Monday, November 09, 2009


Sunday morning we walked into the worship center and the chairs had all been switched around into two sections facing each other. As Lloyd opened the service he talked about what happens when our "order" is distracted. They had rearranged the chairs on purpose...just to shake things up a bit and gently awaken people from the norm...even something as basic as seating. It's crazy how little things affect us. For me, it was great! I liked things being rearranged a little and I think it's good for us to have to get out of our comfort zone.

I've always thought it was weird when people complained about things in worship being out of their comfort zone. It's a bit ironic when you think about it. Worship...true worship does not leave us as we were. It is never about us. It is always about the unsurprising greatness of our Father and what HE wants to do in us and this world...or even simply about who HE is.

I believe the Lord DOES comfort us as we worship...but more than anything, I think He wants to prod us and convict our hearts. Frankly, when something is not to our liking or preference, sometimes we have to just get over it. Maybe it's in the discomfort that the Lord is trying to speak to you. Maybe that discomfort is the gentle hand of the Father leading us away from ourselves.

Ronnie Freeman rocked it leading Sunday morning. Lloyd taught, as he always does, with great wisdom and depth. But, the thing that meant the most to me was getting to worship with my family and with the Batsons who were there with us. Lloyd reminded us that we were made to be in relationship...even God is in relationship with Himself...the three in one. It is a beautiful thing to have friends who walk with you and who know you inside out. It just serves as a reminder that the relationship we are in with our Father is one of deep intimacy. There is nothing hidden from Him. He KNOWS us inside out...and loves us in spite of ourselves.

Blessed Be the Lord who would not give us up!
Blessed be the Lord for His unfailing love.
The snare is broken and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Lord!


Robin Brannon said...

What a great and convicting thought, Brandon! Our comfort zones may indeed be the reason churches have so much turmoil. Thanks for the wake-up call!

judy thomas said...

Wonderful post, Babe. I believe it all! Comfort zone to me means that boredom is not far behind.

annie said...

Really good post, Brandon. I've been so discouraged with the bland worship at my congregation, & want to explode when I hear "comfort zone", "too out there", "just entertainment", etc. etc when ANYTHING different is introduced into the order of worship.... Your mom's comment is dead-on, too. You just don't know how many times I've WISHED for Zoe to come to my hometown & lead our worship service!!

All the best to you & yours as you continue to help us think about excellence in congregational worship to Our Father....

Brandon Scott Thomas said...

Thanks guys! I appreciate the comments. People just don't really leave comments much anymore. But, that's ok. It makes the ones that are left more appreciated! :)

Annie--I have a BIG beef with those same things. Comfort zone to me is a selfish concept. So is the being "too out there" kind of thing. What I always want to say to people who comment like that is....HAVE YOU PEOPLE READ THE BIBLE??? I'm pretty sure the entire book could be called "out there". Prophets warning of God's wrath, staffs turned to snakes, rivers to blood, arks full of animals, dead people coming back to life, walls falling down, water to wine, the blind see...deaf hear...lame walk. Um, HELLO?? AND, there is NO example of worship in the entire book where the comfort of man is of any consequence AT ALL. Can I get an AMEN here?

Did I mention I have a beef?

mundiejc said...

Its frustrating, but what I've learned at my former worship ministry position is that, for better or worse, at some level those of us that understand that its not about our wants in worship should, not cowtow (sp) to those who are uncomfortable, but be in loving dialogue with them, and try to bring them into the fold.

I was scolded by some members recently (literally scolded) for singing "This is How We Overcome" because some of the teens (and adults) go "whoop whoop" in the song, and apparently some are so distracted by this that they are literally unable to worship (their words not mine.)

I had several long, painful, sometimes ridiculous conversations with a husband and wife about said whooping, and the wife even told me that she would get up and leave the auditorium if we sang that song again. I told her that I hated that that was the case, and I understood on some level, cause I'm not a fan of whooping in that song either, but that what it really comes down to is that its not about me. I was leading the worship at this church, and was fairly restricted compared to where I'd been previously, so worship wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be either...

But church isn't about me. Its about a family, a community, striving to look more like Jesus. That means tolerating stuff that's not in your comfort zone, and tolerating those whose comfort zone stops way short of your own. What I've told people who left because our worship was too "out there" and those who left because it wasn't "spiritual" enough, or wasn't "feeding" them that I didn't feel like their decision was being made for the right reasons. Sure, if you don't feel that the community you belong to is going in the same direction as you, that's an opportunity to make a change, but to leave a group of people you supposedly love and are in community with because of a trite personal preference (whooping, or for another, because we weren't allowed to sing during communion) I think that may be out of step with what church is all about.

Just my two cents, for better or for worse

Lantz said...

I hear you about comments.

Comfort Zone...this could be called ambivalence or not really caring one way or another about a convicting message. We find ourselves living in two realities most of the time. Reality one knowing that most of the time we don't embrace the Kingdom of God in our consumer culture. Two, we want to live different and be different, but we need strength with others who are doing the same.

This is similar to the story of Nehemiah. Living in two realities knowing something has to change, but you need someone to call others to action.

We have outsourced to many positions in the church and we need to find a way to get others plugged in and not expect someone else to do it. As the saying goes, "do it to me, do it for me, but don't make me do it."

