Open the Eyes of My (Face), Lord

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Paul Baloche’s song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” has been sung by millions of Christians throughout the world. It’s a song based on Ephesians 1, asking God to open our spiritual eyes that we might know him better.

But I wonder if those of us who lead congregational worship shouldn’t be asking God to open our physical eyes, too.

Why do leaders close their eyes so often? Not just for a few moments, but for 5, 10, even 15 minutes. I’ve seen leaders and vocalists keep their eyes shut from the first note we sing to the final “Amen” of the closing prayer.

There are definitely some good reasons to close our eyes. We want to shut out distractions. We want to focus completely on the words we’re singing. Our hearts are deeply moved by God’s mercy and we respond in humble adoration.

But are those the reasons we usually have in mind when we close our eyes? Are we even thinking about what we’re doing? Or why we’re doing it?

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you find yourself closing your eyes when you lead for one or more of these not-so-good reasons.

  • we want to look spiritual
  • we think the Holy Spirit likes closed eyes more than opened eyes
  • we don’t want to look at the faces of people who seem apathetic, concerned, confused, or angry about what we’re doing
  • we’re battling fear of man and the easiest thing to do is just pretend that no one else is around
  • we don’t want to see who walks out of the room
  • we’re discouraged by the dwindling number of people showing up on Sundays
  • we’re imagining that this is our own personal encounter with God
  • we don’t remember the words to the next verse
  • we can’t think of anything better to do

Not to mention that worship leaders who shut their eyes sometimes look more like they’re in pain than in God’s presence.

Corporate worship has a horizontal aspect that glorifies God. We’re to teach and admonish one another while we sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16). We’re to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). At the same time we’re singing with gratitude in our hearts to God and very aware that he’s present with us. Both directions — horizontal and vertical — are important to consider if we want to benefit fully from our time together.

That’s why I’ve come to think that more often than not, it’s better for me to keep my eyes open when I’m leading people in singing God’s praise. It’s not that I don’t ever close my eyes. I do. It’s just that in recent years I’m becoming more aware of the good reasons to keep them my eyes open:

  • I can see how people are responding (or not responding) and adjust what I’m doing accordingly
  • It’s easier for me to communicate to people how the truths we’re singing are affecting me when I look at them
  • My heart is encouraged when I see people who seem to be genuinely engaging with God
  • I can share the joy in Christ I’m experiencing by looking at the other musicians
  • I can communicate directions more clearly to the team
  • I’m more aware of what’s happening around me
  • I can see what I’m playing on the piano
  • I can read the lyrics to the song

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to close our eyes when we’re singing songs of praise to God. I just don’t think Scripture says that has to be our default.

To put things in perspective, having our spiritual eyes opened is far more important than having our physical eyes opened.

But maybe it would help us and those we lead if we did a little more of the second.

65 Responses to Open the Eyes of My (Face), Lord

  1. Matt February 5, 2010 at 1:18 AM #

    I agree 100%. Thank you for bringing this up along with the practical reasonings.

    I must say when I am a worshiper in the pew the only thing that distracts/annoy me more is when a leader feels moved at the end of the song compelling him to go into exaggerated breathy singing…
    Thiissss isss the aaiiiir I breattthhhe

    • Bob Kauflin February 5, 2010 at 6:46 AM #

      Matt, thanks for stopping by. Yes, the super-breathy-pseudo-spiritual voice of the worship leader will probably be the topic of another post at some point. Thanks.

  2. Amber Burger February 5, 2010 at 9:51 AM #

    Mr. Kauflin,

    I can not thank you enough for writing this post. This is a conversation I find myself having with so many leaders and congregation members.

    Thanks for always training leaders as you write.

    Amber Burger

  3. Frank Taylor February 5, 2010 at 10:38 AM #

    Bob, great article. I am being challenged often lately about the things we do in “vain.” I think when we go into “auto” mode, that wold certainly qualify as in vain, empty, no meaning, worthless. It’s similar when we don’t allow our mouths to connect with the words proceeding from our mouths, not just when we speak about God, but when we sing about Him as well. Great challenge to be engaged… thanks for your ministry!

