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.

10 thoughts on “The Mailbag: My Discernment Is Distracting Me from Worship”

  1. Thank you for this post. It is so helpful. Question….what does it mean to “patiently endure evil”? I love the verse you used, but I have always struggled with this part of it. Can you give me any insights to this? Thanks.
    Nikki

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    1. Hi Nikki- I think, in this context, it’s a “love your enemies/pray for those who persecute you/turn the other cheek” type of thing. Applied to a discernment situation, it could mean to realize that people are going to be mad at you, call you names, etc., for even the gentlest warning against a false teacher, but don’t retaliate or respond in kind (I have failed at this so many times!). Respond to the person with patience, love, and forgiveness. It does not mean to excuse sin or false teaching, or to compromise on Scripture.

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  2. Regarding the worship time, I so agree with you. What I have had to do because not only do I not agree with most of the music selections, but the music is played so loud with pounding drums and heavy beats, that I have been going into the side room which is there for families with young children or those with other special needs. We view the service on a screen and the sound is adjustable. It is not perfect as ai miss bein g in the full service but it has been a workable compromise. I pray during the time of singing.

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  3. Wonderful advice, Michelle, though it is so hard to follow, especially the praying part. One would much rather walk up to people and point out where they are wrong, rather than pray that God would reveal the truth to them. But I appreciate your point that God puts discerning people in churches so that we may pray for our leaders.

    As to the singing, if the words of a song are true, I sing them regardless of who the source is. It hasn’t been easy doing that. King Solomon clearly got many things wrong, if his life was any indication. Yet, we appreciate the wisdom and truth in his writings.

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  4. Thank you Michelle for this great posting. At this time, after our church was disbanded last year, my husband and I both knew that we needed to have Fellowship with like-minded believers, and most importantly hear the Word of God. We are in a temporary situation until we can find another church. We meet with Christians on Sunday afternoon to listen to the Word spoken to us by a female pastor along with worship songs that are all Hillsong. My husband knows my views on female pastors and Hillsong and has agreed that this is temporary until God leads us to a church. I’ve shared my views on FB and in person to some of the people that attend and have been told I’m judging and also have fake evidence of false teacher’s and to be careful what I say! I’m used to this, and continue praying for God to lead us to a new church and I also pray for those that get upset with my discernment. I will not compromise my beliefs. For now, I sit quietly during worship (if Hillsong or other music not biblical) and pray. I’m glad my husband respects my views and agrees that right now, this is temporary. Where we live in Hawaii, the choices of good churches are slim… many have female preachers along with some pretty far out stuff during service and worship, flailing and screaming, along with some very unbiblical behaviors. My husband and I just keep staying in our Word and pray for a new church. This has been a trial of sorts since my husband was a deacon and I was the assistant to the pastor and also did women’s ministry in our former church. Again, thank you, for your great site and for showing me so much more than I ever knew about false doctrine and discernment! Be blessed.

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    1. Hi Barbara- That sounds like a really difficult situation to be in, and I’m so sorry you’re going through a trying time. I would encourage you and your husband to consider something, though. If this group thinks it’s OK for women to violate Scripture by being pastors and they like Hillsong, are they really “like-minded” with you and your husband?

      I’m very concerned about the fact that you’re sitting under a female “pastor” each week, even if it is temporary, because, out of the scores of female pastors and teachers I’ve researched, every single one of them who unrepentantly preaches to men also teaches some form of false doctrine. I would urge the two of you to recall the Scriptures that tell us to have nothing to do with false teachers (2 John 9-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 Corinthians 6:14ff, Jude, 2 Peter 2) and consider whether it might be better for the two of you to withdraw from the group and start your own, or simply study together just the two of you. If you have to choose between fellowship and sound doctrine, choose sound doctrine. You can’t have true fellowship with people who embrace false doctrine.

      Providentially, I happen to have family in Hawaii. I’m not sure what area you’re in, but he recommended the churches below. If there’s any way you can get to one of them, even if it’s a long drive, I’d encourage y’all to give it a try. (You might also like to check the notes section of my Facebook page: Reader Recommended Churches and Readers Seeking Churches to see if anyone has recommended a good church in your area.)

      Mililani area: Island Grace
      Honolulu area: Hawaii Kai
      Ewa Beach area: Makakilo Baptist

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      1. Thank you Michelle for your kind reply. You are correct in everything you said…I will be sitting down with my husband too discuss this. I have to repent every Sunday for attending.. not pleasant. The churches you mentioned are a plane trip away!! We will find a way thru God. I will keep you updated. Again, thank you for your time and kindness.

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  5. Thank you for this article. I have been struggling with this very thing in my own church. It has been frustrating and difficult to go to church these past couple of months because of it. I would put myself in the “cage stage” discernment category right now. My eyes have been opened so widely to the false teaching and I have such a hunger for theology and sound doctrine right now. Thank you for the encouragement and for your website. I have been exploring many of the resources you have here.

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