• It happens without warning, fanfare, or preparation
• It "evolves" rather than starts
• It seems to be spontaneous and unbridled
• It happens because it can't help itself
• It attracts more than it instructsFor example:
—Have live piano playing while folks are entering the worship space—use lighting, if available, to "point" people in the direction of the action.
—Then, have a unseen singer hum (a flute would also work well) Amazing Grace with slowly building volume until it's at about 70 db.
—Then, have a teenager come to one side of the platform (Chancel) and start talking about his/her earliest remembrance of doing something truly sinful (lying to parents etc.) for no more than 60 seconds.
—Then, have a pastor come to the other side area of the platform and quote Romans 3:23 ("For all have sinned...") and talk about the paradox that we've all "done it," but are reluctant to admit it, over and against our doubt that anyone could truly love us if they knew the truth about us (no more than 90 seconds).
—Then, have the band, orchestra, or organ "take over" the piano and start leading the congregation into Amazing Grace as an opening hymn. Use the Chris Tomlin version if you've never tried it (or even if you have).
—Let the service proceed without referring back to your cold opening except to say that your theme for the day is the struggle we all have to let God find us and love us as we are.2. Pretend to be the cat's friend...maybe tell a few jokes...The "Aw, Shucks..." Opening
—There comes a moment when congregations see joke-telling as a manipulative tool rather than being funny and endearing. Beware the savvy congregation—they're on to you!
—If you "howdy" someone too much, they'll stop paying attention to you—lead, for pete's sake!
—The "aw shucks" style upfront is a turnoff for some people in the exact same way that, for some personality types, it's uncomfortable to turn to their neighbors and say, "God loves you and so do I."
—If you let people know that you're glad they're there, it might discount their resolve to be at worship because they felt called by God—not your ad in the paper or 15 second spot on late night televisionTry this, instead (though I'm absolutely sure you could write a better one)...
"This is a time for us to be together in the best possible way—open, caring, full of courtesy (grace), lack of judgement (grace), and mutual encouragement (grace). We're here to share time, not monopolize it. Everything we do and say will probably be for our mutual benefit and certainly it's meant to be to the glory of God. That's not exactly the value by which most of us conducted ourselves during the week, but isn't it wonderful that God has provided this opportunity to fix that? We're here because He wants us here and we're simply answering His invitation to be with Him and worship Him. Let's combine our strengths and weaknesses to do the wonderful work of this hour."