  4. tim holmes February 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM #

    bob, i laughed outloud when i read my own most common reason for closing my eyes: “i don’t remember the words to the next verse”.

    i shall endeavor to be more intentional about making eye contact.

    thanks for writing. helpful as always.

  5. Jim Pemberton February 5, 2010 at 11:31 AM #

    First of all, in response to the pseudo-spiritual breathiness, amen! I had the opportunity to do some recording with a young lady from our church – my first studio experience with CCM. She didn’t do any of the breathiness, but in re-recording bits she remarked that she needed to not take a breath at a certain point. The tech went on to say that he could make it sound like she was the girl who could sing a whole song without taking a breath. He meant it in a good way saying that many artists actually add breath sounds to their recordings. Now, I have difficulty listening to CCM without hearing what are now all too obvious fake breaths.

    With regard to closed eyes, occasionally for a few moments I’m moved to close my eyes in corporate worship. But I usually like to keep my eyes open. Sure, many people are just looking at the words projected on the screen, but several throughout the congregation are warmly expressive, raising their hands and heads or weeping, and it indeed encourages me.

    But you also mentioned those who seem apathetic, etc. Some may simply have a less expressive nature, but some may also be clueless in worship as to what is truly happening spiritually. From the stage, I can see people from week to week who I have opportunity to interact with. If I know of people who don’t seem to participate well in corporate worship, this is an opportunity to gently draw them into deeper fellowship where their personal worship is enhanced and they grow into a deeper relationship with God that will come out in corporate worship. As such, worship ministry takes place not merely during the service or in rehearsal, but also through intentionally engaging individuals one-on-one throughout the week to grow spiritually. If indeed we are the body of Christ, then that horizontal aspect of worship requires that we stay aware of how individuals in the congregation contribute to corporate worship. So it’s helpful for those of us involved in music ministry to keep our eyes open.

    • Bob Kauflin February 5, 2010 at 11:50 PM #

      Jim, great comments about keeping our eyes open to what God is doing throughout the week. Thanks.

  6. St. Mark of the desert. February 5, 2010 at 11:52 AM #

    Good thoughts. I close my eyes often, and I have no idea why I do it. I have never questioned it. But, our band plays/sings in the back of the church, not up front, so many of the reasons you mentioned are not relevant to my situation. I will have to ponder this further.

  7. Lewis February 5, 2010 at 12:28 PM #

    This is an interesting post for sure! I have been having many conversations about this with people within our church, we currently have a worship leader who never closes his eyes unless he is praying. What I have gathered from other people is they don’t like the fact that he doesn’t close his eyes. Some feel as if he is staring at them while they have their eyes closed! Or they don’t “feel” like he is “worshiping”.

    Unfortunately some people equate closed eyes with having a spiritual experience. So they feel that he isn’t enjoying the Lord because he is too busy looking and smiling at everyone.

    Personally, I think if the song is closer to a prayer (like open the eyes of my heart Lord) I don’t want to look at people while Im leading, because Im not asking them to open the eyes of my heart. On the other hand if it is a hymn like Nothing But the Blood where we are praising the Lord for a certain truth, I believe it would be necessary to open your eyes. But then on the other hand when I sing something like Nothing But the Blood I tend to close my eyes as I enjoy the Lord for the fact that it is only by his blood.

    Lastly, you mention we tend to close our eyes because we think this is our own personal experience with the Lord. Do you think that because its corporate it negates the possibility of it being a personal experience for the leader? I guess I need to find out whether the worship leader is leading THE worship or leading IN worship.

    • Bob Kauflin February 5, 2010 at 11:49 PM #

      Lewis, I don’t think corporate worship negates the aspect of it being a personal experience for the leader. In fact, I’d say the two are integrally related. But they aren’t meant to be exclusive, and my “personal experience” is never my only goal. I want to seek to engage with God at the same time that I’m encouraging others to engage with God. Kind of like two wings of an airplane. It’s good to have both.

  8. Thomas Campbell February 5, 2010 at 12:41 PM #

    I had a congregant tell me that they didn’t like it when I looked at them. They felt it was me invading their space. That has caused me to be somewhat cautious in looking at people although I really shouldn’t allow one experience to alter my overall approach.

