On Messing Up

Published 10:23 am Sunday, June 9, 2024

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 By Michael J. Brooks

“What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve said from the pulpit?” he asked.

It was a strange question, but a pastor friend asked privately at lunch, so I felt it was fine to respond.

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I didn’t have to think long, and it was a word not even in scripture.

I was preaching about the different postures of prayer, the point being that whether we’re standing, walking, sitting, driving or kneeling, many postures are acceptable in prayer. Two classic hymns have lines about “falling prostrate at his feet.” This means we fall on our faces before God. 

And, yes, I said, “We can even fall prostate at his feet when we pray.” 

I suppose I had my latest PSA test on my mind. 

A few folk guffawed, but, in retrospect, it could’ve been worse!

A music minister friend told me about moving toward the platform area to begin the worship time when he tripped and “fell prostrate” on the platform. Fortunately he was unhurt, but an embarrassing way to begin a worship time.

Another music friend was leading the invitation from the piano. He talked about the need to come to Christ in surrender and why that night was the night. He meant to say, “Stand to your feet and bow your heads for prayer,” but he said, “Stand on your heads and pray with me.” Of course, everyone burst out laughing, as he did, too, so the moment was effectively lost.

My pastor friend then reciprocated and told me the most embarrassing thing he’d said from the pulpit. It was worse than mine and so unshared in this column.

I think it’s good to reflect occasionally on our foibles and reaffirm a biblical truth; namely, there are no perfect servants of Christ. We all mess up sometimes. Therefore, it’s hazardous for us to critique others so quickly, not realizing their imperfections and our own.

My dad had great insight once when he told me he thought an occupational hazard of preachers is harshly critiquing other preachers. He was correct. We often think (and may say) that there’s a better way to speak God’s truth than other preachers do. But scripture assures us God chooses to use the unique perspective of all those with willing hearts and teachable spirits.

The late Ken Chafin wrote about a young man in his church who was frustrated with his life.
“God should have made two Billy Grahams, and none of me,” he told his pastor.

Chafin assured him that his life, just like Graham’s, was a deliberate creation of God for a unique purpose.

The God we serve uses imperfect people to do his work.

That’s good news for us, especially when we mess up.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.