“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” (1 Corinthians 14:29–31, KJV)
Having preached many sermons over the time of my pastoral ministry, I have seen some very strange things in congregations. I remember one person who used to attend our service on occasion who used to raise his hand in the middle of the sermon and try to interrupt with a question or a comment. On another occasion, a man in the front row received a cell-phone call right in the middle of the message. He actually answered it while I was preaching, and held a conversation so that everyone in the worship area could hear him. Of course, there are many other strange things that happen. I saw people getting up during the sermon to use the restroom. Of course, if it was desperate, by all means, I wanted them to do so. Another fell asleep in an evening service and dropped his heavy Bible on the floor. Then there are those I observed shopping on Amazon during the sermon using their smart-phones. I saw a sitcom one time where a person was listening to the football game with an earphone.
Now, not every parishioner did this. If so, I would have been quite discouraged and probably questioned my calling. However, these types of things do happen in churches all the time. What should happen? I do not even have to answer that question. People are to pay attention to what is revealed from the word of God. Besides all these types of distractions, there are those whose minds are wandering to other things. And there are the clock watchers. As a guest speaker, I was warned in one church about a person who at the stroke of noon would wave and point his finger up at the clock.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth regarding profitable worship. They had a practice of parishioners prophesying by proclaiming the revelation of God as it related to specific situations. Yet, the church in using this and other spiritual gifts, was out of order. The disorder created confusion and hindered the intended mutual edification of believers in the body. To resolve this, Paul gives specific instructions. He tells them to “Let the prophets speak” and then “the other judge.” The verb judge, “diakrino,” means to separate thoroughly, to discern. Those hearing the word proclaimed are to listen with discernment. They are to determine if the word is from the Spirit and, if so, how it applies to their lives.
I heard a story about a woman that left a worship service one time and spoke with the pastor at the door. She said, “Pastor that was a great sermon. It had something to do with everyone else in the congregation.” This woman missed the point. The word of God has something to do with everyone, including her.
The second thing that Paul said was, that there must be order in this practice. When another was speaking, the former should be silent. By implication, when one was speaking others should be silent, listening, and discerning. In this all would learn and be encouraged.
Those who attend a worship service are there to worship God. Part of this worship is hearing from Him and responding to His word. For this to happen, people must focus. All worldly distractions must be left at the door. I spoke in a Korean church one time and observed something very special. When they entered the worship area, the first thing they did when they sat in the pew was to be silent and pray. They were getting focused on worshipping and seeking the Lord. Perhaps we could learn something from them about being focused.