Brooke Ligertwood: The Hillsong worshipper learning how to lament

Monday 15th April 2024

Tony Cummings reports on the New Zealand-born singer, songwriter and worship leader BROOKE LIGERTWOOD

Brooke Ligertwood
Brooke Ligertwood

Now that courageous investigative media coverage has revealed how toxic the inner workings of the Australian megachurch Hillsong and its New York and London satellites were allowed to become, it is important that believers acknowledge and honour Hillsong's lasting contributions to the spiritual life of the world Church - namely worship music. Whatever the sin and malpractices of its church leaders, the songs and recordings of Hillsong Worship and its youth worship entity UNITED have resourced the world Church with songs every bit as good as the hymn classics of Wesley and Watts. Whether one is lost in worship singing Darlene Zschech's timeless "Shout To The Lord" or enveloped in the electro rock brilliance of UNITED's 'All Of The Above' album, believers can be grateful to God for raising up in New South Wales, Australia such anointed songwriters, singers, musicians and record producers. And one positive thing that has come out of the Hillsong debacle is the re-emergence of the hugely talented singer, songwriter and worship leader Brooke Ligertwood. American record reviewer Timothy Yapp wrote, "Over the last decade or so, Ligertwood's co-compositions ('What A Beautiful Name' and 'King Of Kings') have brought the Church's music to new heights. With the Australian megachurch in dire straits, it's understandable that Ligertwood is forging her solo path. 'Eight', her second solo record that bears her married name 'Ligertwood', follows on the heels of her highly successful 'Seven'." As one reviewer wrote about her latest release, "Every track here is carefully crafted with thoughtful interactions with Scripture; there's frankly not a dud on 'Eight'."

In a recent interview with Air1 Radio Brooke was asked whether she called herself a singer, a songwriter or a worship leader. She responded, "One of the things about being a follower of Jesus is that though our calling doesn't change - the Great Commission - our assignments that are attached to that calling do change. So for that reason I really don't feel comfortable with any kind of titles because I'm really just doing whatever the Lord has me do in whatever particular season that is and that changes. I wrote a song about this a few years ago called 'New Wine', about not becoming so attached to the wineskins or not so attached to the ways that we assume God wants to use us, that we become so attached to that that we can't hold maybe the next thing that God wants to take us into."

The 'Eight' album contains some brand new songs but also renditions of some older material. In 2007 she wrote a song "Bless God" with Cody Carnes and Brandon Lake. "As a songwriter I found the Lord would often give me a song ahead of time that I need to sing. That's what happened with 'Bless God'. I remember in the months before I wrote that song I would pray, and I saw a dark cloud on the horizon and I just sensed a storm coming. I wrote the song and then the storm hit. It's been a real gift now, however many years later, as a 39 year old, have little 23 year old Brooke pen words that I can still declare today in the new storm. The confession is the same and most importantly the truth and the reality of who God is is the same. So there's great solace in that. It's a song that's meant a lot to me and for me it's a moment of invitation into joy in a season of lament which is something that I am learning. How do you, as a New Covenant believer, learn to sit and lament where it's necessary but also not to neglect the nourishing of joy which our soul needs."

The season through which Brooke is passing has been deeply humbling for the singer/songwriter. "Humility is something that you have to somehow ask the Lord to teach you and he will. And if you don't ask him to teach you he's going to try and drop some heavy hints some other ways. But the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience. the idea is joy is a fruit of the Spirit. So when I'm in a season of lament and we're walking through things that buffet our soul the idea that we can always still find joy because joy is a fruit of the Spirit. How do I find joy? I walk with Jesus; I get closer to Jesus and the joy is then a gift from heaven, from him. But I'm still learning; I don't know. It's something I'm an active student of at the moment.

"The broken-hearted offering - we can never underestimate what it means to bring a song even from sadness. From Scripture we see constantly a broken heart and contrite spirit the Lord will not despise. He treasures those things, that image and revelation of our tears being held in a bottle, that offering in that place is really precious to God. I think sometimes it can be tempting to withhold that because we feel like maybe this isn't the time to pray. One of the reasons that singing the word of God or lyrics that align with the word of God is so important is because no matter how I feel, my soul is listening. Scripture says the power of life and death is in the tongue. So what my soul hears my mouth saying matters. That's why I think in a season of brokenness, in a wilderness season, you don't have to feel it to serve your soul by singing and speaking the truth, because your soul is listening to what your mouth is saying."

The exposé of some aspects of Hillsong church culture has undoubtedly driven swathes of people away from their own fellowships and possibly away from church attendance altogether. Brooke is adamant that regular church attendance is absolutely crucial to spiritual health. She commented, "Community is worth the fight that it sometimes can be to be planted. There are so many promises of Scripture attached to that. That can look like so many different things actually. The richness of community comes at a cost but the reward and the fruit is so worth it. And it's one of the ways the Lord disciples us. I can only imagine if I hadn't been someone who'd been walking in community for decades. Community is one of the ways that God is still rubbing off some of my sharp edges and some of my spiky bits. The things that come with community that can be really uncomfortable are actually one of the ways the Lord uses to form us more into his likeness."

Other very powerful songs on 'Eight' are "Calvary Is Enough" and "Fear Of God". "'Calvary Is Enough' is one that resonates and really that's the song to listen to and cry in your car. But then I also think you need the songs that you stomp around to and proclaim the on-the-way victory. That for me is 'Fear Of God'. This whole journey of making 'Eight' has been embedded in a kind of unfolding tragedy for me. I remember the first time we went in with the team to start on these songs and with the song 'Fear Of God' I deliberately put in the Scripture from 1st Corinthians particularly which talks about resurrection. I had never heard anyone sing a song about the mortal being clothed with immortality. We were making this as my mother-in-law became sicker and sicker and then eventually passed away. I went away on this trip to start making the record and when I got back she was unable to remember who I was and a few weeks after that passed away. But getting to sing these declarations about the truth of Jesus' ultimate victory and also about our bodily resurrection in light of his resurrection, it's not just words or a distant theology. It's actually the root of the vibrancy and fullness of life that we can still experience even in a broken and fallen world." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Be the first to comment on this article

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.