Maybe the worst thing you could have in the church I grew up in was a bad testimony.
About twice a year, my parents would go on what were called Lay Witness Missions – they were basically weekend revivals led entirely by volunteers – non-professional pastors – who would come from all over the midwest to a church for a weekend. They’d have a whole weekend of singing, prayer, preaching and sharing, and testimonies were a big part of it.
I was going on these literally before I was born, so the team became sort of an extended family – adopted aunts and uncles. And it was always a big deal when Ron was able to come on a mission.
I don’t remember much about Ron except how incredibly kind he was – he was one of those people who put an instant smile on your face, made you feel welcomed and warm. That was part of the reason everyone loved Ron, but the main thing people loved was when, at some point in the weekend, Ron would share his testimony.
Apparently, Ron had been an unwanted pregnancy, and his teenage mother had tried to drink Draino to terminate her pregnancy. It hadn’t worked, but it left Ron with life-long pains and disabilities. When Ron told his story – of being unwanted by his mom, of a life full of challenges, of learning to be loved by God, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. His story was incredibly powerful.
Everybody loved Ron. And everybody hated having to give their testimony the same night as Ron.
I remember the weekend the leader, Jerry, asked me to share. I was honored – I was only about 12 at the time, and I had no idea what I was doing. But I was feeling pretty confident until I saw the order of service and saw Ron was sharing after me.
I was a 12-year old kid living in a suburb of KC. I attended a great school. What was I going to say? That I fought with my siblings? Maybe I could church that up a bit, say one of them had shanked me one time? I didn’t have a dark past – maybe I could insert some minor felonies during my dark fourth grade year?
I have no idea what I said that night, but I still remember the feeling I had of inadequacy.
When someone asked me to share my story of God, I felt like I had nothing to offer. Because I wasn’t a pastor, I had nothing to say. Because I didn’t have a miraculous story of how God rescued me, I had nothing to offer.
Let’s talk about our testimonies. The Scriptures call it ‘bearing witness’. The $10 word is Evangelism (which has all sorts of other baggage). But the question today is, What does it look like for us to invite people to experience new life in Jesus?
The truth is: I was wrong back then. God doesn’t require a dramatic story or deep bible knowledge.