A number of years ago, a myth entered the world of worship. The myth, like most, was built on a half-truth. And this half-truth deceived worship teams for years. In fact, many still believe it.
The half truth is this: distraction elimination is our purpose.
In workshops and seminars, I've asked numbers of worship leaders and teams what their role is in leading worship. And they so often answer with this myth: we are there to eliminate distractions.
Yeah. And I, too, towed this barge of bull around for a lot of years.
But if you take that to it's logical conclusion, we should all play behind a curtain, or just plug in an iPod to accompany worship. There are no distractions, because you eliminated the chief cause: people.
Doesn't our service in worship ministry go deeper than that?
Like all good myths, there are elements of truth weaved in. We should eliminate as many distractions as possible. But to make distraction-avoidance our chief pursuit as we serve minister to God and His worshipers?
There's got to be more than that.
I think there is. There's a flip side. What's the flip side of Eliminating Distractions?
It's found in Philippians 4:6:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
The Message puts it this way:
You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
I believe all truth is God's truth, whether uttered by priest, pagan, or politician. And anything that has beauty or excellence is a shadow of God's beauty. Sometimes distant and faint and marred by fallen humanity. But it still casts from Him - the One who creates, defines, and embodies perfect beauty.
And for those whose eyes are being opened, beauty and excellence point back to Him.
There were times that I questioned spending hours making a 20 - 30 minute set of a worship be excellent. Maybe instead of creating, planning, practicing, rehearsing, tweaking, etc., I should be out knocking on my neighbors' doors and handing out gospel tracts. Something that would really make people come to Jesus. ("Hi, Mrs. Smith. If you were to die tonight...?")
Over the last few years, I'm coming to realize that beauty and excellence draws people's eyes and hearts to God. Why else would Paul have told us "to think about such things..."?
(And I don't believe it's just a cognitive exercise in sin management: "Think about a beautiful tree by a flowing brook instead of that scantily-clad woman you just saw on that beer commercial." Although, that could help...)
Think about our worship gatherings as a pathway to connect with God. The truth of our songs and message is a must to create the path. And certainly, during that gathering, we can do things to distract people from that path with lousy transitions, wrong notes, poorly-planned verbal segues and prayers. Sometimes our distractions are outright roadblocks.
But even if we eliminate every conceivable distraction, the truth of our songs and messages are still only offering people a sliver of a path to walk on. What if we, in addition to eliminating distractions, enhanced our gatherings with beauty. What if infuse the rest of Paul's list into the elements of our worship gathering? Things that are...
The path will not only widen, but people just might experience a deeper hunger that propels them forward.
So yes, we need to eliminate distractions from our worship. But we need to enhance it with beauty.