Tyler Hawk is the Lead Visionary Imagineer at Saddlevation Summit Church. He is the best selling author of The 42 Indispensable, Undeniable, 360 Degree, Risky Laws Of Leadership and Crazy Wild: Doing Ministry On The Bleeding Edge. He has 4.5 million followers on Twitter and regularly speaks at conferences such as Catalyst, fUEl, and ReLiveinate. Tyler has kindly agreed to answer your questions about leadership.
I’m a worship leader at a smallish church in Kansas. Our worship sets are pretty boring. We sing a few praise choruses, mix in a hymn or two for good measure, and then close with the doxology. It’s the same thing every time, and it drives me nuts. There’s no energy, no passion. I want to take things up a notch. To kick things into higher gear. How do I take my worship service from boring to brilliant?
Bored and frustrated
Several years ago I was in South America on a mission trip, and I was teaching the locals how to make Frappucinos out of coconut milk, banana leaves, and ant larvae. Write this down: one of the key principles of any mission trip is to teach the locals to be self-sufficient. While in the jungle, I contracted a wicked case of malaria. As I lay in bed, shivering with jungle fever and listening to “Vertical Horizon” on repeat, I remembered a phrase I had coined when I was younger: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Those words sustained me through my journey back to health. My personal manservant “John Boy” also sustained me, but he gets paid to do that.
You, my friend, also have a case of malaria. Not real malaria, with the fevers and the vomiting and the strange dreams about Shaquille O’Neal. No, you have worship malaria. The main symptom? Boredom. The cure? Get the weakness out of the “body”, which in this case happens to be your church. How can you do this? Several options.
First is what I call the “sucker punch” technique. Do you see how I put that phrase in bold letters? That’s what leaders do. The sucker punch technique is when you do something that catches people totally off guard, which then causes them to worship with passion. Several years ago I was preaching at Rick Warren’s church and the entire congregation was dead. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Rick may have put Ambien in the communion wine to throw me off my game. Rick is rascally like that. Remind me to tell you the story of when he and I got caught in a street fight with Russian assassins. Never mind. Anyway, I knew that I needed to do something that would shock the audience into attentiveness. So I pulled the classic heart attack in the pulpit gag, which was invented by the late D.L Moody and perfected by JFK during his presidential run. Let me tell you, that got their attention.
If you’re going to use the sucker punch technique, consider using any of the following items:
– Fake blood.
– Real blood.
– A life-sized replica of Will Smith.
– Rattle snakes.
– A clip from the movie “Full Metal Jacket”.
– 45 gallons of Red Bull.
A second option is death-defying stunts (again, note the bold words). You would be amazed at how worshipful people become after witnessing stunts. There’s a reason Billy Graham asked Evil Knievel to be the opening act for all his crusades. One time I was preaching at the Vatican, and several cardinals in the front row were dozing. Fortunately, I was wearing my fireproof white leisure suit, which is what I wear when I’m preaching in fancy places. I pulled out my flask, anointed myself with bourbon, and set myself aflame. Let me tell you: those cardinals weren’t sleeping after that. They were hanging on my every word.
You may want to consider trying the following stunts during worship:
– Using one of those cool harnesses to fly above the congregation as you lead them in song.
– Wearing roller skates. It does’t sound like much, but it actually creates a kind of 1950’s sock-hop drive-in diner feel, which is what a lot of people want during worship.
– Putting yourself inside a solid block of ice. This worked well for David Blaine.
– Using a crossbow to shoot an apple off the head of your drummer. My motto is, “Drummers are replaceable, awesomeness isn’t.”
I realize that these suggestions are both dramatic and risky. But I’m reminded of another phrase which I coined while racing camels in the Arabian desert: “No pain, no gain.” You won’t take your church to the next level if you’re not willing to take some risks. I trust that these suggestions have been both helpful and life-giving.