    What I like about this article is focusing on the “why” of what we do. No matter what it is you are doing, closing eyes, opening them, smiling, etc. we should be cognizant of the “why”.

    Also – we should be careful to not base everything we do on what we see in the congregation. It is easy to judge someone’s heart by what they are expressing physically. These things are very often not directly linked. Obviously, the point of the article as well because we are considering our own physical appearance and how it relates to our spiritual reality.

    I very much enjoy your articles, Bob. Also – my team is going through Worship Matters together, one chapter each week. It’s raised good discussions on the team!

    Thanks.

  9. Dan Cassin February 5, 2010 at 12:47 PM #

    Closing your eyes is an interesting concept in general. Even as children we’re taught to close our eyes when we pray or when we’re really “serious” about what we’re doing before the Lord. After a lifetime of that being ingrained in us, your quote of “we think the Holy Spirit likes closed eyes more than opened eyes” is not that far fetched of an assumption for most believers to make, especially subconsciously. So if we as leaders want to portray that we are taking a worship experience “seriously” closing our eyes would probably be the first thing we would decide to employ (most likely without thinking about it).

  10. Ben Miller February 5, 2010 at 12:48 PM #

    Sometimes the fact that so many close their eyes during worship could be rooted in another problem that I encountered with a lot of my peer college students I led a few years back: they thought the goal was to “lose themselves” in worship. Sadly, this phrase is not tied to the biblical command to “die to self,” but is more like seeking a mystic-eastern-religion-type nirvana experience. Closing their eyes was a way to shut out everything around them as they worked their way to this state, forgetting that a fantastic way to see God is to realize him working in those around us who the Holy Spirit indwells.

    Thanks for helping us “open our eyes” to this element of leading worship.

  11. Doug Weaver February 5, 2010 at 12:59 PM #

    Bob, you left out “because getting sweat in the eyeball can throw you off at a critical moment”.

    I’ve started to be conscious of how long my eyes are closed, but it’s pretty much been a default of mine since before I got saved. I’ve just always closed my eyes…

    However, I am guilty of this – “we don’t want to look at the faces of people who seem apathetic, concerned, confused, or angry about what we’re doing”. The “yeah, I’m here” look can sometimes wear on you.

  12. Scott February 5, 2010 at 2:43 PM #

    The disconnect between physical and spiritual is so evident with God. Our physical and spiritual beings are deeply linked, but God has no physical form (I don’t think Jesus counts, and He’s not back yet). I close my eyes because I can’t physically look at God.

    Opening my eyes makes me more aware of my surroundings. Worship seems to be more vertical than horizontal to me. Perhaps my perspective should change from “I need to hear and believe these truths” to “We need to…”

    • Bob Kauflin February 5, 2010 at 11:46 PM #

      Scott, I think you’re on to something. So many times we as leaders minimize or neglect completely the corporate aspect of what we’re doing. There’s a reason we come together, and it’s to encourage and build up each other for the glory of God.

  13. Trish Greene February 5, 2010 at 3:04 PM #

    I have just the opposite thoughts about keeping my eyes open. Being up front, I am blessed by being able to see the congregation worship, but there are some times when we sing songs that have lyrics that are so specifically meant to be heartfelt calls out to the Lord that I feel funny looking out at the congregation singing them and I feel like I am being too “Show boaty” if I lift my eyes to the ceiling tiles.

    One worship team that I used to be a part of solved this issue but installing a cross over the entrance door of the sanctuary so that we had something to look at during those moments when we are calling out specifically to Him.

  14. Matt Blick February 5, 2010 at 3:47 PM #

    Boy what a funny post – and some funny comments too –

    I love Thomas’ “the congregation doesn’t like me starting at them!” hilarious !

    Like a lot of dumb things we do, it’s mostly just imitation from other spiritual guys we’ve seen. Spiritual guys on a concert stage where it’s worth pointing out you can’t see the people you’re performing to because of the lights.

    However that’s rarely an issue in church (how many follow spots do you use on sunday morning Bob?)

    What’s more at stake is, It’s really hard to lead people you can’t see…that’s why “keep your eyes open” is rule no1 at worship leading boot camp with us.

  15. Kevin Twit February 5, 2010 at 4:05 PM #

    Great thoughts Bob!

