I have listened to hundreds of personal testimonies in worship services, in college fellowship groups, and in teaching evangelism classes in seminaries. All testimonies end with some expression about how one’s life has been changed by God’s divine intervention. And they all end as verbal acts of praise.
Because of this, I strongly recommend recovering the place of testimony in our worship. As Psalm 40 says, “I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly” (v. 9–10). According to this prayer, it would be an act of disobedience to keep one’s mouth shut about what God has done.
My wife and I once visited a large new church in Los Angeles. After some time of praise, Mary, a local drama student at a large university, came forward to give a testimony. The professor of her introductory acting class had asked all the students to present “something extreme” to the class. Mary decided that, as a Christian, she would write a hymn of love to Jesus and sing it.
The student presenting before her, Alice, took a Bible, led the class out by a trash can on campus, and proceeded to slowly read portions of the Old Testament about commands to make war, God punishing the nations, and sending Israel into exile. She read imprecatory psalms. With each violent passage, Alice would say something like, “Who would ever believe in a God like that?” Then she would tear out the page from the Bible, burn it, and drop the page in the trashcan. It was extreme drama.
This was the warm-up for Mary. She pulled out her guitar, said a brief prayer under her breath, and sang a love song to Jesus. The class was silent and then went home. All, that is, except for Alice, who came forward with tears in her eyes. “That was beautiful. That is the God I want to know. Can you help me get to know Jesus?” And so, after a few days of Bible study and prayer, Alice gave her life to Christ.
The congregation was filled with praise and joy. Then, to add greater praise and thanksgiving, Mary said, “And Alice wanted to come to worship with me today to express her thanksgiving to Jesus.” Sudden praise erupted in the worship service. Mary and Alice hugged, and the worship team spontaneously broke into a song of praise. Some of us cried tears of joy.
We praise God for what he has done for us and through us. Sometimes it is important to remember these events in our lives and again lift up our hands and voices in praise. By being attentive to what God has done for us and for our communities, we are deepening our praise to God.
Adapted from Why Church? by Scott W. Sunquist. Copyright © 2019 by Scott W. Sunquist. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com
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