May 16, 2009 by

Worship: the Sound of the Broken


Categories: Meanderings (look it up), worship

Ben at live.awake posted something about worship last week that really spoke to my soul. (I’ve been waiting to write about this while Ben took care of some technical difficulties, but the link appears to be good now.)

In his post, Ben describes a recent worship service he attended where everything about the worship time seemed “normal” and “right.” And then something happened…let me give you an excerpt:

“The set ended, the lights went out…a large group of men came up on the stage. It was a choir made up of about 15 or so men from a local Teen Challenge camp…This choir was primarily made up of men who are former drug addicts.

“They sang one song. I don’t remember the song. I do remember the worship. And that one song, sung by those broken men, blew me away. Spiritually speaking, there is a peculiar “sound” to the worship that comes from people who know what it means to be broken. People who have a deep sense of the magnitude of the debt that was paid for them.

“This moment…took me back to the days when I was volunteering years ago in a similar ministry in Britain. I remember the first time I worshiped while standing in the middle of a crowd of broken men singing to Jesus at the top of their lungs. It sounded different than any worship I had heard up until that moment and my concept of what worship is changed right there.

“I knew right in that moment that the quality of worship for me would never again be measured by what it looks like, how competent it seems, how bold or strong it is, or how loud it is sung (if sung at all).”

Reading this was one of those moments recently when something reawakened in me. What Ben shared is not necessarily new to me; it sounds like something I would have said. But something in it resonated and reminded me and renewed me.

As a worship leader, I know what it is to become so concerned with how “good” the music sounds, how smooth the transitions are, how involved the people are, that we forget what is most important…and what it is within it all that touches the heart of God. Certainly there is something in doing something the best we can (my definition of excellence) that brings honor to God, and certainly beautiful sounds of music well-played can be a reflection of His glory. But all that can happen, and that powerful “God-moment” can remain elusive. There is a “sound” of beauty in the worship emanating from brokenness that transcends all the natural sound that might accompany it…and that, I believe, is what God listens for.

I don’t necessarily mean brokenness in the sense of being beat down, bruised, and suffering…although that can be part of it. The brokenness I speak of is broader–it’s the brokenness that comes from the deep realization of the price paid for our redemption…the realization of the great love of Jesus toward us that moved Him toward such great sacrifice, and the glimpse of the utter beauty of a God who loves to that extent. When that kind of thing dawns on us, it breaks us, and true worship is the only appropriate response. It is an utterly beautiful sound in response to an utterly beautiful act by an utterly beautiful God. And it is a sound that can happen with, or without, music. It is a sound that can happen regardless of the quality of the music. It is a sound that can happen amid the hustle and bustle of city streets…or in silence.

And when that sound comes forth from us, you can almost hear another sound…the sound of God’s feet as He runs toward the sound of the broken.

I was raised in an environment that emphasized knowing “who we are in Christ.” But I am convinced that we cannot even comprehend who we are in Christ unless we understand who we would be without Him.

Or Jesus put it this way…”The one who has been forgiven much–loves much.”

May we as the church recapture the sound of the broken, and let this be the heart behind what we sing–and how we live. And may it begin with me.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

9 Responses to Worship: the Sound of the Broken

  1. NC Sue

    Thank you, Jeff, for this post.

    Without a consciousness of our need for Christ, and without a hunger to be filled with Him, our worship is empty, and our churches deserve to be.

  2. Gary Delaney


    I agree with you totally when you say that we cannot know who we are in Christ, until we first know who we are without Him.

    It is only when we know who we are without Christ that we can know the brokeness and total lack of defeat. It is only then that we can know what it is to be consumed by fear and despair. It is only then that we can know a total lack of peace.

    But with Christ all things are made knew. Only then can Christ be our all in all. Only then can we see what Christ is doing in our heart and life. Only then can we see His plan unfold and totally appreciate it.. Only then can we rest in Him and Know that it is Him who is supplying our need and making up the difference for our lack. Only then can we fully appreciate it when He moves on our behalf and opens doors for us that no man can shut.

    Only when He tells us who we are, can we truly know who we are in Him.


  3. Jeff McQ

    Grace, Barb, Angela, Shaun,
    Thanks! 🙂

    NC Sue,
    A profound thought…I refer to this kind of thing as “lip service”.

    Me, too. 🙂

    Excellent thoughts; thanks for expanding on that point. It’s kind of like what co-heir mentioned…having that understanding of the lack without Christ makes us understand the surpassing value of what He has done. When we come to that point, worship flows forth freely.

  4. Ben

    Thanks for the mention, Jeff. And thanks for you patience with the technical issues.

    I love the image you give us here of God running towards the sound of our worship to rescue the broken. Beautiful!

    I often say that our worship is really the only thing we have to offer back to Jesus that is of any value. This expresses that, I think.

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