Robin said...

Mundiejc -

I encountered a very similar situation at the last church where I was worship leader. My problem was that I spoke up and shared my viewpoints on front of the congregation on Sunday morning (I mean, is it wrong to mention how we get so excited at a football game but can't have the same excitement about the Savior of the world?). I was told that some 40 families had "voted with their feet" because of my comments. What was a misunderstanding or miscommunication or whatever you want to call it turned into a most uncomfortable situation, one that I was daily more and more anxious to run away from!

Fortunately, God had other plans for my family and me and we have recently started a house church where we live. It's small and a bit different, but we are trying to break out of our "comfort zones" and let the Spirit break into our hearts.

If anyone is reading this, please pray for revival among God's people!

Mike Woodall said...

I agree with/appreciate/affirm all that's been said thus far...Lot's of "amens" to go around!
And would simply add that I think it's important to remember that these "comfort zones" are 1) relative and 2) real.
Having grown up outside the Church of Christ tradition, I view our worship practices through a different lens than many of my brothers and sisters who I am privileged to worship with day in and day truth a LOT of what we do at my church today would make my Baptist parents uncomfortable-- we take communion every week, we sing with no instruments, etc... Right or wrong their comfort level is defined by YEARS of doing things a certain way (and that can be said of all of us, no?) I want to honor them. I guess what I'm saying is that during worship I want God to move, convict, break hearts, heal wounds, comfort the weary--AND I want to honor others in the process. What a strange and difficult "tight rope" to have to walk. I'm thankful for my brothers and sisters serving as worship ministers for tackling the challenge of that tight rope--I'm not sure I'd last very long in your position.

Dwiggy444 said...

"Comfort zones" is a topic I've wrestled with for a LONG time in my ministry. I've wavered back and forth on this issue many times, wondering:

- Is it my job as a leader to challenge people, to stretch them, so that they can grow?

- Is it my job as a leader to make people feel safe so that they can worship more fully?

- Is it my job as a leader to recognize the needs of those who are on the fringes, who prefer things a little more "out there" than the average member?

- Is it my job as a leader to minimize distractions for the average member so that they can be more focused on WHO we worship and less focused on WHAT we worship?

At this point in my ministry, I believe that the answer to ALL of these questions is "Yes". And that is a tough pill to swallow.

I'm praying right now for all those who lead in Christ's churches - that God will teach us when to say "yes" and when to say "no". That God will help us to lead into new spaces and remember the places we've come from. And, most importantly, that God will help those we lead to know how much we love them and help them to understand that we are all in this together. We're all trying to reach the same goals, trying to tell the same story and trying to worship the same loving Father, graceful Son and powerful Spirit!

Sarah said...

About the worship service: first, I would have FREAKED, to be honest, if all the "furniture" were rearranged. That is a VERY brave man. I think the only bolder thing he could have done was to pay people to sit in certain people's "regular" seats... :-) You KNOW the ones!

I'm treading lightly now... I wholeheartedly agree with the point made there. God can speak to us if we are shifted to the right or to the left of our comfort zone. However, I have occasionally been in on some discussions regarding worship planning that sound just a little to me like "How can we top last week?? OOOoooh, wouldn't THAT be over the top?" where it starts to seem a little more focused on purposely freaking people out than bringing them into worship. There can be a fine line when comfort zones are at stake, I realize.

More than anything, I love what mundiejc said:
"But church isn't about me. Its about a family, a community, striving to look more like Jesus. That means tolerating stuff that's not in your comfort zone, and tolerating those whose comfort zone stops way short of your own."

Indeed. I'm just striving to look more like Jesus.

Dan Jocoy said...

I know what you mean. Worship is the one time/thing that is not about what I like or prefer. I heard said years ago that we "should not change for change sake." But, in fact we should - the "only difference between a rut and grave is the length and the depth." Change pushes us past ourselves - thank you for writing this.

Brandon Scott Thomas said...

thanks for keeping on adding your thoughts. It's good to hear from all of you out there. support, pushback, it's all good here.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I appreciate your comments so much, because I feel the exact same way. I LOVE contemporary music, I LOVE worship. I see some of the same things in some places where it does become a "what can we do to shock the church" mentality. Those who refuse to accept modern songs ect. in worship bother me just as much. Worship is about family. It is not about the Leader, it is not about my desires for what it should look like. It should bring glory to our Maker. Noone should "vote with their feet" until a grown up, calm and loving discussion occurs with the one who has offended them. Doesn't the Bible speak to that?


Tim Yarbrough said...

I'm reminded of something Lynn Anderson said long ago... "Comfort makes us cowards." Also as I read your blog, pain meds are being administered to my dad who is in the care of hospice now. The meds are to keep him calm, sedated and comfortable. .... I feel a sermon coming on.

We, the body of Christ, are not dying and we are not in the care of hospice. We are God's chosen living in the Kingdom, with Kingdom power, called to engage in spiritual warfare, and we should not seek to be spiritually or emotionally sedated. We should seek to be alert and aware of the enemy's attacks to distract us. In fact, the enemy is the one that is trying to sedate us into a stupor of comfort.