Redeeming the ‘Testimony Time’

Redeeming the ‘testimony time’ by Rehearsing the Grace of God

We need to redeem “the testimony time”. I know that sounds so pretentious, but it is something that we, at PAXnorth have been seeking to do in our young congregation.

Why, how, and some of the initial results.
Teaching through whole books of scripture as the focus of our Sunday Worship services has caused us to grow together as a community of disciples. It has given us a shared ‘language’ as we talk through the application of God’s Word in our discipleship groups. It has caused us to see the bigger threads of God’s instruction for both our redeeming and Christian living. It has also caused us to have a shared response of thanks giving, or appreciating of God’s grace.

This, shared thanksgiving, is becoming an important part of our collective worship response. So much so that we have begun to set aside the Sunday at the end of our sermon series, or when we shift into a new season (i.e. Easter or Christmas), as an entire Sunday to ‘Rehearse the Grace of God’.

The reasoning is simple, so we might make much of the grace of God at work in our lives both individually and corporately. Also that in rehearsing this corporately we might grow in our ability to speak and live out the Gospel together. Grow in our  “gospel fluency”
This reasoning drives the ‘how to’s’ of ‘testimony time.’ We instruct our congregation as they prepare to share – 1. You are the priesthood of believers. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit at work in us, together. 2. Save your sermon. Everyone has a sermon they would love to preach. This is not the time. Try it out on your spouse or roommates see how that goes, and get back to us. 3. You are not the hero of grace. Jesus is the hero. Tell us how the life, cross, burial, resurrection and new life united with Christ is being made real in your life by the work of Holy Spirit. How has God been using the truths of His Word, that we have been wrestling through in this series, to speak the Gospel into your life? 4.  There will be time for rehearsing both personally and corporately God’s grace. [Personally(see #3); Corporately- what have you seen God doing in us? Our church family is experiencing God’s grace at work, where? How? Is there words of encouragement to be shared, again, as it relates primarily to the Gospel work of Jesus, that we need to hear?]

A few initial results ?  Admittedly we have only done this twice in the last five months however we have seen some positive results. Apart from some of the obvious that sharing publicly brings us a sense of unity and encouragement along with getting to know our people a bit more, there is something else that is coming out of these times.

  •  Our people have begun to think through not simply what they share but how they share. It’s pretty typical in a church testimony time to hear a testimony that makes much of the ‘Sharer’ (either as the terrible prodigal or the righteous older brother) with a tag on of Jesus. Jesus usually plays the affirming roll while the Sharer plays the hero in the testimony. Understanding Christ as the hero of our story causes us to think through how we live out of a life united to Christ and walk in hope by faith in Christ in our everyday.
  • Our Church has begun to expect God to move in response to His word being preached. There is a growing alertness to what God is doing through His Word in our lives, both personal and corporate. So often we open God’s Word in private or public then walk away unmoved or unaffected. God’s Word spoken is always a pre-cursor to God’s work in our world. By rehearsing the grace of God in our life and church we are opening our eyes to this truth, if God is preparing His people through His Word it is for a work He is doing or about to do in/with us. Open your eyes!
  • Our Church is growing more sensitive to God’s Spirit speaking through the Church body. We are encouraging and making opportunity for the priesthood of believers in these worship services to pray for each other. Specifics needs for healing, freedom from addictions and oppression, grief and wisdom. Also giving opportunity to speak truth to the congregation or to the elders. (Works like this- if someone feels they have a word for the Church beyond encouragement they run it by one of our elders. This allows for the elders to discern if it’s something to be shared now or something we in leadership need to take and pray over on behalf of the church).

We are new and young at ‘rehearsing the grace of God’ in this way. It still feels a bit awkward and strained. It is proving to be an affective way of drawing our church to make much of the grace of God, for that we are excited.

Thanks for reading,

BRS

 

 

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Justin Trudeau is the Answer to Your Prayers

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Yesterday, October 19, 2015 marked a decisive day in Canada’s political landscape. Democracy was exercised across our great country in all ten provinces and 3 territories resulting in some unprecedented results. Approximately 17,410,656 people were engaged in voting, the highest voter turn out in more than a decade with more than 60% of eligible voters showing up to exercise their freedom to choose their leaders. This on the heels of a very long, according to Canadian standards, political campaign period, 78 days. Still, this resulted in a reportedly large numbers of first time voters (students, new citizens, etc.) and a strong turn out of aboriginal first nation communities making this federal election feel like democracy is alive and well in our country. Snap shot of the results

  But did we get what we were asking for? 

I think I am like the typical Canadian. I have an opinion, try to keep it politely to myself until directly asked then try to communicate with a calm cool nonchalantness and deep conviction on MY right opinion. I was asked several times through the election campaign who I will vote for (by both family, friends and acquaintances). I could tell that most of them, like me, were wearying from the constant berating of one party’s rhetoric against the other. The constant deflecting or the spin machines that so often deflect from the deeper issues that no politician would talk about. Mainly because in our politically correct, post modern culture they know they would be committing political suicide.

Then there are the morning after Facebook feeds,  WOW! I won’t write everything that surprised me by the Facebook feeds that I stream, except this one thing: I am struck with the incredible negative responses from my Conservative Christian voting feeds, not all but the majority. I recognize the sentiment, the feelings of frustration that no one wants to talk about issues that line up with the deeper truth of Biblical morals (not even the Conservatives). Or that whole parties are seeming to forbid any kind of conversation about these issues (abortion vs pro-life; euthanasia, actions to care for the poorest among us, etc). These frustrations, if I am not mistaken, have moved Christians in our country to pray for these elections, our party leaders, or local candidates more intentionally then perhaps a long time.
I think more Christians than usual were moved by this election to a biblical response when faced with the clash of our consciences and government. More than normally, I know I was pressed into prayer,  to hope and to clarify a vote, for the option that will cause us to live out of a peace and quietness that brings a freedom to both believe and preach the Goodnews of God, which is Jesus (I Timothy 2:1-7 kind of response).

But two questions in the aftermath, my fellow followers of Jesus:
1. Do you believe God answers the prayers of His Church?  It seems many of us don’t. Our response to God’s answer to our countries act of democratic vote is “DOOMSDAY!” We prayed, we hoped, we voted and now look what God’s given us for an answer… Justin Trudeau. You may, or may not, find this answer lacking – but it is God’s answer. If you don’t see it that way then I’d press this second question to you;

 2. Do you believe in the Sovereignty of God?  I see the God of both the Old and New Testament not as a passive or reactive God. I see God both giving his people the kings, rulers, emperors, ruling nations that they often deserve, or even don’t deserve. But however you look at it, you soon discover that God is always, and will forever be able to make, shape, direct both the heart of the rulers and the fate of the nations.

If we believe in these two simple Biblical understandings about the character of God- He answers the prayers of His people, and He is sovereign  then we need to understand, this morning when we woke up God has given us an answer in keeping with these two truths- the answer right now, that will shape both the people of God, and the Kingdom of God in our Country is Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal party.

To these truths then I think our first response needs to be prayers of thankfulness, trust, and enthusiasm to push in to be better, more engaged and hopeful citizens of Canada then we have ever been. For God is working out his grace through His Church in our Country as a response to the prayers and actions of His people.

Here’s a helpful response written by another Canadian Christian blogger – This demonstrates a trust in the Sovereignty of God and an engagement in the answers of God to His praying people. “Dear Prime Minster Trudeau” – thanks Aaron

“The King’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.” – Proverbs 21:1