I want to ask you to stop saying something to your brothers and sisters in your church. If you’re a preacher or a prayer leader or a communion guy table talker or a call to worship person or an announcement maker in your congregation, I want to ask you to consider never again saying the following in front of your congregation:
“Let’s clear our minds of our worldly troubles and just focus on our worship.”
“Let’s put everything out of our thoughts and concentrate only on the sacrifice of Jesus.”
“Let’s get out of our heads everything that’s happened this week and just think about why we’re here.”
“Let’s leave the cares of the world out there and turn our attention to God.”
These are certainly well-intentioned phrases uttered by well-meaning men and women in our Christian assemblies. And I know most of us have heard them in church for most of our lives. But they don’t make any sense. They’re not only impractical suggestions, they’re actually contrary to what our Father asks us to do.
Truthfully, it’s impossible for most people to put their struggles out of their minds. How do you ask somebody to not think about their deep loss or their painful trial or their debilitating disease? Imagine for a moment…
“You want me to just forget about the fact that I’m in a wheelchair while we pray?”
“My wife’s got cancer; you want me to just put that aside while we sing Firm Foundation?”
“I’m supposed to block out the fact that I’ve been out of work for four months or that my daughter is in rehab or that my husband just left me while we read Philippians 2?”
We may as well be asking people to hold their breath for 60-minutes. Or to just stay home. It’s impossible. Why burden people by expecting them or asking them to do the impossible?
Secondly, our Father begs us to bring ourselves to him in our worship. All of ourselves — all of our hurts and pains, all of our wounds and scars, all of our sin and sickness. These things are a genuine part of who we are as people, these things have worked to shape us and form us into the men and women we are. Our theology says God is actually using those tribulations, he’s working in and through those very tough things, to teach us, to transform us, to make us more like his Son. In the Christian assembly, Philippians 2 should speak to a person’s doubts and fears. Our time at the Lord’s table should speak into a man’s sickness and shortcomings. The Church’s prayers and songs are intended to give meaning and purpose to a woman’s struggles and trials. Why would we ask people to put that aside or ignore those parts of us while we’re in the holy presence of our God who desires that we give all of ourselves to him?
I know you mean well when you say those things. But, please, stop.