A Heart of Praise

by Bill Brandenstein

When I attempt to describe what makes the music ministry of Grace Church so extraordinarily unique, I’m repeatedly confronted by one unchallengeable fact: only the Lord could have put together such a marvelous combination of gifts in one local body. At the helm of it all is our beloved Clayton Erb, whose remarkable musical and leadership qualities have made him an effective steward of these gifts in the Lord’s pure praises for over four decades. He is an unceasingly conscientious man working alongside our diligent pastors, elders, and staff. Crowd-pleasing, attention-grabbing musicians are common. Clayton’s exceptional giftedness, musical refinement, and (most importantly) singular focus on biblical worship are what sets him apart from all others. A true worshipper approaches the throne of God with a humble heart, and Clayton faithfully does the artistic work of a master craftsman with servant-heartedness, not seeking the attention for himself. As we commemorate his more than four decades of ministry here at Grace Church, reflect with me on some of the many wonderful reasons why we’re so grateful to the Lord for Clayton’s talents and leadership that aid us in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Love for Christ and the Word undergirds everything Clayton does. If you know Clayton, you know how godliness characterizes him, especially in his devotion to the Lord, love for His people, and love for the Word. Starting from his lengthy early morning sessions at his dining room table, poring over the Word of God, as well as enjoying the teaching of our pastors, his musical choices always include lyrics that point us to the Savior.

The fruit of the Spirit is the bedrock of Clayton’s character—kindness, patience, generosity, and integrity in relationships permeate his life and ministry. He’s loyal to his church, elders, staff, pastor, choir members, and instrumentalists, and he helps shepherd those in his part of the flock behind-the-scenes with counsel, prayer, hospital visits, and giving.

The Giver of every good and perfect gift has given a very distinctive musical giftedness to Clayton that he offers back to the Lord in worship. Clayton began his ministry as a piano prodigy who also sang and played the organ, and is a skilled composer, arranger, and conductor. The sonorities, voicings, and harmonies of his playing and arranging are unique, rich, and sophisticated. Everything from his musical craftsmanship, selection of music, and coaching of vocalists, to his preparation of worship services, is carried out with meticulous attention to detail. Clayton’s commitment to excellence isn’t for his own credit, but always points to the transcendent excellence of our Creator, God.

The leadership Clayton brings to corporate worship reflects his diligence. Whatever needs to get done, he’ll get it done, even if it requires personal sacrifice. He takes time to train others, patiently working with everyone from future ministers of music to candidates for choir membership. Clayton plans the services to be most effective and God-honoring, and programs concerts or albums skillfully so the whole flows together well and is greater than the sum of its parts. Instead of setting special goals such as events and tours for his musicians, Clayton keeps the Worship Choir’s first priority the main priority—serving on Sunday mornings and for ministry events such as the Shepherds’ Conferences and Christmas Concerts.

One of the things that makes Clayton such an effective leader is his sense of humor. He understands how important it is to rest in the Lord’s sovereignty and kindness, and because of that, he isn’t bothered by much. He has a profoundly humble sense of himself, and that spills over as a light-hearted blessing on everyone around him. Clayton would say that humor is essential for longevity in ministry—but in reality, it’s the attitude of trust in God and love for others underpinning that humor that has made Clayton an effective leader and a beloved friend to so many.

The remarkable longevity of Clayton’s staff and musicians—some of whom have been with him for all four decades—is a testament to his faithful direction and effective leadership. What an extraordinary and unique gift our beloved brother is to this congregation and to the body of Christ. Please join me in giving praise and thanks to the Lord for Clayton’s heartfelt ministry of worship here at Grace Community Church for over four decades.

“For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” —Romans 11:36

Read more about Clayton Erb's forty years at Grace in our special Grace Today for October 13, 2019.