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Leading from the Cheap Seats

Leading from the Cheap Seats

By Josh Canady on October 03, 2013

What we as worship leaders do on the stage is important. I don’t mean that in a grand “look at me” way but how we lead from the platform can greatly impact the culture of worship for a body of believers. It is a daunting task that should not be taken lightly. Possibly an equally daunting responsibility is how we lead from the bleachers. The stands. The cheap seats. How do we worship in the shadows? 

Where I serve at Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas, we have told our worship team that no matter what role you are playing onstage, whether it be vocalist or instrumentalist, you are a worship leader to the congregation. At some point, every person in the congregation is going to be watching you. Watching how you worship. Watching for authenticity and genuine belief in what you are singing or playing. 

It is easy to only think of worship leading in onstage terms, however what about the off Sundays when we are just a face in the crowd? What about those times when we worship leaders are not under the watchful eye of the spotlight? Do we raise our hands and sing our hearts out then also? What about our interactions and conversations? How about when we are serving in an area completely outside of music? May I suggest that we never take our worship leader hats (or fedoras as it were) off? That we as worship leaders are never outside of the watchful eye of the spotlight. That everything we do is an opportunity to teach and lead in worship. 

You see, just as we Christians are being watched in our everyday lives by unbelievers, we as worship leaders are being watched by the congregation when we are not onstage. They are looking at us whether we realize it or not to see if we believe what we sang last week from the platform. How they see us worship on the fringes can have a profound impact on how they worship God. 

I by no means am implying that we need to adjust our worship offstage to please those around us. What I am saying is that we need to be careful especially as worship leaders to make sure all of our worship (offstage and onstage) is an authentic overflow of our personal worship with God. God has placed us in a leadership role for many reasons and one of those reasons is to lead. Whether we do that in the spotlight or in the fringes makes no difference. 

Another added bonus to being an offstage worship leader is we can seriously help out the onstage team. Just as many businesses take the stance that you are a representative of the company on and off the clock, so you are a representative of the worship team on and off the platform. How often have you been leading a song from the stage and looked out to see a team member subdued in their worship or fiddling with their phones? Don’t be that guy! As a representative of the worship team be present from the cheap seats. Sing loud! Be the first to clap for God after a song! Add to the culture of worship on your week off and seriously help the onstage worship team! 

Ask yourself these simple questions: 

1. Are there noticeable differences from when I worship on and offstage? Do I react the same emotionally and physically? 

2. What are my attitudes or feelings walking into church when I am leading from the stage? How about when I am not leading from the stage? Are those attitudes or feelings drastically different? 

3. Am I adding to the culture of worship when I am in the cheap seats? 

4. Does “10,000 Reasons” feel the same emotionally on and off the platform? 

In closing, let me shoot it straight with you. I know personally that pride is a real issue in the worship leader community. A good service can go to our heads faster than Usain Bolt (look it up). The moment we let that happen we become different worshipers onstage than offstage. The moment we live for the stage we lose some credibility and authenticity and our leadership suffers. When our leadership suffers the culture of worship around us suffers. When the culture of worship around us suffers God is not worshipped as He should be. Do you see how quickly and simply that can happen? 

So let us lead our churches in worship well. From the stage and from the cheap seats let us lead the people that God has placed into our body of believers.

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Josh Canady

Josh Canady (Guest Writer)

Josh serves as a volunteer worship leader at Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas. He is also a singer/songwriter whose music can be found at www.joshcanady.com