  16. Jeff Bourque February 5, 2010 at 4:19 PM #

    What a great thread! It was eye-opening (sorry, I couldn’t resist) to read the post, and the responses have been very informing as well. I agree with Lewis, but was challenged by Dan to think about why I equate prayer with closing my eyes.

    My desire as a leader is to be as engaged with the words as possible as I sing them – as much as is possible through the chords and transitions. So, I tend to close my eyes if the song is sung to God and open them if the song is something I need to be singing to my brothers and sisters. The latter has been a great encouragement to me as I repentively move from my tendency to worry about what people are thinking about the arrangement to the joy of singing the truths of God to them.

    Now the unresolved eyes-open-or-closed issue for me is when the song is sung in first person from God to us…

  17. Dan S February 5, 2010 at 5:42 PM #

    Great article at a great time for me. I’m a pastor of a small rural church where I am the only one that plays an instrument (a guitar). I learned it simply for myself but I still feel really self conscious about my playing. So I either keep my eyes down on my music or closed due to fear. Plus in a smaller church, I feel really weird-looking at people while singing. Most people are looking at their hymnals always so I don’t know if it matters. That is why I don’t look but it is definitely something I need to pray through.

  18. Samantha February 5, 2010 at 6:08 PM #

    My husband and I both lead and we’ve had quite a few conversations about this, and I think it kind of boils down to being yourself, and knowing your congregation and your community.

    Also, I think part of it is cultural/generational. We’re in our late 20’s/early 30’s and at most secular shows or concerts we go to, the lead singer or singers almost always have their eyes closed. And they still connect with their audience. I think you’d be surprised at how many performers even on TV (SNL, Late Night, etc.) sing with their eyes shut. That’s not to say that we should or shouldn’t just because of that reason alone, but it’s interesting. I think the younger generations are just used to it that way.

    Good thoughts though! I know it’s been helpful for me to just be aware of it so that I can balance myself out a little more as a singer.

  19. Aaron February 6, 2010 at 8:57 AM #

    I always say, we as worship leaders must lead with one eye open. lol. Of course that isn’t literal, but we as leaders must always know what is going on around us. Specificly, we must know where your congregation is as it relates to the song you’re ministering. LEADING worship. We can’t be at a 10 and the people you’re leading is at a 4. Know where your audience is, and lets go together.

  20. Sam Kang February 6, 2010 at 9:13 AM #

    Wonderful post! I have been challenged more and more to “open my eyes” in engaging the congregation in corporate worship. I definitely can relate to the conflict of closing my eyes as a means of bypassing congregational response. Thank you for the exhortation!

  21. Aaron B. February 6, 2010 at 2:19 PM #

    This one feels a little bit like straining gnats to me.

  22. Beth February 7, 2010 at 1:09 PM #

    Thank you…good thoughts.

    As a church attender, I appreciate eye contact from the music leaders. We can worship together and I can be seen in my neediness, grouchiness, woundedness, whatever.

    On that note, we visited the church where you led worship today (new to the area, looking for a church). We don’t plan on returning to that church, but God had us there today so we could hear what you said. He blessed us through your words, both sung and spoken.

  23. Adam Anglin February 7, 2010 at 11:03 PM #

    I don’t necessarily agree with this post at all. I think focusing on “why” we’re doing what we’re doing is important, but I feel like we’re turning leading this into a list of “dos” and “dont’s.” I disagree with very little in this blog but, how much of my personality am I supposed to pretend isn’t there? We’re splitting hairs that need not be split.

    • Bob Kauflin February 7, 2010 at 11:21 PM #

      Aaron and Adam, Thanks for stopping by.

      Don’t want you to miss the intention of my post. Whenever we see a behavior leaders that’s widespread, even if we’re doing it ourselves, it’s worth asking if what we’re doing is helpful, unhelpful, or neutral. Actually, I was surprised at the number of commenters who said they’ve talked/thought about this issue. My point isn’t that one way — open or closed eyes — is better than the other, or to make a list of “do’s and don’ts.” It’s simply to ask whether we’re even thinking about it, and if we’re missing out on opportunities to encourage, lead, and serve our congregations if we never look at them.

