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June-July 2014

Looking for Leaders

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First Glimpse


She's Playing My Song


“Am I really making a difference?”

Most of us have asked ourselves this question at one time or another, especially when it comes to volunteering at church. After all, cleaning toilets, herding rambunctious children, weeding overgrown flowerbeds, making coffee, handing out bulletins, or mowing the church lawn is hardly glamorous. It’s just work…hard work. But it is also important work, and small tasks eventually add up to make a big difference.

Just ask Jane Bradley.

Since 1960, her proficient fingers have graced the organ keys at Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church in Ashland City, Tennessee—more than 22,000 songs spread over 5,500 worship services. And she’s not done yet! Though “retired,” she continues to contribute her poignant refrains two Sundays each month. She is quick to downplay the importance of her role, however. “Honey, we all just work together to get things done. That’s the way it is supposed to be at church.”

She’s right. But not everyone sees it that way.

Jane’s faithful service has given her opportunities beyond the walls of the church. She has played for 1,155 funeral services (since she started keeping records in 1975), for more than 100 weddings, and for countless other occasions from choir and youth choir practices and performances to community sunrise services, and revivals.

“It’s a wonder my fingers haven’t gone numb,” she quips.

She’s right again. The figures are staggering: 22,000 songs played for worship; 17,325 for funerals; and more than 2,500 at weddings. I had to use a calculator to come up with the total of 41,825 songs…and that’s a conservative estimate.

Jane’s example provides three important reminders about serving God and the church:

  • Small things matter. Old Testament prophet Zechariah urged the Hebrew exiles not to “despise the day of small things” when they returned from captivity to face the enormous task of rebuilding their homeland. One step at a time. Good advice for us as well. Embrace small things like working in the church nursery or visiting the homebound. Learn to enjoy the mundane. Like the young lad with five loaves and two fish, offer God the ordinary. He will give the increase, and who knows what difference your small efforts will make in eternity?

  • It takes all kinds. In Jane’s case, it is talented fingers and a musical mind. For you, it may be teaching skills, a strong back, or attention to detail. You can be sure God has uniquely equipped you to serve the church. Find your niche and get busy. The rest of us are counting on you.

  • Give it time. Many new church volunteers get discouraged when they don’t see immediate results. Don’t get bogged down. Take it one song, one class, one brick at a time, and rest in God’s promise that His Word will never “return void” (Isaiah 55:11).

Jane Bradley may downplay the importance of her work, but as the music minister who enjoyed her melodies for more than 20 years, I can tell you firsthand, she was always playing my song.


Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at




©2014 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists