Incredible Truth I Learned From My Most Embarrassing Moment

Sometimes the truth hurts.

The first time I was asked (coaxed) into singing at church was over 10 years ago. 

I had been taking vocal lessons from the worship pastor and he liked a particular song I had written.  When he asked me to sing it during offering for the evening service, I was hesitant but he assured me I was ready.  I practiced like crazy and by the time I got up in front of those 400 people I had done everything in my power to assure success.  

Train Wreck

Rather than start into the familiar first lyric I had practiced so many times, I started singing the second verse.  Uh oh.  My mind began to race. 

How can I fix this? 

Does this even make sense? 

Maybe I can swap the second half of the verse with the first and get this back on track...  

By the time I hit the pre-chorus I was like a kid who was running too fast for his legs.  My mind couldn’t keep up and the next words I sang went like this:  “…and blah blah blah, something, something I fogot the words...doo doo doo da dee da…”  I finally caught back up on the chorus and was able to finish out the song with both my hands and my voice shaking uncontrollably.  When I strummed the last chord I wanted desperately to crawl into a hole and hide, but instead I had to walk, head down and heart pounding past those 400 people to get to my seat.  I was crushed; humiliated.  Yet in that moment God spoke very clearly to me.  My ego was too wrapped up in music.

Identity Crisis

It’s very easy for us to define ourselves by what we do.  I say “I am a musician”, but God says “You are my child”.  I can cease being a musician, but I will always be God’s child.  That is who I am and it’s where all my value comes from.  When I truly grasp this, my only response is a life of gratitude. I am grateful to lead worship so I strive to do it well.  I am grateful for the Worship Artistry community so I strive to serve you well.  Still, when I make a mistake, I know that God will not love me anymore or any less than He does right now.  Read that last sentence again.  I am a child of God.

Back on Track

This last Sunday I was leading “I Surrender All” during communion.  We were singing louder and louder and it was a beautiful moment that I didn’t want to end.  I made an attempt to close out the song with the second half of the chorus but like the kid running too fast for his legs, I wiped out.  I sang the chorus words to the verse melody.  A few words in, I let out that same “Uh oh”.  Everybody laughed as I stopped playing guitar.  This time, though, with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I threw my hands wide and led the chorus one more time.  I proclaimed "I surrender all", and I actually did.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

Incredible Truth I Learned From My Most Embarrassing Moment

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Good word young man!

Good word young man!

very timely

You painted a great picture of your dilemma, I could feel myself in your shoes! I appreciate your willingness to expose your mistakes and allow us to learn from them as well. Often times we see those in leadership positions or those that are really great at their public gift and we lose sight that they are human as well. Everyone messes up!

A couple Sunday's ago, It took us three tries to get "Joyful, Joyful" started correctly. We all had a good laugh and shook it off, because we're all human and imperfect!

So often our pride get's hurt when catastrophe happens. It's natural. What I have to remind myself of each Sunday is this; the congregation is not singing to me! I'm simply there to usher them to the Throne of God to sing and give praise to Him. That tends to keep it all into perspective.

Keep up the great work Jason!

do does not equal be...


Great examples of "what I do does not equal Whose I am".

In the Gospel Primer by Cesar Kalinowski, there's a graphic behind some text on a chapter that concentrates on the very point you are making here.

DO ≠ BE.

Our identity is that we are sons and daughters of the most high God. We are not what we do. Whenever we let what we do define us, it detracts us from concentrating on God and instead we put the focus on ourselves.

Thanks for this great reminder.

Could you reverse it

Be = do? Who we are directly influences what we do? I don't know, I was never good at math...

Needed moments

I was leading a couple weeks back and the opening song was "I Will Boast" by Paul Baloche. As I attempted to transition into the 2nd song "The Rock Won't Move" my hours of practicing the acoustic part went out the door. I felt like my fingers were made of lead. I ended up stopping and I addressed the church by saying, "We need to boast in the greatness of God because as you can see we've got nothing to boast about ourselves." We all had a good laugh about it. I've come to learn that the moments when we screw up are more important for us personally then the times we nail it because it tests our character and shows us where we are focusing by how we react.

Nice line!

Being a good leader doesn't mean being flawless. I actually think we do ourselves and our community a disservice by pretending we are.

Similar crash on the same day...

