What Do You Focus on When You Should Be Focusing on God?
This is a post I’m hesitant to share. Yet I’ve always been forthright when I talk about my spiritual journey. So there’s no point in holding back now. The disconcerting truth is I often struggle with church distractions during the service. I wrestle to keep my focus solely on God.
Though not often, sometimes my thoughts go elsewhere. I may fixate on something that occurred before church or be preoccupied with what will happen afterward. Though my body is present, my mind isn’t always there.
Yet these types of church distractions don’t happen to me too much—anymore. My pre-church prayer usually removes these mental interruptions.
My struggle with church distractions usually relates to what happens at church during my time there. This can occur throughout the entire service.
Church Distractions during the Music
Here’s a list of some things that threatened to take my attention away from God in the first part of the church service:
Edit song lyrics: As a writer, I fixate on words. Whenever I see something written—and even sometimes when I hear words—I’m mentally edit them. This happens often with song lyrics at church.
Irritated by false rhymes: Though I don’t often write rhyming poetry, I appreciate a smart rhyme. But whenever I encounter a false rhyme in a song—or a contrived twist to force a rhyme—I’m taken out of the text.
Add punctuation: Another occupational hazard of being a writer is that I edit too. This means I often mentally insert commas, periods, and ellipses into the song lyrics displayed overhead. This would make them easier to sing, especially for songs with odd timing.
Consider biblical support: The purpose of the songs we sing at church (at least I think so) is to draw our attention to God.
It’s not altogether bad if our focus shifts to the Bible, but too often a lyric captivates my attention as I mentally seek biblical support for it. I can easily miss the rest of the song when I go down this path.
Critique the audio: Early in my life I was an audio engineer at a TV station. I ran the sound board and mixed the audio feeds for broadcast. I sometimes slip back into this mindset with the sound and sound system at church.
Consider cameras: In my work in TV, I sat next to the director. This allowed me to hear his instructions to the camera operators and technical crew, as well as to watch him switch between video feeds.
Because of this, I sometimes slip back into focusing on the technical aspects of producing the service.
Watch the worship team: Another early job of mine was working as an electronics technician at a music store. Though not musically inclined, everyone I worked with was. Their job at the music store was merely to pay the bills so they could pursue their passion to play music.
They mesmerized me with accounts of their concerts and performances. As such, I watch musicians from a perspective different than most people.
Church Distractions during the Message
My list of distractions is shorter for the second part of the service, but it exists nonetheless.
Technical aspects: During the sermon I’m less likely for the audio, video, and camera work to divert my attention, but it still happens.
Biblical support: I’m more likely, however, to be sidetracked in considering the scriptural support for the minister’s words. Though this is a laudable effort (Acts 17:11), I may sometimes go too far.
Delivery: I consume many hours listening to podcasts each week, normally at twice the normal speed, at 2x. This requires me to focus if I am to catch every word.
The downside is when I hear a minister speak live, the slower, real-time delivery (effectively at 1x) provides much opportunity for my mind to go elsewhere. Taking notes helps keep my focus on the message.
Writing and research ideas: During the sermon—as well as the rest of the service—ideas pop into my mind.
Often these turn into blog posts. Occasionally it’s a book title or concept. Sometimes it’s a topic to research in the Bible or contemplate more fully under Holy Spirit direction.
I jot these items in my notebook so I can shove them out of my mind at the time and return to what’s happening in front of me.
How to Stay Focused at Church
My lengthy list of church distractions may have some elements that resonate with you. Or perhaps you’ve come up with your own list. Everyone struggles in this area, although some much more than others.
The issue in all this, however, is to combat it. Though we may make some progress on our own volition, as an effort of self-control, the real solution comes from God.
When I remember to seek him in prayer—both before the service and when distraction threatens—this is the best way to remove the disruption and return my focus to where it belongs: on God and my relationship with him.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.