Thursday, September 10, 2015

Worst Ever?

So I’m sitting on my couch, eating some chips, drinking some soda and watching re-runs of Saturday Night Live. This particular episode was a “best of” collection, and featured some of the funniest clips from over the years. Sandler, Murphy, Nealon, Carvey just to name a few…all of those guys were hilarious, they even had the famous “Cowbell” sketch with Will Farrell (“I’ve got a fever, and it can only be cured with more Cowbell”). If you haven’t seen it it’s very funny.

As I sat there laughing and eating all of a sudden one of my all time favorite sketches with the late Chris Farley came on. It was the sketch where he is the host of his own show called the “Chris Farley Show”, and in his sketch he welcomes famous guests on to interview them, and dialogue about various things in their lives. The only problem is that he is extremely nervous about interviewing them, and always asks them such obvious questions that you just laugh because it’s so stupid.

For instance he had Michael Jordan on one of the shows and he asked questions like “Remember that time you played basketball for the Bulls?” Jordan is like “yeah, I remember that”, and Farley says something like “you were awesome!” Then another time he had Schwarzenegger on and said something like “remember that time you were in Terminator?” Arnold is like “yeah…I remember that”, and Farley adds “and remember that time you yelled GET DOWN?...That was awesome!”

The dialogue is like that throughout the show and usually ends up with Farley’s famous line from that sketch…”Aw, I’m SO STUPID!” Then the guest usually encourages him and says “it’s ok, Chris…thanks for having me on your show.”

As I watched that show, I laughed and laughed, and it reminded me of what it’s like when we try to serve God in our own power. Everything looks good, we say the right things, quote the right scripture, reference the right authors or whatever, but without God’s power doing His thing in people’s lives, we end up like Chris Farley with our hands brushing our hair down over our eyes in disgust saying “Aw, I’m so stupid!”

I like to call those moments the “Worst Ever” moments in ministry, and believe me I’ve got plenty!

The thing that has always amazed me though, is that the times when I delivered a message, taught a class, organized a retreat or did something in ministry that I thought was a “worst ever”, those are the ones that people usually point to as being the one’s that touched their heart, changed their life or at least made them pause and consider what God wanted them to hear.

Why is that? I’m learning that God doesn’t need me to be funny, interesting, captivating or really anything other than obedient and faithful to what He’s called me to do. He’ll do the rest and touch people’s lives in the ways He chooses. That really takes the pressure off, because it’s all about Him and His work, not me and my Skills.

As I sat there and watched SNL, I was reminded of at least 4 “worst ever” moments in my Youth Ministry career, that God took and DESPITE ME, used in people’s lives…I was saying “Aw, I’m so stupid, that was awful” afterwards, but God took my ineptitude and used it for His glory…He’s cool like that.

Well, here they are in no particular order. The 4 “Worst Ever” moments in my Youth Ministry Career (at least 4 that come to mind as I’m writing…there are many more where these came from).

1. Muscle Relaxer Message – I hurt my back really bad a couple days prior to having to deliver a weeks worth of messages at a Youth Week. My back was hurt so bad that on Saturday and Sunday of that week I was flat out, I couldn’t move. The doctor gave me some muscle relaxers and told me to take them to alleviate the pain…What he failed to mention was that they alleviate the pain alright, but they also tend to slur your speech, and basically make you appear like you're drunk or high. A key piece of information that would have been helpful. I took the pills about 30 minutes before speaking and when I opened my mouth to speak I sounded like I had just downed a bottle of Jack Daniels and stepped onto the stage to deliver God’s Word…”Hellllooo everuhbuddy, I’m sooo hick-up happy to beeee heeer today”. It was awful! Now I’ve never been drunk or high but I can imagine that that’s what it felt like, and how I came across. I was happy to get done with my message. At the end I had a bunch of “Farley Moments”, and felt totally inadequate until some students shared how God had used the message to cause them to ponder where their life was headed. Hmmm, Worst Ever, or God’s power using my inadequacies?

2. 4am Message – I was even on the planning committee for this area wide all nighter. Why we ever planned the Bible sharing time at 4am is beyond me, but that’s when it was, and I was the speaker. Maybe it was the bowling or the skating or the extreme min-golf, I’m not totally sure but whatever it was, the audience was less than alert when it came time for me to deliver God’s Word. Even after 3 mountain Dew’s, 2 Starbucks and a red bull, I was less than perky as well…It was a disaster…so I thought, until some students caught me later, and woke me up to say how God had used the talk to help them answer some questions they had about God’s love…Hmmm, Worst ever, or God using my inadequacies?

3. Don't Worry Be Prayerful - It was 1989; Bobby McFerrin had a huge hit (albeit a one hit wonder) with “Don’t Worry be Happy”. As I was preparing to speak at a camp in Michigan, I found myself in Philippians, reading the passage that says “Don’t be anxious about anything but in all things through prayer bring your requests to God.” I wanted to be hip, relevant, encouraging and Biblically accurate all at the same time…So I did what any acid washed jeans and mullet wearing Youth Leader in the 80’s would do…I lip synched “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, and then turned the volume down just in time to say “Be Prayerful” instead of Be happy…Ughhh what a humiliation that was, kids were laughing, and joking and whistling the tune for the next week at camp…I thought it was a bomb, until, you guessed it…”Pastor Brent, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you’ve been speaking about, and I need to give my life to God and His ways instead of my ways." Hmmm, Worst ever, or God using my inadequacies?

4. Skum Bag Message – Yep, all I can say is I said something like this…”To God our sin is like Skum, he hates it, can’t stand it. He provided a way for us to get rid of it through His Son Jesus. Jesus came to save a skum bag like me…and He came to save a Skum Bag like you!” Well, a bunch of kids didn’t take to kindly to being called a skum bag (especially when I pointed at them when I said it…it wasn’t on purpose…it was the Holy Spirit guiding my pointer – ha ha). Any way they left the service as I was speaking and were very upset. Their mom called me the next week and chewed me out…long story short, I explained myself, and what I meant and didn’t mean to point them out in particular. They started coming to my youth group, and got plugged in big time, and became some of my core student leaders and as time went by, adult youth leaders as well. Hmmm, Worst ever, or God using my inadequacies?

Those are just a few examples of what God can do with our meager attempts, biggest mistakes and our best laid plans to serve Him. I’m constantly learning that what God wants is for me to obey and serve in the way He designed me and let Him take care of the rest.

He is in the people changing business, and wants us to use our gifts and trust Him to do what He does best. By the way several of my “Best Ever’s” were just the opposite, I felt good about it, I was funny, relevant, truthful, and Biblically accurate but at the end of the day it didn’t change lives.

Hmmm, Best Ever? Or me just using my strengths...which without God equals...INADEQUACY!


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