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…