What is the most powerful form of communicating the Gospel? Preaching? Teaching? Studying scripture? While all of those are adequate, I believe that the most powerful form is testifying and witnessing to God’s work in our lives, because testimony gives life to those words. Testimony is the electricity that passes the current of faith from one person to the next. I know this isn’t shocking (pun intended), so why isn’t testimony a more regular part of our worship? In a world where young people and adults alike are dying for something to live for, testimony is the water in the desert that brings life to our parched souls. It has the power to bring dead bones back to life. It has the power to remind us of or point us towards a richer fuller life in Christ.
On any average week at most churches, congregants hear the Word of God read and the Word of God proclaimed through a three-point sermon with one serious story, at least one funny one, and one they probably will forget. Sometimes people remember my sermons. I have gone to church my whole life and I could probably tell you 20 to 30 sermons that I remember. But I remember most of the testimonies I’ve ever heard. Is this because I simply haven’t heard that many? Or is it because there is power in testimony? I am certainly willing to acknowledge both, but until the life of the church becomes over-saturated with testimony, we probably will not know for certain.
Here’s what I do know:

The church is thirsty for authentic witness to the work of God in everyday ordinary people’s lives.

They are tired of paid professional testimony. Because of our call, people assume that we should be having extraordinary experiences of God. But they do not see themselves like us, so they need to hear about extraordinary things that God is doing through ordinary people. Why do people remember the sermons from laity Sunday? They are chock full of testimony from an ordinary person.

Testimony points to God’s activity in their world.

Someone testifies to God’s presence through his crisis, another testifies to God’s call for her to lead a mission, and another simply talks about how God’s love has overwhelmed him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God uses this witness to shed light on when and where God has been active in our lives, to remind us of God’s call on our life, or to introduce us to the fact that God is at work in our lives.

Young people need to hear testimony.

The research from the National Study of Youth and Religion reveals two very alarming facts:

  1. For the vast majority of them, religion makes no difference in their everyday lives.
  2. They are incredibly inarticulate about their faith.

As pointed out above, testimony has the power to proclaim that God does make a difference in someone’s everyday life. Testimony also models “faith talk,” giving young people an example of what it looks like to talk about God and faith. I firmly believe that testimony spawns testimony. One person sharing what God has done in her life simply invites others to do the same. Youth ministers see this happen on the closing nights of retreats and camps as youth share how they have encountered God that weekend.

Making it happen

I believe incorporating testimony in worship is essential. I hope your church will look for ways to creatively fit testimony into your regular worship rhythms. I also hope you will find ways to incorporate testimony into your youth group. These are four ways that I have seen it done well:

  1. Answered Prayer: Does prayer really work? Before the congregational prayer, invite someone to share about a time when God answered his prayer.
  2. Favorite Song or Hymn: Music has a way of ministering to us. Songs can get us through tough times. They help us celebrate. They can remind us of God’s faithfulness. Have someone share why a song or hymn means so much to her before you sing it in worship.
  3. Interviews: Turning the mic lose during worship or youth group can be scary if you don’t know what someone is going to say. I firmly believe in meeting with anyone who is going to share his or her story beforehand to help him or her prepare. Interviewing someone during worship or youth group can do two things–ease his nerves and allow you to help direct his response to your topic that week.
  4. Call: It’s always powerful when someone shares how God has uniquely shaped her to do something. Look for opportunities to use people’s “call stories” to inspire others to follow God’s call on their lives.

What are some ways that you have seen testimony used effectively in worship or at youth events?
Look for Part 2 on HOW2: Teach Youth to Share Their Stories.