How Would You Handle This?

Worship Central posted a video today of a “horror moment” that occurred at one of their recent events when Martin Smith was wrapping up a time of corporate worship.

I wasn’t there, but from the looks of it, they’ve finished the last song and are leaving a bit of space. Martin decides to read from his bible and sets it down on the keyboard in front of him. By doing so, he accidentally hits a button that triggers a drum beat to play loudly and distractingly. By the time he realizes it’s his fault, he decides to not read from his bible, and hands it over to the emcee. Watch it here:

I’m glad that the guys at Worship Central posted this because we can learn from watching it. And I’m glad it didn’t happen to me because I can imagine it would be pretty embarrassing. Hindsight is always 20/20 – especially when it’s at someone else’s expense!

Briefly, here’s what I think Martin did well:

  • He calmly looked around to see what was happening.
  • He didn’t lose his composure.
  • He quickly realized it was his fault and took care of it.
  • He laughed at himself.
  • He didn’t try to pretend no one had noticed. They had ALL noticed.

But, from my vantage point, here is how I wish this video had ended:

  • He realizes it was his fault and takes care of it.
  • He laughs at himself and lets everyone else enjoy the moment too.
  • He lets the laughter die down naturally and then says: “what I was going to read from scripture was…”

I can imagine he was flustered. Really flustered. I would have been too. There’s no way to know if I would have handled this any differently if I had been in Martin’s shoes. I might have. Or I might not have. Who knows.

But when things like this happen (and they are bound to happen at some point when you least expect it)… consider whether “I think it’s time I hand it over” is the best thing to say, or whether it’s a better idea to get back on track, focus, and go where you had been going.

When People Don’t (And Won’t) Sing Along

One of the most fascinating events in American politics is the annual State of the Union address. The pomp and circumstance is higher that night than almost any other night in the nation’s capital.

The president arrives to thunderous applause from both parties, and finally begins his speech when the hoopla dies down. Once he starts, the real fun begins. After every point, the members of congress from his party stand in loyal and heartfelt applause. The opposition party, however, remains seated and firm in their disapproval. Only when the president says something non-partisan or fairly neutral will both parties stand in approval.

Believe it or not, many churches look like this on Sunday morning.

The worship leader stands up to lead some songs. There might be an initial display of unity, but once the songs start, the real “fun” begins. There are those in the room who sing along to every song and do so with enthusiasm. Then there are those who will only sing along if the song meets their criteria. Then there are those who, in protest, won’t even stand.

I’ve seen this up close. In the same church where I encountered an opinionated craft guild ambassador, I also encountered members of the congregation who, for various reasons, refused to stand or sing during the songs I led. It was a not-so-subtle act of protest and was something for which I was completely unprepared.

While not on such a large scale, from time to time I’ll still encounter people who refuse to sing, or just remain seated, or maybe even leave the room. It’s not common, but you see all sorts of things when you’re in ministry. This is a hard one to deal with. Here are just a couple of thoughts:

Remember that building trust takes time
People will follow you if they trust you. Building that trust takes time. For some people in the congregation, it will take them half of the first song to realize they can trust you. For others, it takes longer. You won’t build those people’s trust in you by forcing it, by demanding it, or by showing them your frustration in not having it. It will take weeks, months, and years. Some may never trust you, but that’s why this next point is important:

Don’t make it about you
If you’re leading worship and notice people not singing and/or showing their disapproval, you have to be very careful not to take it personally. Keep leading, press on, don’t get distracted or discouraged, and look at those people with as much love as you can muster. Only God knows what their issues are – whether they’re judging you, will only worship God on their own terms, or maybe they’re just immature – and you can’t allow yourself to get defensive as if it’s all about you. It’s usually not. And even if it is, you’re not the one to do anything about it. You have to keep going, be faithful, and pray.

Go to your pastor
If there people who won’t sing along, and if it’s the same people consistently, you need to mention this to your pastor. The pastor is the main worship leader of the church, and this is something he needs to pray about addressing.

Any president who stands before the Congress for the State of the Union address knows that there will be some people who will be with him the entire hour, and others who won’t be with him at all. The same could be said of worship leaders on Sunday morning, but hopefully with less pomp and circumstance

The big – really big – difference, of course, is that during a State of the Union address, all eyes are on the president. He is analyzed, examined, the star of the show, and the one everyone is coming to see. When and whether people stand up, sit down, applaud, or protest, is all up to him.

