This post is part of a 11 week blog series that highlights the many ways we worship the triune God.
Tracy Wong first started serving Westside as an usher, but that only lasted a couple of months. In December of 2013, everything changed.
“I was ushering when the church was at Granville Island, and that’s when I met Adrian Dar Santos. He approached me about the idea of joining the host team—and leading it.”
SERVING OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE
“It was surprising to me, because hosting means you’re kind of a morning person. And I’m not.” She struggled with the idea of having to be at the church by 8am on a Sunday. She didn’t think it would be very easy to greet people and be friendly at a time when she was normally just waking up.
“I wanted to usher, because it was more direct. See two spots, fill two spots. Just like Tetris.” Tracy explained with a laugh. “I liked ushering because I could be direct with my task, whereas the hosting environment is so unpredictable, especially with the move downtown.”
On top of all her concerns, leading would be a big responsibility and would require her to step out of her comfort zone.
“I wasn’t sure what leading would mean. At that time, I didn’t have internet. And leading would mean that I’d need to communicate with 40 plus people on a regular basis. This really meant that I would have to engage and that was a little bit scary. I felt the responsibility to be stewarding 40 people with the right heart for serving. I’ve led a lot of things before—children’s camps, work things, leadership roles—but never with the kingdom in mind.”
A LEAP OF FAITH
Despite all her reservations, Tracy knew she needed to say yes.
“I’m pretty obedient to the way that God speaks to me when He prompts me or calls me to serve in certain areas of ministry. [I said yes] really just out of obedience. I had no reason to say no.”
Tracy took a leap of faith when she agreed to lead the Host team, and it has had a profound impact on her life.
“Before, I’d want to be in my own inner corner and hide, because it was safe, quiet, and restful. Working alongside the other hosts and leading them has really stretched me to learn what it actually means to invite others into your life.”
“I’m always crying now. Every time I meet someone, it goes to these conversations and my heart just breaks for them. And I think that’s part of the Spirit working in me. I was like solid rock before. Never used to be moved like that. God has really given me a heart for His people.”
OBEYING BEFORE YOU’RE “READY”
Not only has leading and serving the church helped grow her relationship with the Lord, but it’s also helped her understand the role of Jesus in her life and how to worship Him in a whole new way.
“Leading has taught me that you don’t necessarily need to wait until you’re ‘perfect’ or ‘ready’ before you’re called to invite people in. Just as Jesus invited me when I was in my state of brokenness—and knowing He did this because He wholly and completely loves me—it shapes the way I view the body and desire to maintain that unity: meeting people, knowing where they’re at right now, and helping them see that everything is going to be okay.”
“I don’t think worship is restricted to just praise. I see it as being open to the Holy Spirit, being lead, being used to share or reveal to each-other who God is. It’s a wonderful way to worship, by loving His creation.”
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS, SHARING STORIES
When it comes to serving on a Sunday morning, Tracy says it’s “like inviting people into your home or your life, even though it’s not perfect. It’s this concept of inviting people into relationships so that you will be able to share a piece of your personal story with them so they can develop a personal story with Christ themselves. That’s what I try to encourage those on the Host team to do.”
There are many roles a member of the Host team has to fill before the service begins, and each Sunday, two hosts are asked to stay out during the service in order to welcome latecomers.
“A lot of people who do this feel encouraged. I’ve had so many amazing conversations [when I stay out],” Tracy said, recounting one of her favourite memories. “There’s a single woman in her 70s who lives in a shelter, and she comes every Sunday. I got to know her through staying out. She’s had a major car accident and internal injuries and she shared with me how God has never left her through those hard times. The doctor said she would never walk. But she prayed to God every day and one day she was walking again.”
When they first met, this woman was seeking prayer for housing. “[Where she was living was] not a safe place for a single elderly woman. There’s bullying and violence. She said she’s too old for a place like that. So every week we pray for God to sustain her. And she has never lost hope or lost hold of her faith. And it’s so sweet because through all her storytelling—despite her current circumstances—she’s able to rejoice in the fact that she is a daughter of Christ. She is definitely instrumental for why I feel the stay out host is so important. It allows an opportunity to stay in touch with someone’s story.”
Tracy identifies that another important role for the host team is parking. One of her first memories of attending a Westside service involved meeting someone there.
“We were on Granville Island and I saw someone handing out passes and welcoming me. It made me feel like I was going somewhere familiar. It was one less barrier for me to have to search for parking.”
WORSHIP IS MAKING GOD THE CENTRE
Tracy believes welcoming people to the church is vital, and that there is always a need for more people to help serve.
“One big barrier people need to come to terms with: Who are you serving? Yourself or God? Are you the centre or is God the centre? Are you idolizing yourself? What’s more important to you every Sunday, that extra half-hour of time alone to yourself before church, or coming to edify the whole body? And also just going back to the basics: Why did Jesus come down in human form? Because He came to serve, to understand every aspect of human nature. It’s not like He can’t sympathize with us and the things we feel are barriers to serving and getting plugged in. He gets that and knows what our experiences are. At the end of the day, it’s about who you worship. It took me awhile to get rid of those selfish reasons and the walls [I built] to keep others from seeing in.”
It’s not easy to get up early and serve on a Sunday. Tracy openly admits that, “If it was up to me, I wouldn’t get up early.” This is why she says it’s so important to pray and ask the Lord to sustain her. She struggles with some recurring physical pain, and some mornings can be worse than others. “But I pray and trust God to sustain me.”
There can be all sorts of things that limit us or reasons why we might want to say no to serving. But, in those times when we feel we can’t do it, “It’s all about saying, ‘Jesus you’re enough.’”
“I think when you finally realize why you’ve been created—to glorify God—everything becomes a joy to participate in. We haven’t been created to propagate our own wealth, career, etc. This idea of servanthood, being submissive, is not attractive. But when you submit to Him . . . it’s very freeing!”
Jon is a writer whose works include his newly released book "Skyblind". Jon serves at the Connect Centre on Sundays and is a Community Group Leader Apprentice.