Recently, I asked a young usher what he thought were his responsibilities. He said, “Nothing more than being there, shaking hands, finding my place in the aisle, taking the offering, and showing up for an occasional ushers meeting.”

I questioned if he was seeing the whole picture. As we talked, he became excited about the ministry of hospitality. Greeting people is a unique function, based on a gift and disciplined by dedication. It is part of the work of the church, not just church work.

Four images help clarify the role.

A Hospital For The Hurt

When people gather for worship, many of them are desperate for care. They might wear designer clothes, not hospital robes, yet they are hurting just the same. Steve Brown, pastor of Key Biscayne (Fla.) Presbyterian Church, says that whenever he preaches, he tries to remember that at least six out of ten have a serious hurt.

I recently received a letter. “I’ve been kept through a lot of things—my dad being murdered when I was 12. From approximately age 20 to 35 I went through severe depression—several hospitalizations, shock treatments, several attempts at taking my own life—then healing from and through Jesus Christ. Then my call into the ministry. So often, I have felt so inferior.” I dare say that many times this person went to church and sat with people who had no idea what was going on inside.

Ushers are something like the admitting department of the hospital. It is part of our ministry to be sensitive to the hurt.

Lower Lights

There’s a story behind the old hymn “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.” It refers to a shipwreck caused when the harbor lights were not on, even though the lighthouse tower light was on. Philip Bliss, the composer, saw Christ as the lighthouse, but Christians ...

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