27/01/12 From the Minister's Study. Giving testimony still figures in the Methodist Church but ...
Giving testimony still figures in the Methodist Church but it doesn’t come to the congregation too often if they are not ordaining clergy, recognising Local Preachers or really encouraging new members to say a little about themselves. Why is this, why have we become a silent order about our faith.
Testimony can be a too edged sword, we can be amazed by people’s experiences or we can feel rather inadequate. We may even take the notion that we will never be as good as these modern day prophets who God just loves to include in his plan. Some friends of mine lead very colourful lives before God ‘got them’ and I used to dread being asked to give my testimony on the same night as one of them for fear that mine just sounded like a dull existence in comparison. A friend of mine who is now a minister worried about the same situation and I did hear he stood one night and said ‘My soul, was in prison; matter of fact I was in prison. This was not too unusual though as I was a prison officer......”.
Many of us will have been helped by what others shared in the past. We may have felt relief that others felt the same or struggled with the similar issues. We might have been challenged by what others were doing. It might even have prompted us to hear God saying ‘what is your testimony’.
My mother heard an American lady at a rally speak of her antics trying to pass the UK driving test with a manual car. It was a fragment of this ladies life and yet the message it underlined was tenacity. She kept on trying and God showed her patience. It made a real difference to my Mother and she stuck with some difficult projects for our church and community and her faith became much deeper as result.
If testimony is such a great encourager why has it become so poorly practised in the church. Well some shy away from public speaking, the British reserve doesn’t help and it is quite a vulnerable experience. That said it is something that each of can do because our experiences matter and people can benefit from hearing other people talk about faith – good and bad.
1 Peter 3. 15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. It’s an important challenge to all Christians that we have something planned to explain why we believe in God. After all if you ask someone why they chose their house they can usually manage a few good sentences, ask someone why they have an iphone or ipad you will be there the rest of the night. So shouldn’t we be able to come up with something a little more worthy for the King of Kings and Lord of lords than ‘I don’t know.
For Lent this year Debbie is organising a small booklet of peoples testimonies ( or parts of them) to encourage our sharing together. They will be anonymous and in written form so there are no worries about standing in front of others. I hope a number of you will be able to contribute to this project. What you say may really bless of challenge another person. It may be a reminder of the way God has lead and blessed you.