My Worship — Distracted or Focused?

March 9, 2018 // 2018 // Issue 1+Convention Herald

By Curtis Going

With the increased use of cell phones and hand-held devices over the past two decades, distracted driving has been a major topic of discussion among those responsible for transportation safety across the nation. The United States government reports that in 2016, 3,450 people were killed because of distracted driving. Every year, an estimated 421,000 Americans are in accidents involving a distracted driver.

The US Department of Transportation defines distracted driving this way: “Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off your primary task, which is driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.”

Vigilance against the dangers of distracted driving is essential, but of even greater importance is guarding against the dangers of distracted worship. Distraction in worship occurs anytime the eyes of your heart are no longer focused on the holiness and worthiness of God who is the only object of true worship; your voice and whole being are not intentionally participating in the acts of worship taking place around you; your mind is set on mundane responsibilities and concerns rather than your primary task in God’s house: worshipping the Lord in spirit and in truth. Any non-worship activity you engage in during a public worship service is a potential distraction and increases your risk of missing out on God’s intended purpose to use your worship to bring glory to Himself.

Distracted worship is not whole-hearted worship. An unprepared heart and a distracted mind are not conducive to whole-hearted worship. True worship requires the intentional engagement of all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The US Department of Transportation gives several examples of activities which lead to distracted driving.

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Personal grooming
  • Reading
  • Using a navigation system
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

The list of activities that lead to distracted worship may be similar.

  • Texting during public worship
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone to browse the Internet
  • Talking to the person sitting on the pew next to you causes distracted worship for you AND those who sit behind you
  • Reading material that is not directly related to what the Sunday school teacher is teaching or the preacher is preaching
  • Song leaders selecting congregational songs no more than five minutes before the worship service begins and “special singers” waiting until the worship service has already begun to select songs to sing
  • Staying up late on Saturday night for no good reason, and then falling asleep in the service on Sunday morning (Sympathy is in order for those who struggle with physical ailments that make staying awake difficult, but a Christian demonstrates that he honors the Lord’s Day by going to bed at a reasonable time on Saturday night, so that he is well-rested and better prepared to offer whole-hearted worship on Sunday.)

Sometimes just showing up to a church service in spite of weariness or physical illness is a genuine offering of praise to God, but it should be rare that a Christian does not eagerly anticipate opportunities for public worship with the family of God. It is astounding how easily some believers dismiss themselves from faithful attendance to church services. A few drops of rain have the potential to keep entire families from risking a drive across town to their local church on a cloudy Sunday morning. No serious-minded believer should excuse their frequent absence from public worship in the local church due to trivial inconveniences.

The writer of Hebrews admonishes the believer not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching”, and yet the current prevailing trend seems to be less public worship rather than more. It may rightly be argued that church-goers today lead busier lives than did their counterparts of a previous generation, but most people generally go where they want to go and do what they want to do. Patterns of church attendance largely reveal where a person’s priorities lie.

Our great King deserves the best of worship that His people have to offer, and certainly there is far more involved in worship than what happens in a public worship service, but all too often the offering of praise that God receives from His children when they gather corporately is unfocused, preoccupied, and easily sidetracked by the cares of life.

Distracted driving will likely result in a crash on the side of the road, and distracted hearts and minds in worship that are not captured and redirected toward God will ultimately lead to spiritual disaster.

Nothing about the sacrifice that Jesus made when He took on human flesh and became the divine God-Man was half-hearted. Nothing about the sacrifice that Jesus made at Calvary was half-hearted. The Son of God gave everything so that His creation could enjoy the reality of sins forgiven and hearts made pure. How could His people do anything less than offer Him whole-hearted, undistracted worship? The Psalmist declared, —“I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.” (Psalm 9:1)