What is distracting from worship?

I could say a lot about all this, but for the sake of brevity, I will just toss out some random thoughts that came out of this Sunday.

Typically the answer to this question would be things like crying babies, cell phones, or microphone feedback. I would agree that these things could be distracting (although crying babies are so common place in my church that I rarely notice it anymore).

But, what other things can take our focus and attention away from our task in worship?

I suppose the first question should be “what is ‘our task’ in corporate worship?” Without getting into too much of this particularly complex question, I will simply say that our task in worship is to praise, glorify and adore the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to love, to fellowship with, to edify and to disciple each other. Distraction comes in the form of those things that take our focus away for a moment from this task. (A great resource for further study on the meaning and purpose of worship read John Frame‘s book, Worship in Spirit and Truth.)

I am learning that I get easily distracted from my wife at times. We will be working in the kitchen and she will ask me to cut up an onion. Then when I go get an onion and start to remove the skin, I might notice that the trash is too full. So then I will start to take out the trash. After changing the trash bag, I might notice that I want to listen to some music or I need a drink of water or something. Then I look over and see my wife cutting up the onion herself, and now she is a little grumpy, too. Distractions in worship can be much the same. They may start out as real practical things or may seem to be necessary at the time. Sometimes I will realize that the service is over, and I have missed the whole thing because I was distracted.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to process this week:
This past Sunday, we sang a song called, “I Give You Glory” that came from Times Square Church. This song has an exciting fast mambo feel when we perform it and (if you check out this link, you will see what I mean.) When we practiced this song on Sunday morning, all of us on the team felt like the song ended too soon. We were enjoying singing and playing so much that we felt like this song could go on for a bit longer. So, I felt like the most stylistically authentic way to add more to the song would be to have a guitar solo in the middle to break up the repetition enough to be able to sing the chorus again. The appropriate guitar solo sound to mimic in this style, I felt, was Carlos Santana. So that is what we did. This week, I have gotten probably ten or more comments from people in my church saying that they loved that part of the song and each one identified that it was a ‘Santana’ style solo.

Did my solo distract them from worship?
Was the congregation focused on this songs expression of Jesus’ saving work in their lives and their faithful response when all of a sudden they were jarred out of that focus by thinking either, “Wow, Kirk is such a cool guitar player!” or maybe “I remember listening to Santana when I smoked pot back in the sixties before I was a Christian.” ?

I don’t think it was. The congregation of my church is comfortable with guitar solos so I don’t think it took them out of their focus.

What do you think?

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  1. #1 by andyp on March 14, 2005 - 12:18 pm

    Go for the solo if your church is used to it, and with your talent they should be use to it. Sections of “The Screwtape Letters” always come to mind when I’m sitting in church and am distracted by how I judge others. We are so easily distracted. Sometimes I find it pretty funny when I start out doing one thing and then 5 minutes later I find myself no way near doing what I started.

  2. #2 by katiek on March 14, 2005 - 3:25 pm

    I know, my brotha, that you are being all to serious but you make me belly laugh! And I have quite a belly for that laughing. But I understand your point. I was talkin to Dad about this a little. He said he enjoys the emotion of worship as well as the art of worship. I thought that was very well put. You are in NCFSTL to teach that. God is glorified by your talent, and redeeming a life experience (ie Santana, pot, before salvation)with that gift should be even more of a worshipful experience for the one who remembers their life before Christ! There are churches that thrive off “jam session” worship and it’s totally up to you, the individual to enter in cuz there’s no text to get you there. Ya know. It’s been a challenge for me. Ultimately, what distracts is the “devil inside”. You have to reach that place and commune, no guitar solo should distract or have to take you there.

  3. #3 by Anonymous on March 22, 2005 - 3:24 am

    I thought the guitar solo worked very well and it definitely added to my worship. (I’m not old enough to have smoked pot in the 60s.) It couldn’t be done in every church, but it worked well that week and fits in well with our church’s style, I think. And didn’t you make some sort of worship-inspiring comment before the solo? Something about worship through dancing? I went home and told Clay (who missed it) that I danced like King David (ok not quite) at church that day. It helped that I really felt the Spirit’s presence during that worship set. Incidentally, Clay remembers that your Dad led music at some CTS conference in the past year and used that song–he loved it, and we’ve enjoyed singing it at NCF ever since.Renae J.

  4. #4 by Aunt Susie on May 19, 2005 - 7:50 pm

    Your Uncle Dick would have loved to have heard thet. Especially when he feels that our services ar eso void of music now.(2-3songs) mostly hymns or 70’s scripture songs. But Katie’s comment about your heart is true too. I think when music has always been a huge part of your life, spiritually and otherwise, we being sinful creatures, need them to draw us to God,rather these things be creeds or praise songs. What do you think?

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