Toward Effective Worship – Part 1

Distractions can be SO annoying. They can cost an athlete a gold medal, a driver her concentration, a teacher his students’ attention, an executive a sought-after advantage, a mom her sanity, a concert-goer his enjoyment.

I remember sitting in a high school auditorium, intent on enjoying the music on stage (our son was playing in Symphonic Winds) while a guy and his girlfriend directly behind me did their best to ruin the evening by talking before and after everything. And during!

I wasn’t there to hear them recount play by play all that happened since they saw each other (two hours ago!), I was there to hear the Symphonic Winds! Their non-stop conversation made it almost impossible for anyone within earshot to really enjoy the evening. What a distraction!

Distractions can divert or derail public worship just as easily, and in the next few posts I’m going to suggest that we can eliminate many distractions with forethought, and quiet, intentional determination, beginning with those who prompt the congregation to worship, and spreading to the entire congregation.

I’ll propose a simple definition for distractions as they relate to public worship, then explore several ways to reduce their number.

In preparation here are a pair of questions to consider:

  1. Do the people assisting with the liturgy -literally “the work of the people”– know the purpose of each segment of the service?
  2. Do those prompting from in front and those in technical control booths know what things contribute to appropriate focus? Do they also know what things detract and distract?

It’s important they do or we’ve just invited that couple behind me to join us in the chancel!

Part 2—



2 Replies to “Toward Effective Worship – Part 1”

  1. Jonell

    I don’t remember if I was at this concert with you or not (my nephew plays in that orchestra) but I know what you mean about distractions. I remember your wife saying she was raised by parents who didn’t let her talk before a church service started because that was the time to prepare her heart for worship. Not many parents do that today.

    Sometimes when I’m playing the prelude on a Sunday morning, I wish I would hear more quiet contemplation or humming along with my playing, but I can’t control what others do, I just have control of my own thoughts.

    I wonder if the person in the pew comes for just the message; not realizing that everything we do is “worship” down to the prelude, the offering, the slides, yes EVERYTHING is part of worship!!

    I’ve got to tell you about my playing offertory at a new church. We’d attended this church since the May before, and I’d been playing the keyboard for service since October. On Easter Sunday, mid April, I was at the beginning of a piano arrangement that I had worked on for weeks in order to play on Easter Sunday. I heard a machine humming in the hallway. Soon the back door of the sanctuary opened and it got louder. I thought it sounded like a vacuum, but it couldn’t be … nobody would vacuum during the church service on Easter Sunday … or so I thought. I had to control my own thoughts that morning. Once I realized there was nothing I could do about it anyway, I had to concentrate on my music and leave it up to God to minister to the hearts of the people. After the song service I sat down by my husband for the message and whispered, “What was that sound?” To which he replied, “Later!” And so it was after church on the way home that I learned that it was definitely a board member vacuuming because we had tracked in mud from the parking lot that morning. His wife keeps a spotless house, and I’m sure at that time it was important to him. At first I was a bit mad, but then after a while, the whole idea of what had just happened that morning, made me start to laugh. So, did God work in spite of the vacuum? If I let Him! On that particular Sunday morning, I just let it go, but if it ever happens again, I might just say something since I am on the Worship Committee! 🙂

    Back to your questions, it’s gonna take a lot of talking and a lot of training for our little country church to understand that everyone and everything affects worship. I’m gonna be thinking of ways to get this point across in the future! And I’m gonna start with me!

  2. Phil

    😀 Bring an offering – but not THAT one! Leave the mud outside!

    Great thoughts, Jonell – one of the first things that came to mind is that perhaps he was giving the Lord the best, in keeping the carpet clean in serving the Lord. “Next time let’s use the carpet sweeper and vacuum later, shall we?”

    Then again he may have just known that if he didn’t run the vac, he’d hear about it at Sunday dinner. And we all know that at home we men are really more interested in peace and quiet than in anything else. 😉

    It’s great you made yourself focus, giving your best in that situation. And it’s commendable that you let it go; those things can eat a person up from the inside out. It’s a good thing we can laugh, hmm?

    (BTW – the concert I was remembering was when Jared was a Sr. in High School. I learned later the distractor behind me was a good high school musician, just thought he was more important than he really was so felt free to be inconsiderate. But that’s another story)

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