Dealing with Distraction
One of the fine arts of teaching in African countries is what I call
“Preaching with Chickens (PWC).” PWC is the art of staying focused on your message when in a remote village surrounded by many distractions.
In the bush, there are children, snakes, dogs, and yes—many chickens to provide distraction as you share God’s Word. The trick is to be able to flow with these and not get sidetracked or overly distracted. In fact, if you learn their rhythm, a rooster crowing can even add punctuation to a particularly powerful point! (See what I did there?) Just one word of caution—if you move around a lot when you speak, be careful not to step on the chickens. Natives frown on you killing a source of their livelihood….
So what does this have to do with you?
Every day, we all deal with distraction. Just driving down the road to work we'll see multiple billboards, lights, signs and crazy drivers. We'll likely be listening to the radio or getting calls on our cell phone. There are a thousand things to take our attention at every turn.
How should we handle that?
Let me use my African experience to share a few tips:
1. Accept the reality. The first thing I had to come to terms with was that the chickens weren't going away. They lived int he village and had free reign to wander and peck wherever they wanted. I wasn't going to change that. In the same way, you'll never eliminate all distractions in your life. You can limit them for a moment or two, like during your devotional time in the morning. Still, if you're the parent of small children, that might be impossible as well. Accepting the reality of distraction is the first step in handling them well.
2. Focus on something else. If I stared at the chickens, thought about the chickens, considered ways of getting rid of the chickens (including ideas that Colonel Sanders would have appreciated), etc.; I wasn't able to to my job. The only way to continue teaching was to focus on the Word of God and the people I was teaching. Distractions can actually help us improve our focus as we train ourselves to somewhat ignore them. It's like weight lifting. Resistance builds muscle. Distraction can be used to build focus--if we let it.
3. Use them! Sometimes distractions can be contextualized and used to make a point or help us remember something. I remember preaching at a small church in Olean, NY years ago. My son, then about 2 years old, was acting up in the back of the sanctuary. My poor wife was looking for the door to take him out of the room, but since it was unfamiliar territory for us, it was taking her a while. She was in the back, so most people couldn't see that it was my son who was crying. As the distraction grew louder, I slammed my hand on the pulpit and yelled, "And WHOSE Kid IS that?!" People were shocked, but as they turned their head to see, they saw Karen shaking her fist at me and the laughter raced across the room. I used the distraction to illustrate a humorous point about parenting instead of struggling to keep everyone's attention. As mentioned above, even a rooster can help punctuate a point.
So don't let distractions discourage you.... Instead, find ways of dealing with them in a way that makes you more fruitful.
To that end,