Church Usher:Servant of God by David R. Enlow, A Review
by Bryan E. Walker
August 9, 2011
David R. Enlow’s wonderful little book, Church Usher: Servant of God, updated edition, Wing Spread Publishers: Camp Hill, PA 2001 (68pp) is a brief, anecdotal introduction to the ministry of ushering with a focus on the usher as a servant of God. Although the anecdotal nature of the book is a bit over done, the practical, biblical, and devotional aspects of the book will be of help to anyone called to serve as an usher.
The “Introduction” to Enlow’s book lets us know from the start that he sent a survey “to church leaders seeking help with this manual for ushers.” The book could have been improved by including more of the survey questions/answers in a straight forward manner. The endless quotes come across at times as being a little bit confusing, and unexplained, random even. Enlow lets us know his credentials in the “Introduction” too: he served as an usher in Dr. A.W. Tozer’s CMA church, Southside Christian in Chicago, a high pedigree for sure! It is also in the “Introduction” where he makes one of his best suggestions as he recalls the ushers’ banquets that Tozer’s church used to have which “helps to establish a camaraderie-an esprit de corps-worthy of consideration on a regular basis, whether quarterly, semiannually or once a year.” This suggestion is simply outstanding.
It is also in the “Introduction” where Enlow does something I have not seen in my other resources on ushering which I have read: a bibliography. He lists works by Paul H.D. Lang, Church Ushering,(1946), Willis O. Garrett, Church Usher’s Manual,(1924), and Leslie Parrot’s, The Usher Manual, (1970). Of these three sources, the only one I have in my library is Parrot’s, and I have not read that one at the time of this review.
In ch.1 “The Ministry Of Ushering” Enlow, unfortunately begins with what I believe to be an overstatement, “Four great ministries comprise the work of the church: preaching, teaching, music and ushering. Each one is vital to the spiritual success of the church, for without any one of them the total ministry will suffer.” While my current effort is to study the ministry of ushering and thereby improve my service to the Lord and my church in this area (and perhaps share my enthusiasm for this ministry with the other ushers in my church) I do not think that overstating the importance of ushering helps. Is not prayer or evangelism/missions ahead of ushering?
His next paragraph is much more sensible, beginning with, “First and foremost, the church usher is a servant.” This is the theme that Enlow rightfully expounds in the following chapters. Looking at 1Cor.12:28, Enlow continues to boldly thrust his view of the importance of ushering by stating that “the ministry of ushering surely must be included in the gift of helps”.
Enlow does the best job so far in my studies, of looking to the Bible for passages that will help define the usher. Gal. 5:13“by love serve one another,” and John 12:26“If any man serve me, him will my Father honour”, and Col.3:23f “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Enlow writes, (p.6), “The usher should constantly remind himself: ‘I serve the Lord Christ. That will add a whole new dimension to his service.” This should constantly be on our minds, men, as we usher.
Enlow cites the favorite Old Testament text for ushers, Psalm 84:10, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” But then Enlow refers to a text in the Gospels that I never saw as pertaining to ushers, until now; Matt.15:35-37, where Jesus has his disciples distributing the loaves and fishes, and picking up the leftovers! That is genius and deserving of a thorough exegesis.
Chapter 1 of Enlow’s book is full of Scripture and its application for ushers making this chapter worth the price of the book! He walks you through the fruit of the Spirit from Gal.5:22f and applies it to those who would serve as ushers. This is not only quite helpful but convicting. It preaches! He closes the chapter with a special usher’s commission that is too long to quote here, but is wonderful and uplifting.
Chapter 2 “The Usher’s Importance In The Total Church Program” simply shows the impact of ushering upon evangelism. This chapter had some minor organizational issues because the second half of the chapter tends to focus on appreciating the ushers. Quoting Emil Centanni on p.18, “I keep them [ushers] on my prayer list,” points to a practical way we can care for one another in the church is by praying for those with whom we serve as ushers.
Enlow writes in ch.3 “What Does An Usher Need To Know About The Church?” that “the church usher must be one of the best-informed people in the congregation,” (p.21). Everything from knowing the church’s denominational affiliation, the pastor’s educational background, and where the first aid materials are is important for the usher.
“The Qualities Of A Good Usher” is the title for Enlow’s 5th chapter and here he excels. Friendly seems to be the best quality he is looking for in an usher, but he moves on to Vision quickly. The usher should have a right vision of his duties and refers to Prov.29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Other traits include Humility, Calmness, Flexibility, Reverent, Punctual, Kind, Gracious, Informed, Clean, Sensitive, Poised, Faithful, Dedicated, and others. While writing on these wonderful traits he fills the descriptions with scripture and prayers. This chapter could be easily turned into a sermon series and was probably his best chapter. I could see a group of church ushers conducting a weekly Bible Study with this chapter as a guide.
“Not every church considers their greeters part of the ushering staff. But in this manual we will assume that such is the case,” writes Enlow at the beginning of ch.6, “The Duties Of The usher: Greeting And Seating.’ In the two churches where I have served in the past 19 years Greeters and Ushers were two separate duties. In my last church there were the ushers (all men) whose primary responsibility was the offering, and a Greeter committee (including men and women) that would welcome people. In my present church members of Care Groups (men, women, children) serve as Greeters on a rotating schedule, while seating ushers (all men from a volunteer list), offering ushers (men from the Care Groups), and Special Ushers (volunteer men, external ushers), split the duties of the Usher among them. Enlow and the other resources I have read make an excellent case for concentrating all the usher duties into one select group appointed by the church. This chapter focuses on the core duties of the usher and one pastor quoted by Enlow states, “The usher should be able to quiet down a person in a tactful manner if that person is disturbing the service. If he is not successful, then he should usher the disturber out as quietly as possible.” A few years ago there were several incidents of homosexual activists disturbing the worship of Bible-believing churches who were opposed to homosexual marriage. So, yes, ushers need to be able to handle unruly people at times.
Enlow uses a 14-point sheet of instructions for ushers he got fromWheatonBibleChurchthat is very helpful (pp.50-51.) Some of these instructions include: “The two ushers in the two inside aisles stay together when taking the offering- even if this requires one to slow down or wait for the other”, and “Always face the rear of the church when taking the offering. Do not look at the people in the pews when waiting for the plate,” and “Always be alert and ready to render assistance to anyone needing it- be prepared to give aid in sudden illness- it’s a good idea to keep a roving eye for such occurrences.” He gives practical suggestions for carrying out our duties: “No chewing gum should be allowed on duty” (might I add, no chewing tobacco on duty? Hey, I’m inTexas!) “The use of some kind of mouthwash beforehand is strongly recommended.”
Enlow deals with one of the most difficult parts of the seating usher’s job, “Seating people is an art in tact and diplomacy. In today’s ‘liberated,’ more independent atmosphere, it is not always wise to attempt to coerce members and guests to sit in a particular section…” (p.53). And he deals with one serious security measure that in these days, we must always be conscious of, “Ushers should be alert to small children who leave the service. Are they with an adult who has given them permission to leave? If not, do they need directions to a restroom, or supervision otherwise?” Although he does not follow this train of thought any further, I must ask, Is this sufficient cause to consider adding women to the usher rolls? Following a small child who went to the restroom is prudent in these evil times, but it should more properly be a lady, not a man.
In conclusion, Church Usher: Servant of God is a very good resource for you if you are called to serve the Lord as an usher. The strongest part of the book is his use of Scripture throughout. If you are going to train your ushers, I recommend this book.