Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: My Discernment Is Distracting Me from Worship


Since discovering and learning more in depth about the vast amount of false teaching in the church, I now find myself questioning everything to the point that it has affected my ability to worship. We attend a very small, relatively biblically solid church, but when we sing, for example, a Hillsong song, I’m so focused on the atrocities of Hillsong that I am unable to enjoy the time of worship. How are you, with all your knowledge of current day church apostasy, able to overcome that knowledge and just enjoy all aspects of a church service? We are a body of mature believers, but even our little church isn’t perfect.

This is a dilemma a lot of us face at some point, so thanks for asking. I think the linchpin of your question – and my answer – is your last statement. Your church isn’t perfect. My church isn’t perfect. No church is perfect. It’s unreasonable to expect any church to be perfect, just like it would be unreasonable to expect your spouse or child to be perfect.

I’ve had to muddle through this question myself on more than one occasion at more than one church, and to be perfectly honest, many times I’ve done so with all the grace of an inebriated elephant on roller skates and the forbearance of an annoyed cat (or maybe just “a cat”). I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m what they used to call a “Type A” personality. Very task oriented. Workaholic-prone. High strung. When I see a problem, it’s, “Here’s the solution. Let’s implement it, like, yesterday. Get on board or get left behind. What’s next?”

Guess what I’ve learned? Most people aren’t like that. Or at least most church people aren’t. Or they aren’t like that about the same things I’m like that about. And you know what? That’s actually been good for me. God has used those situations as a tool in my sanctification, to make me more understanding, patient, and compassionate with others, just as I want them to be with me. Of course, He’s still got a long way to go with me!

So, having “been there, done that” here are a few suggestions and things to keep in mind:

✢ There’s such a thing as “cage stage” discernment. It’s when your eyes have recently been opened to false teaching/teachers, you’re drinking from the discernment fire hose, and you don’t understand why everybody isn’t as freaked out and on board as you are. Are you theologically right? Probably. Are you going to win friends and influence people with immersion therapy? Nope. There’s really nothing you can do about this phase of your life except to realize it exists and make a concerted effort to rein yourself in until you’ve mellowed a bit.

✢ Pray. I am convinced that one of the reasons God puts discerning people into churches that need a little (or a lot) sharpening in the area of discernment is for those discerning people to be warring on their knees every day for their churches, their pastors, their teachers. God can do more to straighten out the problems at your church than any human action can, because only God is able to change people’s hearts. You start praying fervently, and I guarantee you, over time, you’ll see God working in your church.

✢ Immerse yourself in the Word. If you know your Bible forwards and backwards, you’re not going to question every word your pastor says, or every page of that book your reading, or every lyric of every song because God’s Word will be “hidden in your heart,” and you’ll know whether what you’re hearing is biblical or not. 

✢ If you’re married, discuss the issue(s) with your husband and make sure you’re submitting to his leadership. Likewise, if you’re a minor child living under your parents’ authority.

✢ Understand the nature of the average church member/pastor/staff at the average, reasonably doctrinally sound church. They’re just like you were before you found out about discernment. They’re not trying to introduce heretical materials into your church. They don’t want to follow false teachers. They simply don’t know any better. It has never occurred to them that something that labels itself “Christian” might not be biblical Christianity, because they’ve never been taught this. Should every Christian know these things and have at least a modicum of discernment? Yes. But we have to deal with things the way they are, not the way they should be.

✢ Meditate on and memorize this passage (and any others that are helpful to you about your situation):

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:24-26

This passage has been extremely helpful to me to remember not only how we do discernment work, but why we do it. We must be patient and compassionate. We’re attempting to rescue people with spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.

✢ Take action wisely, kindly, and patiently. Of all the things that are distressing you discernment-wise at your church, which one is the one that distracts you most or is most urgently in need of being addressed? Devote some serious time to praying about it, praying for all the people involved, and praying that God will make your heart Christlike about it: weeks, at a minimum. Maybe months. God may resolve the situation without you having to do anything about it.

As you’re praying there may be some participation adjustments you might wish to consider. For example, if the problem at your church was that the women’s ministry was constantly using “Bible” study materials authored by false teachers, you might adjust your behavior this way. If you cannot sing the Hillsong songs in good conscience, just stand (or sit) silently and respectfully with the rest of the congregation until the song is over. Due to a series of various circumstances a while back, my church had a female interim music director for several months. I could not, in good conscience, affirm that decision by my participation, so I did not participate in the music portion of the worship service during her tenure. I stood silently and respectfully and used that time to pray for her, my pastor, my church, and our future minister of music.

But if things don’t improve or seem to get worse, someone may need to talk to the person at the center of the problem. This article may be helpful in that eventuality.


Discernment can be a difficult gift to grapple with. Stay on your knees, stay in the Word, and Christ will carry you through.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.