Written by Mike Gordon
“Here’s the church
And there’s the steeple.
Open the doors
And see all the people.”
So the old nursery rhyme goes. But do we see that the people are broken?
As pastors, it can be easy to focus on the relentless cycle of coming up with one sermon after another each week. Maybe you spend hours prepping great sermons, yet when Sunday morning comes along and someone says, “Do you have a minute?” you brush them off. At that moment, it seems more important to double-check your sermon than to stop and listen. Maybe that person was about to tell you they were just diagnosed with cancer.
Maybe you help lead worship at your young adult ministry, and you’re involved in picking and choosing the worship songs each week. However, the songs you pick are geared towards people who had a great week or whose life is all put together. You encourage people to lift their hands and praise God because He is good, without thinking someone in the audience just had a family member pass away who didn’t know Christ.
Maybe you attend church regularly, and like most of us, you sit in the same section each week. You kind of know the names of most of the people who sit near you, but you don’t really know them. When the leader on stage asks you to greet the people around you, you say hello and ask how they are doing. The response is always, “I’m good, what about you?” Yet behind their answer, their relationship is falling apart. Maybe you say you’re good too, but you just lost your job.
The Bible says God is close to the brokenhearted, but are we, as a Church, also close to the brokenhearted? I would suggest many churches are not as in tune with the brokenness within their congregations as they think they are. It could be because we are too busy making services run smoothly, or because we just stopped asking, pausing, and listening along the way.
I was speaking at a retreat recently and spent time addressing the brokenness in the room during one of the sessions. Near the end of the talk, I asked the participants to write down what was going on behind the scenes in their lives. I received almost 600 responses…
And the list went on and on. We know people go through broken circumstances in life, but it’s another thing to know these are the same people who are sitting in the seats beside you every week.
How can we better see and serve the people who are broken in our church?
Bring in the experts
Rather than talking on heavy topics you aren’t equipped to teach on, why not bring in an expert on suicide or financial burdens who can truly tackle the issue? Finding someone qualified to bring awareness to your church can go a long way.
Modern worship songs that can hype everyone up are great, but what if you take a different approach from week to week? Could creating a worship space to help people lament be of great value for them in their brokenness? We see this in the Bible over and over again. Creating a space for people to cry and express raw emotions can allow people to honestly reach out to God amid their pain and frustrations.
Before and after service
For most people, what happens before and after a service is what keeps them coming back to church. Most leaders don’t want to admit this, but sometimes it’s more important to the people who attend than the songs and sermon. Unfortunately, many of us leaders pour all our focus into the service and hope the coffee we leave out will minister to the people for us.
What if we shifted our entire approach and made what happens before and after the main focal point? Could that help us as leaders—and as a congregation—better see and walk with the people who are hurting around us?
Let us not lose sight of the people who are walking through the doors each week. Never assume that a smile or an “I’m good” means someone isn’t hurting. What we do in service is important, but it cannot be at the expense of the very people that service is for.
To be close with the brokenhearted, we must begin to open our eyes and see all the broken people.