Distractions From Worship in Church
A camp meeting
Every Labor Day Sunday our church has a special service called Camp No-Go. The fellowship hall is decorated like a camp - tent, trees, a deer head peeking out of the bushes, and other camp type props. We all dress in shorts and other camp type attire. The reason we do this is because many of the families in our church go to family camp on that weekend, so those of us who don't go decided a few years back that we would have our own camp at church, thus Camp No-Go was born.
The songs are old time gospel choruses and there is a lot of hand clapping and foot stomping. It is a joyful time in the Lord and in fellowship. We usually have a good old gospel message from a brother in our church. Afterward, we have smores and hot dogs and more fellowship. I look forward to this service every year. It's different, fresh, and very simple.
Worship of the hot dogs and coffee?
This year I donned my shorts and arrived at Camp No-Go a little early to help in any way and enjoy some pre-camp fellowship. I couldn't wait for the camp meeting to start. When I walked in a dear brother came up to me very upset because he had just had a disagreement with the sister in the kitchen who was making the coffee. She made the coffee way too weak, which was very annoying to him, and they had had a "discussion" about it. He told her the way it was always done, and she said, "No wonder we're always running out of coffee so often. We are struggling in our budget, you know." He was just livid.
While I was still listening to his disgruntled story of woe about weak coffee, a dear sister called me over. "Psst, Lori, come here a second." Her voice was whispered and secretive.
"Hi (let's call her Susan) Susan, what's up?"
"Do you know if they're boiling the hot dogs?"
"Uh, I have no idea Susan, why?"
"I can't eat boiled hot dogs, they taste just like bologna. I told them I wanted barbecued hot dogs. But I think they're going to boil them. I am not okay with that."
"Well, I can understand that Susan, but you don't have to eat one if they're boiled."
"Well I want a hot dog. But it's not right to boil them. I want them barbecued. They better not be boiling them. They wouldn't listen to me about barbecuing and why I can't have them boiled."
Something in me just snapped. I came to worship the Lord with joy and gladness, and enjoy the fun morning of fellowship, regardless of the menu. The coffee guy and the hot dog gal were standing within and few feet of each other and I blurted out, "We came here to worship the Lord, not the hot dogs and coffee. Let's focus on what's really important."
Susan was a bit embarrassed, but it lasted only a nano second. She was very indignant.
"Now wait a minute. I came to worship too, but I want a good hot dog too."
I bit my tongue and found a seat up front so I could enjoy the service without looking at scowling parishioners. Now I was in a bad mood. Satan was alive and present. But I prayed, asking the Lord to forgive me and surrendered my attitude to Him. I would not, and did not, let their pettiness ruin my time of worship. And it ended up really great. The singing was awesome, as was the message, and we also had a time of testimony. I sang louder than the rest because I wanted God to know I was there to worship and glorify Him, not the eats afterward. God showed up anyway, to which I am thankful.
As soon as the camp meeting was over, everyone rushed the table and piled their plates with hot dogs and the trimmings. I found my seat at a table and dug in. I happened to notice a few minutes later that Susan had a hot dog on her plate and a smile on her face. She passed by and whispered, "It all worked out Lori. They didn't boil the hot dogs, they put them in the oven." Well, praise the Lord and pass the mustard.
My friend who was disgruntled about the coffee left early in a bad mood. It was his loss. It made me very sad. And actually, this was extremely uncharacteristic of him.
Does your congregation get distracted to petty things?
Thanksgiving and the sacrifice of praise
All this to remind us of why we come to church - to worship and glorify the Lord. Psalm 100:4 tells us "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."
I will admit I have had days where I was very sad, irritable, hopeless, and cranky upon arrival at church. On a few of those occasions I did not sing, or if I did, it was by rote, duty, and without joy in the Lord. I also remember for several months being unable to focus on worship because I was so peeved that people were coming into the sanctuary with coffee and tea. I often mumbled to myself, and to God," This church is about worshiping You, not having coffee hour at Starbucks." I let my anger and annoyance rob me and God of my worship time. I wasn't alone in this, there were several others who were miffed as well. But you know what? The Lord spoke to me that these people with the coffee were worshiping with their whole hearts and I wasn't worshiping at all. I decided it wasn't a hill to die on. I had expressed my concerns to the pastor and others, and they kept saying "Church is about Jesus, not what people are drinking and wearing, etc." And He was right. I still don't like or agree with it, but it is no longer my focus.
When we come to church we need to enter into worship with a thankful heart, full of praise to Jesus, who reigns forever. When I don't "feel" like it, I now recognize I have an attitude problem and I confess it, and offer up the sacrifice of praise. I might say to the Lord while singing, "Lord, I don't feel joyful. I am grumpy or sad, but that doesn't mean that you are not worthy of my praise. So I offer to you my thanks for never changing, being grumpy, or slaying me every time I sin. I thank you for dying in my place, so that I might be right before God and given eternal life." Worshiping the Lord in church is not about what I "like" or "prefer." It's about giving glory to Jesus, period.