  24. Eric Rivier February 8, 2010 at 7:52 AM #

    I have found that most not-so-good reasons listed here are my own and I see this as a “Wow! that happens to you too?” kind of post. We shared this post with our worship team and we all agreed that at some point we all had been closing our eyes one time or the other for the wrong reasons. Although written in a relaxed funny way, for us this is a sad truth…

    I would recommend everyone here not to focus on debating if one should open or not their eyes when leading… the point is to see yourself being weak and sinful EVEN as you lead… the point is to understand that we are constantly cheated by our hearts and by our own intentions!

    I will definitely be more aware on my actual behavior, I will try to connect more with the congregation and this is one way to do it, but this has helped me more to understand that behind our actions there are motives that rest far away from God.

    Thank you Bob

  25. Rick February 8, 2010 at 12:13 PM #

    Thanks for the thought provoking article. I try not to close my eyes all the time. But I’ve got a little different reasoning for why I will occasionally do it.

    As a corporate worship leader, I also believe that a major fundamental component of my ministry is to connect the truths we meditate on in corporate worship to our whole life worship. So if we are worshiping God for the sufficiency and power of His Word, I’m also thinking in terms of how that would affect our daily living worship.

    So as I’m leading the body with that mindset, I can see the joy, confidence, brokenness, or fear on people’s faces. And knowing their personal stories that those expressions are flowing out of, it can be a little overwhelming at times.

    So rather than ignore it, or lose myself crying, I occasionally will close my eyes and pray a quick prayer for them until I’m able to open my eyes again.

    Maybe that sounds a little weird. But that’s what goes on with me. Thanks for the article!

  26. Adam Anglin February 8, 2010 at 1:57 PM #

    Bob, Thanks for responding to my comment. I appreciate the feedback greatly.

    Adam.

  27. Kyle VZ February 8, 2010 at 3:19 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve always struggled with what to do with eye contact while leading. Sometimes I find myself looking down at my music or my guitar even when I don’t need to, just for something to look at. I totally agree with the horizontal aspect of corporate worship, but locking eyes with someone as we are both singing to God can feel a bit awkward.

    Any suggestions? How do you worship God and encourage people at the same time without ignoring the people or staring them down?!

    PS – Praise God for working through us in spite of our flaws and confusion, Amen?

  28. Thomas Campbell February 8, 2010 at 10:55 PM #

    It’s great to see that we as leaders are thinking about what we are doing. I do agree with some of the posts that we can get very “method”-oriented, very quickly. Of course, if God has our hearts in the right place, then reviewing methods is ok and should be done. Thinking through the specifics of your liturgy and considering whether or not any of it is, as Bob noted, specifically unhelpful is healthy. God can teach us as we are reviewing what we have done, what we are doing and what we are planning to do. It’s too easy to assume that because something seemed to “work” at some point that this is what we should do again. We need to be consistently and constantly asking God for what He is doing and what He in turn wants us to be doing. May His grace and mercy cover all that we do.

  29. Christy Tennant February 9, 2010 at 3:49 PM #

    My contacts become painfully dry when I have my eyes closed for long periods of time. This is my main reason for keeping my eyes open when I lead!

    That said, I often wear glasses when I’m leading expressly so that I can close my eyes when I want to. Like you’ve said here, there are good reasons to close ’em, good reasons to open ’em, bad reasons to close ’em, bad reasons to open ’em. I practice/struggle with all of the above, and at the end of the day simply marvel at God’s grace and mercy, that he would give me the privilege of facilitating his people in corporate worship despite the battles that might be going on in my heart and mind for the focus of my attention to be holy.

    Thanks for an interesting post!

  30. Rachel Handley February 9, 2010 at 10:44 PM #

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you so much for your post. I never even thought about the fear of man, but it is so true. I don’t seem to have that problem because I seem to be feeling the Holy Spirit in most of the songs that we sing. Maybe I am just more emotional than most. I am not at all saying this to say that I am more engaged than others, because as was pointed out earlier you can’t always tell what someone is experiencing by looking at their faces. I try to do a balance of both because I don’t want people to feel like I am staring them down, however I don’t want people to be disengaged because I am not looking at the congregation at all. However, I am still able to look at it as God being the only other person in the room. When I am out in the congregation I do close my eyes most of the time because, it does help me to be more engaged. I am a back up singer, so I am not really playing an instrument and for me knowing the words to songs has never really been a struggle. Thanks again for that post. Interesting conversation.

