When I was visiting several churches looking for a church home, it was very easy to tell that I was new at the church I was visiting because I have an unmistakable clueless look. Especially when I visit big churches, my directionally-challenged mind goes bonkers and I end up wandering around the building like a drunken duck. Always without fail, an usher finds me and guides me to my seat in the sanctuary much like you would a helpless old lady. However, by the time I got into my seat, the usher seemed to disappear altogether as I turned my attention to the service. Since ushers are often an under-noticed crew, I have never really given them much thought until my wonderful experience yesterday brought the importance of the role of an usher to mind.
I had been having a pretty long, intense struggle with depression prior to yesterday morning, and I had been talking to my pastor about it throughout the whole struggle. Yesterday I was starting to wonder if I had overstepped my bounds and if rejection from him and the rest of the church was coming soon. Almost in immediate response to my unspoken thoughts, my pastor asked if he and his wife could meet with me so that he could show me a prayer that might be helpful for my situation. He even offered to grab lunch during the visit. Although I was still stuck in clouds of heaviness, I couldn’t resist an offer for company. So I agreed. By the time they left, I was not only not depressed anymore, I also had such a clearer picture of God’s character and his love for me.
All throughout lunch, my pastor and his wife talked with me about casual things and I was in awe of how they seemed to enjoy spending time with me even though I was in such a mess emotionally. When my pastor pulled into a park to show me the prayer he wanted to share with me, although I was a bit nervous about what I would be expected to do, I was sure about one thing: My God loves me and so does my pastor and his wife.
It gets better. All throughout the prayer that my pastor guided me in (more on that in future blogs) I sensed him guiding and leading me into the presence of God and smoothing out the rough spots. During the prayer, he was not the focus, but rather the focus was on what God was saying to me. Just as it is with the ushers I’ve encountered in churches and concert halls or other public places, he was not the star of the show, but only there to ensure that I enjoyed what I came to see or participate in. In this case, my pastor was only there to lead me into enjoying the presence of God (even as God was showing me painful stuff).
One other thing about ushers – I usually can get a pretty good feel for the church based on how I’m treated by the ushers. If the ushers are friendly and helpful, I can usually expect the church to be so, (and my expectations have been validated for the most part). The opposite is also often true. Thinking about my experiences with ushers as well as my experience with my pastor yesterday, I suddenly realized how important ushers are. They are often a reflection of the church as well as the first impression a visitor has of the church. Even more so, spiritual ushers carry the tremendous privilege of reflecting the heart of God. Part of the reason I benefited so greatly from the prayer was because I was already secure in the love of God based on what my pastor has shown me not only at lunch, but ever since I first stepped foot in the church.
As I was pondering the important role that ushers play in the kingdom of God, I suddenly thought, “Hey wait a minute, doesn’t it say in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a royal priesthood?” It doesn’t say that only pastors are a royal priesthood, it’s including every believer. That means that I am an usher too and my job is not all that different from my pastor’s or any other pastor for that matter. That also means that God has given me (and every believer) the privilege of doing for those around me what my pastor did for me yesterday. Now that’s exciting. Now that I’m on a roll, I’m going to say something else too. Not only does 1 Peter 2:9 not limit the priesthood to pastors, he doesn’t even limit it to people who know what they’re doing. That means that absolute basket cases like me get to be ushers too, and great ushers at that because it is not me working but Christ working in me. How cool is that! I feel like a little kid getting to help Daddy with his work even though he can do it a lot better and faster by himself but he’s including me because he loves me and enjoys the time we spend working together. Ok, I better stop before I get too carried away, but oh wait! The doors are opening and people are coming in! Ushers take your places and remember to smile!