When someone mentions Brooke Ligertwood’s voice, they’re probably referring to her melodious singing voice. You know, the one that sings “What a Beautiful Name” or “Who You Say I Am” or “Hosanna” or “King of Kings” or dozens of other songs with Hillsong Church.
But when you get a chance to sit with the prolific songwriter one on one, you realize there’s a part of her voice that’s even more special: her laugh. Ligertwood’s infectious laugh holds pure joy and humor in it. She laughs at bad dad jokes and funny-sounding words, she laughs at herself for cracking jokes with friends in church, and she laughs loudly in the face of the future. Because even though she doesn’t have anything specific planned out (“I feel like I like to rebel against things for the sake of being a rebel. So I rebel by not doing New Year’s resolutions.”), she isn’t afraid of the future, either. She’s walking day by day, moment by moment in obedience.
It’s that exact obedience that led to her seventh album, Seven.
“It was a great surprise to me when the Lord brought all of these songs into my life in a very short period of time, and I’ve been making albums long enough to know when you have a group of ten songs versus when you have a group of ten songs that belong together and are a collective statement,” Ligertwood laughs, “but I definitely was not trying to make an album.”
Over a few short weeks, Ligertwood created nine brand-new worship songs with a plethora of friends, including Jason Ingram, Elevation Pastor Steven Furtick, Brandon Lake, Phil Wickham, husband Scott and many, many others. She recorded the album live in Nashville, surrounded by friends, family, loved ones and a 30-piece choir. Even for her solo album, she knew she still wanted to be around a collective group of people.
“I think it’s so important that I’m always part of something that’s bigger than me and not just about me,” Ligertwood says. “I love being part of a team.”
Teamwork and collaboration are also a major part of her new album. She wrote songs for the church to sing together in a collective setting, like “Communion” to encourage and remind the Church that we are called to be one body and one spirit, or “A Thousand Hallelujahs.”
“‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’ is simply and unashamedly a song of worship for the Church,” Ligertwood explained. “The lyrics celebrate the origin and direction of glory, the song itself also becomes the vehicle for how to return that glory where it belongs — to Christ. It is intrinsically, deliberately and singularly vertical. I pray it becomes of use and timely help to believers and congregations everywhere.”
Never one to shy away from difficult tasks, Ligertwood even unpacks the complex story of Jonah and his feelings surrounding his missionary field into a modern worship song, leading believers to ask the Lord to reveal their “Nineveh.” Ligertwood co-wrote the song with Furtick, and the result is a fascinating piece that’s one part worship song, one part hermeneutical marvel.
“It is a rare and deep joy to be able to write a song that closely examines a narrative of scripture while simultaneously inviting the listener to allow the scripture to examine them,” Ligertwood said.
The influence of Scripture is obvious throughout Seven (as it should be), but even the title holds a deeper, Biblical meaning. Seven is often regarded as a holy number, a number that symbolizes completion and the fulfillment of promises. After years of the world descending into curious chaos, Ligertwood wants to encourage the Church that God is still who He has always been: the God of Promises.
One group that’s been hit particularly hard over the last few years is the next generation of believers. Faced with a tumultuous political and news cycle during their formative years, religious reckonings, a worldwide pandemic, and, to top it off, normal adolescent issues, it’s safe to say Gen Z hasn’t had an easy time. But thankfully, they’ve got people like Ligertwood rooting for them and encouraging them along the way.
“I just love youth ministry so much. I love when I get to sneak into any kind of youth thing,” Ligertwood says. “It’s exciting and it’s so raw. When you’re in a room of young people you can just sense the potential.
“I get excited whenever I get to serve that generation, because I get to be like, ‘I’m cheering you on! We are cheering you on!’ For all the young leaders out there: go for it. Get with Jesus. We are all behind you, cheering you on.”
Ligertwood may be semi-joking about the cheers and chants, but her heart is serious about encouraging the next generation. She knows that just as her generation needed support, the next generation needs just as much, if not more, encouragement from older leaders.
“What young people are navigating today is no joke,” she clarifies. “I had to deal with dumb stuff when I was their age, but not this specific stuff. But I get excited for this generation of young leaders, whether they’re 21 or 15, because the Holy Spirit is well and able to equip them to serve God in their generation, and to actually navigate some of the stuff that the generations maybe 20 or 30 years ahead of them are scratching their heads about.”
Ligertwood’s perspective on the next generation reminds her that one day these young people are the next leaders of the Church, and some are already leading churches. The oldest Gen Z is roughly 25, meaning the next generation isn’t just gearing up for change anymore. They’re part of the change.
From her unique perspective of literally seeing the next generation of believers worship from her point on stage, like at this year’s Passion Conference, Ligertwood can see exactly what sort of changes the next generation is ready to be part of — the good, the bad and the ugly.
“I think there’s some cleaning house happening and I welcome it,” Ligertwood says, “but I also pray that I can be on the right side of it, because I’m on the right side of Him.”
Some house-cleaning has even happened within her own church home this last year. Hillsong Church’s founder and senior Brian Houston stepped down from his position to focus on the legal battle over charges that he was aware of his father’s sexual abuse crimes but did not alert the authorities. The year before that, Hillsong Church lead pastor Carl Lentz stepped down from his position following lengthy allegations about his leadership.
The change has been difficult for the megachurch, as they’ve had to weather storms in a very public setting. And they aren’t the only church to face staff changes and navigate theological divisions. But Ligertwood believes that even as the local church faces bumps on it’s journey, the larger Body of Christ will persevere as it always has.
“The older I get, the less I know. But there are a few things that I do suspect are true and I feel more strongly about than ever: I take great comfort in the fact that the church is not ours. No matter how much us humans put in what would appear to be a herculean effort to screw it up, it’s actually not ours. It’s Jesus’ church,” Ligertwood says.
She recalls Eugene Peterson’s history of Israel, where he refers to the times when God’s people were up and then down with Him as “the sawtooth history of Israel.” Ligertwood thinks this is applicable to the history of the post-Acts church, as well.
“We obey and place glory in the right place, and then we don’t and then we mess it up, and then we repent and we remember and we return and the Lord rebuilds and restores, and so on and so forth,” Ligertwood explains.
The sawtooth history isn’t the prettiest journey to endure. In fact, it’s pretty painful. Reckoning with long-held systems that worked for one generation but not the other, that transition of leadership — it’s messy. It’s tender, sometimes even heartbreaking. But it’s nothing to be afraid of, Ligertwood reminds us. The next generation may be inheriting a “cacophony” of dysfunction that can be overwhelming. But, as the sawtooth history reminds us, it’s nothing God hasn’t handled before.
“If we look at history, we can take great comfort in the fact that God is merciful and He’ll let us carry on for a bit, but not forever before He comes in and begins to clean up His house.”