Scrolling through my Facebook feed last week, I saw a short video of a lion cub learning to roar. In its very cute, yet powerful way, the cub was discovering the potential majesty hidden in its vocal chords. This week’s newsletter is about voice and stewardship. Pastor Sarah Renfro, whom I met at a stewardship conference, shares her wisdom on how leaders might lean-in to the potential roar of their own voices, while also keeping an ear open to the voices of others.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Rev. Sarah Renfro
Voice and Moxie
What does moxie have to do with stewardship? Jen Hatmaker writes in her book Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life that moxie “reaches for laughter, for courage, for the deep and important truth…” (xix). The dictionary defines moxie as “force of character, determination, or nerve.” This “moxie” is often what is suppressed by those trying to “keep the peace,” or appeal to all sides of an issue, often, not to upset the base or lose big givers in the church. Using one’s voice is often a form of “moxie.” I recently heard Jen tell her story on her “Moxie Matters” tour. She experienced the devastating result of having moxie and using her voice to say she loves all people, including the LGBTQIA community. From her context in the Evangelical church, she found that her moxie cost her friends, book sales, and more.
Come Out of the Shadows
If stewardship, as Adam Copeland writes, “is a lived concept, most often resulting in sharing that surprises, compassion that complicates, and love that inspires,” then certainly, voice is a tool for stewardship. Voice is using one’s mouth to speak, hands to type, and life to express stories as unique as the one who lived them. That means I am to use my voice to preach, teach, encourage, comfort, challenge, and confront, if necessary.
In such times as these, when trending hashtags are celebrities and regular people speaking out about issues that matter but have long been hidden in shadows of shame and stigma or silenced by the powers that once held sway, voice matters more than ever.
As a pastor, I use my voice to pray aloud for those in the worship space, in order to lift up those in our community who are hurting, physically, mentally, spiritually. It is my privilege and responsibility to name those who seemingly have no voice, the ones Jesus spoke about: the refugees, the immigrants, the marginalized, the outcast. And in my own life, I share stories in solidarity with some who may feel too scared, ashamed, or pained by, to express. It is a gift to be an open book -- or big mouth.
A Time to Speak and A Time to Stay Silent
Of course, it is also important not to interrupt some conversations, not to speak when the subject isn’t yours, or mine, to speak to. Stewardship of voice also means to know when to hush.
Speaking hard truths and truth to power may definitely complicate and inspire. And baring one’s soul may result in surprising connections. But remember compassion. Content of character comes out in what is spoken and left unspoken. Just because I am willing to be loud and proud, doesn’t mean I always should. Stewardship of voice allows for silence and listening, when the time is right. A fine line to be sure, but considerate folks intuit the difference, and when they mess up, they use their voice to say, “sorry.”
Voice is Pastoral and Prophetic
Using one’s voice to lift laments and praise is pastoral. Using one’s voice to speak truth to power, call out injustice, and advocate for the broken, is prophetic. Voice is a gift, and for those of us called by God to lead with justice, we have the responsibility of stewardship. May we use our voice with humility and compassion to create positive change in love of ourselves, God, and others.
For More Information
Rev. Sarah Renfro is the Pastor of Connections at Geist Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fishers, IN. As a former international model and current minister, her passion is presenting body image workshops, leading retreats, and keynoting camps on faith and embodiment. She writes about marriage, motherhood, ministry, mental illness, and more on her website m-bodied.com. Sarah is married to Rev. Kyle Brown and mother to first-grader Miriam. She also bleeds blue for her hometown University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising: Luther Seminary, in partnership with the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, is hosting a four-day intensive course, May 7-10, 2018. For more information visit: Lake Institute