Even when things go wrong, God can make them go right!
No matter how much I prepare, some Sundays are just “dumpster fires”–total catastrophes. I remember one in particular that started off badly, and then steam rolled out of control as things progressed.
To begin with, I was running late that morning at the church we were struggling to plant in Florida. When I arrived to set up at the middle school we rented each Sunday, I noticed the media cart with the connections to the auditorium’s video projector were missing. Gone. Nowhere to be found.
Without it, it would be impossible to project the worship songs onto our video screen. That would throw a huge monkey-wrench in my worship plan. Also, I’d spent most of the day on Saturday editing a video that set up the sermon perfectly.
So much for planning ahead.
But this unexpected mess just served as an opportunity to send my incredible volunteers into action. These resourceful men found a way to attach a patch cord directly into the projector that was mounted in the auditorium’s ceiling. It would have to hang down awkwardly in the center of the front row, but it was certainly better than no video at all. What a team!
As we got into the worship music of the service, some sound system problems caused the music suddenly to boost to an uncomfortable level. And then later on, when I turned my wireless mic on to begin the sermon, irritating feedback filled the room.
But that was not the worst crisis to befall me that morning…
My hair gel failed.
Yes, to any other pastor, this would be a minor irritation. But I have really big, full hair. And only healthy helpings of hair gel will keep it all in place (wow, that’s really an awfully awkward amount of alliteration).
Anyway, the joke at church goes, “They ship Pastor Dave’s hair gel to his home on trucks, in large, industrial-sized containers.”
In reality, that’s only a slight exaggeration.
So as I’m preaching, my hair begins to fall in my face. Sure, you might think hair falling in your eyes could be sexy, but “sexy” is not really the look pastors are going for.
Well, not most pastors, at least.
So now I’m continually running my fingers through my hair, trying to get it to stay up on my head. Fail.
Trying again. Failing again.
In the midst of this, my cell phone which is set on the pulpit gives off a little “notification ring.” I laugh to the congregation, “Oh, who would be texting a pastor in the middle of his sermon?” So being the easily distracted child that I am, I picked it up and read it in front of the whole congregation.
“Stop messing with your hair. It looks fine.” –my wife.
The room exploded. More laughs than any sermon joke I’ve ever told.
Several minutes later, as I was getting toward the big conclusion of the message…the power went out! Sounds, lights, everything. More laughter, until finally everything came back on. It was like someone was purposely sabotaging the service.
I finally finished the message, gave an invitation, and saw people come forward in response. God sure answered some prayers that day that I had been praying for over a year!
Ironically enough, my sermon was on following Jesus and letting him make your life an adventure. You know, “walking on water,” taking risks, and living in the moment. And what God had just done was to illustrate my sermon better than any pastor could ever hope for!
I imagine if Peter hadn’t stepped out of the boat that night around 3:00 a.m. with Jesus, there would not have been another opportunity. He saw his opening, he asked Jesus if it was okay, and then he just stepped out into the Sea of Galilee. He didn’t wait for good conditions. In fact, the conditions were the worst possible for water walking—a storm.
Yet he took hold of the opportunity in the midst of an imperfect, frightening situation. And thanks to his courage, he had the honor or becoming one of only two people to ever be held up by nothing more than H2O.
I want to live a life like that—something that’s worth telling my grandkids about one day. How I stepped out on a crazy whim and went on an adventure with Jesus. And together, we changed the world! Well, mostly him…but I helped.
That Sunday morning, our service was a dumpster fire for sure. But I went with the flow of the unexpected and had one of my best preaching experiences ever.
Lives were changed and I left invigorated and inspired. The best parts of it were completely unplanned, spontaneous, and out-of-control. It was something only God could have orchestrated.
This is the life Jesus is calling you to—a messy, random, magical existence.
An unpredictable comedy of errors you could never plan in a million years. A story too unlikely and amazing to be believed. And yet it’s happening right before your eyes. So…
Stop over-planning. Stop worrying. Embrace the chaos. Enjoy the ride.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.