Sensory Overload in Worship (The Distracted Worshipper #3)

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Part Three of Series: The Distracted Worshipper: A View from the Pews


Our first toaster looked great – one of those all-chrome, retro models. Too bad it was a wimpy toaster. On the second pair of bagels, it would overheat and shut down. The built-in sensor was designed to prevent overload.

I’m a wimpy worshipper. I shut down from sensory overload. The bigger the worship (high energy, big sound, strobes, percussive, frenetic graphics), the less I engage. Too often, I slide into the role of spectator.

My first response is to stand firm, to power through. But the very act of fighting through the sensory onslaught ends up draining me. My energy, primed to fuel my worship, instead gets redirected to block out the distractions. Overload wears me down.

Eventually I surrender and withdraw, but with a lingering sadness. For once again, genuine worship has eluded me. I ache for simplicity. For time and space. For an unadorned worship experience. For the chance to fully enter into and own what’s happening on the platform.

That elderly lady, with hands cupped over her ears, isn’t expressing a musical preference – she’s in pain. She’s on overload. The older we get, the more quickly our circuit-breaker gets tripped. Age lessens our capacity to handle sensory overload.

But it’s not just old folks. Young people too, even with their amazing capacity for multi-tasking, eventually hit the overload wall. Everyone leaves The Bourne Ultimatum exhausted.

Overload is an enemy of worship. Watch this distracted worshipper for signs of overload. Are my eyes glazed? My mouth shut? How might you do big praise without losing me? Is it possible to create high-energy worship packages that still invite reflection…that create speaking space for the still small voice?

Why do our services tend towards overload? What’s driving that?

And what might worship “under-load” look like? Give it a try!

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Craig Parro

Since joining Leadership Resources International in 1989, Craig directed its international ministry, and as of January 2010, he now serves as President. A graduate of TEDS (M.A., Mission), Craig is a stimulating teacher and has equipped and encouraged pastors and churches throughout the U.S., Latin America and Asia. Craig also serves on the Board of Directors of TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition), an association of pastoral training organizations focused on accelerating pastoral training worldwide. Craig has authored articles appearing in several magazines. His first book, Unlikely Warriors, was published in 1992. He is also co-author of Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout.

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