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,