This past Sunday we also experienced a nice crash...during the first song, my floor monitor popped, squealed, then turned off...the pop-squeal making its loud presence through the mains...soon into to the first verse, the pastor signals to me that my mic isn't working...and the acoustic player isn't coming through at all...this meant all the congregation could hear was my electric (just strumming whole notes with some overdrive) and the two lead singers had backed too far off their mics after the monitor popped and scared them...we struggled through, I switched over to my acoustic and changed the way we had planned on playing the next this time a member of the congregation had gone back to the board, reached over my father who I had helping me mix, and started turning knobs franticly...causing nothing but squeal every couple of father told me later that the guy kept turning the gain up on everything to 10, then turning it all back to 0...(I'll be asking you later a question about this, heads up)...we finished that song, I prayed, trying to maintain some sense of composure and not let the frustration and helplessness show through, I cut the last song of the first set, and sat down. By the time the sermon was over, I had snuck behind the rails and unplugged everything but one mic and my acoustic...and finished with a simple song, "Centuries" by Aaron ended well, and I was able to get a good laugh out of the congregation joking about it...but the big downside was looking out I could count 4 families all visiting for the first time...I found out later one of them is a sound engineer for a local radio station...they all left rather quickly and didn't look like they'd be returning...I've been playing and leading worship for years, and still have trouble maintaining my composure during moments of failing gear and failing fingers

Oh man, my heart breaks for you.

That sounds HORRIBLE!!! Every moment must have felt like an eternity...

I do want to add a thought about the people who left. I hope you don't blame yourself for that. I know when I move to a new place and am checking out churches, I'm looking for a lot of things, but the best worship team is definitely not one of them. In fact, I love coming into a new community knowing that I can use my gifts to serve in a way that raises the level of excellence in music. Those new folks could have left for a lot of reasons but if they took off because of technical problems, they have a lot to learn about what a body of believers is all about. It sounds like you did the best with what you had. Keep trying, keep serving...and don't let that one guy go near the sound board :)

been there man, I have been there

My wife and attend a very small church where her parents pastor, and her father has asked me to step up and lead the services. Not only that, but when the piano player is gone I also lead the worship service. I have only been playing guitar for 4 years now and I still have a lot to learn. It never fails, ever time I learn a new song, the first time I sing it at the church, I mess up. However, I did have a good experience from this 2 Sundays ago. I was singing mighty to save, and I accidently mixed up the whole first verse; of course in my mind I am thinking, "train wreck!" But then as I keep going, I can't even remember how or what I did, it ended up sounding way better than when I practiced it! Ya gotta loves those moments, right? Praise God for it though, I couldn't have even gone on without His help!

It's just such a reminder

That God doesn't need us but He chooses us with all our imperfections. what a gift!


A few months ago, I sang "Oceans" to introduce it to our church. We practiced and fine-tuned our arrangement to make it a beautiful, peaceful worship moment. In practice, it was very moving. When we did it in church that next Sunday, my lovely children took the (unsupervised) opportunity to jump up and down on the front steps in front of everyone. My husband couldn't grab them either because he was playing guitar. Eventually, I had to grab and hold my younger son mid-song and sing while holding him. Super embarrassing and unprofessional. Everyone said how "cute" it was afterward, but obviously just to try to make me feel better, and the worshipful attention definitely diverted. I don't know what was more scrutinized in that moment: my musicianship or my parenting. Made me re-evaluate to whom I was singing and leave my pride at the door.

Glad I'm not alone . . .

Thank you all for the lessons in humility and grace. I'm 56, and I play acoustic on our worship team, and I have no problems at all with nerves when I'm playing in the context of the team; even when the other acoustics were gone, and it was just me, the keyboard, bass, and drummer, I was fine. But make me the solo accompaniment for a singer, and my knees turn to jello. A few weeks ago, I played for my wife as she sang Kathryn Scott's "Search Me, Know Me". We practiced that song a lot, and I felt very comfortable with the transitions. (This was the second time I've played for her.)

First service went fine, although I was a bit nervous. Second service, however, felt like a train wreck to me. I muffed a couple of chords, and felt like I never truly recovered. I seriously felt like I had a big "L" on my forehead as I walked off the platform before 200 or so staring faces. I felt awful.

