Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Perfect in Weakness" -- When You Screw Up in Church

Good day all!

I'm pretty heavily involved in my church. I play bass guitar in the worship band, and I teach ages 9 - 12 in Sunday school. I LOVE Sunday School and enjoy the worship team ministry very much. Recently, the format of our worship changed a little as we have had members of the congregation coming up to read selections of Scripture and to pray before we begin leading the congregation. I have done this about half a dozen times or so and was chosen to do the Scripture reading prior to last weeks service.

Unfortunately, last week was an abject disaster. Complete and total, beyond belief, TRAIN WRECK.

I love the New King James translation. I think it is one of the most readable and beautiful translations, while remaining steadfast in it's accuracy to the text. In his book "How to Choose a Bible Version", Robert Thomas, professor at The Master's Seminary (he's awesome), charted on a graph the accuracy of the texts. KJV was the second most accurate, but was rated the one of the least readable. The NKJV took care of the readability problem by updating the language and using words more common to a modern reader while, in my opinion, still preserving the beauty of the Scriptures and not going "low-brow".

Anyway. . .

At our church, our official version is the New American Standard Version. I like it a lot but, as I said, NKJV is my favorite. The problem is that when I am chosen to read in front of the church, I HAVE to read NASB. It's not as if they are NASB-onlyists or anything, but some version had to be chosen, NASB is it, and that's what they have on the screen as I'm reading.

Now, normally I print out the text from my favorite online Bible site, Blue Letter Bible. In this case, I decided that I didn't have to do that and that I would read directly from my phone's Bible app from You Version. It seemed like a good plan.

Normally, being in the worship band, I start my day up on the platform at my station. Normally, I'm tuning my bass guitar while whoever is doing announcements and the prayer/scripture is doing their thing (typically, I'm done with the tuning and setting my tones by the time announcements are over). However, on days when I am reading, obviously I can't do that.

Last week we had a skeleton crew of worship team people. Lots of vacations and our worship leader was chosen to give the sermon to allow our pastor a much needed week off (He did a great job, I was proud of him). So, at practice it was just four of us. Therefore, during the pre-service time we choose not to play a "prelude" as a band and instead opted to have our "jack-of-all-trades and master of all things music" guitar player play a piano song for the prelude. This meant that I was in my usual seat for the pre-service time and not on the platform with my instrument.

While the man who was supposed to pray was praying, I moved to the front row so as to minimize the time between the prayer and the scripture reading (our church has an unhealthy fascination with "down-time"). And that's when it happened. I got to thinking about how ridiculous it would look if I brought my cell phone out in the pulpit and began looking at it. I thought "people aren't going to understand that it's a smart phone and I'm reading the Scripture on it. They're going to think I'm distracted." Now, back when we started this, we were told that if all else fails, we could read from the screen in the back (we put it there so our singers could sing without looking down all the time). I decided that I would simply do that.

Like an idiot, I still took my cell phone up with me. I still had it open, and I'm convinced that everyone could see it anyway. But that's not what really went wrong. The real problem was that NO ONE read from the back when they did this. Most people read from their Bibles, one from his iPad, and others did what I do and printed the words out from a source. This means that our (completely under-appreciated) tech-team was not anticipating my reading from the back screen. And this meant that they didn't change the slides fast enough for my reading to seem natural or uninhibited.

I'm guessing I probably sounded drunk or really tired. Either way, it was a disaster.

Add to it that I have less than perfect near-sighted vision and the back screen is rather far away. I was squinting the whole time and I know I missed words. Plus, when you're struggling like I was, you aren't concentrating on pronouncing words like "Iconium". 2 timothy 3 was never a longer more arduous chapter of Scripture than it was that day.

All in all, it was pretty terrible. And I knew it.

As I made my way over to my station to play bass, I was really mad at myself. How could I be so stupid? What in the world did I think was going to happen? I hate times like that.

I'll pause here to tell you that I hold myself to a high standard. I want to be excellent. I want to do my absolute best. I take what we do in church seriously and I don't want to take away from the good work others are doing by being nonchalant or giving less than my best. What this means is that I don't want to go to the pulpit sounding unprepared, especially when I WAS PREPARED. I read that passage over at least 10 times doing everything short of memorizing it. It felt so frustrating. I had thought about printing it and decided not too. I was comfortable with my decision to read from my phone and for some reason, I doubted that decision at the worst possible time.

Well, if you've played music for any amount of time as I have, I don't have to tell you that it was a bad frame of mind to be in when you pick up your instrument for a "performance". I played terribly. For some reason, I kept playing a G# when I needed to play a Bb. I was out of sync with my awesome drummer (bad ju-ju for a bassist) and just couldn't concentrate.

I was happy to slink off stage and out of the sanctuary to get a drink of water when we were done. I talked it over with the band, who were encouraging and pretending like nothing bad had happened as usual. I really appreciate those guys. I'm easily the worst musician in that band and you ought to hear them. They're really really good. I have to work hard to be as good as I am, which isn't very good. Those guys just come by it naturally it seems (although I know they work hard too). It's kind of an honor to be included in the group.

Nonetheless, I went back to my seat still angry at myself. My wonderful girlfriend and her father were waiting for me. Of course, she acted like she didn't notice, and knowing that I was unhappy asked me what was wrong. When I told her, she leaned over and said:

"When we are weak, He is strong." (from: 2Cor 12:9)
And do you know what? She's right. She's absolutely right. I'm glad that God has blessed her with the optimism to see the situation that way. While I was kicking myself and hating my "performance", she was remembering that God is still sovereign, and SO full of grace. I'm thankful for that aspect of her and thankful that God would put her perspective in my life. Because, honestly, I don't know if I would have thought about it at the time.

The greater point though is just how right she is. If Christ were to look at me and what I bring to the table for even a moment, I would be hopeless (Psa 53:3). But Christ looks beyond all of that, loving me anyway (Rom 8:35), dying for me anyway (Rom 5:8), saving me even though not a thing about me deserves to be saved (Rom 3:23, Isa 64:6). And He is glorified, even in my weakness.

She was right. While there is nothing wrong with striving for excellence (Phil 3:12), I ought to expect to fail and upon failing praise Him for loving me anyway and respond as Paul did a few verses later in 2nd Corinthians 12:10.

The Lord is merciful, good, and full of grace. Even when I screw up terribly, to the point of complete embarrassment. Even when I sin. Thank God for amazing grace.

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit newsvine

1 comment:

  1. BTDT!!! My eyes now don't focus well in the AM when playing harp. My glasses are for far. I could use bifocals, but for harp that would have to be a custom design to see near out of the right sides of the lenses! So, last Sunday I started the prelude with a couple easy pieces and then proceeded to botch "Hark the Herald!" After maybe 4 measures I stopped and jumped to "We Three Kings." It's not that I can't play. It's merely that my eyes weren't cooperating until about an hour later.

    Whatever. The Lord knows my condition.