When Things Don’t Go As Planned, Take 2

What do you do when you start leading a song in two different keys?

At our WorshipGod08 conference, we had the opportunity to find out as Joseph Stigora started “Psalm 96” in one key and the rest of the band from Covenant Fellowship came in a step higher. I posted on this previously, but here’s the video again:

I got an email recently from a Sovereign Grace worship leader who shared how that incident at the conference encouraged him on a recent Sunday. This is what he wrote:

We are a church of about 150 or so, so when you mess up it feels really uncomfortable because everyone is so close. It had been a while since something happened.

Sunday before Christmas I had a young lady sing “In Christ Alone.” She’s definitely the most-gifted musician and singer we have–I love when she is able to sing for us. She came in on the wrong key (I gave her a terrible transition……..). She tried to recover but couldn’t. I heroically tried to pick up the vocals (I can’t believe I had the audacity to try!!) but sadly was singing in the same key she was (ha! If only we’d been singing it in that actual key, we would have sounded great!). Crash and burn. In that moment I sensed the Holy Spirit bringing to my mind, in fast forward time, that moment at the WG Conference. I sensed a rush of peace and confidence and waved for her to stop…told our folks some of the above, we’re imperfect, we’re in the wrong key, thanked them for their patience and said we’d just start over.

Let me tell you, I don’t know that we’ve had a more passionate and responsive time of worship than we did when we started again and sang “In Christ Alone.” It was as if we were all more aware of our fragility, our vulnerability, our need for the Savior. When we finished together, the music team was real thankful it happened. Almost like, “Man, we wouldn’t mind that happening a few times per year if thats the effect!”

While I’m hoping your musicians aren’t praying for these kinds of “opportunities,” don’t be surprised if God chooses at times to glorify  himself this year through your weaknesses rather than your strengths. After all, that’s what he’s promised to do. (2 Cor. 12:9)

And while we’re on the topic, what have you learned from your “train wrecks” this past year?

17 Responses to When Things Don’t Go As Planned, Take 2

  1. Jamie Mason January 2, 2010 at 4:31 PM #

    I had one memorable Sunday when I inadvertantly left my capo on the 3rd fret and started a song. Unfortunately, it was way too high. The verse was OK, but I knew the chorus was going to kill us.
    So I stopped the song and told the church what I did and said, “we were fine so far, but I was taking us to a place nobody wants to go…and I love you too much to do that to you. Let’s start it again.”
    We had the same response as the SG leader. There was a freedom that came that I didn’t expect.
    What I learned..what I need to remember, is that the folks really are for us. That when we display humilty and authenticity, God uses it to bind us together.
    Who knew? Thanks for the reminder!

  2. bondChristian January 2, 2010 at 6:25 PM #

    One particular train wreck just a month or two ago occurred throughout the whole service. We didn’t stop in the middle of any songs or anything (we’ve had that happen), but the whole service just wasn’t coming together musically. Afterward, though, we talked with a couple people who were genuinely enthusiastic about how the service went.

    I think even subtle things like this show how much God cares about the heart of the worship… not the technical proficiency of the band (though again, we’re not praying for these issues either).

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  3. Randy Neufeld January 2, 2010 at 7:14 PM #

    I had one of those moments several weeks ago … we were transitioning from “Agnus Dei” into “Offering”. It was simple, rehearsal had gone so well. I started singing “The sun cannot …” and I was so far off from where the band started, it was just brutal.

    The band kept playing the D chord, I smiled, closed my eyes and started again.

    Our worship is an “offering”, it’s not about us, it is all about God. And the Holy Spirit did stick around!

    Blessings,
    …Randy

  4. David McKay January 2, 2010 at 9:02 PM #

    Thank you for posting this.
    We had several goof ups this morning, including the laptop computer freezing and sync problems between song leader and pianist.

    It is nice to know it doesn’t only happen in our small church.

  5. Carri January 2, 2010 at 11:31 PM #

    No big huge train wreck, but this year I’ve been really struggling with problems with my voice. Flutters I can’t control or avoid on certain notes and just plain old phlegm. I’m still not sure why I’m having these vocal problems, so this has been an on going trial. Each time I lead worship I feel so vulnerable and weak. And many times I have to get up and do it alone! Yet in my weakness God comes through for me. Not that I sing or lead perfectly but He gets me through so that I’m not utterly humiliated! In the process I am learning to trust Him more. He is faithful.

  6. Arlene January 3, 2010 at 10:45 AM #

    That happened to me once…started in the wrong key and the musicians tried to help me recover. I stopped, let them play the intro longer and started to pray, recognizing my weakness before the Lord.

    I agree that God would sometimes use such incident to glorify Him and to remind us all that it’s really not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit that we are able to stand there in front of the the congregation to represent God’s people!

    Forgive me if I sound might arrogant, but I’ve seen one worship leader having the same problem one time and he gave dagger looks to the musician as if it was their fault. The congregation saw it and felt the tension, and the worship was really not the same.

