Oh, it’s funny to my friends and co-workers who were there at the time. Me? Not so much. Let me set the stage. My boss, the Senior Pastor at our church, has just had some major dental surgery. In my mind, he should have been home in bed, but noooooo, he was determined to preach that day. I hope that doesn’t sound disrespectful. It’s not. You’ll see why in a minute.
As he was going through some major oral surgery far beyond root canals or anything that most of us would ever have to go through, our music team at church had been finishing up the final touches on our 2nd CD release. So, on this particular Sunday, the sermon was on the topic of worship and we were to come back that evening and the team at CMC was to premiere the new CD. As anyone tends to be when they are completing the work of a long project, we were excited and revved up for that entire day.
Enter the bad news. Our Senior Pastor (I won’t reveal his full name, but his stage name is Jeff Benefield), as I said, was determined to preach although he was really weak from the oral surgery. He was also worried about being able to stand up the entire time of his sermon. He had onstage with him – water, a towel, and (key to the story) a nice wooden stool behind the podium just in case he got light headed and needed to sit down.
Well, taking all these things into his methodical Georgia Tech educated mind, a couple of days beforehand he determines that, at about halfway through the sermon, there is a five minute segment of the sermon that he thinks I (as the Pastor of Worship) should deliver. Because 1) it would give him 5 minutes to rest, and 2) It was a point I was fairly well studied in.
So, Sunday Morning Worship Service # 1 – his plans go swimmingly well- for a bit. He delivers about half of the sermon. I could tell he was struggling a bit physically, but he was delivering the content well. So, finally he arrived at the point of the sermon that he had delegated to his faithful surrogate here. So, I get up there and for that five minute time period I gave perhaps the most eloquently delivered oratory thus far in the young 21st century – a five minute masterpiece that would have been recorded in the records of sermon history.
However, they are words that no one will remember, including me, because they were so overshadowed by the events to follow.
As I finished off my grand verbiage, I step back away from the podium as I had done probably a hundred times before in other capacities, and something odd occurred. I felt an object against the back of my leg. Whoa, what was that? There aren’t any objects behind this podium. I work on this stage every Sunday. I know every square inch of this stage like the back of my hand. I’ve walked across it many times after the lights are off and it’s pitch dark. There are no objects directly behind the podium. Oh, but remember? He brought water, a towel, and………a stool. A stinkin’ wooden stool. We had and still have many of those on our campus. If I knew which one it was, I would take it in the back parking lot, call my friends together, and we would have a one-stool bonfire and sing Kumbaya.
Anyway, the stool is what my leg bumped into. And not only did I bump into it. The pace at which I had departed from the podium was brisk enough whereby a sudden and abrupt entanglement with a wooden stool was too much to overcome. Oh, I tried.
But my feet became more and more as one with the legs of the over aggressive stool. I tried harder and harder to gain my balance, remain in an upright position, and keep any small remnant of human dignity within my grasp.
It was one of those slow motion moments for me. But congregants were thinking, “Hey, that guy doesn’t see that stool there.” “Hey, I think that guy is gonna’ trip over that stool in church in front of all these people.” “Hey, that guy has tripped over that stool and is now is fighting with every ounce of his energy to keep from hitting the floor to retain his pride and dignity (after such and eloquently delivered homily).”
Nothing worked. With every tossed arm or swaying motion that one does to regain their balance to keep from falling, none of it worked. It seemed like about 15 minutes, however in reality it was probably only 14. But eventually I hit the floor on my backside with a thud normally unheard in the auditoriums of most churches. Silence….. then giggles, then laughter from the masses. I don’t remember walking off the stage. I don’t remember the next service. I’m not sure that I haven’t even repressed the memories of the following six months. The word embarrassment does not properly define my moment.
I do remember that, in one small moment, I single handedly redirected the attention and focus from the premiere of that new CD that evening to “Hey Sloan, you really busted it this morning, didn’t you?” “Hey, way to wipeout, Brian!” “Hey, you should do that busting your rear end thing every week!” Yep, the conversation and energy toward one of the most highly promoted events that our team had ever done was being diverted to laughter and jokes about the now infamous “Sloan fall.”
Of all the lessons I should have and could have learned that day. I remember this one so well. Your actions can change the conversation. Topics change. Even silly events can happen that propel conversation into a different direction. We have to be ready. I wasn’t. I wanted to get back on the topic of promoting the event for which I had worked so hard. But it wasn’t to be. The conversation topic for that particular day was not to be what I had anticipated.
Well, I made it through the day with what seemed like thousands of would be comedians with one liners about my fall. We did the CD premiere concert that evening. Perhaps because my pride was out of the away now, it turned out to be one of the best worship experiences I had ever been a part of. It was SO good that everyone forgot about the fall and didn’t ever mention it again…..
YEAH RIGHT! To this day it comes up a couple of times a month, if not every week.However,….I praise the Lord, no I mean it - sincerely, I praise the Lord that we were not video recording and streaming the services online as we are in this present day. All we had was an audio recording of the tumble. And don’t think that the recording wasn’t cued up and ready to be played when I walked into staff meeting a day or so later.
I’ve worked out a way to deal with the entire incident it by blaming Jeff. That seems to work well for me. I’m sticking with that. I mean, when you don’t have another option, blame a good friend, right? I said he should have stayed home in the bed and let me preach that entire sermon, then that blasted stool wouldn’t have been up there to start with!!
Well, that line of reasoning made me feel better anyway.
I could wrap this whole thing up with a deep spiritual meaning about pride or something, but not today. I will say however, if you ever need to change the topic of the conversation around you, just have a good, comical fall in front of a bunch of folks and it’s a guaranteed winner, every time.
I’m getting a new t-shirt. It says: “Change the conversation. Fall & bust your -you know what.”
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