Sunday, 26 June 2011

“Somebody Touched Me!” The Validity of Spontaneous Testimonies in Worship

We used to sing “Somebody touched me! It musta been the hand of the Lord.” It was a participatory song, with each verse starting with a day of the week: “It was on a Monday, somebody touched me” (repeat 3x), going through all seven days and culminating on Sunday. As we sang, individuals would stand on whichever day of the week they were saved, and mosey on up toward the front of the church. By the time we came to Sunday, practically the whole congregation had come forward, shaking hands, hugging, and sometimes shouting (“glory to God!” “amen!” etc.). At the end of the song, several might recount their own salvation experience.

Perhaps we had too much fun with this, and perhaps it was too undignified for some. Whatever the reason, I haven’t experienced this participatory testimony song in years. Regardless, in this blog I want to set forth some good reasons why we ought not to shy away from spontaneous testimonies as part of the worship service.

  1. Since we believe in the indwelling of the Spirit in every believer, we recognize that God can speak to the congregation even through the lowest maidservant. Hence, instead of controlling every aspect of every worship service, we should be sure to allow members of the congregation to respond spontaneously to the Spirit, and to encourage people to speak what the Spirit may have laid on their hearts.
  2. The pastor speaks so much that it is easy for the congregation to become somewhat desensitized to his preaching. But when an ordinary member of the congregation speaks, everyone tunes in to the speaker. Sometimes what gets said might impact someone else in a much more profound way than the preacher’s words repeated week by week.
  3. Testimonies will help the congregation get to know each other, strengthening the unity of the church.
  4. When someone stands to give a testimony, this emboldens the person’s faith and often leads to greater things, including ministerial calling. The next thing you know, the person might be filling in for the pastor.

Some hints for worship leaders:

  1. Announce in advance—at the beginning of worship—that there will be opportunities for testimonies.
  2. Give a proper introduction to the testimony service—especially if your church isn’t in the habit of testimonies in worship. Use scripture to introduce testimonies, something from God’s word that talks about giving testimonies.
  3. After each testimony, give a quick response of affirmation—perhaps quoting a scripture: “Amen, Bro. Bob. What you did in your situation at work is exactly what Peter was talking about when he wrote that we should be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you.”
  4. If the testimonies really do reflect the Spirit’s leading, don’t be too worried about cutting into your sermon time. Maybe the sermon should wait until next week.
  5. If the whole service is oriented toward testimonies, transition from one testimony to the next with a short, familiar chorus.
  6. To wrap up the service, be sure to find some common theme in the testimonies and re-visit them in a short sermonic summary.

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