The Bible says, Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen. (Proverbs 25:6-7)
Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, served as the King of Israel. He understood the principles of one’s behavior in the presence of kings and great men, and he wrote with inspired pen to instruct us in the art of exceptionalism. If left with the choice of a man with great ability and no tact, or the man with some talent and excellence in graceful behavior, give me the latter! Every pastor would love to have a minister of music who understands the principles of appropriate platform presence!
Again, the Word of God says, A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. (Proverbs 18:16) May we all pray today that the Lord will give us the gift of sensibility, being appropriate to every occasion of public worship.
Let us consider four extremes in platform presence that ought to be avoided as to make us appropriate to our role in the music ministry.
Happy but not giddy
There is a distinct difference in being pleasant behind the pulpit, while not being frivolous. We have all seen the music leader that is too dry. He stands with songbook in hand and speaks to the people with a face chiseled stiffly enough for Stone Mountain! If he broke a smile, his face would crack! Therefore, to compensate for this extreme, the pendulum swings violently to another extreme. We have also seen the plastic, cheesy grinned fellow trying just a little too hard to be joyful!
If your demeanor in the pulpit does not meet with your demeanor outside of the pulpit, you are not being genuine. Do not “fake it till you make it!” People can sense real; they can also sense people that are plastic.
First of all, your face must be pleasant but not fake or plastic. By all means, smile. Be pleasant. You are not the funeral director; you are a music director! Be joyful! As Moses on Sinai, if you have spent time with the Lord Jesus Christ and are joying in Him, there will be a genuine light in you that does not have to be manipulated or counterfeited.
Secondly, our pulpit presence ought be light but not loose. We ought to speak to the people. Welcome them. Congratulate them on a job well done, lightly but not loosely. Your time in the pulpit is not comedy hour. The pulpit is not the place for trivial conversation. It is not the 11 pm sports report. We all ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of loose behavior in public worship.
Authoritative but not Angry
The effective song leader has a firm grasp on the service while maintaining a pleasantness about himself. He is authoritative in his charges to the people while not scolding or demeaning them.
Starting out as a fourteen year-old choir director, I personally violated this principle on occasion. I learned that verbally chastising the people about not singing well NEVER produced a greater desire in them to be full-hearted!
If you are you only getting 50% participation, consider whether they are tired, discouraged, or overwhelmed. Did they run to church without dinner to be on time? Is the church going through a valley? We can encourage the people without reproving them.
As a song leader, you must consider that the congregation is not your flock. They are the sheep of God’s undershepherd, the pastor. As a pastor, I have learned more to appreciate God’s people. I have learned to thank them for attending. It is a blessing each and every time they walk through the back door. They do not have to come, and I should never feel as if they are obligated to me personally to be faithful. The motive and motions of faithfulness are to Godward. However, if faithfulness to Christ and His Church resides in them, I am to foster a healthy appreciation of their steadfastness.
Authority means that I fill the pulpit with preparation and passion; anger means that I use the pulpit as a platform from which to correct them. May God help us to be appropriate in our charge!
Organized but not Obstinate
Dr. Earl Holloway often reminded us to be ready always to call an audible. Proper platform presence means that I as the song leader always have a plan but am willing as a servant to call an audible at a moment’s notice. Such changes in plan are necessitated for a variety of reasons.
Church life is family life, so sudden health crises and announced burdens bear heavily on a service. The Pastor’s heart may swing in emphasis within a meeting. Often, the thing that we might have planned does not meet the need of a meeting. Are you ready to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, kissing your skillfully-crafted order of service goodbye?
Some orders of service are like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, but we should seek to be directed by God continually! Preparation gives you options. As a song leader, keep an eye on the pastor. The purpose of the song service is not only to prepare the people for the preaching of the Word of God but also to prepare the heart of the pastor to preach to the people.
Solomon spoke not only of apples of gold. He spoke of apples of gold in pictures of silver. May we never be too big to make little adjustments, allowing the Lord’s will to be done!
Dapper but not Distracting
Dr. Holloway once told me a story regarding his pastor that I shall never forget. Dr. Caudill had been given a stunning 2-karat diamond tie tac. He gracefully wore the tie tac often in his preaching, until one Sunday morning, a lady left the sanctuary with a word for the stately minister. She said, “Dr. Caudill, that is the most beautiful tie tac I have ever seen. I could not take my eyes of it the whole time you were preaching!” Dr. Holloway then told me that his pastor never wore the tie tac in preaching again, stating, “Nothing in my wardrobe ought to take anyone’s focus away from the preaching of the Word of God!”
That man of God learned that even a good and beautiful thing can become a bad thing. For him, the wearing of that jewelry was not appropriate in his platform presence. The small man says, “It’s her fault. She should maintain greater focus!” The mature man says, “The removal of something I enjoy is a small price to pay to be used more fully for God.” Over-the-top styles, loud colors, and distracting adornments ought to be avoided, seeing that they do not enhance the ministry of the Word but distract from it.
To the contrary, I do not condone disheveled appearance either. Charles Spurgeon said, “A good appearance is a letter of recommendation.” What we do is for our Lord. In everything we represent Jesus Christ! Therefore, shine your shoes. Iron your shirt. Straighten your tie. Press your suit. Be sharp. It costs very little to be clean but may cost you very much if you are not!
In these ways and many more, let us strive to always be appropriate. Your pastor, your church, and you will continually benefit from your desire to be suitable in all things.
The Scripture says, Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings. (Proverbs 22:9)
Dear God, give us Thy servants the gift of discernment, for we desire to be used in a great way for Your glory! Selah!