American Idol is as famous for its bad performances as it is for its good. Usually, the bad performers get laughed at and ridiculed and then sent packing, never to be heard from again. The most notable exception to this was a UC Berkeley engineering student named William Hung. In 2004, Hung turned in a performance of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” that added new meaning to the word “awful.” In fact, it was so bad that people found it downright hilarious, creating an unlikely opportunity for him to actually record a CD and stretch his 15 minutes of fame to 20.
When the original performance ended, Simon Cowell was his typical blunt self. He said, “You can’t sing. You can’t dance. What do you want me to say?”
Hung responded, ” I already gave my best. I have no regrets.”
Paula Abdul then chimed in with the line that grabbed my attention. She said, “That’s good. That’s the best attitude.”
Um…no, Paula, it’s not the best attitude.
In this now legendary TV moment, we get a glimpse of one of the big things that’s wrong with our culture. Simply put, we now give more weight to what we want to do than to what we are gifted to do. The result is that you can be terrible at what you do. You can be an absolute embarrassment. You can be a hindrance to the cause. That’s okay. You’ll still be applauded as long as you’re doing what you want to do.
I’ve seen this in church more times than I can count: tongue-tied preachers boring and starving their congregants week after week, tone-deaf singers warbling cringe-worthy, off-key songs, and absent-minded bumblers who can’t find their car keys trying to organize the children’s department. If you’re looking for a reason why some churches never seem to go anywhere, start right here.
And before you tell me that God can use our imperfections and weaknesses to his glory (which is true, by the way), keep in mind that he is the one who has gifted us (1 Cor. 12:11) and called us to use those gifts with excellence as the goal (Romans 12:6-8). I can’t believe God is thrilled when he sees bumbling ineptitude that is the result of people rejecting their giftedness in favor of some personal, ego-satisfying agenda.
I realize there are situations in smaller churches where people have to serve outside their giftedness in order to keep the church doors open. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people who disdain what they’re called and gifted to do in favor of what they want to do.
In 1 Peter 4:11, the apostle said, “Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you.” Notice, he does not say, “Do you want to be a speaker?” He says,”Are you called to be a speaker?”
It’s a critical distinction.