I have a problem. The vast majority of Christian services and events that I go to have at least half an hour of worshipping God through song. But, for years – maybe always – I have struggled with being distracted in these times. It’s not every time the music plays in church, but it’s a large enough proportion that I’ve noticed it as a recurring trend.
And for a long time, up until very recently, I thought that there was a problem with my relationship with God. I thought that my distraction showed a lack of intimacy with God. Now I’m not so sure. The thing is, when I think about this logically, I have struggled with disengagement in sung worship regardless of what else is going on in my relationship with God. In both strength and weakness, I’ve been distracted. If there’s a correlation between where I am with God and how engaged I am in sung worship, then I would guess it’s pretty weak.
This all came to a head at the finale of an event I was at the other weekend. A well known worship leader was playing a big worship set. It was loud and flashy and I simply wasn’t worshiping God through it.
As I was standing there, mind wandering, I felt God ask me what I was doing. Well, I replied, I’m just not engaging with this. But why does that stop you worshiping? God asked.
Well isn’t that the question of the day? I realised I had no answer. I may not be worshiping through the music, but that shouldn’t stop me worshiping. So I stood in silence, eyes closed, and I engaged with God in one of the most immediate and clear times of prayer and listening that I’ve had in recent months. I didn’t sing a word, but I was worshiping him.
Let me zoom out for a moment. I am not saying that worshiping God through music and song isn’t good. It is. It’s Biblical, and both the Old and New Testaments seem to assume that it’s a part of the life of those that follow God. I’m not disputing any of this, nor am I saying that it doesn’t apply to me. I love a lot of worship music, and there are times when I am completely lost in the music and am fully engaged with God through those songs.
However, as important as musical worship is, worship is so much more. Worship of God in the Bible is everything from the observance of the Old Testament law, to sacrifices and rituals, to singing psalms and writing poetry, to acting justly, to being merciful to others, to sitting at Jesus’ feet, to listening to God, to exercising spiritual gifts, to reading the Scriptures, and so much more.
Worship is, simply, giving God the glory he’s due in everything that we do.
And not engaging with the songs in church is no reason not to worship.
So I’ve given myself a challenge: whenever I start to disengage with the songs to stay engaged with God. Even if that means closing my mouth and letting him speak, or sitting down and opening my Bible, or praying for someone.
Worship is too important to be derailed by my easily-distracted mind, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep trying the same thing over and over again if I’m constantly disengaged.
Maybe I’m the only one who feels like this, but if I’m not, then I challenge you with the same thing that I was challenged by. Micah 6 makes it clear to us that God’s not so much interested in the how of worship, but the why.
Sing songs to God. Dance. Pray. Read. Learn. Listen. Do it because God’s worth it, and don’t let anything distract you from that.