hmmm...weird I was meaning to tell Kevin Watkins that I hit my mouth on the mic stand all the time :)....I close my eyes a lot and just get lost in worship. It helps me to just focus on where I feel the spirit leading because I am a little bit of a control freak and if I am looking around too much I will try and push people rather than just letting God do what He will do. I do look around some, but in our intimate setting I prefer eyes closed.
I had this time I had this mike smack between my eyes. To keep from going cross-eyed I closed my eyes and played wrong chords on the guitar... Oops...
I believe in keeping them open. I know how you feel, Ralph, when you see people not worshiping when you are leading. Hey, it happens even to the best of us, even me! (*humbly clears throat*) :) Those people are the bane of new worship leaders, right? They usually stand at the back, arms folded, their sullen faces loudly saying "Yeah, I DARE you to lead me into praise and worship..."
Well, for the sake of connecting with those who DO want to praise and worship God, I'll keep my eyes open. Oh yes, and for the sake of getting my guitar chords right too!
I find I do both. I think I worship better with them shut but it's also important imho to keep an eye on the congregation to see if they are actually engaging or not. I also have had people thank me for making eye contact and smiling saying it really draws them in when I do that and makes me more a part of the congregation. I don't lead every week so keeping them open helps me to get to know the congregation a little better.
Phil, when I lead, I do both. I think my eyes are closed most of the time because I am worshiping along with everyone else, but because I am the leader, I need to be aware of what's going on in the congregation, so I have to look too. During praise (upbeat songs) I am less likely to close my eyes and more likely to be more active. .......Carolyn
When I have led worship (in years past) I would often close my eyes in certain portions of the song set, or on a particular song.
I have noticed that pastors who who seem to view the congregation as being the audience, rather than God being the audience worry more about the eye contact thing.
Some of the most powerful worship services I've either participated in, or witnessed on dvd have had leaders who close their eyes and focus on God - ie. Paul Baloche, Jeff Deyo, and Jesus Culture. Rather than putting me off, their closed eyes encouraged me to direct my focus to God rather than who was on stage.
I do both for several reasons: First, there are many visual cues that are necessary to see- both from me to the band, and from the Pastors to me. (Then there's also reading music.) But that said, I will close my eyes on occasion during a particularly emotional moment, and I actually think that it persuades others to 'reach deeper' as well.
I don't think that it's necessary to come up with a hard and fast rule; different circumstances have different requirements.
I also don't really agree with the idea that when you close your eyes that you're shutting the audience out. I know that I don't perceive feeling 'shut out' when I'm sitting in the audience in front of a leader with closed eyes. It's obvious that they are worshipping along with everyone else.
At the risk of being a little controversial, I have to say that I I get a little crazy when I see people get so worked up about minutiae like this. Do what works for you in your situation, and allow others to do what works for them without criticism. Unless scripture says otherwise, who are we to impose what we do on others?
*Edit*: One more observation. When we close our eyes, it is for the purpose of enhancing our focus. There's nothing wrong with that as long as our hearts are focused on the right thing. Some churches and Pastors tend to get overly invested in unimportant details that matter little in the big scheme of things.
I will give you my view, while leading I usually lead both ways, as Chris said it's important to stay in tuned with the congregation, but I have a point that I have shared with other ministries when I have been asked to lead, and that is. The worship team is here for one purpose. To create an atmosphere that will help people to enter into the presence of God, and that everyone in this congregation is part of the worship team, no one person or group of musicians are more important then the other, and that the people on the platform are privileged to be called to assist in that process, I think this is the Heart of most worship ministries. So talk to and worship the Lord as your heart leads you. If the spirit falls strongly on that gathering then it doesn’t really matter if your eyes are open ore closed. The central focus should be on the leading of the Holy Spirit. The great thing about this question is now I will give it more thought and like any good musician I will probably change my mind a few more times, before I lock in my answer. All for Jesus Bro. Bill
with my spirit eyes wide open!!!!!!!!!
Sometimes it's easier to focus on the Lord with your eyes closed, and I try not to let people who are not entering into worship discourage me and influence the whole meeting through that, so I either close my eyes or choose to look at people who are obviously entering in and receiving and so that "feeds" the anointing to minister greater through me.
It's natural to do worship with your eyes closed, but I believe you need to make eye contact with people. You need to make that connection. Sometimes when our eyes are closed, it's like we are having our own personal worship experience and the congregation is left out. We are there to help lead them.