Have you noticed the latest buzz word tossed around Christian circles?
Listen, and you will hear it. Songs in worship gatherings and on Christian radio contain it. Churches use it on their websites to describe their culture to potential visitors. Pastors and leaders stand on stage and explain how broken they are and how their church is a place for broken people. Congregants use the word to describe themselves. Brokenness has never been so popular.
One value at the church I pastor, The Journey Church, is “pompous-free realness.” This refers to our unwillingness to celebrate facades or masks. We discourage pretending in church because there is a full quota on churches hosting weekly masquerade balls. Churches must be places of refuge for hurting people. People crave realness. So, I am for broken people and welcoming the broken. I do not discourage brokenness. I certainly do not encourage pretending to be good when you, in fact, are not.
My concern is how we use the word. Brokenness is not an excuse to remain in our sins. It is not a justification for habitual wrongdoing. You cannot disregard repentance by pleading "I'm broken."
As pastors and churches, we can welcome brokenness – but do not idolize or celebrate it as an end. Brokenness is our condition; wholeness is our goal. We preach a gospel that makes broken people new. Yes, celebrate those who admit their sin, but do not let them stop there. Exhort them to pursue holiness and wholeness. Jesus came not only to save us from the penalty of sin but to deliver us from the power of sin. We do not have to stay broken!
Every church culture is a job interview or a doctor’s office. At job interviews, we present our best us for others to see. We dress our best, smile, and make ourselves as likable as we can. Our resumes show the highlight reels of our accomplishments while minimizing our shortcomings.
Doctor’s offices are different. When we go to the doctor, we are sick. We are not pretending to feel great. There is no special effort to dress stylish. We likely look, even smell, bad. It is not our best presentation. I know no one who gets dressed up to go to the doctor. Nobody pretends to be doing well. You do not hide that you're sick with others in the office. The assumption by everyone there is that you ARE sick.
Which of these should a church be? I hope you answered “doctor’s office.” Churches should reflect more of a doctor’s office experience than a job interview. Churches are places where it is okay to not be okay. Come sick. Come broken. No need to pretend that you are not a sinner, we already know you are, and we are with you. But churches are also places where it is okay to not stay broken. We welcome brokenness, but we promote wholeness through confession of sins and struggles with others.
Consider this. It’s okay to go to the doctor’s office and admit your sick, but the goal isn’t to admit it and stay that way; it is to get healthy. You go to the doctor confessing you are sick, but your goal is wholeness. The same is true for churches. We go confessing we are broken people, but the gospel is good news for broken people. The gospel is a remedy to our broken souls that makes us whole. James 5 tells us to “confess your sins to one another.” It is one way we get healthy. We walk out our faith with friends. Vulnerability liberates us from sin's destructive power and the despair of sorrow. Things come out of the dark and into the light, where they are healed. Confession is not the goal. Repentance is. Brokenness is not the finish line. Wholeness is.
Be wise as you teach on brokenness. Admit that leaders are broken people who need grace. Confess we will battle brokenness until Christ returns or brings us home. But praise a greater aim than brokenness. If broken people is not your goal, quit celebrating it as a badge of honor. Acknowledge brokenness as a reality, not as a value to reproduce. Champion the cause of wholeness and holiness. Brokenness does not bring us joy, but spiritual health does. Fixing people’s eyes on the proper goals helps produce the desired outcomes.