Some churches don’t realize how they sound. Their worship team is spot on. Their videos are hip. Their choir is rocking the platform, but they are way off when it comes to dealing with their tone in dealing with the issues that affect people in the pew.
As the church, we need to be aware of not just what we say (asking, “Is it Biblical?”), but we also need to be concerned with how we say it. When dealing with the relevant issues being discussed within the church including: hell, sexuality, war, or money. It is often not what is said, but how it was said that people remember.
What tone of voice should we seek?
Our audience should moved towards or away from the gospel not by the tone of our voice, but by content of our message. The message of the gospel is offense without our help (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The radical discipleship required by Christ is a stumbling block for people, but some churches build extra barriers because of the way they address issues, and share their beliefs.
So, as we share a message of hope and healing. Here are a few points:
A. Humility versus Piety.
Speakers should have experienced the grace, healing, and forgiveness of God in the area being discusseed. People identify with brokenness and restoration much more than piety and morals without a personal context. If you are discussing sexuality, then have someone speak who was broken, and has found healing. Speaking from a places of brokeness in any issue, communicates authenticity, humility, and hope.
B. Tone-deaf need not apply.
Whether privately or publicly, tone-deaf people should not be in positions of relational or platform ministry. I am not talking about sweet Florence (a founding member of the church choir) who cannot stay on pitch. I am talking about allowing Elder “Knows-all” onto the platform who cannot hear, understand, or control his/her tone. While most people can be taught how to control their tone, others naturally possess an ability to read and respond to others.
C. Tone should be Planned.
Decisions of tone should be discussed and determined when deciding the topic of messages. Tone provides direction for crafting a message, and cannot be left to the last minute. Staff or leadership should do a discussion about the topic, and what they want to communicate to their community, rather than one person dictating what is being said.
D. Dig deeper than, “Speak the truth in love.”
This expression although true has become a cliche to support our current practices. Churches need to examine what speaking in love really means for their community. Are we responsible simply for what we say, or for how the audience feels? Discussions of our methods of communication need regularly examined in light of the love we are called to have for our neighbor.
E. Review your Tone.
Do you take the time to reflect on how past worship services or other pieces of communication were perceived by the audience? Many churches may have people reviewing the services, but it includes the same people who planned the service, or people from similar demographic backgrounds. Diversity is important when evaluating what was said. Our tone may have been perceived differently to different generations. How we address an issue to one group may have sounded gracious, while those from a different generation may feel it was overbearing. Seek diversity, and learn from the different perspectives.
As a church, may God guide you as you seek to be a voice of healing and hope to our rapidly changing world.
Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources. He is not tone-deaf, but loves to sing next to those who are. If you would like him to help your church minister to Millennials (and those who love them), contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.