The story is told of a musician—a particularly skillful musician with a highly-developed ear for pitch, tone, and harmony—who visited a new church for the first time. He arrived a little late and entered the sanctuary just as the congregation was beginning to sing the opening song. To his chagrin, the singing was badly out of tune. It pained him to hear the people attempt to sing one of the great hymns of the Christian faith without the least bit of success.
But as he walked to a pew and took his place, he began to hear one voice that stood apart. Amidst all the dissonance, one woman sang clearly, calmly, and perfectly in tune, her sweet voice rising just above the din around her. She was undistracted by the flat notes and grating tones, undistracted by all the unskilled singers that surrounded her.
As that musician stood and listened, he noticed with fascination that first one voice and then another was drawn to this woman’s. Soon those immediately around her began to follow her lead, to match her melody, to hit the same notes. Then those a little farther away picked up on it as well. Before long the whole congregation was singing the hymn just as its composer had intended. Soon the whole congregation was making a truly joyful, truly lovely, truly beautiful noise to the Lord.
We sometimes wonder what difference one person can make to a church. The man with a heart for evangelism can be discouraged when he observes that the members of his church seem apathetic. The woman who loves to extend hospitality can find it difficult when she sees that so many other people in the church neglect it. The teen with a heart for Bible study can be tempted to move on when the other young folk seem unconcerned with these basic disciplines.
Yet as this woman displayed that morning long ago, one person truly can make all the difference. That woman did not need to stop the congregation and formally instruct them. She did not need to interrupt them to bring a stern reprimand. She did not need to grumble or complain. She simply had to use her gift until one person and then another and finally the whole church had heard her voice, had matched her tone, and had fallen into perfect melody. For “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”