Stage presence is critical to worship leading. Like it or not, the people you lead will be looking at you. It’s just the way it works, you are leading them, they are following you. What will you be telling them through your actions? Here are some things I have "heard" people say through their stage presence:
"Check out my new flashy guitar."
"I’m in awe of God."
"I should be in awe of God right now, but I’m not so I am going to fake it."
"I’m so scared to be here I think I just wet my pants."
"Oh, are you there, sorry, I was lost in worship."
"I don’t really care if I am here or not."
"Pay attention kids, I’m rippin’ a killer solo here (thank you, thank you very much)."
"This song is just part of my life of following Christ."
"I am very, very, cool."
"Once again I am astounded by the extent of my sin and the depth of my forgiveness."
Chicago. Steph (my wonderful wife) and I were in a dirty High School auditorium in a worship gathering with one of my favorite worship leaders, Matt Redman. In that one experience I saw stage presence done wrong, and done right.
Right: Redman is not flashy, but the guy is solid as a rock with stage presence. He has an ability to make you feel like you are in a living room with him leading on guitar. He steps up to the mic and starts singing. He wasn’t jumping around or shouting instructions. He was singing his heart to God and inviting us to join in. He was aware that we were there, but he wasn’t playing for us, but with us.
Wrong: In Redman’s band that night was a young lady on BGV’s. She had a killer voice. Amazing. Here stage presence though, was over the top. I totally think her worship expression was legit, but it was also distracting. She was jerking around in some kind of dance, working it hard. I am all about undignified worship, but when it starts drawing attention to ourselves and not God, I think we are on shaky ground.
Here are some ideas for stage presence. I think we need to convey the following:
- Presence. When you are leading, there is probably no other place you would rather be at that moment. I tell our teams "If you enjoy worship leading, tell your face." Smile.
- Calm Confidence. Your nervousness will make them nervous. Know your instrument well and know the songs well.
- Worship. Do you believe the songs you are singing? It’s one thing to sing "Mission’s Flame" and think that it is a groovy little tune. It is quite another to think of it and think of friends who don’t know Christ. "Find Me in the River" takes on a new dimension in the context of getting beat up because of your allegiance to Christ. These are not just songs, they are anthems of our lifestyle.
- Authenticity. Be who you are – and make sure who you are is a lover of Jesus.
- Invisibility. More on this in our next article.
There are tons more thoughts on the issue of stage presence. What are yours?