Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rubble University: Part III, You're A Voice not The Voice

This Sunday, after 90-something million people tune into Super Bowl XLVI, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, and Blake "Don't-know-his-last-name-and-who-cares-'cause-he-sings-country" kick back in their chairs and tune in for the next "The Voice."  The coaches' chairs face away from the stage forcing them to judge the singer by the quality of their voice alone. Each coach selects a team of contestants and cultivates them for a vocal clash to the death...okay, not really to the death but until one singer is left. They crown the victor, "The Voice" - thus, the name of the show.  Sunday kicks-off the second season.

Here's my problem.  How can you have a second season to "THE Voice?"  The article "the" suggests sole, singular, or one.  America voted for "The Voice" at the end of season 1.  So, when season 2 ends, who is "The Voice" the Season 1 or the Season 2 winner? For the sake of clarity, I'm suggesting a few different titles for this NBC show: "A Really, Really Good Voice," "The Voice of Season II", "Our Contestants are better than American Idol Contestants," "Skinny Tat, Stubby Fingers, Bleach Blond, and Country."

As a preacher, you will face the "The" versus "A" temptation: to believe that your preaching voice is necessary for the livelihood of your church, that members look forward all week to hear what you have to say, and that people listen with the same passion with which you prepare.

Here is the sober, yet healthy truth of your preaching voice. You are "A" voice not "The" voice.  Preaching IS necessary but your voice IS NOT.  God means to have his word declared! God can work wonders through your voice but preaching's survival does not rest on your voice. When you go mute, God will raise another mouthpiece.  When you leave a congregation, some members will miss you and some may leave but, all in all, the church does not miss a beat. Many times the voice that steps into your Sunday shoes is better.  In fact, recently I have had conversations with several churches who have grown significantly both spiritually and communally in the absence of a preaching minister.  In a few years, you will be a date on a church timeline or a picture in the hall.

This is not just true of you, but of all who carry the gift of preaching.  Joshua followed Moses- God's original mouthpiece "whom the Lord knew face to face."  Elijah, who prayed fire from the sky (That would be a nice Sunday AM trick!), passed the torch to Elisha.  Jeremiah epitomized the prophetic homily at the temple but he was only one of many prophets.  John the Baptist (best dressed preacher in my book) was not a shabby proclaimer of the Word and he was followed by Jesus.  And with Jesus...God's word become human (you won't ever top that). You are one voice in a cacophony of preaching voices.

If you can live out of the truth that you are "A" voice and not "The" voice you will experience more  peace and joy in your ministry.
  1. You will not bear all the failure or claim all the success. As a preaching minister, you likely tend to fault yourself when "things go bad:" declining attendance, disgruntled members, unhappy elders, disunity among staff.  You put the pressure of "success" on your preaching (and others do too).  The flip side also stands true, when things are "rockin'" you tend to credit your preaching (as do others). Your self-differentiation improves when you recognize that you are "A" voice. You keep balanced what you can control and improve and what lies beyond your ability to change.  You take some responsibility but not all and you accept some credit but offer it more.
  2. You will celebrate other voices rather than feel threatened by them.  I have served in congregations where the Preaching Minister is not the best preacher on staff. When you believe you are "The" voice you covertly protect the pulpit from those more gifted than yourself.  But, when you understand you are "A" voice you make room in your pulpit for voices better than your own.  You understand that the WORD is the key and not the voice.
  3. You will be intentional about your transition out of the pulpit.  As "A" voice you know your preaching tenure must come to an end at some point.  Therefore, whether you transition to another congregation or prepare to retire you will be intentional and adamant in securing the success of your successor.
  4. You will feel grateful instead of entitled.  Every time you stand to proclaim (or sit on the cool bar stool with the round table for your notes) you will preach with a thankful heart because you recognize that any number of voices can stand where you do.  You will preach with humility and you will consider it an incredible honor.
  5. You will study other preachers.  You will make it a habit to study the style, theology, and methods of other preachers from various backgrounds, denominations, and cultures. You recognize that other voices help improve your voice.
While on Sunday NBC seeks to crown "The Voice," I pray that you will stand in your pulpit as "A" voice.  Grace and Peace!

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