The September 2011 Christianity Today Discussion Starter explains, “At South Carolina’s NewSpring Church, children are not admitted to the main service and doors are locked after the sermon starts. In North Carolina, Elevation Church leaders removed a boy with cerebral palsy from church because he was disrupting the service. The incidents raise the issue of how to respond to disruptions in worship.” Then CT reports the answers of six prominent worship leaders to the question: “Should churches try to minimize disruptions in services?”
At the two ends of the spectrum were Christine Daye, guest ministry director from Willow Creek Church, and Dennis Okholm, professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University. Daye said, “We put a priority on creating an environment that helps people engage in worship without distractions. If a disruption arises, the guest ministry team assesses the situation and takes appropriate steps, which could mean suggesting alternate viewing options.” In sharp contrast, Okholm said, “When Jesus shows up with cerebral palsy, let him stay. And insist that those around him stay—even if the preacher or the music isn’t to their liking—because disruptions due to individualistic preferences are precisely what Paul reprimands in Corinth.”
This discussion gets personal for me, and begs the question, what is a “disruption” during worship?”
Our daughter Nicole, who has cerebral palsy and intellectual disability, sometimes waves her hands during worship and makes sounds including clapping and vocalization (sounds but not words). When she first started attending worship, we received one complaint about her “disrupting” worship. Since I was leading the worship services at the time, responsibility fell on my wife to keep Nicole more quiet. My wife was able to do so, though never completely because Nicole was too excited to be in worship to keep her completely quiet. So was she a disruption, or was she reminding the rest of us in how good it was to be with God’s people worshiping our God of grace?
The answer came to us several years later. When Nicole moved into a group home we did not have time to pick her up before the morning worship service. Several people came to us over the next few weeks and told us how much they missed her presence in worship. She had the spiritual gift of cheerleading all of us in the glorious wonder of worshiping God.
What do you think? What is a “disruption?” And when a “disruption” happens, do we need to help the disruptor find an “alternative viewing option,” or do we celebrate that “Jesus has shown up?”