Can I Get A Witness.
On Sunday evening I went to hear my wife, Allison, as she shared here in the Rhondda. What she shared was good, but also what was powerful was how she shared. She was talking about giving personal testimony and how it used to be a regular part of gatherings, and that it is not used hardly at all now. She then went on to give examples of the testimony of two characters from the Scriptures, and told them using story and narrative as if the characters themselves. Using the encounter and life of the woman at the well and the encounter with the tree climber Zacchaeus, there was humour, vivid portrayal of Jesus touching the lives of the walkers of the margins and the effects of encounter upon lives that were broken and yet met by the Mender of the broken. The response afterwards showed the power of narrative, the story of a life, and how someone’s personal life journey communicates at a level that no sermon ever could. I have been thinking about this ever since, that we base our gatherings around worship and word, but many life encounters happened when someone simply told their story. Our stories bring a connectivity that goes beyond preaching the word. When the woman at the well went back to her people she did not go with Bible verses about Jesus or a book on how to get saved she went back with her story. People believed in Jesus because of her story. A demon possessed man who had been delivered wanted to travel with Jesus. Jesus discouraged him from being a follower and told him instead to go away and tell his story. Our story becomes more powerful than our following. We also forget that in the Bible we have peoples stories. Because the Scriptures are held in such high esteem we forget that something like the Gospels is simply somebodies take on the story. Their story of the story. A writing of what they have witnessed, either autobiography or biography. We have turned it into something that is so high and mighty and holy and untouchable that we forget the simple narrative of the story of a life.
My Story becomes His Story and therefore history.
I love nothing more in the landscape and the journey that sitting around a table any and everywhere and hearing peoples stories. Not just the good parts but the honest story. All good stories have a mix of comedy and tragedy, adventure and romance, finding and losing. I’ve sat around a table in a caravan on farm land in Latvia and heard the story of a couple sowing their lives and their produce in the Nation. I’ve sat around meal tables in Sweden and heard stories of pastor’s brokenness recounting the suicide of their son. I’ve sat in coffee shops through out the U.K. and heard about people sharing the adventure of the journey of living for Christ in this world today. During these times nobody gets their Bibles out and starts preaching, nobody outdoes anybody with their superior knowledge of theology. All that is shared is the power of the narrative of a life lived each day. The table makes this a natural flow of conversation and not having the need of a front to just have an organised testimony time, everyone contributing in an interweaving story of adventure and boredom, life and death, victory and defeat, but all wrapped in faith or the desire for faith amongst the debris of doubt and despair. These stories bring change, they effect life, they bring strength, they release spontaneous times of prayer and standing together, they release times of worship, and in the sadness at times huge slabs of silence and tears. Yet these stories become part of His story because they are our history, They can become a truth that can set us free as bottled up emotions are finally released. Many times I have heard recently the phrase ‘I have never told anyone this before’. People are beginning to discover a safe place for sharing the deeper things of failure and regret or honest feelings about their lives. Surely this can only be a good thing as things that have been hidden are laid bare and brought into the open. Festering wounds finally given a chance to have some balm poured over them. Being interested in one another means being interested in someone’s story. Some will have reports of what Jesus has done for them, others will share of the seeming absence of an answer in their situation, but together seeds of faith are scattered. Hope is birthed in broken lives and hearts. Love is shared together as people laugh with those that laugh and weep with those that weep. Interconnection as interchange takes place. We all become story makers and story tellers of our own narrative. There is power in this. We learn that our story can be part of overcoming as our testimony is shared and spoken out. It is time that gatherings ceased being about what we know and more about who we are and who we know. Not just the spectacular story but the story of the everyday and the everyone.
I Wanna Tell You a Story.
The way ahead has got to be less about the few contributing to the many and more about interaction. Less about the front and more about around. Less about the gifted and more about one another. Coming out of a gathering do we really know anything about what anyone there is going through or have we just received more information? What is greater a verse preached about or relationship? What strikes me about the woman at the well is that she never went back and shared the theology of worship that Jesus had shared with her, she told the story of encounter, a personal story. What this personal encounter had done for her that day. We have to realise the story is always unfolding, it is always fresh. Testimony is more than about the day I was saved. It is about on going journey and what our life is touching. Where have I walked today? That may not even be a physical place it may just be into the dark places of our own minds and struggles but we need to learn to start listening and sharing. This is why gatherings cannot be too big, everyone must feel safe to contribute. That is why they cannot be organised, stories will venture down rabbit holes and across deserts and seas and will rarely have a full stop. Maybe the two and three is the best starting place after all. It could even be the best finishing place. We may meet with some regularly in an irregular way, we may just randomly meet others by complete random events coming together. Every day we find connection around the spheres and in different scenarios. What joins us is the narrative of life. My narrative around the work place will have a different context to it than my narrative with my family, but it will still be my story. Not shared to lead others to the sinners prayer or to a place of spiritual maturity but shared to connect, love, laugh and even just to throw it out there. To me just words of a life lived, in the hands of God the words of eternal life and hope and joy and acceptance. You never know the story shared could lead someone to actually believe in this Jesus. Might not be in a let’s go to church type way, but they may for the first time acknowledge the influence of the One in the life of another. Wherever there is a table or a connection there is the place for the story. It is not something to worry about, you are not looking for the floor to have your turn, it is the natural process of sharing life and all you are going through, or listening to another’s tale. Life is story is narrative. Just by living and sharing you tell yours today.