Broken and Repaired
Worship has the power to both heal and break us. It’s a strange but glorious paradox. As the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard writes, “Worship is the moment when we’re both broken open and repaired at the same time.”
Life throws at us a mix of joy and pain. We might be celebrating new jobs, new life and new relationships, whilst at the same time experiencing great loss, deep doubts and huge anxiety. It never seems to be one or the other. I’ve heard it helpfully described as parallel train tracks – running down one track is blessing, favour, laughter and joy – whilst running down the other parallel track is pain, sorrow and despair. As Paul describes in 2 Corinthians we are a people who are ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.’ (2 Cor 6:10)
When I prepare to lead worship I often find myself asking the question – ‘how do you lead a congregation in a journey of worship, when every person is starting from a very different point?’ I think of my church, last Sunday as I led I was aware of a couple recently celebrating their engagement, a friend thriving in a new job. At the same time I thought of parents I know agonizing over their children, a friend desperately struggling to financially make ends meet. How do we hold all this together? What is the key to our role as worship leaders? Ultimately it’s simple – we lead people to Jesus. Great music will in itself never bring deep comfort and healing to people in distress. Only Jesus will. Clever mood lighting will never lift the spirits of someone at rock bottom. Only Jesus will.
As we lead worship we remind people that there is more to life than money, health and success. Through the songs and the words we sing, we point people to Jesus. It begs the question – do our songs fill people with hope? Are they focused on Christ – words that communicate the character and nature of the God who saves, the God who takes away the sins of the world, and the God for whom nothing is impossible? It’s as we feed people’s minds with the truth that people begin the process of being repaired. We worship a Father who rejoices over us with singing and is mighty to save (Zeph 3:17), a Saviour who is able to sympathize with our pain (Heb 4:15) and the Spirit of God who gives life (John 6:63). In God’s presence we are slowly, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, put back together again.
But this journey of healing only starts when people are brave enough to be broken. If we don’t allow ourselves to be broken, we will never be ‘repaired.’ It is essential in our worship that we lead and serve with compassion, sensitivity and vulnerability. Worship is not about a show, a hyped response of emotion. Worship comes from deep within – a raw cry acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and that we are not! As worship leaders how are you allowing space for people to express their questions and pain? Do our lyrics allow opportunity for people to acknowledge frailty? I love the line in the song, ‘Mighty to Save,’
“Take me as you find me, all my fears and failure.”
It’s so healthy to be able to sing that to God in the company of others. Musically are we allowing time for people to reflect on the state of their hearts? If everything is pumping the whole time we can miss out on space for people to search their hearts.
There can be lots of pressures on us as worship leaders. So many practical things that are important to invest in, but to grow in our calling and responsibility we need to firstly allow ourselves to be broken before God. Are you seeking God in the hidden place? Are you admitting your fear and insecurities in what you do? If you’ve become confident and complacent as a worship leader, if you can’t remember the last time you found yourself worshipping alone in your room, then may I humbly suggest you’re missing something. Perhaps you need to reconnect with God – allow yourself to be broken and vulnerable. Be bold – take a risk. Only then will we lead times of worship that allow people to be both broken open before God and repaired at the same time.