By Steve Beard —
Over the last 40 years, one of the most popular and memorable modern day hymns is “Majesty, Worship His Majesty” written by Jack Hayford. Congregations from all denominations around the globe have sung it with reverence and gusto. It is included in The United Methodist Hymnal, as well as the new collection titled Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
On Sunday, January 8, 2023, Hayford died at the age of 88. He was a beloved clergyman, prolific songwriter, and sought-after mentor. “Today, we mourn his loss but celebrate the homecoming of a great leader in God’s kingdom,” announced Hayford’s ministry. “We know that this great servant and worshipper is now experiencing the greatest worship service of all.”
For thirty years, Hayford was the pastor of The Church on the Way in Southern California. To an entire generation of church leaders, he was an irreplaceable bridge-builder between Pentecostal/charismatic believers and the wider ecumenical Church.
Fittingly, Hayford’s international notoriety sprung from his memorable worship song. “Majesty” was written in 1977 while he and his family were vacationing through England during the 25th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. As they roamed through historic Blenheim Palace, the birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill, Hayford was inspired by the regal surroundings.
Thinking from the heart, he became mindful “that the provisions of Christ for the believer not only included the forgiveness for sin, but provided a restoration to a royal relationship with God as sons and daughters born into the family through His Majesty, Our Savior Jesus Christ.”
As he was driving around England, Jack asked his beloved wife Anna to write down the words and melody. “So exalt, lift up on high, the name of Jesus/ Magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus, the King.”
Hayford reports that he was filled with a powerful “sense of Christ Jesus’ royalty, dignity, and majesty …. I seemed to feel something new of what it meant to be his! The accomplished triumph of his Cross has not only unlocked us from the chains of our own bondage and restored us to fellowship with the Father, but he has also unfolded to us a life of authority over sin and hell and raised us to partnership with him in his Throne – Now!”
In addition to his role as a pastor, Hayford was a Bible teacher, author of 50 books, writer of more than 500 worship songs, editor of the Spirit-Filled Life Bible, denominational leader of The Foursquare Church, and founder and chancellor emeritus of The King’s University (now located in the Dallas area).
“Jack lived in a God-charged, open universe that challenged the reductionism of the modern world,” observes Dr. S. David Moore in Pastor Jack, a 2020 biography of Hayford. “At a time in which reality came to be defined in purely naturalistic terms, dismissing the supernatural as antiquated folklore, Jack Hayford’s life and ministry offered a recovery of the biblical world, a world in which God is active and present in his creation.” His teaching and leadership often made memorable impressions on non-Pentecostal believers.
“I’ll never forget the wonderful way Jack Hayford led us in a concert of prayer at the Promise Keeper’s Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1997,” recalled Dr. Stephen Seamands, professor emeritus of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. “He was such a Christian statesman and role model for me. In his book, A Passion for Fullness, he writes, ‘Let us commit ourselves wholeheartedly to a supernatural ministry disciplined by a crucified life.’ That summed up what I was striving for so well for me.”
In addition to his teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit, Hayford’s thoughts on worship are an essential factor in comprehending his ministry. “In both the Old and New Testaments,” he taught, “God’s revealed will in calling his people together was that they might experience his presence and power – not a spectacle or sensation, but in a discovery of his will through encounter and impact.”
Hayford taught extensively about heartfelt worship being far more dynamic than what is sometimes mistaken as merely the order of a service in a church bulletin. “In my experience, theological discussions about worship tend to focus on the cerebral, not the visceral – on the mind, not the heart. ‘True’ worship,” he wrote, “we are often taught, is more about the mind thinking right about God (using theologically correct language and liturgy), rather than the heart’s hunger for him.
“But the words of our Savior resound the undeniable call to worship that transcends the intellect: ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24). We’ve been inclined to conclude that mind is the proper synonym for spirit here, but the Bible shows that heart is a better candidate. ‘In truth’ certainly suggests participation of the intellect in worship, but it is inescapably second – and dependent upon the heart’s fullest release first.”
Hayford concluded, “The exercises of our enlightened minds may deduce God, but only our ignited hearts can delight him – and in turn experience his desire to delight us.”
As a church leader, Hayford was faithfully committed to biblical exposition, racial reconciliation, teaching on the Kingdom of God, praying for churches and leaders outside his own Pentecostal tradition, discerning the difference between “holy humanness and human holiness,” explaining the “beauty of spiritual language” (speaking in tongues), and maintaining irrevocable honesty in his heart.
“My commitment to walk with integrity of heart calls me to refuse to allow the most minor deviations from honesty with myself, with the facts, and most of all, with the Holy Spirit’s corrections,” Hayford believed.
Hayford saw “his private prayer life as the essential foundation of his ministry, and he deeply yearns to know and please God and live in radical dependence,” wrote Moore in Pastor Jack. “His journals are filled with prayers of confession, praise, and especially lament for his weaknesses and shortcomings. And yet almost always his journal entries end with grateful affirmation of God’s faithfulness to his promises.”
The Church on the Way was located only a few miles from the glamour of Hollywood and it attracted a handful of high-profile members of the entertainment industry. However, the congregation grew steadily without glitz or publicity stunts. Hayford’s appeal was built on his personal humility, integrity, and honesty.
“There is, in whatever one studies of Jesus, everything of humanity and nothing of superficiality; everything of godliness and nothing of religiosity,” wrote Hayford. “Jesus ministered the joy, life, health and glory of his Kingdom in the most practical, tasteful ways. There is nothing of the flawed habit of hollow holiness or pasted-on piety that characterizes much of the Christianity the world encounters.”
Authentic discipleship – to be “Spirit-formed” as Hayford called it – involves nurturing intimacy with God. In his relationship with Jesus, Hayford was committed “to seek him daily (1) to lead and direct my path, (2) to teach and correct my thoughts and words, (3) to keep and protect my soul, and (4) to shape and perfect my life.”
Hayford’s love and concern for clergy of all traditions earned him the title of “pastor to pastors.” Despite coming from a relatively small, classical Pentecostal denomination, his generous spirit had wide appeal.
“I have a shepherd’s heart,” Hayford said prior to his death. Whether he was teaching before 39,000 clergy in a football stadium or hosting a dozen pastors in his living room, Hayford etched a lasting impression on those whom he treasured so much. In a previous era of polarization and mistrust, Hayford stood out as a passionate worshipper and peacemaker. He left a robust legacy of vulnerability and devotion through living a life that was animated by the presence and love of God.
Steve Beard is the editor of Good News.