Question 4 (What about distractions?)

A look into what distracts us, what the Bible says, and how we should respond

We all know we get distracted quite often. Be it from our own thoughts, bad-sounding music, tiredness, or a loud phone, there are multiple things that distract us on a Sunday morning.

As I’ve said before, part of my position is to eliminate distractions during songs and thus help people towards worship. One of those distractions can, sadly, be music. There are two extremes to distracting music; on one hand, bad music distracts people (particularly those who make music a hobby) by turning the attention toward the band and not towards God. People start to think “They don’t sound good today,” “that chord was off,” or “I could play better than that” instead of dwelling on the lyrics and proclaiming God’s truths. A perhaps sneakier form of distraction is putting on a show. A worship song with flashy solos or excessive instrumentals will, again, make people think about the band instead of giving the glory to God. We worship team members try to combat these distractions with practice and attentiveness, but we aren’t perfect.

Our own thoughts are probably the biggest distraction to worship. The busyness of life, the challenges we face every week, and random ideas just tend to pop up even when we don’t want them to.

Other people can also inadvertently distract us. Someone forgot to silence their phone, or a child is crying as their parents try to console them and listen to the sermon at the same time. Perhaps someone outwardly expresses worship much more than others, and it’s uncomfortable for the rest of the congregation.We aren’t perfect, and we can draw attention away from the worship and onto ourselves even if we don’t want to.

So what do we do about these distractions? How are they overcome?

Unsurprisingly, the answer‘s in the Bible. Let’s start with Philippians 2:3-4:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”     

Humility is a key to this problem. With humility, we can let go of the I have a right to get a perfect Sunday mentality, and distractions lose some of their power. We don’t seethe over them for the rest of the service (and thus miss out on much more than we could’ve otherwise). Our humility lets us give grace to the keyboard player who just missed a chord or the person who forgot to silence their phone.

With this humility, we also become less of a distraction. If we know some behavior is causing others to lose attention, we’ll be more willing to correct it. We love those in our church and want to help them in their walk with God, not distract them. Likewise, we love those who inadvertently distract us and try to look past it; if it needs to be addressed, we can address it with love and understanding.

If anyone is allowed to complain of other’s behavior, it would be Jesus; yet, Jesus is our example of humility. In Philippians 2: 5-8, it says,

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!”

That’s a large paragraph of Scripture, but every bit of it is relevant. The mindset of Jesus is to serve the people around us in humility. I think that includes how we respond to distractions. Perhaps serving those who distract is more important than focusing on what they need to do better so we can get the ‘experience’ we desire. The people who distract us are not an obstacle to be removed; they’re part of the body of Christ, who we are called to love and serve. In that mindset, distractions become an opportunity for us to love each other.

As I was writing this, I noticed that there are very few Bible verses about the first half of this blog (where we talked about what distracts us), and quite a lot of verses about humility and love towards others. I feel that we (myself included) often think solely about the first half and not on the second. When we do that, we might just be missing out on what God has called us to do.

Perhaps this talk of distractions has got you wondering why we worship together in the first place. Wouldn’t it be more practical to worship separately, where music styles and kids and others’ phones won’t get in the way?

We’ll talk more about that next week.

Until then,