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

 

 

Spirituality. It isn’t what you think.

How do you measure if you’re spiritual?
Being spiritual can mean a lot of different things.

spiritual-e1440634043386For those who follow an eastern religious mindset it could be the making of many different sacrifices or offerings to a myriad of gods or spirits. It could be following a religious regime (rules) so that we might either put ourselves in a place of peace and happiness, or so that we might gain merit to enter some form of nirvana or earn a better standing in this life or next.  In this understanding spirituality equals how we have gained peace or hope through our religious merit or habits.

In a North American mindset we often equal spirituality with the degree of self-care  and personal comfort we achieve. “Yes I’m a spiritual person. I take personal time to meditate, reflect, do yoga or have ‘me time’ each week.” We tend to measure our spiritual health by how well we feel, how much space in our lives we have to take care of ourselves or how much control we have been able to gain on our lives. Spirituality equals how good, peaceful or comfortable our lives have become because of our habits of self-awareness.

God doesn’t measure Spirituality the way we do.
“Spirituality” in the Bible doesn’t equate to what we do for merit before God through self-sacrifice or how peaceful we can make our lives through self comfort.

  • Spirituality in the Bible always includes a work  initiated by Holy Spirit, with evidences of Holy Spirit’s work. Romans 8 would be a good place to think on this.
  • Spirituality in the Bible is always measured in actuals. A contrite heart, a broken spirit, a need for the great grace of the God we cannot reach, a desperate soul and delighting simply in God’s grace (evidenced by how we treat other broken people in humanity)- these are the things God will not despise.
  • Spirituality in the Bible is understood by our actual proximity to God, not a worked up or perceived by others proximity. It is so often those who appear to be spiritual to others or who have worked themselves into a position of spirituality, in the Bible, who God says, “I do not know you.”

How do christians measure if they are spiritual?
In our modern-day North American churches we can get caught up in believing we are spiritual people in ways that exclude true spiritual life by living as a ‘instagram, pod-cast, free-range Christian”

Instagram Christian – our deepest engagement with the Word of God, His voice to us, is via instagram one-liner scripture quotes. #like #yesJesus #makeitsoforme #thismakesmehappier

Pod-cast Believer– We gain a head knowledge of Bible by listening to our favourite pod-cast preachers so that we know the arguments, the winsome applications, the best known teachers/speakers/preachers of modern-day church but know little of wrestling the truth of Christ out within  the broken, stumbling,  life of the face to face church community. #letmeunpackthisforyou  #landtheplane #bringit #preacheriskillingit

Free-range Saint – We float in and out of Church with no real engagement in the difficult, messy realities of being a part of the local imperfect body. We come in once or maybe twice a month. Try to look content during the 30 minutes of singing. Check our phones during the 40 minutes of preaching. Say as little as possible. Keep it light. Get out as soon as we can (to get to more important stuff in our schedule). Treating church like a hair cut. Has some sort of cosmetic effect on how spiritual we can appear but not something we are particularly engaged or threatened by. Unless of course we judge it to be a horrible or distasteful event. Then we’ll float to some other place next time we feel the need to go.

Spirituality or Spiritual Life?
  I am struck by how we measure our ‘spirituality’ and by how God measures our spiritual life. Where and what we do to appear spiritual and how Christ calls us to deep engagement in His Body, the Church, so that we are confronted with authentic living of a Spirit-filled life. Struck by the testimony of the first century church -true spirituality will not leave us comfortable but will cause us to abandon the pipe dream of what treasure we believe we can gain on earth and fight to delight with all we have in the person and  work of Jesus. For He is the only means to truly be made spiritual.

Prompted in thinking on this by studies in Acts (see especially chpts7-9)

Thanks for reading

BRS