Your Church Needs More Time for Personal Testimonies

Article
08.19.2019

If you’re reading this, you probably have a strong view of expositional preaching, corporate prayer, and the church ordinances (baptism and communion). You also might get nervous when someone emphasizes the value of personal experience. It might send a small shiver down your theological spine.

After all, you don’t want experience to crowd out exposition. I get it. There are a lot of cautions and concerns we might justifiably have about people giving testimonies. Nonetheless, we should consider implementing personal testimonies, that is, the practice of remembering God’s wondrous works and celebrating his mighty deeds in our lives and churches.

THREE BENEFITS

Throughout Scripture, God’s people publicly talk about God’s work in their life. That’s all a personal testimony means to be.

Here are three benefits of building more testimony time into a church’s life—either through the corporate gathering or other ministries throughout the week.

1. Through testimonies, we exalt God.

See Psalm 40:5; 73:28; 77:10–20; 78:4–6; 105:1–5; 118:17; 145:4–12; Isaiah 42:10; John 4:28–29.

As we share testimonies about God’s work in our midst, we glorify him through our praise and thanksgiving. We give credit where credit is due. Consider David’s words:

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:9–10)

David thanks God for deliverance, but he does so “in the great congregation.” Giving thanks starts in our hearts but it leads to verbal expressions around other believers. David suggests it would almost be unthinkable not to go public with God’s praise. Rather than hiding this deliverance in his heart, he speaks up. How could he “restrain his lips” or “conceal your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation”?

As God’s people recount God’s faithfulness over the years, as we praise him for providing and answering our prayers, we honor God through our testimony. From the psalmists to someone in the Gospels who has experienced Christ’s mercy to the apostles in Acts, God’s people tell others about their experience with the goodness and grace of God.

2. Through testimonies, we encourage one another.

See Psalm 22:25; 40:9–10; 71:15–16; Acts 15:30–31; Colossians 1:3–8; 3:15–17; 1 Peter 2:9.

Testimonies encourage the church. It’s one part of how we speak truth to one another and point to God’s presence in our midst. Psalm 71, written by an anonymous older saint, is helpful here:

My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. (Psalm 71:15–16)

The psalmist reiterates the importance of verbalizing God’s deeds as a necessary reminder of who God is. God’s actions illustrate God’s attributes.

Many in our churches feel discourage and even distant from God. They need reminders that he is still present and powerfully at work. As we recall God’s mighty works through corporate testimonies, it stirs fellow believers to greater faith in the God they serve. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “If you abundantly talk of God’s goodness, you are sure to benefit your neighbors. Many are comforted when they hear of God’s goodness to your friends.”[1] We’re taught not only by sermons, songs, and prayers but also by stories rehearsing what God has done for us, in us, and among us.

3. Through testimonies, we evangelize unbelievers.

See 1 Chronicles 16:24–27; Psalm 96:3–6; 105:1; Isaiah 48:20; Luke 8:38–39; 24:46–49; Acts 1:21–22.

Finally, we can evangelize unbelievers through our testimonies. A good testimony will clearly tell others who God is and what he’s like by sharing what he’s done.

In the New Testament, Jesus’ followers were called “witnesses” because they shared with others what they saw Jesus do in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It was rooted in Scripture and Christ’s proclaimed words, but they spoke of how they experienced these things firsthand with their own eyes, ears, and hands (1 John 1:1–4).

We also see this throughout the Old Testament, as authors speak of declaring God’s mighty deeds before the nations or peoples:

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. (1 Chronicles 16:24–27)

As God’s people give public praise to God for his deeds, those far from God find compelling evidence to consider our claims. As we declare God’s marvelous works before a watching world, we bear witness to him. What he’s capable of doing for them is communicated by what has already been accomplished for us.

Of course, we must never abandon the centrality of proclaiming the gospel, but we ought to accompany our biblical proclamation with personal praise through public testimony. 

PRACTICAL IDEAS

I hope these biblical examples of corporate testimony will encourage church leaders to discuss how to introduce or increase this practice. It should be pursued wisely, and with the appropriate safeguards. Here are a few ideas for what that could look like.

  1. Have people share their testimony publicly at their baptism.
  2. Include testimonies during Sunday services and other gatherings. Share stories that illustrate God’s sovereign work in both seasons of trials and blessing—perhaps pick those that correspond well with the sermon text.
  3. Spend a portion of your prayer service acknowledging answered prayers, or sharing testimonies of grace in which members explain how God has recently sustained them.
  4. Ask small groups, Bible studies, discipleship groups, and Sunday school classes to incorporate this into their time together. Ask people to tell how they came to Christ, how God is currently at work, and what God is teaching them.
  5. Encourage parents to make remembering what God has done and taught them a part of how they disciple their kids.
  6. Encourage older saints to leverage their experience of God’s faithfulness over time to encourage those younger, and younger in faith.
  7. Use the church, school, or seasonal calendar to mark milestones, celebrate key events, and lean into historical days. Look back and look forward.
  8. Record and rehearse God’s faithfulness and provision in the life of your church over the decades. Make your church’s story available somewhere as a memorial to God’s faithfulness to this particular people.
  9. Create a culture of this in your elder’s meetings, staff meetings, and ministry team meetings. Regularly share stories of how you’ve seen God at work.
  10. Incorporate more thanksgiving into your church announcements. Don’t just tell people what’s coming but celebrate what’s happened.
  11. Introduce a corporate song by having someone share a related story of God’s work in their life that reaffirms the truths you’re about to sing.
  12. Create a culture where it’s normal to talk about what God is doing, and how he’s been at work. Model this as leaders and affirm it when others do the same.
  13. Teach everyone in your church how to write out their testimony and be able to share it in 3–5 minutes. Help people see evangelism as including both gospel proclamation and talking about what God has done in their life.

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[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Practice of Praise (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1995), 31.

By:
Dustin Crowe

Dustin Crowe is the Pastor of Discipleship at College Park Fishers in Fishers, Indiana.