Distractions at Church

There are often so many distractions at church. Some are internal- wondering what’s for dinner, mulling over some strange remark heard in the week, hearing an interesting point made in the sermon, to consider it for several seconds, and then lose the preacher’s train. Others are external- the noisy unwrapping of a sweet, a wasp or butterfly hovering against a window, a passing tractor. Last month as I preached, I could see the congregation smiling. This was not in response to some witticism I’d stealthily woven into my discourse, nor was it admiration for the eloquence of my delivery. No, the cows in the field opposite were mooing loudly, and with them I could barely compete.

The Victorian authorities at Lincoln Gaol had the perfect solution to their prisoners’ wandering eyes and minds during Sunday service in the prison chapel. They designed pews which were so high and steep that no matter which seat taken, only the pulpit could be seen. Thick doors and panels separated one seat from another. Furthermore, the seat upon which the inmate’s posterior rested was so steeply inclined that one could not doze off as the preacher droned on. They make our chapel pews seem the pinnacle of luxury by comparison. 


Other than constructing these prison-style pews, I offer little remedy for wandering minds. I cannot silence the cattle nor the wrappers of a half dozen cough sweets. I cannot ease fears concerning the coming week, nor dampen those thoughts of dinner. Yet if we come to church expecting to hear our sweet Lord’s voice rather than a preacher’s rasp, we might be able to concentrate that little better.

Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

1 Kings 19 11-12