    I believe humility before the throne of God is very important. It’s not totally about how good you sound, but the attitude of heart is paramount.

  7. Dana Tedeschi January 4, 2010 at 10:02 AM #

    I never look forward to our occasional “train wrecks”, but I’m thankful for what God teaches our team and the congregation when they do happen.
    At a recent Sunday morning, we were commenting on how similar some of the song intros can sound. That very service, our piano player started playing a different but similar song as the team began singing the right song. A couple weeks later, our laptop went dead just as we began to teach the congregation a new song (with a lot of words!).
    We have been blessed with very skilled musicians, and when the occasional “train wreck” happens, we’re once again reminded to not rest in our “skill” as we lead the congregation. We should seek to play skillfully, but God is not dependent on our skill to move and work among us. Because we “mess up”, that has not quenched the moving of God’s spirit. It’s also been a chance to say to the congregation our best efforts are never enough. We desperately need the Spirit of God to work in and through us each time we meet.

  8. Mike Ruel January 4, 2010 at 10:49 AM #

    Ah yes.

    Very fresh for me, just had a massive spectacular public failure yesterday…oddly enough during “Your Grace is Enough” :-) It was like God was reminding me, as Rome burned around me, that he is still on his throne and his daily grace – to use imperfect people like me – is what we need to rely on.

    Thank you God for using me and teaching me…and for your grace – perfectly demonstrated in giving us Jesus Christ!

    Thank you Bob for another great post.

    Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4-8

  9. Matthew Jolley January 4, 2010 at 10:02 PM #

    I lead worship weekly at a collegiate gathering in New Orleans, and I have learned that my students can be some of the most forthright critics out there. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of this blunder:

    Well, while playing “The Father’s Love” from Sons and Daughters, my drummer’s and i somehow became un-aligned going into the bridge..”though sufferings..” well, I just killed it. The whole song…apologized, re-started..and it was as if everyone let out a huge breath they had been holding in. The Holy Spirit took that moment and made it GREAT. Our worship time that night became one of the best of the year. Praise God for his faithfulness!

  10. Nicole McLernon January 4, 2010 at 10:42 PM #

    I was so glad to be at WG when this happened. So heroic.

    My dad (a very good and very capable worship leader) was leading worship a couple Sundays ago and started playing the intro to “Hope Has Come” which is just one chord. However, he had forgotten to change keys from the previous song so when the song started, he started singing and playing in the right key but the rest of us on the team started singing in the key of the intro. It was disastrous. I couldn’t sing for nearly the whole first verse and chorus because I was laughing so hard.

    Then, a couple Sundays after that, I was singing “Welcome to Our World” by Chris Rice in a quintet. Practices had gone great. But when we were performing, and it came time to modulate, our pianist forgot to modulate. So half of us started singing in the new key and half in the old. We stumbled along for the next verse but eventually recovered. Of course, the modulated verse was the really important one.

    It’s really been good though. Keeps us humble. Although I must say, I was a little leery of key changes for a while after that. :)

  11. Paul Hoover January 5, 2010 at 8:29 PM #

    Bob, I can totally relate to this! It occurred most notably one time when I was using prerecorded drum tracks because my drummer was out of town.

    I recorded the tracks myself so I knew them very well, and they had worked perfectly in rehearsal. The song was “Marvelous Light” and my pastor had preached from Ephesians 2 where Paul talks about being brought into the “household” of God.

    I had lead the first verse without the band so we could focus on the lyrics: “I once was fatherless, a stranger with no hope. Your kindness wakened me, wakened me from my sleep,” which we repeated a couple times.

    Then when I decided to bring in the band (plus drum tracks) I totally miscounted the measures of the intro, and in addition, I started leading verse 2 (since I’d been singing part of verse 1!).

    I stopped everyone, and joyfully pointed out our foible, and reminded us that the worship band is not the guarantor that God-pleasing worship is occurring; only the Spirit can do that!

    Anytime the “curtain of performance” is broken now, I feel the “household of God” surge in with love and gratitude for the Spirit’s work in corporate worship as we continually realize our need for Him in everything!

  12. dave fournier January 5, 2010 at 11:39 PM #

    memorable moments:

    1. starting in the wrong key, ALSO playing the wrong song, leading worship for a large retreat.
    wanted to do “who is like you, oh Lord” – did “who is there like you?”, and forgot to capo. utter confusion and wonderful opportunity for humility.

    2. broke three strings on one guitar during a community group worship time. the Lord led us into very nice a cappella worship by the end.

  13. Zac Hicks January 6, 2010 at 2:23 AM #

    Thank you for this great post! Remedy for all goof-ups = the Gospel. Amen.

    “Play skillfully and shout for joy” (Ps. 33:3)
    …but we must check our hearts to make sure that our hope is not in our skill but in Christ. When it IS in Christ, mess-ups are much easier to laugh at and get over.

    Again, thank you.

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