As I’ve been reading the section on Passionate Worship from the book, “Cultivating Fruitfulness,” I was drawn back to the ledge of Canyon De Chelly in Northeast Arizona. Specifically on Day Eight as the author, Bishop Robert Schnase challenges us to think about all the places we have worshiped, and what was God’s intention for calling us to worship. I was immediately taken back to a few summers ago when I was leading a group of youth and adults on a mission trip to the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona. We had worked all week long on a new vocational training facility in White Rock Az. So on this beautiful Sunday we took the group to Canyon De Chelly an awesome piece of God’s creative imagination. Earlier in the week my daughter Patrice had challenged the team to share their personal testimonies with one another as they worked. That challenge alone had added a deeper dimension to what was already a great time for us all. So on a Sunday morning overlooking a scene like this one in the picture, I shared my story with the group.
There was a rock wall on which we all gathered that was the only thing between us and a 1500 foot fall. I stood on that rock ledge and with my back to the beauty of the canyon and I testified to my journey with Jesus Christ. Now all these persons had heard me preach for most of twelve years. They knew my core theology that always comes through from one’s body of preaching. They knew my passion for ministry from my many years of being their pastor. They knew my leadership style and devotion to the church. What they didn’t know was “MY” story. So I testified that morning to them about how God had worked patiently with me for most all my life of awareness. I spoke to them of my three calls to ministry and how I easily denied the first two. I spoke to them of how “God got my attention,” finally through failure, not success. I spoke of the influence of my Grandmother, Ava Fortenberry in my life, and how her “totally sold out,” faith left me wanting what she had.
I was amazed at the response I got from my clan. They did and still do call back to that moment as a significant momeent in their faith journey. Really? I was just talking about my story; it is not marked with great moments or teachings. It is just my life. From that time on I have learned the tremendous power of personal testimony. I have marveled year after year when we trot out the faithful to speak at stewardship time, or special preaching series, how powerful their stories are and what effect they have on the listeners. Mayble I’m a slow learner, or maybe I’ve been just reluctant to change the nature and form of corporate worship, but I am more convinced today than ever that worship should orient itself around persnal testimony as much as it does around preaching or The Great Thanksgiving.
As I look back on the times God has really reached me in corporate worship – Passionate Worship, most of them have included heartfelt testimony. There is a hunger by all to know that God really makes a different in the lives of ordinary persons in ordinary circumstances. I encourage you as Patrice did to us on that Mission trip, do you know your story? Can you tell your story in a concise yet passionate way? Are you ready at a moments notice to tell your story?