Stage presence is something that gets misunderstood in our church settings. "Stage presence, isn't that for rock bands and stage actors?" Yes, but it's also a crucial missing ingredient in many worship settings.
Stage presence is defined as "the ability to command an audience with an impressive style or manner." In those who seek to lead others in worship, there really isn't any place for the "star mentality", or leaders who seek to be on stage to boost their ego, make themselves look good, or advance their careers. Our motivation and goal in leading worship must be to lead others to lift up the name of Jesus.
Stage presence, however, can be a powerful tool in our leading of services and worship sets. Here are 3 reasons that stage presence matters in worship:
1. Worship Leaders Must Demonstrate:
When we seek to lead others in worship, we need to demonstrate what it looks like to worship. Throughout scripture there are many different ways that worship is expressed. Clapping, shouting, singing, kneeling, jumping, dancing, and even being quiet are all listed as proper physical postures of worship. I've talked with many worship leaders who are frustrated with the response of their congregations in worship. My first question is "How are you leading them to respond?" People will reflect what they see from the platform. If your band/singers are stationary and unemotional in their presentation of worship, your congregation will be, too. Challenge yourself and your team to demonstrate different postures of worship, even if it feels awkward.
2. Worship Leaders Must Engage:
Leading others in worship is different from leading yourself in worship. When you are leading a group of people, you need to be aware of what's happening in the room and how your congregation is responding. You can't just get up on stage, clench your eyes shut tight, and expect to lead. Open your eyes. Be aware of what's taking place as you sing. Smile. Take time to really think about what your body language is communicating. A great song about having joy in God's presence being sung by a stationary worship leader with a scowl on their face comes across as not being authentic. If you're serious about improving your stage presence, video your team during your next worship set and watch it together. Take note of how your look: are you inviting people to worship or do you appear disconnected from the room? Is your body language demonstrating what it looks like to worship? Are your eyes closed the whole time?
3. Worship Leaders Must Worship:
This is the most important point. If we're not worshiping, sincerely expressing our hearts to God, then we're walking the thin line between leading worship, and performing with impure motives. Our love for God and our worship must be sincere, coming from a place of love and devotion. Our worship in front of a crowd must be first cultivated and developed in the quiet place where no one sees except God. We are leading others in worship when we sincerely express our hearts to God. It's not enough to get up and do whatever the popular worship teams are doing. Develop your own relationship with God, and let that shine in your public worship.
In 1 Samuel 16:7 God said to Samuel:
"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
This is a great verse for worship leaders. At first glance, it might seem like I'm arguing against the whole point of this post. "Wait, it says it right there-God looks at the heart!" We can't forget, however, the part about "...man looks at the outward appearance." Remember, we are seeking to lead people into the presence of God. Let's remember that our outward appearance matters, our presentation matters, and let's take steps to improve the way that we communicate the greatest message of all time!