Oh Magnify My Face With Me

My last piece “Are We Headed For a Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship,” in addition to having the longest title ever for one of my articles, has garnered the most discussion so far. It’s been a good discussion, and a few people kindly disagreed with a few of the things I encouraged worship leaders to do: lead their original songs in moderation, keep the lights in the room up, and get their faces off the big screen. I wanted to explain more of why I think worship leaders should get their faces off the big screen.

In case you don’t know, in many evangelical churches (and conferences) around the world, particularly large ones, the screens are used not only to project the song lyrics, but also the people on stage. During the sermon you’ll be able to see a magnified image of the preacher. And during the songs, you’ll be able to see a magnified image of the worship leader, and the band members, with occasional close-ups (perhaps) of the drummer, or the electric guitarist’s hands, or the bass player’s tattoo, all while the lyrics to the song are projected on the bottom of the screen, in one-to-three line segments.

Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea for the worship leader’s face (and the musicians too) to be projected during worship.

It constantly keeps you in people’s consciousness
Throughout the time of singing, everyone in the room is constantly aware of you, your movements, your mannerisms, your outfit, your sweaty nose, and your personality.

It forces people to look at you
They have no choice but to look at your face. They can either close their eyes or look at your face. What if they don’t want to look at your face? Too bad for them.

It detracts from the focus of the songs
For about 15 – 25 minutes each Sunday, worship leaders have the weighty privilege of deciding what to focus their congregations on. If you happen to employ your screens during those 15-25 minutes, the odds are that your congregation will focus on what’s on them. Gospel-drenched, God-glorifying, Jesus-exalting lyrics? Or your face?

It makes you even more of a celebrity
People are conditioned to treat a person on a screen as a celebrity. Worship leaders are already on enough of a pedestal as it is, that having a congregation stare at their magnified face can only make it worse.

It changes the way you behave (and not in a good way)
I’ve led worship in settings where my face is projected and it just plain out feels awkward. Oops I just licked my lips. That looked weird. Will this shirt look good on screen? Oops they just caught me looking over at myself. Oh wow I really am losing my hair. For goodness sake, there are enough things for us to worry about while leading worship, that how we look on a massive screen shouldn’t be one of them.

It changes the way your team sees themselves
Now your worship team is thinking about all of those same things. They already feel self-conscious enough, and now they have to worry about looking camera-ready. That Mom who just gave birth four weeks ago, that electric guitarist who spilled coffee on his shirt, that drummer who sweats profusely in the shape of a T-Rex on his back, now they’re all thinking about their appearance. 

It prevents you from decreasing
It’s awfully hard for you to decrease when your face is the size of a Honda Civic.

It ensures that you are central
For the duration of the sung worship time, your face is the number one trending topic in the room. 

It necessitates breaking the song lyrics up
The context of the lyrics we’re singing matters. “Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin” makes more sense when we can see what precedes it: “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me the guilt within”. It’s helpful to let people see the different chunks of the song in context. It already flies by as it is, and even more so when we chop the chunks up even smaller.