Mississippi Church of God Pastor Wins ‘The Voice’ Talent Search

May 20, 2020–Todd Tilghman, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Meridian, Mississippi, was announced on live, nationwide television last night as the 2020 winner of “The Voice” competition.

Tilghman is a 42-year-old father of eight and an ordained bishop in the Church of God.

“The Voice” is a hugely popular NBC talent search competition where singers audition before a celebrity panel. Selected participants then choose a “coach” from the panel and perform weekly during live competition. According to NBC, with the advent of the coronavirus, “The Voice” transitioned to remote live shows beginning with the Top 17, which allowed Tilghman to take viewers into his hometown, church and life in the house with eight children. He performed from his local church, which quickly convinced America to vote him through to the Top 9. With his family by his side, Tilghman gave an emotional performance of “Love, Me” by Collin Raye that earned him a spot in the finale. As part of the Top 5 on Monday night, Tilghman took viewers back to the Meridian church one final time for a moving and inspiring performance of “I Can Only Imagine” by the contemporary Christian group MercyMe.

Screen shot of Todd Tilghman following the announcement of his win as champion of The Voice Season 18 (click photo to enlarge)

This is the second time a contestant with Church of God roots has claimed the top prize. On December 15, 2015, Lee University student Jordan Smith was crowned champion of Season 8 of The Voice.

Tilghman was chosen winner from a nationwide vote following his finale performance on Monday night. Ironically, he was the first contestant to audition during the show’s 18th season and outlasted all others. Comments from the judges after the vocal finale were immensely positive.

“Pastor, I have loved seeing your journey throughout this season,” said singer-songwriter and judge, John Legend. “It was a wonderful performance.”

Fighting back tears, singer and talk show host Kelly Clarkson said “You are so moving and it’s because you are a pastor. You have such a bigger belief inside of you than just yourself.” After an emotional pause she continued. “I would love to come to your church just to hear you speak, not just sing…you are very special.”

“What (Clarkson) says is true; you just have a connection with people,” stated country music artist Blake Shelton, who served as Tilghman’s coach throughout the competition. “Your talent speaks for itself…you sing with so much passion, so much precision and America agreed and that’s why you’re in this finale.” Later that night, Tilghman performed a duet of “Authority Song” by John Mellencamp with Shelton, which reached No. 1 on the iTunes Rock Chart.

Church of God General Overseer Tim Hill said, “Todd Tilghman is a wonderful man of family, faith and faithfulness. Throughout the process of the competition, his witness to the world kept shining bright and his professionalism and decorum was a sterling example of integrity. Great job Todd. You represented family, American spirit and the fact that dreams can really come true. Enjoy this moment and everywhere it may lead as the Lord allows. God bless.”

Tilghman grew up as a pastor’s son and has been at the Meridian, Mississippi church since he was 14. He became the church’s youth pastor, associate, and is currently lead pastor. He is married to his high school sweetheart.

Melvin Shuler, who serves as administrative bishop for the Church of God in Mississippi said, “The ‘4 chair turn’ that we witnessed in February on The Voice was not the first time that this vibrant young man turned heads. Todd comes from a Godly family and will be a Christian testimony to many. Todd is NBC’s Voice winner, but before that He was/is God’s voice to this generation!” Monty Lasseter, the state’s youth leader said, “Todd’s dedication to God, ministry, and family makes us proud, and we are excited to see what the future holds for the Tilghman family!”

According to a release from NBC, after having three children together, Tilghman and his wife decided to adopt. With help from friends and their community, the couple were able to piece together $20,000 to bring home a new daughter. Less than a year later, the Tilghmans decided to expand their family once again when the agency called saying their daughter’s sister also needed a home. After an anonymous donation, they were able to adopt her as well and now have eight children together.

And now, he owes all eight a trip: “We’re going to have to figure this out, but my wife promised my kids we would go to Disney World if I won,” the singer said following the show.

When asked about how the win might affect his ministry, Tilghman said, “Honestly, I think the possibilities are limitless. I’ve always been kind of a relational person as far as the Gospel is concerned. I prefer people experience love, and joy, etc. than for me to just teach them about it. So I think this will vastly expand my opportunities to show love. There are no immediate plans for any practical changes, but I also know that life is changed now, and for the better! I’ll take any platform I can to show people that, as flawed as we are, God is so very good!”

—Cameron Fisher, Church of God Communications

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