  31. Marc February 9, 2010 at 11:16 PM #

    Bob,
    I couldn’t read this cause my eyes were closed. Can you send me an mp3 of this post?

    Marc

    • Bob Kauflin February 9, 2010 at 11:18 PM #

      Marc, I think I have a word from the Lord for you. “Open them.” Does that mean anything to you?

  32. Paula Joy February 10, 2010 at 12:16 PM #

    My husband and I took our youth to a rally on the weekend and this post ties in perfectly…

    Mosy, like 75%, of the youth that were there were unchurched, non-christian kids. During the worship, the 3 team members (leader/guitarist, singer, and bassist) all had their eyes closed for a good 15 minutes, not singing the songs but having ‘hang time’. They had NO idea how disconnected from the youth they were! I stayed standing for about 10 minutes, and I was done. The songs were long (one had 3 long verses) that no one knew.

    My point? Look at how engaged the youth were would have been tremendously beneficial. The Team wasn’t there for themselves but for the youth. Leading worship is a totally self-less ministry, yet we often don’t approach it that way.

    I, too, am a worship leader at our church. I was talking to our Pastor about the Youth Rally (he was there and saw what happened). He said that since my spiritual gift is encouragement, then I can encourage people’s hearts as I lead worship. That changed the whole way I lead.

    Our focus as worhsip leaders should be to encourage the hearts of the people and to create an opportunity for them to encounter God.

  33. Scott Hobbs February 10, 2010 at 2:35 PM #

    Thanks for the post Bob. I am always after my worship department folks about authenticity. I have been in times of worship where I have seen worship leaders with their eyes open or closed and it was authentic and effective. I have also been in times of worship where it was contrived and theatrical.

    I think the issue is to be an authentic worshiper. We have to practice the presence of God, spending personal time there, not just perform a function on stage. We also have to understand our the congregation God has given us to serve. Remembering to pursue God passionately, but not leave the congregation behind. I like what Paul Baloche teaches about our job as worship leaders is to serve God and serve our congregations.

    Thanks again Bob for the post. God has used your ministry and teachings to have a tremendous impact on me!

    Blessings

  34. Lauren Chandler February 10, 2010 at 3:04 PM #

    I’m very glad I read this. Great heart-check questions to ask myself while leading. Thank you!

  35. Kim Speer February 10, 2010 at 8:26 PM #

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I am actually using your book, Worship Matters, as a requirement … going through it with my worship team right now.

    • Bob Kauflin February 10, 2010 at 11:04 PM #

      Kim, thanks for your encouraging words. Hope you like the book and it doesn’t feel like a “requirement” to your team!

  36. Brian Klimke February 11, 2010 at 12:48 AM #

    This is a concept that I often have to go over with my teams! That is especially true when new people join. It can become nothing more than habitual if it’s not talked about!

    It is important to remember as lead worshipers, that we play multiple roles. Our primary role is to lead people in repentance, submission and testifying to God’s glory. While example goes a whole long way and is vital to the leadership role, you also have to take the opportunity to PROMPT!

    It is very hard to PROMPT people to authentic biblical worship if we as leaders drift off into our own little world. Look people IN THE EYE and CALL them to repentance, PROMPT THEM to surrender, encourage them to praise!!!!

    Open your eyes and let God use you as his instrument. Open your eyes and let God edify the body through you. Open your eyes SEE what GOD is doing!!! Open your eyes and rejoice!!!

    I absolutely encourage closing your eyes at times. I close my eye myself. There are many moments when that is very appropriate. It’s is however important to remember your role as a leader.

    Here is an application that might be helpful: When if feels uncomfortable to look at people try not to default to “CLOSE MY EYES.” It can be a little distracting if you are singing “Open the eyes of my heart LORD,” and look somebody right in the eye. So, look upward to the ceiling or the back wall in sincere reflection and praise but, don’t close your eyes.

    Thank you Bob for the thought and I think I will have a refresher with my teams tomorrow! Glad to have found your site and look forward to future interaction.

