I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in tenth grade at summer camp with my youth group. I’ve never been great as estimates, but there were somewhere between 100 and 1,000 people in the room. That evening, my youth group was responsible for a few elements in the worship service (music, prayer, creative piece, etc.). At dinner approximately half an hour before the worship service my youth pastor casually approached me with the order of worship in hand. He put his arm on my shoulder, showed me the order and said, “I put you down for sharing your testimony tonight, so you’ll have a few minutes before the sermon.”
WHAT?! You did, what?!
Now, to be quite clear I don’t think I ever went through a “stage fright” phase so I had no problem being in front of an audience. However, this was a first. In addition to feeling angry and terrified I was quite insecure. “What was I going to say? Would my testimony be interesting or compelling? How could I make it so? What would I include and what should I leave out?” These questions flooded my thoughts. The thirty minutes I had before worship hardly seemed sufficient time to make up something!
Now ideally, I would have had several days to organize my thoughts, but what happened to me that year at camp is a completely common experience for persons in worship/ministry leadership. If you are a leader in your faith community for any length of time, you can guarantee you’ll be asked (last minute) to share a prayer or testimony. While I was briefly perturbed at my youth pastor, I was even more so thankful for the experience, for it taught me several things.
One, I need to have a rough outline of my testimony committed to memory. In three to five minutes, I should be able to answer the questions: How did God draw me to himself? How is my life different now from before I surrendered to Christ’s lordship? How have I seen God at work in my life recently? Second, it taught me that sincerity is priority, not entertainment. Often our nervousness leads us to cushion our devotional offerings with jokes or anecdotes that make us look like the main character of the story. While humor and stories certainly play a role in testimonies, sermons and the like we need to be mindful of their placement and purpose. Similarly, as leaders, it is tempting to feel the need to make our testimonies or prayers or devotions exciting and entertaining. However, a better rubric should be, “Is this true?” and “Does this point others to Jesus?” If we are able to answer yes to those two questions, we should worry less about the entertainment value and rest assured that God will use our offering.
I must admit, in my first experience of spur-of-the-moment leadership I did NOT respond with the best attitude. I do believe I threw my youth pastor under the proverbial bus by beginning my testimony with “I was just asked 15 minutes ago to share…” Not my most gracious moment. This leads me to a final word, if we are able to share a brief account of what God is currently doing in our life, we will not feel tempted to embarrass the person who seemingly “put us on the spot.” It seems simple enough, but as corporate worship leaders, our words have the power to steer the congregation towards or away from God’s grace. When we are asked to recount God’s activity in our life—regardless of the time frame—may we always have the grace to see it as a divine invitation to remember yet again what has been done for us through Jesus.