With the writers strike and a lot less great television to watch, I decided to check out the early rounds of American Idol last night. It was oddly comforting. I discovered that it’s not only people who audition for church vocal ministries who can be vastly deceived about their gifts! For years I participated in the selection of soloists. Our process included an extensive interview to discern the character and spiritual commitment of a person, along with an audition to see if he or she could actually sing. Like Simon, Paula, and Randy, our team was tempted a few times to erupt in laughter – but as Christian leaders we held it in (at least until the person left the building), and attempted to be gracious and constructive in our response. Lots of wonderful folks certainly could sing, and it was a joy to add them to our team. But there were always a few who were so vastly off that it was impossible to understand how they could actually think that singing was their “thing” and should be widely shared. My most vivid memory goes back a couple decades to a young man who belted out Frank Sinatra’s song My Way completely off pitch and with a grating tone. He was certainly loud! We wondered if noone in that guy’s life had ever spoken truth, held up an accurate mirror, and took the risk to suggest that maybe he pursue another gift or passion to serve the church.
I realize this kind of conversation makes church leaders extremely uncomfortable. Lots of ministries choose not to hold auditions, and trust the discernment of the individuals to be self aware enough not to join the choir or worship team unless they have basic musical skills. Sometimes we believe that anyone “with a great heart, a love for the Lord, and a willingness to serve” should be given the opportunity. But then I wonder if we would allow just anyone to preach, or to do our church accounting, or to care for our precious children.
I wish all of us had a more accurate view of our gifts, our strengths and weaknesses – myself included. I know enough not to try to sing anywhere in public all alone. But what am I not seeing in my area of contribution, where am I ignorant of my own limitations, and how intently do I pursue a clearer picture from people who will tell me the truth? To some extent, we all have blind spots. So this morning, I’m committing myself to invite more feedback into my life, especially in those places those close to me would be most hesitant to address. I’ll never grow unless I traffic in reality.
Last night was so much fun, I think I’ll have to Tivo tonight’s round while I enjoy the thrill of helping baptize 26 folks at our mid-week service!