    Brian Klimke (Gather Pastor)
    http://www.lifelivedsurrendered.blogspot.com
    churchofcelebration.com

  37. Matt Miley February 11, 2010 at 2:23 PM #

    You mentioned that some leaders look as though they are “in pain” rather than enjoying worshiping the Lord. I close my eyes a lot… mainly because I feel that if I’m singing to the Lord I shouldn’t be looking at someone else UNLESS it is for the purpose of nudging/encouraging them along into His presence.

    I find that many worship leaders and team members also don’t smile enough when they’re worshiping. I know it’s a huge issue with me and I try to remember to smile but get caught up in the “technical ” things gonig on and forget that my main goal is the bless HIS heart.

    I have to say though, that it does feel “showie” or “awkward” to smile at people while I’m singing because me feel like I’m “performing” like I’m singing TO them.

    But the way the facial muscles are all tied together I can see how closing one’s eyes automatically puts your “smile” at a disadvantage.

    Smiles are contageous… so in addition to opening our eyes as worship leaders we should also let the joy of the Lord show through our “smiles” as well. I’m preachin’ to myself here.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  38. Mark Knox February 11, 2010 at 9:34 PM #

    Bob, I greatly enjoyed the article. It reflects my thinking for some time as I lead worship and observe others leading as well.

    To the idea of closing our eyes so as to not be personally disctracted while we worship, remember that as “lead worshipers,” we have a responsibility to not only genuinely personally worship, but to lead others. To think that if I will authentically worship that will automatically cause people to follow me into the presence of God, is like me inviting guests for a meal and just letting them see me enjoying the food without actually serving them. I believe that part of leading requires more time of eyes open than eyes shut.

    We pray to be invisible, that Jesus would be seen through us, but I think sometimes we play “peek-a-boo” with the church, thinking that if we can’t see them, they can’t see us.

  39. David Hamilton February 15, 2010 at 12:27 PM #

    After a tragic loss in my life a few years back, I found it very helpful to leave my eyes open during prayer in church. It allowed me to appreciate and draw strength from being a part of a body of believers. After all, I don’t come to church to pray or sing by myself. I can do that at home.

  40. Dave February 20, 2010 at 10:20 PM #

    Eyes open, eyes closed, eyes half-closed, little squinty slitty eyes, toothpicks holding your eyelids open because didn’t get enough sleep the night before…..
    ***What ever you do, do it as unto the Lord***
    P.S. I’m the drummer this time around, so my reason to keep my eyes closed (sometimes) is so it will be less painful when I lose a stick mid-stroke!

  41. Co co February 26, 2010 at 12:40 PM #

    Bob this subject brings tears to my eyes. I have not been able to look at the congregation while singing. i feel so sad because people really enjoy hearing me sing and i love to sing but i havent been able to look at my audience since the day while singing i looked right into the eyes of several of the pastors children who clearly wanted me to see them making faces and pointing at my full lips. Every one else in the church seem to be enjoying the song so much it felt so good. but now a days i can’t bear taking the chance to open my eyes when i sing. i slowly left the church due to other similar embarrassing incidents there and only sang to myself at home. Comments welcome.

  42. Co co February 26, 2010 at 3:24 PM #

    What if you are self conscious?

    • Bob Kauflin February 26, 2010 at 4:14 PM #

      Co co, thanks for sharing your situation. Without being involved, it’s difficult to give you specific thoughts. In general, when we lead we don’t want to be overly conscious of how people are responding to our leadership. We don’t know what they’re thinking, so we shouldn’t assume we do.

      If I’m self-conscious, I want to become “Jesus-conscious.” I can do that by thinking about the words I’m singing, asking God to desire his praise more than my own, and sharing my struggles with the other musicians I’m playing with, asking them to pray for me. If you find yourself continually distracted by thoughts about yourself when you lead, it might be better to take a break from leading for a while and meditate on God’s love for you that he displayed in Christ. Two books I’d recommend to that end are The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent, and When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch. Hope that helps.

