Your hands made me and set me up firmly,
Give me understanding so I may learn your commands. — Psalm 119:73
From that town many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman who testified, â€œHe told me everything I had done.â€ — John 4:39
One of my favorite, humorous science fiction series is about a future diplomat, Jame Retief (of the two fisted variety), who wanders the stars settling disputes for the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienneâ€”in other words, us earth folks. The diplomats in the stories always think enough talking will solve anything, no matter how many times they experience defeat using that method. Nothing ever convinces them to change. One must never view the next alien with any sort of prejudice; one must assume that no matter how armed, and no matter how many people he may have killed, that he is really peace loving and just requires the proper approach. One alien plaintively remarks to Retief something like this: â€œNot have prejudice alright, but me think you humans think it bad idea learn from experience!â€
Now with that irreverent start, what can I possibly be drawing from my texts today? Well, I think it’s quite possible that many church members and leaders think it’s a bad idea to learn from experience!
Just yesterday, I heard again about someone who accepted Christ as savior, and I again heard what I normally hearâ€”it was the result of someone’s testimony. Somebody talked about what Jesus had done for them and what Jesus meant for them, and it made an impression. That seems to be the way that it always is. Even if someone comes forward at an altar call in a meeting, you’re going to find the testimony of someone lies behind that moment. It may be the testimony of the evangelist himself. It may be a Christian neighbor who was unaware of the testimony.
Throughout the history of the church, testimonies have driven the church growth. It’s not just the recitation of facts, or conviction of sin, or acceptance of doctrines. It’s the realization that God can work in your life, because he has worked in someone else’s. Personal testimony is most convincing, and not merely in words, but in deeds. (Though we should remember that deeds need to be combined with words at some point.)
So what do we do in our churches in order to bring people in? We advertise. We pass out literature. We invite evangelists to hold meetings. We go through our orders of service and have the pastor as the one person who speaks. We take prayer requests but don’t actively seek praise reports. A business that behaved in this way would soon go out of business, but the church keeps stumbling on.
What do we need to do? We need to make every effort to bring people together and let them hear testimonies of what God has done. This isn’t only for evangelism; it’s for discipleship. Isolation is the devil’s tool. Testimonies let each of us know that we are not the only ones who experience difficulty and that God is still alive and still intervenes in people’s lives.
Outside of your church you can practice this by noticing and expressing the things God has done for you. This is not a way to tell others what they should do or believe. It’s simply letting others know what drives you and what the result is in your life. Keep it short and not preachy. Talk about what God has done for you, not what you think the other person should do.
Could there be a testimony today about you that many believed because they heard your report about Jesus?