Ask Celebrity Pastor: How Do I Energize My Dead Worship Service?

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.

Dear Tyler,

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

Dear Bored,

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.


Tyler Hawk

The Most Awkward Bible Stories To Teach To Kids


Father Abraham, faithful David, brave Esther, preaching prophets, missionary Paul, parting waters, boasting giants, storms, battles, miracles – the Bible is loaded with amazing stories we love to teach to children. Sunday school teachers have an arsenal of lessons and characters they can offer with the graham crackers and apple juice.

The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it is very uncensored. The story of redemption is very real. But this definitely presents some difficulty when teaching the Bible to kids.

But there are a few stories that never make it on the flannel graph. For obvious reasons. Here are eight of the most awkward Bible stories to teach to children.

The Flood

The Lord told Noah to build Him an arkie, arkie. The animals came by twosies, twosies. What fun! But there’s a reason we stop at this point in the story. As soon as that door closes, it becomes a scene out of Quentin Tarantino movie. “Let’s sing a song about all the cute little bunnies and puppies and EVERYONE DYING!” What a fun ditty about a floating wooden box containing a few people and animals trying to avoid the mass destruction of all living things. It was the original apocalyptic “last man on earth” story, not a floating petting zoo. And pay no attention to all the floating corpses!


And the Lord told Abraham he would be blessed with offspring greater than the sand on the shore and they would bless all the people of world and to . . . do what to all the men in his household? Can’t we annihilate some pagans or kill some cows or burn some idols or something? We’ll even take care of Sodom and Gomorrah for you! Does it have to be that? Are we sure can’t go back to Ur? I imagine that was an awkward conversation between Abraham and Sarah. “Sarah, I’m going to be out of commission for a couple weeks.”

The Second Half of Genesis

Usually when teachers get to the second half of Genesis it’s basically “And Jacob was faithful man who died. Oh look! A coat of many colors! Then Joseph saved everyone and they all lived happily ever after, the end.” Teaching the second half of Genesis is like walking through your kids’ toy room in the dark after they played with Legos – you are bound to step on something painful. If you’re up for a challenge see if you can navigate the lies, the circumcision, the rape, the circumcision, the incest, the circumcision, the seduction, the circumcision, the adultery, the circumcision, and so on. Genesis should come with a PG-13 rating, possibly R.

Ehud and Eglon

If you want to win the hearts of elementary school boys this is the story to do it, complete with fat jokes, spy stuff, violence, and poop. Which is precisely why most teachers pretend it doesn’t exist. Ehud, one of Israel’s judges kills Eglon, an oppressive king “who was a very fat man” by stabbing him through his enormous belly with a short sword at which point he he lost total control of his bowels. This was literally the crap hitting the fan. Eglon was so fat that the sword completely disappeared inside his belly. (Imagine if Princess Leia had stabbed Jabba the Hutt instead of choking him.) Ehud made his escape while Eglon’s servants left the king alone thinking he was using the John. Light a match, Eglon. Light a match.

Jael and Sisera

The tale of Sisera, an invading general, and Jael, an Israelite woman, is more Game of Thrones than Sunday school. Sisera is invited into Jael’s tent to hide from pursuing Israelite forces. She gives him a place to rest and something to drink and promises to keep an eye out for anyone dangerous. And then while he’s asleep she takes a tent stake and pounds it through his head into the ground. How do you explain that one to kids? “Well kids, then Jael…she…knocked him on the head and…he didn’t wake up in the morning.” You have to wonder if, when the pursuer caught up, they made any jokes like “We’ve got him pinned down now, boys!” or “We really nailed that guy!”

The Virgin Birth

So peaceful, so perfect, such a beautiful moment with a shining star. The cattle are lowing, the shepherds bowing. Sweet Mary is holding her precious baby, the King of the universe, wrapped in swaddling cloths. Ah, Christmas!

“Dad, what’s a virgin?” “Well, honey, that means, um, well, OH LOOK COOKIES!”

