As a worship leader, I often engage in discussions about distraction in worship. It is not uncommon for someone to tell me something like the following: nothing that happens in corporate worship should be a distraction. I have even said something of the same variety. Distractions offend us and, even more, hinder us from truly worshiping. What do we mean when we refer to distractions though? Without belittling true distractions (which surely exist), in my observations, distractions come in subjective and manifold forms. Perhaps there are not distinct criteria for defining distractions; perhaps the issue goes deeper to the point where we refer to discomforts as distractions when the two are not one in the same.
In 2 Samuel 6, King David dances naked before the Lord and in the presence of other people to celebrate the arrival of the Ark; yet, he said, ". . . I will make myself yet contemptible than this. . . " (v. 22a) Although the people were discomforted, there was no shame or seeming discomfort for David, for he acted as the Lord God led him. Perhaps we should then consider distractions in a different manner and discomfort does not constitute a distraction. The issue might be within ourselves rather than the visible acts we observe from other worshipers. Maybe our discomfort infers that we are merely being stretched by Jehovah Mekadesh who sanctifies. Considering that, I would like to suggest four ways God might stretch us through discomfort in the context of worship.
Your Heart Is Being Stretched
When you are discomforted in worship, it could be that the Lord is stretching your heart to conform you to the image of Christ. So much of how we apply worship is rooted in the attitude of the heart. If we are to love the Lord with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27), God must change each of those aspects of our lives. Often, Christians tend to focus on one over the other, e.g. heart over mind or vice versa. The heart, in the Bible, refers to the seed of the emotions, i.e. it is not referring to the blood-pumping organ. For one's approach to worship to be right, the heart must be right first. Since we are not yet perfect worshipers, part of our sanctification process includes a continuous change of the heart. When we think we are distracted in worship, is it because of an irreverent act, a selfish act, or an improper attitude of someone else, or is it merely because we do not like an external aspect of the worship service, e.g. someone who feels led to dance or lift their hands, loud music, or a musical style we do not enjoy? If it is the latter, it is likely that we are not distracted but rather discomforted and God is stretching our heart.
Your Mind Is Being Stretched
You might also be discomforted because God is stretching your mind. The Apostle Paul proclaims, ". . . I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also . . . " (1 Cor 14:15 ESV) We should not make the mistake of assuming that spirituality and worship is more about the heart than the mind. We are to love God with the heart, soul, mind, and strength equally, not negating any aspect of the four parts of our person. A stretched mind plays out in worship often when one is discomforted by a sermon or something a leader verbalizes. Perhaps it seems too deep, or perhaps it makes one engage the mind more than they are comfortable with. Either way, we cannot assume that God expects to change our hearts and not our minds. Clearly, the Lord desires to transform us by the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2). Comparable to the stretching of the heart, if you disapprove of an act of worship (especially displayed by someone else) that is not theologically wrong or blasphemous in and of itself, it might be that God is stretching you, and you should embrace his sacred work in renewing your mind.