The Perils of Technology

I should have known these things by now.

I’m down in Louisville, Kentucky this week, enjoying the privilege of leading corporate worship at the Together for the Gospel conference. About 3000 pastors have gathered to learn about, celebrate, and respond to the central truth around which our unity is built – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The conference is the fruit of four men who have share a deep and meaningful friendship around the Gospel. Ligon Duncan pastors a church in Mississippi and has significant influence in the Presbyterian Church in America. Al Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is often quoted or interviewed by secular news sources. Mark Dever pastors Capitol Hill Baptist Church in downtown Washington, D.C., and is an increasingly heard voice for building Gospel-proclaiming, God-honoring, biblical churches. C.J. Mahaney, who heads up Sovereign Grace Ministries, adds almost 30 years of pastoral and leadership experience to the group. Two Baptists, a Presbyterian, and a Reformed Charismatic. In addition, they’ve invited John Piper, John Macarthur, and R.C. Sproul in as guest speakers. The conference has attracted a wonderfully diverse group of men who are seeking to grow in building their lives and churches around the Gospel.

Anyway, back to the point of my post. I wanted to share what happened in the first session last night so that others might benefit from my stupidity.

Due to the packed schedule, we’re only singing one or two songs each session. Many of them are hymns, although we’ve included a few Sovereign Grace songs as well. Because this is a new and unfamiliar setting, I checked in with Chris Jessee, the PowerPoint operator, before we began, to make sure he had all the songs. Check. With all the verses. Check. And that the songs were in the right order. Check.

However, there were a couple things I didn’t check. We began with “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” The sound of 3000 men singing together (actually, there were about 60 women as well), was powerful and moving. However, I noticed on the third verse that I was doing a solo. I glanced behind me at the screen and saw that the video switcher had chosen to put me leading from the grand piano up on the screen rather than the lyrics. Who needs lyrics anyway, right? It wasn’t until the middle of the verse that the problem was corrected. Lesson Number One: always tell the video crew that when we’re singing a song, people need to have the words on the screen, not a picture of the leader. I’m pretty sure that seeing my face magnified fifty times does nothing to stir people’s hearts to worship God.

Later on, we sang the William Cowper hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” Mark Dever, the primary organizer, had specifically asked that we sing all five verses of this hymn after he spoke. Things were going fine until I started the third verse. Again, I found myself at odds with the congregation. They were singing the LAST verse. Okay, I thought. Maybe someone told Chris to cut the song short. Later I found out that the lyrics Chris had been sent were in a different order from the ones I was reading from. Lesson Number Two: Always make sure you not only check the number of verses on PowerPoint, but that the words actually match the words you’re singing.

Except for substituting my face for the lyrics, I doubt if anyone was aware of the mistakes last night. That’s okay. I wouldn’t be surprised if God had other humbling moments in store for me during the rest of the conference. In the mean time, I’ll try to learn from last night…

15 Responses to The Perils of Technology

  1. Patrick Donohue April 27, 2006 at 11:24 AM #

    It’s encouraging to think that these things can happen to you too, Bob. Thanks for the reminders to be vigilant and ensure that the focus is on God.


  2. Patrick April 27, 2006 at 11:52 AM #

    I’m sure we’ve all got stories of similar things happening.

    Sometimes I rely on the TV monitor on the ground in front of me to remind me of the lyrics. That only helps if the PowerPoint person has ever been in my position, however, because generally the slides don’t get switched until after the next verse has begun. By that time I’ve already sung the wrong line or jumbled the words together enough to confuse everyone.
    So instead of putting my faith in the PowerPoint guy I usually just learn the song. ;)

  3. Jennifer L April 27, 2006 at 12:59 PM #

    That’s hilarious!! If you’ve never worked a conference with Chris, watch out! He loves to pull a fast one on ya! He also keeps you laughing…those midnight review meetings get a lot funnier when he’s punchy…

  4. Jamie Brown April 27, 2006 at 2:33 PM #

    Glad to know that stuff like that happens to you too.

  5. Josh O. April 27, 2006 at 4:24 PM #

    Thanks for sharing. It’s simply refreshing to know that even seasoned leaders have humbling moments. Unfortunately, our corporate worship team has a few too many incidents like these. But since I am the leader of the ministry most of it falls back on me to train and equip. Thanks for the reminder to pursue undistracting excellence!

  6. Evan May April 27, 2006 at 4:32 PM #

    Yes, God is always ready to use experiences like these to remind us that we are not competent within ourselves :-)

  7. Andy Chang April 27, 2006 at 5:11 PM #

    It is a good reminder for me, to on the one hand, remind my A/V team of the importance of diligence and good preparation. But, also to remind them that even the “professionals” still make mistakes- yet to know that God can still work in & through our steps (or missteps!).

    May you continue to be blessed at your conference this week!

  8. bjan April 27, 2006 at 6:33 PM #

    not to make you feel bad, mr. k., but it’s comforting to know that even you’re unsure of yourself sometimes. lol. anyways, thanks so much for going to a conference to learn how to better care for our souls! i’ll be praying.

  9. Steve Bice April 27, 2006 at 11:07 PM #


    I’m at the conference enjoying the MEAT that we’re receiving and being challenged with. Wow, my head is full but my heart is yearning for more. Your leadership in music has been absolutely wonderful. The PASSION that you and the men attending sing with is breathtaking and must be honoring to our Lord. Thank you for your sensitivity to spirit and truth. You are a blessing.

  10. Ian April 27, 2006 at 11:16 PM #

    I would encourage you to think that it is better to be at this wonderful conference with technical difficulties than to not be at the conference reading updates about the technical difficulties that God is kindly causing for our humility and His glory!

    I really really really wanted to be there. But it wasn’t according to divine decree this time. I am so glad that you and many others are magnifying the validity of the gospel by true gospel unity (John 17). I am praying for you all and I am enjoying the live blog! I just wish I could get the books too!


  11. Evan May April 28, 2006 at 1:35 AM #

    I can think back on so many times when I have led corporate worship and afterwards I have to stop and acknowledge, “Man, the Spirit really got me through that one, because that wasn’t me!”

  12. MARILYN April 28, 2006 at 7:32 AM #


  13. Eric Schumacher April 29, 2006 at 2:00 PM #


    I thought the corporate singing was wonderful. It really brought a diverse groupd ‘together for the gospel.’ Your leadership and coordinating of it was a blessing.

    I praise God for you, brother. You are a gift to the church.

  14. Michael King April 29, 2006 at 3:09 PM #


    I agree with Eric Schumacher. The music, the singing, the lyrics at the conference had me stunned before God in brokenness, delight, etc. It was great. I want to work toward making our church’s music more like what I heard and sang in Louisville. Thank you. Praise God.

  15. Mike Graham April 30, 2006 at 6:09 PM #

    That only helps if the PowerPoint person has ever been in my position, however, because generally the slides don’t get switched until after the next verse has begun.

    Talk to your Powerpoint guy. You are not the only one getting the lyrics a little later than you want. I’ve run PPT for a few groups before, and I can barely count the number of times I have gotten, “Thanks for switching the slides early enough for me to start reading it in time for singing the next words.” If you cannot tell what verse is displayed before you sing it, the congregation cannot tell what the words are before they have to sing it.

    Mr. Kauflin-
    Thanks for sharing about the conference. It really excites me to hear about it.

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