The Voice (Not that One)

January 15th, 2013

No, I’m not talking about the TV show with people competing for a chance to use their voice and get paid for it. And no, I’m not referring to the idea that our voices are somehow our gift, molded and shaped by our own pursuits. The voice is a beautiful creation of God, and it is a gift entrusted to us. Our job as a church is to be stewards of this gift.

People use their voices for numerous things—communication, expression, beautiful music, alarm, excitement. However, it is also possible for them to be used to commit the deepest violence to God and neighbor as people are marginalized, bullied, exploited, and abused. How is it, then, that we are able to develop a greater sense of stewardship with our voices? One place we can turn is to learn from today’s youth.

My church youth choir, SONlight returned from a 6-day choir tour to Dallas, Texas. Our youth choir gives teens the opportunity to find their voices and use them for praising and serving God. However, it is often not in the ways you would think.

The following is a list of goals on choir tour that allow our youth the opportunity to express themselves and use their voices:

  1. Share the gospel of Jesus Christ
  2. Encounter marginalized members of our society and extend Christ’s love to them
  3. Learn to live together in Christian community
  4. Share one another’s burdens and struggles
  5. Return home ready to use the skills we have developed

The voice is the key to making all of these things work. Learning to use our voices means not being afraid to share the Good News of Christ’s resurrection and creatively working to usher in the Reign of God. In singing the songs we prepared for tour and visiting with the people in every situation we faced (from assisted living to homeless shelters to inner-city children’s afterschool programs), the choir became actively involved in proclaiming the Christian truth. They also engaged one another in conversations that led to stronger friendships and trusting relationships. They lived together in much the same way that the earliest Christians did, holding everything in common and relying upon one another in times of need. We can only pray that we all have the opportunity to be as faithful as our youth choir when we leave worship and go into the world.

It is clear to me that SONlight is not a group of teens preparing for adulthood, nor are they simply passing through adolescence awaiting greater blessings and opportunities in the years to come. They are leading our church now as they live by Christ’s example and use their voices to show the way that leads to life.

Is it too late to find my voice? No. Have I missed the opportunity to feel the warmth of the Spirit in ways that our youth may be encountering for the first time? No. So… how will I know how to lead? How will I know what to say? How will I know where to go? Listen for God’s voice, and then stand up and use yours. Any payment you receive will be better than cold hard cash—your heart will be changed.

Jackson Henry has contributed several songs to Worship & Song.

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