German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a one-year trip to America in 1930. He observed that American churches lacked life-changing impact and authentic worship. There was one exception: the African-American churches. According to Bonhoeffer, the African-American history of suffering ignited a holiness and life-changing power from God that was unique compared to other American churches.
More than 80 years later, let’s make an observation of American churches. Many churches have increased production quality, resources, and creativity. (Much like the churches Bonhoeffer visited in the Northeast in 1930.) However, the influence of churches is significantly lower based on the percentage of people who attend.
Suffering and broken people have always filled churches. So if Bonhoeffer’s premise that suffering increases authentic worship is correct, why doesn’t God’s life-changing power infuse the worship of all churches?
As pointed out by Bonhoeffer, there seems to be a correlation between open brokenness and authentic worship. Could our churches be working too hard to avoid brokeness with polished ministry?
If open brokenness leads to authentic worship, how can your church create a culture of open brokenness? Here are four ways that came to mind:
1. Scriptural teaching. The story of human brokenness saturates Scripture. Recognize and identify with it in your teaching.
2. Resource an active recovery ministry. This will bring openly broken people into the church family making authenticity more “contagious”.
3. Model authenticity. As you evaluate your services is authenticity being valued?
4. Small groups are fertile ground for authenticity. Group leaders should model this and encourage a different member to share their life story each week.
Everyone’s story includes brokenness. That unites us in a profound way. Brokenness invites God’s power into our lives and our churches.