Based on the 782 commercials I’ve fast forwarded through on Tivo in the last three weeks, I’m pretty sure that a new season of American Idol begins tomorrow. (A 783rd ad would have confirmed my suspicion, but I’m comfortable making a guess.) The show itself is OK, but the best part is the audition process. Watching the 19 weeks of auditions that they now show is kind of like looking at a car crash between an 18 wheeler full of clowns and a mini cooper with two talented people in it. Somebody skilled is in there somewhere but you have to get through a lot of nonsense first.
But as exciting and weird as the American Idol audition process is, it’s no where near as fun as when a pastor interviewing to work at your church has to preach a one off sermon in front of the congregation. Have you ever experienced that? After meeting with the search committee and doing intensive interviews, the pastoral candidate is essentially handed the mic, or pulpit in this case, and told, “Go.”
That’s got to be nerve wracking for the pastor interviewing. This is it. You better lose yourself in the moment. You own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo. I think that’s what a long disappeared poet once said.
And it’s no easier for the audience. Are we supposed to over laugh at the jokes to encourage the minister like Paul Abdul heaping praise on even the worst singers, “It looks like you got your shoes on the right feet today, that is amazing. I love your shoed feet.” Or do you take the Randy Jackson tract, “I wasn’t feeling it dawg. The Bible is the living word of God and I didn’t feel those verses jumping off the page when you preached. It was a bit pitchy for me.” I’m not even going to get Simon into the mix because I just can’t rock shirts that tight.
Ultimately, it’s a pretty sweaty experience for all parties involved, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I think that if you ever let me audition for a pastoral position at your church, I would do four things that would change the entire service for all of us:
1. I’d preach part 2 of a 3 part sermon series.
Forget this one off nonsense. I’m coming in and preaching the second part of a three part series. I’m starting right in the middle of the conversation. You want to hear the dramatic conclusion? You want to know how this Biblical cliffhanger of a sermon ends? Curious about where the series began, or what I would call the “prequel?” You’d have to invite me back to preach again. Brilliant move.
2. I’d bring a heckler to unite the crowd.
Nothing brings a crowd together faster then a shared enemy. So I’d bring my own heckler. I’d have him wear a fake beard and an eye patch and start shouting out things mid sermon. I’d ignore him at first but then I’d stop and tell him that I was here to preach the word of God and if preaching the word of God was wrong, I didn’t want to be right. People would probably clap at that because clearly, I’m bold. Then when the heckler threw a tomato at me and they saw me juke out of the way, they’d clap because they respected my cat like reflexes. And when the heckler got dragged out by some ushers, they’d probably give me a standing ovation.
3. I wouldn’t hug any of the members of the pastoral search committee after I spoke.
That never goes well for contestants on American Idol. The majority of people that hug Paula Abdul after they audition are thinking to themselves, “Whoa, I can’t sing. I mean I felt like singing a Celine Dion song was well within my vocal range but apparently I suck. I’ll awkwardly approach the judge’s table for a hug while the massive bodyguards off camera circle like grizzly bears. At least I’ll be able to tell people I hugged Paula Abdul.” Hugging Paula Abdul after you sing your audition is the kiss of death. I have to imagine that if I finished my sermon and immediately ran through the aisles to hug the members of the pastoral search committee that would reek of the same desperation.
4. I wouldn’t try to breakdance.
Whenever someone on American Idol says, “I can also dance,” what they mean is, “I’m bad at more than one thing.” If you can’t sing, don’t ever try to save yourself with some pop n’ lock. Same goes with playing an instrument during your church sermon audition. If the church is hiring you to be a pastor, don’t bring your recorder (worst instrument ever) to the audition and say, “I thought I would open with a medley of contemporary songs played on my cream colored recorder.” If I ever got the sense that the crowd wasn’t feeling my sermon I would resist the urge to bust into the robot. Don’t get me wrong, I would still make my way offstage and out a side door by doing the worm the whole time, but that’s how I travel most places.
Hopefully, this is the kind of post that will change my generation or at the very least reduce the percent of pastoral candidates that feel the sweaty urge to breakdance in the middle of a church audition. If I can do that, today was a success.
Are you watching American Idol this year?