Lessons from a Screw-Up

This past Sunday morning I messed up big-time. The service really started out beautifully with baptism, and God was glorified for sure. At the beginning of the last worship song, however, I totally blew it. Our amazing pianist was playing the chord for intro and I just could not find the starting pitch. A few seconds passed… then about 10 seconds, and I totally had the deer-in-the-headlights thing going on. When I get nervous or insecure, I make jokes. It is a nervous habit of mine, and I despise it. So while I was trying to work out the starting pitch in my head I compulsively told a stupid joke that was completely out of place. That was dumb.

Eventually, I had to start the song. I was hoping that someone knew the pitch that I absolutely could not seem to find, so I just started singing – pitifully. Thank God, my choir saved me. Several ladies in the soprano section sang confidently on the correct pitches and after about a measure or two, I finally got on track. For a while there – from the congregation’s standpoint – I think it probably bore much resemblance to an ear-wrenching American Idol audition. You know… from one of the guys they let in the room just for ratings purposes? … Yeah, it was really that bad. Thanks be to God, though, that the song went on and we were able to worship Him in spirit and in truth as He deserves.

Now then… if you were in the service, I would like to reveal the “behind-the-scenes” information that you could not possibly have known. Or maybe like Paul Harvey, you would like to know “The Rest of the Story.” … Every day of my life in my morning quiet time, I admit to God that I am totally incapable of anything at all without Him. Without His mercy and grace and His direct involvement in my life, I am not even able to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. I am 100% dependent on Him, and I normally admit that first thing, just to start each day off with the correct perspective. I have been a Music Pastor for almost 13 years now. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. I have produced three All-State students from my private lessons teaching. I… I… I… I… You get the picture.

But Sunday morning, I… couldn’t find a C# to save my life. Completely and totally helpless. And I know exactly why. I… got cocky.

I started to feel like the worship service was going very well and that it was mostly because of me. That I actually had something to do with it all. Big mistake. And God has a way of reminding us Who is actually in charge. I thank the Lord that after exercising my nervous habit and being totally humiliated (from a prideful standpoint), the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me, informing me of my faulty, prideful presupposition. Right there on the stage, I prayed in my spirit that God would forgive me and use the song for His glory anyway. And I believe He did.

In my personal Bible Study time a couple of weeks ago, I came across the Lord’s response to Moses when he doubted God’s ability to use him in speaking to Pharaoh.

“The Lord said to him, ‘Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'” – Ex. 4:11.

That passage immediately returned to memory upon my audacious offense this Sunday. I think you get the picture without a long, drawn-out exposition here. I thank God for His providence in my life. Even when it means public embarrassment for me. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow spiritually from every experience of life. So here are some lessons learned (or reminded) from my most recent screw-up…

1. Audacity is antithetical to humble service in God’s kingdom. When I feel like I’m capable of speaking, singing, or leading on my own, I hope to always remember God’s words to Moses: “Who made the human mouth?” He made it. He owns it. He uses it. And should I ever again start to think I can handle my God-given assignment without his help, I fully expect to be reminded of this truth once more.

2. Leading worship is impossible without the involvement of the Holy Spirit. Church services are not performances. They are offerings to God and encounters with Him. When services become more about the ability of the leader/participants than about dependency upon and acknowledgement of God’s involvement, what takes place is not “worship.” It is but a cheap, pitiful representation of what God really desires.

3. My church family is forgiving and gracious. That’s a fun thing to say when you have yet to publicly mess up. And it’s also easy to say when you mess up, but blame it on something else. But when your church family knows the truth (such as my pride that lead to dismay this past Sunday), and they choose to forgive you and extend grace anyway… that’s when you can really say these words and mean it. I’m not preemptively telling you (church member) that you will forgive me here. I just know the hearts of our people and am confident (by the Spirit of God that is) 🙂 that forgiveness is flowing as they read this post.

I’m a screw-up. But it’s not really about me, is it?…

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9

Grace and Peace, (extra “grace” this time)…


  One thought on “Lessons from a Screw-Up

  1. Dave
    January 24, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Wonderful thoughts. I would submit to you that it is not just true for music in a worship setting, but for the production of all music. I’ll let you in on a small secret: before I perform a recital or with the Symphony Orchestra, I make the sign of the cross and say quietly “Father, help me to remember now and always that the music I create is for your glorification and not my own.” You were a fine student and you’ve become a fine man; I’m very proud of you.

    Best- Dave Johansen

    • January 25, 2012 at 7:52 AM

      Dr. J, you are so right, and I’m very glad that you pointed that out here. Music is such a gift from God in every respect and it is always an honor to offer up our talents before Him in every setting.

      And by the way, my fondest memory of college years is – by far – my time in your studio. I’ve never despised that experience and have learned so much from you. Thank you for being ‘you.’ You are an incredible influence on me, even ten years removed.

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