Faith Stories and Testimonies

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by Joyce Borger

Lately I’ve been thinking about testimonies and their place in worship. The psalms are filled with historical testaments to God’s great acts from creation, through the exodus, to the psalmists own life. We see how the rehearsal of the testimony serves to bolster the psalmist’s faith during a difficult time and becomes the bedrock for worship itself.

As the years go by the testimony of God’s acts grows accordingly. Like the psalmist, those testimonies can serve to encourage us and lead us to worship. But, in my experience very few CRC churches include testimonies as a part of worship on a regular basis. We save testimonies for the brave people who may say a few words in relation to their profession of faith, or as a report from a service trip. But shouldn’t each of us when called upon be able to give account, to testify to what God is doing in our lives today? I’m not suggesting that we need to interpret each event as the working of either God or the devil; the working of the Spirit is much too complex. However, if we believe that God is at work we ought to be able to point to some evidence of it and what better place to share those stories then in worship, with God’s gathered people, where we can respond appropriately in praise and thanksgiving.

For those of you in churches where testimonies are shared regularly how are they done? How did you create a safe place for faith stories to be shared? On what occasions are testimonies given or do they happen more spontaneously? Does the size of the congregation influence whether a person is willing to share?  

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Telkwa CRC has been encouraging giving testimonies during worship for a while now. We have the philosophy that professing our faith is something we're called to do regularly -- daily in whatever context we find ourselves! -- and not solely on one formal occasion.

At the front of the sanctuary, we're creating a "monument" made of rocks, following the lead of the Israelites after they passed through the Jordan River (Joshua 4; they did this at other times, too). When someone gives a testimony, they're invited to take a rock (either from our stash in a corner or one they found themselves) and add it to the growing pile. Each rock represents a specific example of God at work in a person. A while ago, whoever was interested went on a "field trip" after a morning service to the nearby river bank to collect some rocks for our stash; this was a great way to involve the kids!

We don't do this every week, but at least a couple times a month, people are invited to come forward to share how they've recently encountered God. Sometimes it's connected with the message -- e.g. "How have you experienced for yourself what we've been talking about this morning?" People are invited to just come up as they feel led during a time of quiet reflection/silent prayer; that way, everyone has something to "do" regardless of whether they choose to come forward to share something.

We are being encouraged by hearing how God is active in our church in the lives of individuals and groups. The stones pile is a good, visible reminder of this.