Thank God that I am not the star of the show on Sunday morning. My job is to help people fix their eyes on the Lamb who was slain, the Savior of the world, the image of the invisible God, and the one before whom one day we will all bow our knees. But here on earth, and on Sunday mornings, when and whether people stand up, sit down, applaud, or protest, is not up to me.

When the Congregation Claps On the Wrong Beat

This past Sunday we closed our service with Tim Hughes’ song “Happy Day” celebrating the “empty cross, the empty grave” and “life eternal” that Jesus won for us.

I started the song off by playing four measures on my own, and then the rest of the band joined me. The problem? They were one beat behind.

Because my intro was just straight eighth-notes and I jumped into it after saying something to the congregation, my drummer (who is super gifted) couldn’t quite tell which beat was the downbeat. Hence the band coming in one beat behind.

I quickly realized that this meant the congregation was clapping on the wrong beat.

What should I do? Go the entire song with the congregation clapping on the wrong beat? Try to fight them and hope they figure it out? Or just stop the song and start over?

I chose the last option. I just motioned to the band to stop, told the congregation we were going to start over and why, and then we tried it again and got it right.

Here’s how it sounded:

I think this is the first time I’ve ever had to stop a song and re-start it. I don’t imagine it will happen that often. But sometimes, like this past Sunday morning, it’s the best option.

And I think it was the right call this time. It showed the congregation we don’t take ourselves too seriously, it helped the band get back on track, and allowed us to sing the rest of the song without a huge distraction. This kind of thing helps keep us humble. It’s also fun to look back on it (or listen back as the case may be) and laugh. And learn. But mostly laugh.

Handling Awkward Moments – A Medical Emergency

This past Sunday at my church, I was sitting in the congregation and listening to the sermon, when I noticed an individual stand up and walk towards the back of the room. I thought it was an odd time for this person to leave since the sermon was almost over, and I also thought it wasn’t very discreet since they were sitting directly in front of the preacher!

About 15 seconds later, a huge gasp arose from the back of the room as this person proceeded to faint, fall onto the laps of a couple people, and end up lying on the floor.

Thankfully, we have several doctors and nurses who attend our church, two of whom were sitting within arm’s reach of where the individual fainted. We’ve also prepared for this kind of incident by installing emergency 911 buttons at our sound desk, and training our ushers how to respond. This person was taken to a hospital within minutes and released that afternoon, but it was still a huge disruption to the service.

It’s impossible to know when a service might be interrupted by a medical emergency. But it’s good to think through how you should respond. Bill Haley, one of our associate pastors who was preaching, handled it like a pro. Here’s what he did:

Don’t pretend it’s not happening!
Bill recognized he has lost the attention of the room, and that someone needed help. To continue with his sermon would have been futile and foolish. He could pick up his sermon later, but he had to address the emergency first.

Ask if there are any doctors in the room
Bill was in mid-sentence when the person fainted. After hearing the loud gasp and seeing that someone had fainted, he immediately said: “are there any doctor’s in the room?” Seconds later, an ER doctor and a handful of nursed were at the person’s side. Bill had the advantage of a microphone, and he used it well.

Once this individual had medical attention and 911 had been called, Bill said: “let’s pray”. He led the congregation in praying for the person until they were being carried out of the room.

Slowly get back to where you were
After this person was taken out to the lobby, he reassured people that he would update us on their status at the end of the service, encouraged us to keep praying for her, reminded us that God was in control, and slowly transitioned back into his sermon.

Recognize that the dynamic in the room has changed
I had planned to follow Bill’s sermon with Enfield’s arrangement of “Crown Him with Many Crowns”. Knowing that people were still shaken up and distracted, we changed the arrangement on the fly to be a bit more laid back and less aggressive. To follow a medical emergency with a rock version of a hymn could have been perceived as insensitive and jarring.

One thing that Bill did that ended up adding to some of the confusion was to ask intercessory prayer team members to go lay hands on the person who had fainted. This resulted in too many people being around, and required the doctor and nurses to tell people to go back to their seats. Next time, I’d ask people to extend a hand towards the person from their seat, but to leave room for the professionals to do their job.

I may never have to deal with this particular scenario again, and you may never face this kind of “awkward moment” in one of your services. But when you’re dealing with a group of people standing up and singing for long periods of time, a variety of ages, 52 Sundays a year, and just plain old odds, it’s most likely going to happen someday.