The Importance of Lay Leadership in Worship

December 9, 2014

At the warm invitation of our pastor, members of our congregation volunteered to read passages recounting our Savior's suffering and death. During that Good Friday service, one member extinguished candles on the wooden cross (furnished by another member) as each reader brought power and meaning to those events that culminated in our redemption and reconcilation with God. (See Matt 27:51)

Thanks to present and previous ministers, laity at Shiloh United Methodist Church, Baux Mountain Road, Winston-Salem, have been active participants in worship. Various people called by the pastor receive the morning offering. These duos have included fathers and sons, brothers, children, women and men. Children, as they have done for many years at Shiloh and probably at your church, rotate as acolytes, carrying "the light of Christ" into the service. Our leader of children's ministries, a lay person, gives the children's sermon and leads the children (and adults) in a song before the children eagerly go to mini-church.  Our rotating lay readers deliver announcements, lead hymns and responsive readings, ask blessings on the offering, and read scriptures.  Lay members lead and faciliate discussions of Jesus' parables at Thursday night Bible studies.  Women have led services at Shiloh, including the sermons. We held a Children's Sabbath service and, with the pastor playing guitar, a trio of our children performed at a church participating in Lenten Services with us.

Likely, there are abundant examples at your church of lay people filling roles in worship.  If so, then you have embraced the sacred worth of each person to God.   (I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14 (NIV)).   You reinforce the truth that God enjoys the praises of each one of us.  The Bible teaches that we exist to praise God. "Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." (Isaiah 43:7, KVJ.) “You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created, and have their being.” (Rev. 4:11.)  We were created for God's pleasure.  (All things were created by him, and for him. Colossians 1:16, KJV)  God takes pleasure from the praises of his people. (But the LORD takes  pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 147:11.)

Know that God smiles, just as you smile, at children carrying candlelights. God is praised when lay servant ministers from your church proclaim God's word in your pulpit and the sanctuaries of other churches, and when your lectors or congregation members read the day's scripture. Volunteers help worship God through gracefully receiving dollars, coins and checks gracefully given to advance God's kingdom.  Testimonies declare the works of God that have been displayed in your people's lives. (See John 9:3.)  Prayer requests praise God, for they are declarations that God loves and is able to strengthen your members and those they lift up for prayer.  God is glorified when your congregation lifts voices in songs and responsive readings. To that end, you might specifically name the "congregation" in your bulletins for hymns and responsive reading so that your congregation claims its special responsibility in the worship service.

Each lay member you involve in the service gains a greater appreciation for the true meaning of worship. While we can gain inspiration, hope and comfort from music, prayers and sermons, the worship service is not about what we receive or us being "fed." Worship is what we give to God, not just for one hour on Sunday, but each day in our lives, for  "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24, KJV).

Christopher Raines, Member, Shiloh United Methodist Church, Winston-Salem
Leadership Development