What happens when you lead thousands of worship services with ease is that there are those few in your history there to keep you humble and grounded. Worship services will fail from time to time. In fact, sometimes the nightmare is recorded for all to see on social media. What do you do when the worship service happens to fail–and fail big time? At my own expense, I am going to share a few tidbits from my past that I hope end up encouraging you in some way. Think of this article like the Americas Funniest Videos of worship leading. Or, maybe learn what really ends up being important.
What To Do When the Worship Service Fails Big Time?What do you do when the worship service happens to fail–and fail big time? Click To Tweet
When Your Sermon Is Locked Out
As a young worship leader in a new church plant, there came that day when the pastor took a Sunday off. I was preaching as no one else was there to take the pulpit. We rented a school building to host our church services. So, added to the routine of setting up the PA system, laying out the graphics for the Sunday bulletin, and directing worship team rehearsals I needed to also prepare a sermon. I arrived at the usual time to begin setting up the church service only to find the school janitor a no show. On an ancient flip phone of the day, fellow church leaders called anyone who might have a key. Eventually, our only idea left was to sing a cappella in the parking lot and do church right there.
But, things got interesting. Brother Phillip from the Greek Orthodox church across the street observed our plight. Within moments he offered his building to us to worship. This was my first time in a darkened Orthodox room filled with Christian Icons and symbols. Sheepishly, the small crowd that was our church entered the building and I delivered my sermon. The experience transported us out of our routine and introduced an element of unexpected mystery. A church planted intentionally without symbols for a day was worshipping in a room filled to the brim with them.
When Your Plan Is Turned Off
On another occasion, I was serving at my first big church. That year’s Christmas service was the culmination of months of planning with a team of about 10 leaders who pulled all the pieces together. Our former-warehouse-turned-church had new lighting and audio equipment that would be utilized for the first time. This production included a small orchestra, ballet dancers, choir, and original music and drama scenes. In that season, this was to be the largest thing to date I would lead. Expectation and anticipation weighed heavy on me.
Our first service was on a Saturday and it went better than we expected. The extra theatrical lights we rented payed off. All of the nearly 100 volunteers performed their roles with unity and purpose. Another victory was that all the months of planning proved that people who at first barely knew each other could create something bigger than themselves. But, all of this would come crashing down on Sunday morning. Before the Sunday services were to begin, the power to our building was cut off by the power company for “scheduled” maintenance!
What happened next amazed me. The group of leaders got together and the clear decision was to put on some version of our production, regardless of having electrical power. Too much work and too many people were showing up for us to cancel it entirely. A battery-powered PA used on mission trips was set up with an acoustic piano. And, a boombox for playing tracks plugged into the gear. Windows and doors were opened and work lights connected to scavenged power generators provided illumination. Minutes later we all witnessed a powerful performance that was unthinkable under the circumstances. Anticlimactically, the power was turned on for the later services. For some reason the service where everything seemed to go wrong was the best of all of them that weekend.
When Your Gear Fights Back
What do you do when your equipment gets away from you? One Easter, a rented stage collapses with a choir of 40 people on it. Luckily, no one was hurt. It seems like when we feel we need for things to go right, we are reminded of how fragile our constructs are. And, if we observe closely we see how safe things are in God’s hands. Our production of worship services are not about eliminating mistakes or error—which eliminates humanity itself. Our role in leading worship is about leading people to focus on Jesus. You can even do that when your gear fails.
Several years ago, a drum shield decided to attack me during a worship song set. Interestingly enough, the funny face I made got such a laugh from the drummer that I had to watch the video footage and ended up putting it on Youtube. In the video, it was not only amusing to see the event that went wrong, but also the fact that some in the worship team remained clueless to what was going on around them.
Laugh At Yourself?
What is encouraging to me as a worship leader is that I know even when things fail God’s people will worship. The fact that big fails are rare actually makes their appearance novel–and perhaps scary if your job is at stake. But, they do remind us that those of us who lead worship need not take ourselves too seriously at times. Learning to laugh at yourself and the the inevitable foibles is probably the answer to what you need to do. When is the last time you laughed at yourself?