My wife said it was fine, and she never faltered in her singing (she has a lovely voice). I still felt like I had let God, my wife, and the congregation down. Speaking with the worship leader later, she told me she hadn't noticed any major differences between the first and second performances. After a lengthy discussion with her, I came to the conclusion that the disaster was all in my head. My wife had sung that song as a testimony, and it was my privilege and pleasure to accompany her. That's really all I needed to remember.

It will still be a test of my faith and confidence the next time I accompany her - and I will, because I refuse to bow before fear and the accusations of the Enemy. I am encouraged to know that players much more seasoned than I (I'm a late bloomer, playing-wise) have experienced the same struggle. To borrow from Paul Baloche, my playing will remain an "Offering of Worship".


That's why

We encourage you to "Bring Your Best" not "Bring Perfection". Thanks for sharing, Tony and so glad you are getting to use your talents in a way that blesses your community.


Thanks Jason.


Not for our glory...

I don't think Jesus has us up in front of his people to model perfection. He's got that taken care of himself. :-)

If people leave a worship service remembering the musicians and not the musicians' Lord, something has gone horribly wrong. I suspect Jesus gets far more glory from a broken vessel who laughs at their mistakes secure in the knowledge that they are deeply loved by their God, then in a thousand perfect guitar solos.

I certainly hate messing up, and I'm absolutely committed to striving for excellence in Christ service. But even I don't remember the songs we did just last Sunday. I vividly remember, however, the guitarist six years ago who couldn't play through his tears as the reality of the words we were singing hit him, and he was overcome with Christ's love. For him it was probably a painfully embarrassing moment. For me the Spirit of God was suddenly very real and very close.


Because a simple "Amen" click doesn't do this comment justice. So well said.

Sounds like my first sermon

There is some Puritan-type story of a young man who was preaching his first sermon. He worked and worked at it and he was certain that he was going to preach the greatest sermon. He went up to the pulpit with the look of confidence, if not pomp. He was a trainwreck (OK, bad metaphor, no trains back then). Then red-faced, embarrassed, with countenance fallen, he approached one of the elders. The Elder responded, "My son, if you had ascended to the pulpit the way that you came down, you might have come down the way that you came up.

This very thing happened to me.



I had to just stop.

Once I was leading worship in a conservative Reformed church. You know, a church where if you are really getting into a song you are free to wiggle your toes. So, I started playing "It is Well" for our first worship song. But no one was singing; the folks were just looking at me sort of confused. I knew something was wrong so I checked to make sure that I was wearing pants. Then I just abruptly stopped the song and asked "is something wrong." Everyone responded with a smile saying to me, You had the words for "It is well" on the screen, but you were singing "How Great Thou Art." So, we laughed together. A few were not too happy about it, but this faux pas was a gift of God! Yes, even our mistakes are ordained (remember, this is a Reformed Church). What could we do but laugh at our genuine frailty and you could just feel the tension melt away.
--------- Another time I was preaching in Mark. The ending of Mark is quite disputed, so I needed to address those verses. I gave an illustration of a 19th-century German, Constantin von Tischendorf who was a biblical scholar and anthropologist who had a tremendous memory. He discovered some very significant Greek biblical manuscripts. Once, he was in the Vatican looking at the great uncial Codex Vaticanus. As he was not a Catholic, he was only allowed to view one page at a time for just a few minutes and the librarian priest would turn the page.
-----------What the Vatican did not know was that Tischendorf was a genius with a photographic memory. It only took him a few minutes to read each page and he completely reconstructed those pages and even included the notes in the margins! So I was ad-libbing and told the congregation that Tischendorf was a real-life swashbuckling scholar, just like . . . "ugh, just like. . . "and my mind went blank. After an awkward pregnant pause, I had to stop and just ask the congregation for help. I said, "it's like that actor in Star Wars." People started smiling and throwing out all of the characters. It turned into a game of Charades! Everyone was involved. Finally, someone said, "Hans Solo" and I said, YES! but not Hans Solo, the actor that played him. (I was brain dead and couldn't even remember his name). Someone said "Harrison Ford" and I said, yep, that's it, but it's a different movie and he plays a different character. The game continued until someone said, "Indiana Jones." I said BINGO. It was the most comfortable time that I ever had in preaching. Everyone was happy and laughing and my gaff turned into my favorite ministry story. To this day I can remember the smiling people in the congregation (like a photograph in my mind).