I've been listening, studying, considering a lot of videos recently as I work on a major renovation of my church communication YouTube Channel. I've focused on two areas for my unscientific, random research:
1. Some of the most popular videos as identified by the USA TODAY listing. This list in itself is a significant cultural shift point here and one churches need to note--USA TODAY now fills about a third of the day's television schedule with what it considers important website videos.
2. Specifically educational videos, everything from Ted Talks and Khan Academy to home-schooling English lessons and Bible teaching online.
Aside from the obvious differences in content, one thing that has struck me forcefully is the tone, the voice of various videos.
Many of the videos in "most popular" category on YouTube are of people speaking loudly, often outrageously and profanely. I'm not a fan and not familiar with these current small screen sensations, but the same voice of snarky superiority seems to characterize many of them. Another characteristic voice of many is outrageous and angry, while self-assured of their right to be outrageous and angry. If a smirk can be translated into a voice, this is a base note of many.
After a short exposure to some of them, it was obvious who was listening to who, who was a follower, a disciple of this tone of voice. The current celebrity source is easy to identify; the spiritual source a little more challenging, but it is clear who it is not from. It is clearly not from Jesus.
The contrasting voice of Jesus
What does Jesus voice sound like? Though the entire Bible is literally his Word, his voice to us, the following passage from John 10 is instructive. I've italicized the passages pertaining to Jesus voice--consider them as you read:
John 10: 1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father —and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life —only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
The voice of Jesus is the voice of a shepherd who cares for the sheep, protects the sheep, ultimately gives His life for the sheep. The sheep know who Jesus is by his voice. Elsewhere Jesus reminded us that:
". . .the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:34-37
Jesus is the Shepherd and Savior; Redeemer and Lord and from that identity come words of salvation, redemption, healing and peace. Even his words of correction, as in the public redemption of Peter in John 21, are permeated with a shepherd's desire to redeem and redirect a beloved sheep.
Whose voice is heard when we communicate?
When we communicate, what is the primary voice people hear? Who are we a disciple of? When people hear our voice do they think of Jesus?
What would be some characteristics of our voice that reflect our Lord? A few reminders follow from 1 Peter 3:
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing. . . . .
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. . . . .
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. . . .
To sound like Jesus is extraordinarily difficult. To speak with restraint, to seek peace with our words, to speak with gentleness and respect, is never easy and it will be a particularly demanding challenge in the coming weeks for American Christian communicators as the U.S. presidential election draws to a close. Though issues and events stir up strong emotions, Christians never have a reason to not obey the commands above.
One particular temptation is to respond in anger. When this temptation arises, a good way to "be prepared to give an answer" when we know a situation may be volatile is to remember that:
A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control. Prov. 29:11
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20
Simply because we claim to be a Christian does not mean that we will automatically communicate with the voice of Christ. It takes work to become like Jesus. To reflect his voice, his Word must so permeate our hearts that it is what bubbles out in all our conversation.
People are often shocked when they hear their voice played back to them if they've never heard themselves recorded before, but careful listening and adjusting your word choice and tone improves the voice of any communicator. Take some to time listen to the tone, the words, the voice of your communication in print, in social media, in speech, online. Pray for discernment. Discipline your written and spoken words so that when people hear you, they will hear the voice of your Shepherd.