How Crucial is Focus (Concentration) In Worship?

indispensible: Worship Without Our Concentration is a Farse
58% (11 votes)
Extremely important and required as the rule
26% (5 votes)
11% (2 votes)
Somewhat important
0% (0 votes)
Not important
0% (0 votes)
Varies with the person
5% (1 vote)
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 19
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There are 10 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

I have long been a renegade on the subject of worship, though I am now less renegade and reformulating my views.

My contentions are that worship is more than music, and that most disagreements in this area are about music and not worship. In other words, it is often a preference (or passionate liking) thing that a theological matter.

But, putting that aside, I am suggesting the following:

1. Our churches are filled with attention-deficit people. For many, this attention deficit was "earned" by watching too much TV, videos, and video-games (and other high arousal activities).

2. Since more and more people cannot pay attention, the move from worshiping God is song, prayer, Scripture reading, the ordinances, and the preaching of the Word has been displaced by musical enjoyment.

3. Thus we fight over what type of music we enjoy and call this a "worship war" when, in reality, it is a music war.

4. In my view, focusing on God, His dealings, His Word, what we say to Him in prayer, the meaning of communion, or the songs we sing about Him or to Him constitutes worship, our attempt to honor Him.

VOLUMES and a zillion articles have and are constantly being written about worship. It is CRAZY, in my view.
The New Testament rarely talks of worship.

Have we lost the simplicity of directing our ATTENTION toward honoring God? Are we really fighting over replacements for worship (whether we advocate the new or old is not the point).

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture


Bro. Ed- just wanted you to know that I think you are on to something here, and I agree with your contentions.

Aaron Blumer's picture


I believe there is such a thing as objective worship. That is, there is a dimension to worship that does not require cognitive engagement. A not very good but still maybe useful analogy: a relative dies and you go the funeral. During the funeral, you may be miles away because you just found out your spouse has cancer. But you have honored your friend, acknowledged his value and encouraged his survivors by your presence.
Sometimes people think that because they are exhausted or going through something terrible they can't worship. Or, worse, they think worship is a mood and they just can't seem to achieve the mood.
I don't believe that the worship of "showing up and paying your respects" is enough, but it does have value... and worship as a mood? Don't have time to post my rant on that subject!

But Ed, I think you're absolutely right that people are increasingly mentally lazy and do not know how to force themselves to concentrate on anything that doesn't automatically carry their attention.

FredK's picture

Ed, I repeatedly think about the concentration problem. Easy to spot it in TV church services in faces. My mind can flit like a butterfly. One aid I see is having a pro-active worship leader exhorting worshipers to focus on Jesus, tell Him how much you love Him, focus on God's great Bible deeds!!! There are song leaders and there are Worship Leaders who can skillfully guide the people into the Lord's presence!

Also, would not more up quality.edifying, robust, Davidic Psalm 150 style praise music help hold attention? I am not referring to the shallow, unedifying, 7/11 stuff currently passing for praise.

BJWester's picture

2. Since more and more people cannot pay attention, the move from worshiping God is song, prayer, Scripture reading, the ordinances, and the preaching of the Word has been displaced by musical enjoyment.

Bingo. I've heard many, many times where the answer to:
- Why does your worship service have X (fill in blank with whatever)? And the answer is "Because I like it."
- Why doesn't your worship service include X (i.e. reading the Bible out loud)? And the answer is "Because we don't like it."

Not advocating that we have to worship by doing things we hate, but far more its about "me" and not about God.

FredK's picture

Lack of focus in a major issue. I see it in myself, even more so when I am tired.

Possible solutions?:
1. Worship leader that repeatedly teaches/reminds the people to focus on God
2. more rich, Davidic, "Psalms 150- like" praise which more fully engages our mind and emotions.

I am NOT agreeing with all the present day manifestations of praise. Praise can be loud but not all loud music is praise. I do believe that God gave us our deep feelings to be served up to Him not just for Saturday's ball game.

Aaron Blumer's picture


I have never felt deep feelings about any ball game. Smile
But I do see your point.
And I do see a tension. One school of thought says all emotion is effect. We engage in worship cognitively and emotions follow. Another school says we need to stir the emotions (some would say affections) in order to have the right thoughts.
Another variation focuses on human frailty: people stay engaged better when there is some "emotive" content.

I could buy the "need to stir" idea if I could figure out the difference between mere emotions and godly affections. But I don't really understand all the distinctions Jonathan Edwards et. al. made between desires, appetites, passions, affections and what we call emotions (a more recent category). In some cases, I can see distinctions among these. In others, they blur into a single fog.

So, in practice, I'm mostly in the "cognitive" school. I don't think anybody is completely there though. If they were, why would they choose one tune over another for a song? One seems to fit better. Why? Because the emotive content of the music better aligns with the themes in the song. Why should we care? Only if the emotive counts as well as the cognitive.

Maybe someday I'll be smart enough to sort it all out.

Pastor Rob V's picture

I have a man in my church who used to attend a large mega church. He told me yesterday that I should use video in my sermons because it will connect with younger people. He said, "Rob, if you taylor your message to just reach older folks then in 10 years the church will die." I told him that I use illustrations to reinforce biblical truth, but don't see how it is imperative to use video clips from movies,tv shows etc. As I think about the issues of music and video use it appears to me that we as pastors should try to teach our people to stretch their minds instead of giving in to them. If older people like older music and younger people like younger music they both need to be taught that our theology of music says a lot about how we view God. Did God stop leading people to write music after 1799? Did He just start writing in the early 70's when CCM got off the ground? Of course the answer to these is no. So why do we in our musical choices dismiss the other side? Can't we sing it all?
If my church member is right and the church will die unless we get video what does this say about our theology of the church and church growth? When Jesus said that the gates of Hell will not overcome His Church did He not think about the video issue? Or perhaps He did and knew video was the right way to go. HEHEHE.
Since most people including me watch too much television is it too much to ask them to take an hour or two break from video? As believers we can worship God without the aid of manmade devices, and can train ourselves to deep thinking about God and how our faith works itself out in every day life.

Don't be a great pastor, just be a pastor and let history judge for itself.

Aaron Blumer's picture


I agree, Rob.

...with maybe one small addition. "Can't we sing it all?" I think in reference to "old" vs. "new," the answer is yes. That axis is not a problem. But when it comes to style, there are are complications because of cultural meaning. The situation with musical style is, I think, analogous to the question of using video... do we accommodate or try to teach folks better taste?
I understand the pressure, though, because if your people are sleeping from "lack of stimulation," you really feel a desire to do something flashy.