  43. Grant Ridout October 8, 2010 at 2:11 AM #

    I haven’t had time to read all of the comments. I simply want to highlight the fact that a lot of singers do this. Christian and non-Christian. As a musician myself I do it at times (not in a church setting). So what? It’s a common response to help you remember lyrics, to concentrate on the moment and to enjoy the moment. I do sympathise when a ‘ worship leader’ shuts their eyes the whole time and becomes disconnected the congregation. But on the whole, so what?

    • Bob Kauflin October 8, 2010 at 8:14 AM #

      Grant, totally agree with your comment except for the “so what?” at the end. Closing your eyes occasionally is different from having them shut the whole time. Leaders are doing more than having their own personal encounters with Jesus. They’re leading people. And one of the ways we do that is through our eyes. That’s not to say that someone can’t lead powerfully while having their eyes closed the whole time. But it’s become a de facto position that many music leaders assume without really having thought about why they’re doing it. Hence, this post.

  44. Ryan Boudreau December 31, 2010 at 12:19 PM #

    Wonderful posting brother!

    I can see my self in many of the “not so good reasons” category. It’s so easy to default there and what a battle it is against the fear of man in the middle of songs Sunday morning. I thank you for pointing out #1 the corporate-ness of our worship (it’s not my closet) and the joy it should bring me to look upon peoples faces as they worship God corporately.

    As always, thanks for writing about what I think about and never talk about!

  45. darlene grillo January 24, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

    Hi Bob! Great article! I’m the worship leader at our small church. My husband is the pastor. Our daughter is a 5 yr. violinist, and she is part of the worship team. She does circles around me, seeing as I know only 15-20 easy chords, but pretty fluid with them. We have a couple of tambourine players (including our 13 yr. old son) in the congregation. Our church is a little over 2 yrs. old, and I’ve been playing the guitar for about a year, and have improved greatly. Probably like everyone else chiming in on this topic, I’ve been on both sides of the altar.

    I was raised in the church, and had a negative experience as a small child during worship, very self-conscious as a teen-ager, including torment in my mind during worship service. I was never truly able to worship as a youngster, but the Lord has brought me a long way. I’ve felt (due to my own dillusions, I know, and then sometimes my feelings may have been legite) as a young married adult in the congregation, certain pressures…. to worship, from the leader. Whether it be to close my eyes, lift my hands, or that some of us were not really worshiping. Now, I’m well aware that it is the worship leader’s job to bring congregants into a ‘real’ awareness of worship and introduction, before the –living God–, whether they know Him or not. It is a time for sinners and saints alike to hear the truths of Jesus, and examine their hearts and attitudes, and we as leaders, pray that they’re open to it. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and He knocks at the door of our hearts.

    In my own experience of brokeness, and bonds that kept me from true worship, I realize how important it is to use discernment when you feel a word from the Lord. In the short time that I’ve been used in this role of leadership where the Lord is using me, I’ve had to get my feet wet. I pray that the Lord makes me sensitive to the faces in front of me. I too, have a challenge to look and connect with the faces of the congregants, even though I know most of them personally. Please pray for my husband, myself, and our children, that we may be able to serve our brothers and sisters, loving and worshiping the Lord together.

    Thankyou, Darlene

  46. Maria R. Serrano February 8, 2011 at 1:54 AM #

    When I want to feel my lord , I don’t use may own eyes
    I allowed my lord to used me and look thru me .

    Agrada mucho a mi Senor que yo le permita usar mis ojos
    El desea usar me
    por que con mis ojos Yo solo puedo mirar lo exterior
    y con sus ojos puros ,Santos,puedo mirar su deseo
    su Santo Espiritu y al hacer esto mi vida se transforma en una vida frutifera,amable limpia liberada de mi misma concupisencia .
    Dejanos Senor mirarte cada dia , para entenderte mejor
    y amarte mas . Maria

  47. Sandra Stephens March 4, 2015 at 6:44 AM #

    Very interesting article article and comments. Does anyone have any scriptures about the congregation having eyes shut or open during corporate worship please. We have been discussing this topic I. Our ladies bible study.

    • Bob Kauflin March 4, 2015 at 9:39 AM #

      Sandra, I’d look at Ps. 119:18 and Ps. 123:1-2. But the primary reason for opening our eyes when we sing is to see the congregation. We’re teaching and admonishing one another according to Col. 3:16. It’s hard to do that when we’re not looking at each other!

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