Leading Worship through Grief

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Earlier this year during a Saturday setup and rehearsal for our Sunday worship gatherings, I received news that one of my brother’s best friends had to be rushed to the hospital. He was 36, fit, in the prime of his life, a father, and a strong male presence in his church.

Within two hours, he had died and gone to be with the Lord.

I’d never met this guy, and yet the profound sorrow that I was feeling for my brother and his church (he serves full-time there) really threw me.

I had to finish our setup, get through rehearsal, and then prepare to lead worship the following day.

To make things more difficult, the current series we had just started was all about Heaven.

We sang “My Life” by North Point InsideOut, “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music, and, most difficult of all, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Beginning to End)” by One Sonic Society.

That last song pulls its verses from the old classic, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” which actually comes from the book of Lamentations. It reminds us to think of God’s faithfulness even when times are tough and answers aren’t always ready or easy.

The updated version of the song has a chorus that says, “Beginning to end, my life in your hands, Great, Great is Your faithfulness…”

Needless to say, it was an emotional weekend.

During rehearsal, I realized that God had helped me plan these songs because I would need them to convey a powerful truth to the congregation.

Even though I didn’t personally know Kerry (that’s his name), I was feeling a deep loss for my brother’s church, who I know had to move on and still have their service that day.

Did I make it through all the songs without tears? No.

Did I use those tears as a teachable moment for my congregation? You bet. That night, I rewrote my talk before introducing the new song.

Because I knew that some of us on stage (my wife serves with me) would be crying and possibly losing it (especially during the last song), I prefaced that song with an explanation of our grief, an admonition to the people to believe in God’s faithfulness even in hard times, and a call to prayer for my brother’s church.

God blessed that day, and I believe that our raw and open display of emotion helped us connect even more deeply with those we led.

I can’t speak for my brother’s church, but I know that they are seeing growth after this huge loss as well as life change in Kerry’s family.

God is indeed faithful from beginning to end.

So next time you are feeling sorrow or grief and have to get up to lead worship anyway, don’t put on a fake smile all day and act like nothing is wrong. Instead, pray about what God might have you say.

And if you feel led to share your sorrow, pray that He will use your emotions and circumstances to bring someone closer to Him.

That is why we are all ultimately doing this anyway, right?

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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