Turns out Christmas provides an annual opportunity to have a conversation about the birds and the bees too.

Judas “Hangs” Himself

Acts: a safe book, a book of the mission of God to establish his church, a book of missionary journeys and miracles. Oh, and a book of bursting bodies and entrails splattering on the ground. Luke starts off his historical account with a lovely rendition of how Judas took his own life. Nothing to see here, kids. Lets move on to tongues of fire and thousands being saved.

Paul’s Sincerest Wish For the Judaizers

Apparently some people, the Judaizers, so loved the act and idea of circumcision they wanted gentile believers to get in on the fun too. How thoughtful! Let’s all get in on the fun! Paul didn’t think so. He suggested a course of action for them that was, well, it’s best to let him explain in his own words. “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” Anyone out there want a shot at explaining that one to a room of middle schoolers? “Kids, it’s like circumcision, only way worse. And yes, there are things worse than circumcision.”


Goodness From The Interwebs for 1/19



A handful of links that interested, amused or informed me from around the interwebs:
  • Alex Cornell is a photographer who took a trip to Antarctica last year where he took some stunning photos, including several of a flipped iceberg. You;re used to seeing white snow and ice, but this is like an enormous sapphire. It is beautiful.
  • But really, enough about ice and snow. It needs to be summer and soon which means it’s almost my favorite time of year: Sandlot season! Here are 19 things you might not know about this film classic.
  • I started high school in 1998, so this video of just about every major pop culture event from that year is one big nostalgic trip. Man, the 90’s were fantastic.

  • Speaking of the 90’s, this dad (like middle aged, typical, flannel pajama wearing dad) puts on quite a display of dance moves from that decade. Well done, old man. Well done.




Jerry Seinfeld on How To Write A Joke

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the funniest human beings alive. He has a rare ability to see humor in the completely mundane – pop tarts, ad slogans, poofy shirts, sipping coffee, soup, and more. While he’s most famous for his TV show, Jerry considers himself a stand-up comedian, and his material is amazing. In this video he talks about how he writes a joke. If you like humor you’ll enjoy it, but if you are a creative type it is a remarkable “behind the curtain” look at one genius’s process.

A New Convert’s Guide To Understanding Christian Code Words


Congratulations on getting saved! Now that you’re a Christian, there are a few things you really should know. First, you must listen to the songs “Secret Ambition” and “Jesus Freak”. These two songs will come up a lot in conversations, and have the potential to make you a lot of friends. Familiarize yourself with them. Be ready to lip sync to them on demand.

Second, get used to drinking awful coffee. Since the very first meetings in Jerusalem, Christians have insisted on drinking coffee that tastes like scalding hot paint thinner. It is one of the trials and tribulations we must endure.

Finally, learn the Christian code words. What you may not have realized is we have our own special code language. If you’re going to communicate with other Christians, you need to memorize our code words and their definitions. What exactly are these code words? I’m glad you asked. What follows is a guide to understanding Christian-speak. Think of this as the Rosetta of the Christian world.


Story – Most people think of a story as something contained within a book. Oh how wrong they are! All of us have a story, and each of our stories is important. Your story (also called “Journey” or “Road”) includes: all your life experiences, the most recent book you’ve read, your friends (even though they have their own stories, they’re also part of your story), your Moleskine journal (in which you record thoughts about your story), that one mission trip which was a defining moment in your story, and the existential crisis you had in college (the dark part of your story). Get used to referring to every experience as being a part of your “story”.

A blank moleskine, just waiting to be filled with your story.

A blank moleskine, just waiting to be filled with your story.

Traveling Mercies  – Contrary to popular opinion, “Traveling Mercies” is not the name of a Rich Mullins cover band. Rather, traveling mercies refers to divine mercies which, oddly enough, can only be found on highways and in airplanes. No matter how much you ask, you simply cannot get traveling mercies for a trip to the grocery store. Regular mercies covers that. However, if you fail to ask for traveling mercies prior to a long trip (not to be confused with “Journey”), there is a 95% chance your car engine will catch on fire.

