Yesterday, people across the United States celebrated the life of a man who, nearly fifty years after his death, remains a pivotal part of America’s history. The voice of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King changed minds and hearts on civil rights and left an indelible mark on every one who has come after him.

Dr. King was unafraid to stand up for what he believed was right and was outspoken on the issues close to his heart. While most known for his civil rights speeches, he spoke fervently about the Christian Church and the role that it should play in America and in the daily lives of its citizens.

“How often the Church has been an echo, rather than a voice.”

That statement, lifted from one of Dr. King’s many perspectives on communism, hit me square in the face when I read it. Dr. King was a pastor and had seen the behavior of the Church firsthand. The sad truth is this: Many of Dr. King’s most prolific words, including these ones, have fallen on ears with very selective hearing.

Obviously, he meant to call out those of us who call ourselves “The Church.” He wasn’t speaking to any specific buildings, denominations, or structures of belief. He didn’t care whether you believed that the King James Version was a closer translation to the original Aramaic or Greek than The Street Bible. But, if you believe in the Bible, and you believe that it is the Holy Word of God, he was talking you. To us.

When I was younger, my family often visited a local mall. The only restrooms in the main thoroughfare of the mall were located at the end of a long, narrow brick hallway. I thought it was amazing that when you walked back this hallway, every step, voice, and even breath, seemed to carry on forever. I used to talk extra loud just to hear my voice echo off that tile floor and those old brick walls.

While I hope that me speaking just to hear my own voice doesn’t speak too deeply into my personality, I do hope that it proves a point about echoes.  What I heard coming back to my ears wasn’t the same thing that left my mouth.  It was similar in tone and pitch, and most of the time the words were able to be understood, but it wasn’t the same.

Many times the words were garbled, warped, and unintelligible. That’s what echoes can do. They take something that was once clear and pristine sounding and turn it into a complete mess that misrepresents the original message.

That’s what we as humans, and even worse, the Church, have begun to do. We’ve taken a message that is clear and pristine and muddied it up with other things. We forget that we are called to love our fellow human beings where they are at. We don’t get to judge or condemn, but we get to love, plant a seed, and maybe, if we’re lucky, drop an inch or two of water on it.

Facebook shares. Retweets. Reblogs. Those are all echoes. Are they inherently bad? Of course not. As a matter of fact, I hope that this website is shared through those exact means! But the echoes become an issue when we forget the original voice, or muddy one voice with another.

Learn to always use your voice. Stand for something. And never be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion. Even when I don’t agree with the message, I respect a person who can stand up and say, “This is it. This is my voice. This is where my passion can be found.” And I hope that my adversaries will say the same for me.

Again, build on others’ ideas. Retweet, share, etc. but make sure your voice can be heard. Make sure you’re not mixing one voice with another. An empty or confusing echo is nothing but a broken bell tower clanging its useless information, only to be ignored by everyone.

Echoes can be great. They give power to the original voice and carry its message farther, but take away that original voice and there is no echo. No message to be carried anywhere.

That is what we hope to do with Imperfect Collective. We want to be a voice. A group of voices that come together as one. We want to share our voice and hopefully we generate a few echoes. Are we infallible? No. Will it be said that we don’t stand for something and use our voice? I sure hope not. Will you always agree with us? Ha! We’ll be lucky if those of us who contribute will always agree. Frankly, I don’t know that we always want to.

My honest hope for anyone who is reading this is that you will take Dr. King’s words to heart and become a voice instead of just an echo. I will try to do the same.