A few weeks ago I ran into the lead singer of Paramore, Hayley Williams, while I was grabbing a coffee.
When I tweeted that, people asked, “What did you say to her?”
What did I say? Nothing. Had I said hello, that moment would have instantly dissolved into the interviews Chris Farley used to do where he would ask painfully awkward, obvious questions on Saturday Night Live. (Example: He said something to Paul McCartney like, “Remember when you were in the Beatles? That was awesome!)
The other reason I didn’t talk with her is that 76% of the people who live in Nashville are famous.
Google it, that’s true. There are country music stars and Christian musicians on just about every corner. Unfortunately, since I’m so hip hop, I don’t recognize most of the country stars. Rap? Sure, you mention EPMD, Kool Moe Dee, Nas, Tribe? I’ll know who you’re talking about, but I haven’t heard much country music.
Except for the song by Luke Bryan, “Rain is a good thing.” The chorus is, “Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky.” That’s like the Socratic method of country lyrics. Difficult to argue with that one.
Sometimes I see famous musicians at church too, but usually I don’t notice them because I’m doing what you probably do too, analyze what degree of crowd control the worship leader that Sunday might possess.
Once service starts I have to shut off the Stuff Christians Like idea generator so I can focus on worship, but prior to that, I’m thinking about what sort of crowd control I’ll see that day. And I shouldn’t tell you about the five different types, because I run the risk of enraging the worship leader guild, Worship Experts Leading Outrageous Unique Devotion or WELOUD.
But crowd control is actually a lot like karate, with different belts and levels of achievement. Here they are, along with the actions you have to get the congregation to do in order to earn one:
1. White Belt – “Please Rise.”
Asking a crowd to stand is a rookie move. Anyone can accomplish this one. It’s like convincing Christopher Walken to be in your movie. He’ll say yes to anything. If they’re physically capable, no one likes to be the one person sitting in a church full of people standing for worship. It’s the worship equivalent of stiffing a “love offering.”
2. Yellow Belt – “Clap along.”
Slightly harder than getting everyone to stand, but still not that difficult, almost anyone can get people to clap. At least at first. The excitement of the new morning and the fun of being back before the Lord in corporate worship will compel most people to give you on average about 17 claps. After that? Good luck. You’re on your own. (Here’s more on how claps fall apart.)
3. Purple Belt – “Women, please sing the chorus.”
Did we officially retire the whole, “Men sing this part, women please sing the chorus?” I’ve seen it once in the last 18 months, but when I was a kid, this was the jam. Breaking up the song into two parts was the equivalent of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Not lyrically of course, but more in that it dominated my teenage years like few other musical actions ever did.
4. Brown Belt – “Close your eyes.”
If you ask people to close their eyes so you can pray, they will do this all day. If you ask them to just close their eyes because you’re an eyes closed kind of worship leader, you are playing with fire my friend. I once saw this happen during the second song one Sunday morning. The congregation looked at the worship leader like, “Seriously? That’s like picking out our kids’ names on our first date. I don’t even know you. Can’t we ease into this by clapping awkwardly first?”
5. Black Belt – “Clap over your heads.”
Bon Jovi would have a tough time executing this move. At a show in New Jersey. Where he only played “Living on a Prayer” over and over again for a solid hour. This is so, so difficult. I’m not saying it’s impossible. If you wax on/wax off for a few years and get your chops with the other belts first, you might be able to pull this off, but don’t go into it casually.
Those are the five most common crowd control techniques you’ll see, but there is one other that you can only discuss in hushed tones. This final move is similar to what the Chinese refer to as “Dim Mak” or as the movie Kill Bill called it, “The Death Touch.”
I am of course talking about “asking people to dance for the Lord.” I’ve spent 34 years in the church and never seen this one on display. Sure, the random worship leader will dance some and that lady that every church has and loves, she’ll dance. But convincing 100s of people to dance all at once? Dare to dream worship leader, dare to dream.
Those are the moves I most often see at church.
How about you?