Echo – You’re in a prayer meeting, it’s your turn to pray, and your mind goes blank! What do you do? Don’t panic. You simply “echo” what the person before you prayed. To echo another person’s prayer, simply take their exact words, add the word “just” to the beginning, and add the words “really asking this” to the end. This simple tactic will rescue you out of every prayer jam (not to be confused with a Prayer Jam, which is praying to hip-hop music).

Echoing works especially well when in a "prayer huddle".

Echoing works especially well when in a “prayer huddle”.

Do Life – Christians don’t simply live life. No sir, we do life! And don’t you DARE confuse the two. Living life is boring and shallow, while doing life involves thrilling, exciting, awesome things, like Wednesday night Bible studies.

In This Place – This is a phrase included in many of our prayers as a way of making sure God knows exactly where we are located. We want God to bless us, in this place. We don’t want him to accidentally fire his blessings into the church down the street, so we alert him to our precise location. Think of this as the GPS of Christianity.

Authenticity – Ahh yes, authenticity, the Bigfoot of Christianity. Everyone talks about it and searches for it, but no one has ever actually seen it. I suspect this is what Bono (our favorite maybe-Christian) was referencing when he discussed not being able to find what he was looking for. It is essential that you always be looking for new ways to be authentic, regardless of whether you actually know what authenticity is. There is a theory that authenticity can be achieved by drinking coffee out of a Mason jar, but that theory has not been definitively proved yet.

The magical elixir of authenticity

The magical elixir of authenticity.

Hedge of Protection – What is the strongest thing in the world? Titanium? Diamond? Kevlar? Nope, hedges. That’s why we pray for a hedge of protection to surround us. The “Hedge Prayer” (as theologians commonly call it) is usually prayed in conjunction with the “Traveling Mercies” prayer. We want to be surrounded by a hedge while simultaneously being granted traveling mercies. To be safe, always pray the two prayers together. There is anecdotal evidence that praying for a hedge of protection without also praying for traveling mercies can cause spontaneous combustion. Be cautious.

Love On – When someone is going through a tough time, we don’t simply love them. We love ON them. Granted, to the average observer, this term sounds vaguely creepy and stalker-like, but it most certainly is not creepy. Loving a person involves sending them a condolence card. Loving ON a person involves gallons of sweet tea, a five-pound green bean casserole, a book written by Beth Moore, and a coffee mug with the “Footprints” prayer on it. We take care of our own, gosh darn it. Kind of like the mob, except without killing people or putting horse heads in people’s beds.

Altar Call – An altar call is something that happens at the end of emotionally charged church services. It is an opportunity for you to rededicate your life to the Lord for the 42nd time. Never miss out on the chance to go forward for an altar call, especially if the band is playing “Just As I Am”.

On Mission – This is kind of like the Red Bull consuming cousin of “Do Life”. We don’t simply invite people to church, share the gospel, and seek to bless our neighbors. We are on MISSION! It’s like Mission Impossible, minus the cool gadgets and crazy terrorists and Tom Cruise sprinting for forty-five minutes straight. If you really want to impress your friends, you will inform them that you are both missional and on mission. This is like being able to play both offense and defense in football. No one can stop you.

Hopefully this gives you a glimpse into the world of Christian code words. You are at the beginning of a journey, and your story is just beginning. If you stay focused on authenticity and being missional, you will most certainly get blessed in this place.

Honest Christian Book Titles


Thanks to Josh and Barnabas for helping me on this post. 

What would happen if Christian publishers were actually honest with their book titles? You’d probably end up with books like this.

Don’t Waste Your Life: A Millennial’s Guide To Making Semi-Rash Decisions Out Of A Wartime Mentality

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: How To Not Talk To Girls Until You’re 25 Years Old

Heaven Is For Real: A Book About Heaven From The Perspective Of A Four Year Old Who Had A Near Death Experience And For Some Reason We Believe Him More Than The Bible

Strange Fire: John MacArthur’s Lifelong Rivalry With Benny Hinn

Blue Like Jazz: It’s A Journey, An Authentic Journey, and I Want To Invite You Into My Story

A Year Of Biblical Womanhood: One Woman’s Valiant Attempt To Create Straw-Man Arguments and Massively Misinterpret A Lot Of The Bible, All the While Saying, “You Go Girl!”

