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Mistakes in church

Church is supposed to be holy and solemn. Right? As a reflection of the kingdom of God our worship is supposed to be perfect. Isn’t it? In our culture of slickness our worship gatherings are supposed to go off without a glitch. Aren’t they? While I believe that should be our goal, sometimes things just don’t go as planned. When that happens, how we handle the mistakes says a lot about who we are as a congregation and why we have gathered together for worship.

This past Sunday I made a doozy of a mistake. Our worship band was missing a vocalist on vacation, our acoustic guitar player who was also on a family vacation, and our electric guitar player and both drummers who were on a mission trip. That leaves me on acoustic guitar and our bass player as the only instrumentalists, and two vocalists. Knowing this was going to be the case, I picked songs I knew well and were fairly simple to play and sing. Or at least so I thought. Then we came to the final song.

I don’t know if it was because I was drained from having just given the message, or it was just a poor song choice, but for some reason, at that moment, I could not play and sing the song at the same time. On a normal Sunday that wouldn’t be a problem. I would just stop playing and concentrate on leading the singing, which makes sense when you have two other guitars on the platform with you. Unless you are channeling Spinal Tap though, an all bass worship band probably wouldn’t work.

So I did what I have trained our worship band to do when things are not going well. I bailed. Only I didn’t do it well. I abruptly ended the song after the first verse and chorus. Probably not the smoothest move, but better than painfully forcing the closing song.

I don’t remember what I said other than it was something self-deprecating that made people laugh. Then I gave the benediction that reflected on the theme for the day, and sent the congregation out into the world. Our goal when preparing worship is to leave the congregation inspired. On Sunday we left them laughing instead.

Now there are several learning edges here that are not lost on me. The greatest of which is to make sure as the leader you can lead all the songs with the band you will have. I will not make that mistake again.

But I think the ability to laugh at our mistake was a great reminder of several things: that our worship is not about the band’s performance; that Christians are not perfect and don’t always have it all together; that the people on the platform and the people in the chairs are all in this together; and that while we take God seriously we don’t take ourselves that seriously. I also hope it gave someone permission to make a mistake this week also, maybe freeing them to take a chance. Most importantly, I hope it made people feel accepted and welcomed into this imperfect place.

Mistakes happen in life and worship. How we handle them matters.

Do you remember a mistake during worship? How was it handled? How did it make you feel?

One Comment

  1. […] at an intentionally funny illustration and at ourselves when the unexpected happens (see “Mistakes in church“). I want worshipers to allow those around them to enrich their lives and make them happy as […]

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