What do you do when your best doesn’t feel good enough? Over the past six weeks, I have talked to numerous pastors and other church leaders who are struggling with this question. These leaders are dealing with circumstances they never imagined. And for which we were not prepared.
The Comparison Trap
Ministry has always lent itself to comparisons. We preacher-types gather with other preacher-types on a Monday morning and ask the question, “How was yesterday?” This question appears in many different forms. “How many did you have in attendance?” “How was your offering?” “Did you have any baptisms?” The questions are innocent. But for a pastor whose church is not growing. Those questions often lead to a feeling that “My best doesn’t feel good enough.”
And that’s during “normal” days. Now, all of the sudden, we are all thrown into the world of online church. We scrambled to make the best of it. We put forth a great effort. But the online production of my church can not compare to the online production of a larger church. We don’t have the equipment. And we don’t have the manpower. Still, I find myself wanting to keep up. I want to present a finished product that is at least “good.”
My Best Effort
Perhaps that is why yesterday was so frustrating for me. I am writing this on Sunday after the airing of our fifth online worship service. Each week, we have improved the quality of our production. And I am grateful for that. This past week we added a personal touch. Our staff recorded videos at their homes welcoming our folks to worship and offering encouragement. It was incredible!
As I worked on the content of the message during the week, I grew more and more excited. I believed that God could use my feeble efforts to make a difference in someone’s life. I also began thinking about the “filming” process. Lighting. Staging. Etc. I planned to video on my back porch where I’ve been doing some Facebook Live prayer meetings on Wednesday nights. It’s a great space, but the lighting is iffy.
I finished writing the sermon on Friday. And Saturday morning I set up my studio (see the picture attached to this article). I borrowed Melanie’s lamp that she uses in her sewing room. I bought a new external microphone. It looks totally bootlegged. But I felt pretty creative.
Once the set was set, I put on a clean and pressed shirt. Yes, it was untucked. And yes, I was wearing jeans and running shoes. I made sure the cameras were in the right position. Readjusted the lighting. And started to “preach.” I think it was the best delivery I have ever had of a sermon. And I know God would have used it in mighty ways. If I had actually pressed the record button! It’s okay to laugh at me here. I laughed at myself.
No worries. It was just a warmup. Take 2 would be even better. And it was. I maintained more eye contact with the camera. The lighting was unbelievable. I even remembered to press the record button!
Not Good Enough
After lunch, I started editing the video and adding it to the rest of the service. That involved separating the welcome from the pastoral prayer and the sermon. Adding subtitles. Everything was coming together incredibly well. I felt like our “product” would be almost as good as churches with way more resources.
And that’s when my editing software sent a message. “You are almost out of disk space.” Still, I finished the edit and started to upload the video. That’s when I got another message. There is not enough memory to complete this task. I panicked. By this point I had spent about five hours setting up, recording and editing.
In my panic, I made a horribly bad decision. I started deleting files from my hard drive to free-up space. Sounds logical, right? I started with videos that were already saved in other locations. No need for duplicates when you need the space. And then…
I deleted the recording of the message. I deleted it. And then emptied the trash. I read the warning. Are you sure you want to empty the trash. Files will be permanently deleted. No problem, I had already imported it into my software. And now I would have the space to upload the finished worship service.
Some of you already know what happened next. I went back to the video software. And I saw empty video frames where my sermon had been before. And another message. Source file can not be located. Well, of course it can’t. I deleted it. PERMANENTLY! I’m not gonna lie. I cried.
Not Good Enough – Part 2
What do you do when your best doesn’t feel good enough? You start over. I quickly set the stage for round three. Lighting. Sound. Location. It wasn’t the same. But it wasn’t horrible either. I decided to go with one camera. Trying to sync two had been a major frustration. And then I pressed record.
I use Zoom to record from my computer. It’s a good product. And it provides an option. Record to your computer, which I had done before. Or record to the cloud. I recorded to the cloud to save disk space on my laptop. The recording went well. Not as good as before. But not too bad, either.
And then I went back to editing. And that’s when I saw the next problem. Recording to the cloud meant using the internet. And apparently my connection wasn’t great. The video was fuzzy. The audio wasn’t synced with the video. It was horrible.
Not Good Enough – Part 3
What do you do when your best doesn’t feel good enough, again? You don’t start over. By this point I was frustrated. And I was resigned to the fact that the finished product wasn’t going to be “good.” So I edited again. But I kept getting the messages. “Memory is running low.” I pressed on. I finished the edit. And uploaded the video to the cloud. I watched it before uploading to YouTube. The video froze about 2/3 of the way in. The same point where the “low memory” message had appeared. It was 9:00 PM, and I had nothing to show for twelve hours of work!
Revealing My Heart
At that point God spoke to me. Not in an audible voice. But clearly. I had made preparation of the worship service about my gratification. I wanted to compare favorably with others. And I wanted my church members to be proud of our efforts. God showed me the ugly side of my heart. The side that is prideful. I had been short with Melanie. I had thought ugly words towards my computer. How dumb is that?
I found a way to get the video finished and uploaded to YouTube about midnight. You can watch it here. I asked God to forgive me and to use my best efforts for his glory and for the good of his people. And I joined my wonderful faith family online at 10:30 this morning. I have also apologized to my sweet wife!
Your Best is Good Enough
Fellow pastors. I hope my experience can be a blessing to you. If nothing else, you can laugh at me from a distance as you imagine my day! But I’m guessing someone else is thinking that my best doesn’t feel good enough. Be encouraged. God doesn’t even ask for our best. He just asks for faithfulness and obedience.
We will keep working to improve our “production.” But I am not a video expert. I am a preacher of the gospel. And that’s what really matters!
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit https://robpaul.net