...and the greatest of these is Outward
I work with my musicians constantly on their stage presence and the delivery of their performance. I want them to simultaneously be good musicians, performers and communicators. Working on the little things is key to achieving that goal.
For example, I spoke to one of my singers recently about how to improve their stage presence. I noticed that throughout a recent set they sang mostly with their eyes closed or with their focus pointed upwards above the crowd.
This is a normal reaction to songs of a vertical nature - we sing to an unseen God, so the immediate response to the lyrics are both inward and upward. It does seem silly in a way to tell God how wonderful He is as you’re looking another person in the eye.
Ultimately, though, our job is to LEAD. And it’s hard to do that when you’re not engaging the crowd. I believe we can strike a good balance of leading and “entering in” by being outward-upward-inward in proportionate doses all the way through the worship set.
Addressing the crowd, welcoming them with your expressions, letting them know that you’re easy to get to know and trust - this is what an outward expression can accomplish. Ever talked to someone who won’t look you in the eye? Exactly. Our first response as worship leaders, no matter the lyrical content of the song, should be to make eye contact with our congregation. And smile! That’s the best way to start a service.
Refusing to engage the audience will also make you seem shy and/or afraid. In some cases, depending on your personality, you can appear aloof, and that’s a grave mistake for a worship leader.
Your outward expressions should continue throughout the set, but at some point it’s appropriate to take your emotion upward. This lets the crowd know, and reminds you, that God is here with us! I tell our singers to envision God’s throne sitting just above the sound booth in the back. Go there often. But remember to come back to earth and engage the crowd.
Hopefully you’ll have a point in each worship set where it’s natural to close your eyes and have a personal moment with Jesus. But you can’t stay there. Stay disciplined and come out of your personal worship shell to stay in touch with what’s happening in the room.
As you can tell, I’m a big proponent of the outward expression. The people in the room will only follow you if they feel they know you and can trust you, and consistent engagement with them will go a long way toward them giving you that respect...