus Christ is a ministry. The most prominent
ministry in the church is preaching. Paul wrote to the Romans,
"How can they believe in the one of whom they have not
heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to
them?" (Romans 10:14).
The second prominent ministry in the church is teaching.
Next to the preaching of the gospel, Martin Luther believed that
teaching was the highest calling of humankind. Teaching is
mentioned many times in the New Testament and is included
among the spiritual gifts. The pastor who preaches without
teaching, or the church that evangelizes without instructing, is
not only obscuring the cross of Christ but failing to provide the
Holy Spirit with opportunity to carry out one of his most important
functions. Jesus told his disciples, "The Counselor, the Holy
Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all
things and will remind you of everything I have said to you"
(John 14:26). Later he added, "When he, the Spirit of truth,
comes, he will guide you into all truth" (16:13). Paul wrote to
Timothy, "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must
be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who
oppose him he must gently instruct" (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
The third great ministry in the church is music. According to
Paul, music is at least on a par with teaching as a ministry in the
church: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach
and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing
psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Colossians 3:16).
The fourth great ministry of the church is ushering. Paul,
who believed in the power of preaching, the importance of
teaching, and the ministry of music, also wrote, "Everything
should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (1 Corinthians
14:40). Ushers are given the responsibility of tending to the
details of each service so that it is conducted in an orderly
The importance of the ushers' ministry caused one pastor
to say, "If I had to choose between losing the ushers or the
choir, I would rather lose the choir." This undoubtedly was an
exaggeration intended to emphasize the importance of the ushering
ministry in his church. But it is a fact that it will take
music from a very extraordinary choir to overcome the poor
work of inefficient ushers. Though of unequal importance,
preaching, teaching, singing, and ushering are so closely related
to one another that one does not tend to rise above the other
in a given church. The preachers, teachers, musicians, and ushers
all need each other!
USHERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Ushers in the Old Testament tabernacle-and later in the temple
-were called doorkeepers. The psalmist, writing for the
director of music in the temple, understood the importance of
ushers when he said, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O
Lord Almighty! . Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in
the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked"
(Psalm 84:1, 4, 10). One of the functions of doorkeepers in the
Old Testament was to receive the collections from the people.
We read in 2 Kings 22:4, "Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and
have him get ready the money that has been brought into the
temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from
the people." The Old Testament chronicler spoke of Shallum
and his "fellow gatekeepers," who were "responsible for guarding
the entrance to the dwelling of the Lord" (1 Chronicles
9:19). The preacher in Ecclesiastes wrote about the day "when
the keepers of the house tremble" (Ecclesiastes 12:3). And in
Ezekiel's vision of a future temple, he saw space reserved for the
priests, the musicians, and two sets of ushers-"the priests who
have charge of the temple" and "the priests who have charge of
the altar" (Ezekiel 40:45-46).
USHERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament the temple ushers were given unusual
authority, evidently as uniformed guards. In the book of Acts,
"the captain of the temple" and "the officers" are referred to
several times in connection with arrests and general handling
of the crowds. It was these doorkeepers, or ushers, who carried
out the high priest's orders in the persecutions against the apostles
immediately following Pentecost and thirty years later in
the arrest and maltreatment of Paul.
Jesus used his disciples as ushers on many occasions. They
prepared the way for his coming, they introduced people to
him, and they directed the people who had come to hear him
speak or to be touched by his healing hands. On one occasion
Jesus gave a sharp warning to the disciples, who as ushers had
endeavored to keep children away from him. On still another
occasion Jesus directed the disciples in organizing a congregation
of five thousand men plus women and children to be
seated in groups of fifty. Then, with Jesus supplying the unending
loaves and fish, the disciples served the hungry multitude.
The first church board also served as ushers: "So the Twelve
gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be
right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order
to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you
who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will
turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention
to prayer and the ministry of the word.' This proposal pleased
the whole group" (Acts 6:2-5). The character of these first deacons
is spelled out clearly.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD USHER?
The three qualities of Christlike people expounded by Jesus in
the Sermon on the Mount are exemplified in the ministry of
church ushers. First, the ministry of ushering is like salt that
makes everything more palatable and serves as a general preservative
against deterioration. Jesus did not say, "You ought to
be the salt of the earth"; he said, "You are the salt of the earth"
(Matthew 5:13, emphasis added). And Paul said, "Let your
conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt" (Colossians
4:6). A good usher adds a tang of joy rather than a tinge
of drabness to a churchgoer's Sunday worship experience. Also,
the ministry of an usher is like salt because salt can never do its
work until it is brought into close contact with the substance on
which it is to make its influence. The church ushers, pastors,
musicians, and teachers come into direct contact with more
people in a given service than anyone else who ministers to
them. The ministry of salt is silent, inconspicuous, and sometimes
completely unnoticed. But it is there-in a powerful and
Also, a good usher, like "a city on a hill" (Matthew 5:14),
becomes a landmark to churchgoers who learn to depend on
him. Stability helps overcome other weaknesses an usher may
have. The first glimpse of an usher on whom a churchgoer has
come to depend brings an internal sense of welcome repose.
The churchgoer thinks, "Someone is on hand who is interested
in me!" It's not uncommon for an usher to become an adviser,
a source of information, or, better yet, an intermediary between
the needs of a specific person and the resources available
through the pastor, musicians, and teachers of the church.
Third, a good usher is like a lamp. Jesus said, "Neither do
people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put
it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house"
(Matthew 5:15). A lamp brings warmth and welcome to all
who are in the room. One shining candle can brighten the
conversation in a room and bring an inner feeling of warmth
and joy. Just as a lamp dispels the darkness and brings emotional
warmth to a room, so the ministry of an usher can make
a similar intangible contribution to all who experience the
light he allows to shine through himself.
Jesus concluded his discussion on godly character by saying,
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
The nature of Christian character is to radiate; it cannot help
but shine. The radiance of this glory is not for "self" but for the
kingdom of God. The ministry of an usher is not intended to
bring glory to himself but to God. Just as a pastor preaches in
the Spirit and a musician sings in the Spirit, the usher must do
his work in the power of the Holy Spirit, bringing glory to God
in the Lord's house on the Lord's Day.
WHY USHERS ARE SO IMPORTANT
One day in Chicago William Wrigley Jr. looked mournfully down
at the streams of customers who stood before the ticket boxes at
Wrigley Field to get refunds for the baseball seats they had
bought but could not locate. While Mr. Wrigley groaned inwardly
about the loss of his customers, Andy Frain, a young man in his
early twenties, approached the financial wizard and begged for
the job of head usher at the great baseball stadium. Desperate for
a solution to his seating problems, Wrigley hired him.
In only a few years Andy Frain completely revolutionized
ushering at Wrigley Field and made himself "king of the ushers."
Even more important, he made ushering a respectable
new vocation. Frain organized a school for his men, whom he
had handpicked from many applicants. He gave them blackboard
drills and showed them training films. At the completion
of the training, each recruit had to pass a test before doing a
two-week internship of field work and then receiving a diploma
and a blue uniform with brass buttons and gold stripes.
In a few years Andy Frain expanded his ushering reach to
include many of the great auditoriums and arenas in the United
States. During a single year his ushers handled a number of