What happens when our best-laid plans go totally off the rails?

So, what’s your biggest train-wreck worship story?

Mine happened a couple years ago, playing keyboards at a church that’s not my regular church, but I typically fill in once a month. I’m well connected with one of their worship leaders, but I happened to be playing with a different worship leader that morning. Now that I think about it, I haven’t played with that worship leader since. Hmm.

Here’s what happened. The opening set went great. We finished up, and I set my in-ear monitors down on the keyboard like I usually do. Somehow, I must’ve hit a wayward button in a bank of keyboard sounds that I didn’t even know existed.

The message was wonderful, and of course it built up to this tender moment that was supposed to segue perfectly into this equally tender ending song. I thought I’d left the keyboard settings on my typical piano/pad sound that I use 90% of the time, so when I came back up, and re-wired myself with my in-ear monitors, I didn’t bother to look down at the keyboard LED screen. I just hit the opening “C” chord, expecting that nice, warm emotional sound that would of course begin to melt the congregation’s collective hearts.

What came out was the loudest, gnarliest, nastiest, most club-ready hip-hop beat I’ve ever heard.

Panicked, I look down at the LED screen, and see the name of this audio nightmare: HOP IT. Arrrrgh!

Keyboard players, you know that when you activate a loop sound on a keyboard, it doesn’t just stop once you lift your fingers off the keys. It keeps going. And it sure did that morning. I finally remember that the way to stop it is to change the sound settings. So I changed back to my nice, safe piano pad sound. Whew. Nightmare over. But damage done.

Then I become aware of what else was happening on stage, and later, when we could all laugh about it, it’s just as funny. Maybe more.

Once the beat kicked in, the worship leader whirls around to the drummer, giving him the “stare-of-death,” wondering if he’s lost his mind and why on earth is he starting this tender song so aggressively? The drummer panics, wondering if he’s activated some unknown demon in his metronome/click track/beat box thing that he’s responsible for. The rest of the team has no idea what just happened. So it actually took everyone quite a while to realize it was really my fault.

I wonder if sometimes God allows our plans to go awry, to remind us Who’s really in charge. To remind us Who’s really responsible for doing the inner work in someone’s soul. Yes, our music touches those places, but it’s God’s Spirit that truly does the work that endures.

Despite my bumbling, worship happened that morning. God smiled on us. I think He also smiled with us and at us. And we all lived to worship another day.

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As a songwriter, worship leader and team member, and a member of the marketing team, Paul is connected to CCLI in every possible way. Paul serves as CCLI’s Content Creator in the U.S. Service Center in Vancouver, Washington. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from George Fox University and has served as a marketing/communications specialist for a number of ministries.

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