Distractions in Church

My recent musings about children in church sparked a lot of discussion. One thing that came up frequently was how much of a distraction children can be to others in worship, even when they’re well-behaved. That got me thinking–at what point do we have to take ownership for the things that we allow ourselves to be distracted by, instead of placing the blame on the person (or thing) that is distracting us?

Everyone has different things that cause their attention to wander, be it in church or somewhere else. For example, unless a total meltdown is in progress, I very rarely notice any child-noise in church, unless the noise is coming from my own children, of whose noises I am hyper-aware. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother, and I just tend to block it out; maybe it’s just not something that tends to cross my radar, I don’t know.

On the other hand, there are things that *do* distract me, to the point that I will suddenly realize I missed a big part of the service because I had been focusing on the distraction. But whose responsibility is that? The person who had been distracting me? Or myself, for allowing my mind to focus on something other than the Word on Sunday morning?

My guess is that the real problem there is me. Again, I’m not talking about something that is almost impossible to ignore, like the complete meltdown of a child, or someone collapsing in the service. I’m talking about rather innocuous things–things that might bother me, that you’d never even notice, or things that make you crazy, while I’m left wondering what the problem is. It’s the minutiae in life that tends to get us, after all.

There are so many things in worship that can distract us if we allow it. The innocent noises that come from babies and toddlers. The way someone is dressed. Adults whispering a few pews away. The scent of perfume or cologne (or even the flowers in church that Sunday). The sound of coughing or sniffling. Even our own thoughts and plans. Any of these little things can encourage us to move our focus from where it should be, to something, anything else. Who among us hasn’t drifted away, only to realize that half of the sermon has gone by, without our hearing a word? And worse yet, *the* Word? I know I have. Mea culpa.

Yes, as fellow members of a congregation, we need to be sympathetic to those things we do in worship that may cause our brothers and sisters to become distracted and take their focus of Christ. I would never suggest that we concern ourselves only with our worship, and what works for us–we should be concerned with the whole body of Christ. But we also need to be responsible for our own minds, and the direction our thoughts take when we allow ourselves to look away from Christ, and focus on anything else when we are in His presence. And in everything, whether as distractor or the distracted, we should all keep in mind the words of Galatians 6:2–“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.”

3 thoughts on “Distractions in Church

  1. Uncle Ken says:

    I’m guilty of this, too. For me, the distractions are always related to technology, which is why I like my church to have as little of it as possible. 20 years of running church audio has made me hyper-aware of things like how the positioning of a pastor’s lapel mic changes week to week, and listening for the hot spots in a room. I can’t turn it off, and I can’t block it out. What I can do, though, is be aware of it, and work to minimize it.

    I do disagree with your conclusion, though. I don’t think the problem lies with YOU, Amanda. I think it’s SIN — the devil knows our weaknesses and exploits them to make church less fulfilling. This is no small thing, but if we are aware of the enemy’s tactics, we can defend against them. When you feel your attention wandering, that’s not boredom, that’s the devil actively trying to dilute your worship. So worship harder.

    Renew your focus and fight against his petty distractions.

  2. Jerrell Sandling says:

    Once again, I agree with your comments. I, as an Elder of the Church I attend, have a discussion on this subject some months ago at an Elders meeting. My comment was that my focus and attention should be on the Word being taught and Preached. I too an a sinful person and, at times, discractions do get noticed. I also try to pay attention to those that I could assist or make mental note of those in attendance. Yes, I heard the baby cry or the person sneeze but my responsibility is to QUICKLY return my attention to the Pastor and his words of instruction.

    I aslo think Uncle Ken is very correct in the the Devil will use any means to draw out attention away from the Service or our Lord. The Devil knows us and if it is the sound system or conversation or even our own watch, it will be used, if allowed.

    I pray to you, me and all people (of all ages) would heard His Word, read, mark and inwardly digest it in both verbal and written form.

  3. Ken, I totally agree, and I think we’re saying the same thing in two different ways–when I said the problem was me, I was referring to the sin nature we have–Old Adam and all. I think the devil loves to use distractions on Sunday mornings to his benefit–my mom had a pastor who said the devil loved to sit right down in the pew next to you on Sunday morning. Anytime we let sin get in the way of whatever we’re supposed to be doing, we’re just indulging that Old Adam in us–but at least we know we can drown him daily and start over!

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