In that post, we discussed some things that detract and distract our attention from worshiping God in the assembly. The post elicited this question from the reader: “What are some of the strategies for overcoming these distractions while we are worshiping God?”
The premise of both posts is that worship demands our involvement. Worship that pleases God is not only based on Truth, but must engage the heart, mind and spirit of the worshiper (Jn 4:23-34). Warren Wiersbe was right when he wrote, “Worship is the believer’s response with all that he is–mind, emotions, will and body–to all that God is and says and does.”
However, distractions do occur during worship services. Some are external from those around us. A baby cries. A cell phone rings. A book is dropped. Someone sneezes. Children are playing with games. People parade in and out of the auditorium going to the bathroom, nursery, or to get a drink of water. There are countless disturbances that are beyond our control. The key is not to become diverted by the distractions but to stay focused on God. We are present to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:2).
Unfortunately, those leading us in worship may inadvertently say or do something that is distracting. The song leader pitches the song incorrectly. The one leading prayer uses poor grammar. The person presiding at the Lord’s supper makes some comments that seem ill-suited to the occasion. The preacher’s powerpoint presentation is not very professional. Or he becomes sidetracked and rambles on and on and on.
While those presiding in the service should be prepared to give their best, we must remember that our purpose is not to critique the worship service and those leading it but to worship God. Be charitable. People make mistakes. Worship takes effort. Requires focus. Demands mental discipline. And most of all calls for dedication to the object of our worship–God Almighty.
Here are a few simple suggestions to aid in managing distractions when we come to worship.
(1) Be prepared. Mental, physical and emotional preparation prior to arriving at the building may be helpful. Avoid being rushed. Don’t watch TV. Minimize or eliminate looking at social media. Listen to CD’s of hymns while you are getting ready and while driving. Be happy. Imbibe the spirit of the Psalmist who said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Ps 122:1).
(2) Come to participate. Don’t come to get but to give. Don’t wait for your spirit to be moved by others, but move your spirit to offer God praise, glory and honor. As Warren Hamby expressed it, “Worship isolated from involvement is a bland and meaningless exercise.” The more fervent and focused your involvement in worship the less distractions will affect you.
(3) Position yourself in the assembly to avoid distractions. Some people are more easily distracted than others. Maybe sitting in a different pew or section of the auditorium will help. Possibly moving closer to the front. Or sitting in the middle. Know yourself. And find a spot where you can comfortably focus on worshiping God.
(4) Sing and make melody in your heart (Eph. 5:19). Think about the words. What you are saying? To God? To others? To yourself? Familiar songs sang from memory can sometimes lose their meaning. Refocus. And remember you are praising God. And offering edification to fellow worshipers.
(5) Pray along with the leader. Bow your head. Close your eyes. Make his prayer your own. Listen closely enough and think seriously enough that you can say “Amen” to the prayer.
(6) Be reflective during the communion service. Think about Jesus. His life. His death. His resurrection. You may want to read scripture while the elements are being passed. Alternate from week to week between the four gospel accounts. It will help you stay focused on the meaning of the service.
(7) Be active during the sermon. Open your Bible. Read along with the preacher. Take notes. Apply the lesson to yourself. When appropriate, don’t be afraid to say, “Amen.”
You and I need worship. “I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a big God beside me and live in fear,” confessed John Ortberg. “I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation. I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinders on. I need worship because my natural tendency is toward self-reliance and stubborn independence.”
Finally, distractions can be minimized when we worship in view of eternity. We would do well to consider the warning of A. W. Tozer, “I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
What other strategies would you suggest for overcoming distractions in worship services?