Radical: All You Rich, Fat, Lazy Christians Need To Stop Eating At McDonald’s And Become Missionaries To Africa

The Shack: Oprah Is Gonna Love This

Love Wins: Rob Bell Yet Again Discovers Something New About God That Thousands Of Faithful Christians Before Him Have Totally Missed

The Zimzum of Love: No We’re Serious Here. This Isn’t A Joke.

What He Must Be: You Wanna Date My Daughter? You Have To Ask Yourself One Question: Do You Feel Lucky? Well Punk, Do Ya?

Love and Respect: Building A Marriage On False Dichotomies

Real Marriage: Skip the Good Stuff For The Chapter On Sex

The Lord of the Rings: The Christian-Approved Version of Harry Potter

Left Behind: Scare Enough Christians To Get Really Rich

Circle Maker: No, I’m Not A Pre-School Coloring Book

Religious Affections: This Book Will Look Great On Your Coffee Table

The Pastor’s Kid: Just As Messed Up As You Thought

The Reason for God: Because Tim Keller Is Smarter Than Your Atheist Friends

Household Gods: Because My Book About Christians Smoking Didn’t Make You Angry Enough

Goodness From The Interwebs for 1/5


A handful of links that interested, amused or informed me from around the interwebs:
  • John Cleese’s explanation of stupidity is perfect in every way.

  • If you’ve ever seen one of those VH1 specials about the “10 Greatest Comics” or “15 Leading Ladies of Hollywood” you will find this video of “100 Great Guys” to be pitch perfect and hilarious.

Goodness From The Interwebs for 12/29



A handful of links that interested, amused or informed me from around the interwebs:
  • I worked in publishing for about 8 years and got to be part of the design process for quite a few books, and I just love books in general. So of course a list of 2014’s 25 best book covers would catch my eye. Numbers 6, 16, 19, and 20 are my favorites.
  • 2,000 calories is about a day’s worth for a full-grown moderately active male. What does that mean? It means you can eat exactly this much at various chain restaurants. This is why America is fat (and by “America” I really mean me).
  • How did people find out the answers to their insane-o questions pre-google? Well, naturally the called the New York Public Library. This list of questions kept on file (I assume by using the Dewey decimal system) is fantastic.
  • In 2013 “bro country” stormed into our consciousness and ruined what I consider to be a wonderful genre. Well, 2014 was the same only with more Florida Georgia Line, which is to say way worse. This ingenious video explains how and why things have gotten so awful. It’s like madlibs song-writing.

  • J.K. Rowling, on top of being a wonderful story teller, is no dummy. All those goofy spell names in Harry Potter? Not just gibberish; they actually have very specific meanings drawn from several languages and backgrounds.

Photo Credit: ted craig via Compfight cc 

Goodness From The Interwebs for 12/22


  • This illustrator has a creative mind and eye that is pretty remarkable. He adds hilarious, whimsical, and even though-provoking cartoons to people’s Instagram photos, turning them into stories.
  • At a recent Hozier concert a local radio station played a trick of the coolest sort on him. When he launched into his hit song “Take Me To Church” he quickly discovered that the front row of fans were more than mere fans to his delighted surprise.

  • Isabella had a chance to meet “Gaston,” and when she did boy did she ever set him straight. I would note two things about this video. 1) Don’t argue with young girls; it’s a losing venture. (As a father of two of them I would have given Gaston fair warning.) 2) Disney World’s actors are pretty awesome at making kids happy and staying in character.

  • And to close things out I leave you with Frank Caliendo’s rendition of “The Night Before Christmas” performed in the voices of almost all the notable ESPN personalities. Merry Christmas in a hilarious way.