Managing Distractions During Worship

What are some of the strategies for overcoming distractions while we are worshiping God? 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 (John 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” (Psalm 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, and demands mental discipline. Most of all, worship 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. Stream hymns while you are getting ready and driving to the assembly place. 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’” (Psalm 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 place where you can comfortably focus on worshiping God.
  4. Sing and make melody in your heart (Ephesians 5:19). Think about the words. What you are saying to God, others, and to yourself? Familiar songs sang from memory can sometimes lose their meaning. Refocus and remember you are praising God and offering edification to 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. Read scripture while the elements are being passed. Alternate weeks between the four gospels. It will help you focus 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. A. W. Tozer warned, “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.”

Adapted from Ken Weliever