The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Means

The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Means

As a brand new worship leader, I loved choosing songs. I loved finding a new song that pounded my heart and changed my world. I loved arranging that new song so that the big key change would bring the shekinah glory. And when I placed five of these beloved songs in the perfect order, I was sure the heavens would rend, Christ would return, and the eschaton would arrive.

So, when the heavens didn’t rend on Sunday morning, I didn’t understand. Did I need volunteers who were more committed, or more talented, or more committed to talent? Did I need a pastor who was even more supportive? Was it the equipment? Or the sanctuary? And why couldn’t my congregation be more like those conference attenders I saw on that worship video?

Running Fast for the Short Run

Over time, it became obvious that my view of God’s work was too narrow. I overestimated the immediate impact of my five beloved songs. I believed instantaneous revival was the ordinary response of people to a well-done service, and I was wrong. Because God can work immediate miracles, I was overlooking the Spirit’s more ordinary (but no less miraculous) gradual ongoing work.

And so I changed my perspective. I began to look for and celebrate God’s extra-ordinary blessing of my church’s ordinary gospel work.

Worship leaders need this perspective to persevere in ministry and to avoid unnecessary frustration. And we can persevere and avoid that frustration by forming weightier aspirations for the people in our church. But to begin, we must look beyond our five beloved songs and imagine the faith-growing effect of worship over time.

Holding Fast for the Long Haul

Imagine five weeks of services. Imagine the Holy Spirit using truths from this Sunday’s songs to grow patience in our congregation members during their everyday tasks: commuting to work, washing dishes, picking kids up from school. Imagine people’s homes as small group members gather and encourage each other by singing these songs. Imagine midnights as your tenderhearted congregants gain fresh courage through praying worship songs.

Next, imagine five years of services. Imagine dinner tables with mealtime prayers that quote meaningful worship lyrics. Imagine single believers drawing on the truth in these worship songs as they hope in their perfect Savior more than a hoped-for marriage. Imagine tense budget discussions between husbands and wives when suddenly an old hymn comes to their minds and assures them of God’s provision. Imagine parents sitting on the edge of bunk beds, using worship lyrics to correct and instruct their children. Imagine nervous hospital waiting rooms where patients hum Sunday’s songs, anticipating a doctor’s prognosis.

Now imagine five decades of services. Imagine saints losing their memories and their ability to recognize faces, and yet keeping precious song lyrics in the back corners of their minds. And through these lyrics, our congregation’s saints holding fast to the faithful Savior who will never forget them. And imagine funeral homes as family members choose memorial service songs to celebrate God’s history of faithfulness and ongoing grace to them.

May we not despise the day of small things, but may we become more aware of God’s extra-ordinary work through our ordinary means. And as we wait for the heavens to finally rend, may we render a lifetime of faithful service to the faithful King who gave his life for us.


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Matthew Westerholm (@mwesterholm) serves at Bethlehem Baptist Church as a pastor for worship and music. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Lisa, and their three sons.