Can you hear me now?

This past Sunday I was a guest preacher at a church in Simi Valley which is something I actually enjoy doing. I was nervous about the length of my sermon (sermons at our church are at least forty-five minutes) and did end up cutting quite a bit from what I had planned to say. My good friend who is the pastor there kept telling me not to worry about going over, but I just really didn’t want to be that guest preacher who goes way too long (especially on a hot summer morning).

At the conclusion of the service, my friend hustled us out a side door so that we could position ourselves at the exit so as to greet the church members as they left the sanctuary. I told Bruce that I felt a bit like I was at a wedding (though Doug and I did not have a receiving line, so really I didn’t know what I was talking about!), but it was great to meet so many wonderful folks from this church family.

My favorite comment of the morning came from an elderly gentleman who, by my account, was probably the oldest person there. He said to me: “There are three things I appreciated about you this morning….”

I honestly don’t remember the first two things that he said because the third was so amusing. “Usually when the women preach, I just can’t understand what they are saying. They run their words together and have these soft voices and I just can’t follow what they are saying. But you spoke and it was loud and clear and I could hear all of your words, so thank you.”

I laughed and thanked him and told him that yes, I do have a bigger voice than some, and I was glad my words had been clear enough for him to follow.

I’m the girl who gets her wireless mic on and the minute I start to speak has some poor sound guy in the back scrambling to adjust me because he clearly expected my voice to be smaller. I’m not sure when I realized that my voice was lower than a lot of other women, or when I figured out that not everyone can project their voice as loudly as I can. I did some drama here and there growing up and certainly that taught me something about the use of my voice. And my freshman year in college I was hired by a radio station to be on the air every Saturday but even then I’m not sure how aware I was that I had a good “voice”.

One funny memory I have is of a gathering at Dick Staub’s house many years ago where I was the only female present for a meeting of the minds around some of Dick’s vision for Christians engaging the culture. I hadn’t spoken up much that morning (I’m not a big talker in groups as I have shared here), and when it was time to break for lunch, Dick asked me if I would pray. I don’t remember there being anything that special about the prayer, but when I finished the room was silent and everyone was staring at me. Because of Dick’s broadcasting gifts we had been discussing some different radio show options, and I think it was Stan Grenz who made some comment about how we wouldn’t have to look very far for a woman who could be on the air with Dick.

It is interesting to consider the ease I have experienced as a preacher and teacher. I wonder about the elderly gentleman’s comment and how much simple genetics have come to play in all of that.


  1. I’m reading Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill, and he makes rather a point about this (female voices being generally higher and therefore not carrying as far) as one reason that women in the middle ages (and pre-tech societies in general) were not teachers/preachers/leaders of large groups of people. It seemed like quite a stretch to me, but …

  2. I’m a man, but one of the most glowing comments I ever received was after I gave a talk to a congregation about the mission in Brazil. A feeble, elderly woman in her 90’s went on and on to one of the leaders of the congregation about what I good speaker I was…she could hear every word!

  3. Your first clue might have been when, as a fifth grade girl, you beat out a 6th grade boy for the star role of Scrooge in the school play!! And played the part remarkably well I might add…but then I am the mom, so guess there is a little prejudice there!

  4. I read this with some pain, as I have typically been that woman who is criticized for having a “small voice” whether that be speaking or singing. Though even God is said to speak with a “still, small voice” at times, most people associate authority with loud and low-register voices. The louder you are, the more authority you are attributed. Before the advent of sound-support, there is no way I could have been a worship leader or a preacher in a church, much less even a small group. Nobody would take me seriously. You are blessed to have a strong voice and not need to battle the preconceived notions about “smaller” voices !

  5. Erika,
    Now I have to revise how I “hear your voice” as I read your writing.

    I think you have both a great speaking and writing voice. I’m glad there’s sound re-inforcement so that others can hear it – and your blog, so others can read it.

  6. Susan,

    I wrote it with some pain as well, knowing full well that there are women NOT being given opportunities because of these cultural expectations or preferences. My experience puts me on the other side, and I do feel grateful for that. Honestly, this guy was the first person to ever so explicitly speak to this concern, and it just made me wonder how much other people think about this…

  7. Bill, as always – you’re a true friend. Thank you 🙂

    Erika, I think its a work of God that not only are you gifted but that you are recognized, affirmed and blessed by the church ! Culture can make it more or less challenging, but only God can make a real pastor 🙂

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *