Okay, on I-monk they are having a gospel focus, so one writer offered his personal testimony in two formats. Most commenters liked the second one, which was more detailed and personal. One or two noted that perhaps at times in the church it has become the norm to expect something dramatic, as in Paul’s conversion. More admitted though, that having grown up in church they couldn’t point to a specific time of conversion or that it was hardly a dramatic change. No one, up to this point has mentioned that testimony need not refer to such an event at all.
Okay, those of you who grew up in churches that featured regular testimonies by converts new and old may be wondering why I say that. But think about it, testimony and testify are pretty much the same thing. I mean testimony is the noun and testify the verb form, if I understand it correctly. Sorry, I can’t get to my reference books right now and give you a dictionary definition. Doesn’t testify mean to tell the truth? At least that seems to be the legal definition. In the Christian context then, a testimony is to tell the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done or is doing in my life. How did we get from that to where a testimony can only be about how once upon a time, Jesus came into my life and changed me and everything since then is not worth comparing to that moment? And have you ever heard one that was embellished to make it sound better than it actually was? Hmm, isn’t that no longer telling the truth?
True confessions, I grew up in a church and accepted the Lord at a crusade when I was 13. Why on earth would you want to hear a story from decades ago and from a 13 year old perspective at that? Frankly, when I was in a church that seemed to focus on that, I got a little tired of it. Why wouldn’t you tell what was happening right now in your Christian walk? Surely God has been up to something all these years. And please don’t tell me you shame those who don’t have such stories. Have you honestly found them to be less interested in knowing Jesus and living for and in Him than you are? I seriously doubt that is the case.
In fact, recently I was reading something by E. Stanley Jones, written in the 1930s. He observed that among those he had met, who were raised in the church, about 60 percent seemed to grow steadily into a mature faith. For the other 40 percent, it somehow didn’t take, to use vaccine analogy, and they needed a conversion experience. Don’t you think it is a bit dangerous to assume that someone else should have the same christian experiences as you? Looking at the bible, I note that the way people became close to God or Jesus was often very different, as different as many people’s personality traits and life experiences.
I used to worry, in my younger days, that I didn’t have much of a witness, since I had not been a drug addict or prostitute. So, now I think perhaps I am not designed to witness to drug addicts or prostitutes! It does not follow that my walk with the Lord has nothing to offer to others. Only God knows who I influence by this blog, for instance. But that’s okay in my book.
I actually feel fortunate to have been raised in the Methodist tradition. I think John Wesley was onto something when he described 3 types of grace. Prevenient grace goes before and woos us to Christ, justifying grace refers to conversion and sanctifying grace refers to the rest of our lives, where He is working to make us more like Him. Those are ten dollar words, to be sure, but the concept that God’s grace is ever present and ever working in our lives is a good one.
So if you meet someone who doesn’t seem to have a testimony, maybe you should ask them what blessings they have received recently by the grace of God. You may then hear a wonderful testimony though it will be quite current instead of a neatly boxed story of “how I became a Christian.”