This was one of the questions I asked in my survey about what pastors talk about. Here are the results.
Now it could be that people have heard a pastor’s testimony, maybe not from the pulpit but for whatever reason its not registered. Yet that itself is a sign of salience. It matters that congregations hear, and are aware that they are hearing their pastor’s testimony. Why? Well, I want to suggest two big reasons.
First of all, it helps model for them how to share their own testimony when witnessing. WE should be able to tell others in two or three minutes, in every day language how we came to faith in Jesus Christ and what it has meant since then to know him. Pastors should be able to model for their congregation how to simply share the good news, how to respond to objections and how to tell their testimonies.
Secondly, a testimony is not just about the day when you put your faith in Jesus. It should be up to date. This means that pastors are able to talk about how they have seen God’s goodness and faithfulness in their life. It means that we should be able to talk about how the other issues we are talking about affect us, or rather how knowing Christ affects our approach to them. Pastors too struggle with emotional health issues like depression and anxiety, pastors too have to battle temptation and that could involve resisting a temptation becoming an addiction. Pastors face many of the other challenges that church members face including those that go with marriage, parenting and singleness. Pastors have been called to play a part in God’s mission and that often has meant going to where Jesus sends them.
I think there are a couple of reasons why we hold off from sharing our testimonies. The first is that many of us either grew up in Christian families and put our trust in Jesus as young children or responded to the Gospel in the context of University CU evangelism. Many of us feel that we don’t have exciting testimonies. We haven’t been saved from drugs, alcohol and prison. It’s worth remembering that quite a few people in our congregations also haven’t found themselves struggling with drugs and alcohol, nor have their friends. If my testimony sounds normal then that’s good, we want to see normal people come to faith and be discipled!
The other thing to remember at this point is that as I said above, we’ve still had to face the challenges of life. I put my trust in Jesus as a five year old. I wasn’t in prison, I wasn’t drinking, never mind snorting coke at that early age. I didn’t have a gambling problem. Yet into my teen years and God had to convict me of a problem with legalistic self-righteousness and pride. He had to challenge me about he temptation to compromise with the world. He had to teach me to cling onto him alone.
The other reason why we hold back from testimony is that we are uncomfortable with self disclosure. We rightly don’t want to turn the spotlight on us. We want that to be on the text and through it on Christ. That’s a good motive. Yet, I think it is possible to use testimony without sensationalism and without self-promotion. It’s all about getting the tone and focus right.
Why not try sharing a bit of your testimony next time you preach?